Having just about recovered from the madness of Sunday’s epic Premier League finale, I sat down to properly read the latest edition of the Mudhutter Football Express yesterday evening. Jimmy‘s comedy-censored foreword made no secret of the fact this was meant to be a ‘relegation special’, quite obviously written some months in advance at a time when survival seemed but a pipe dream. Now that’s what I call ‘keeping the faith’! In all seriousness, though, I considered posting something similar here at JWAW: a celebration of Wigan’s seven years in the Premier League/Premiership/Premier Foods League through our most memorable matches.
Indeed, as few as ten weeks ago it all looked to be coming to an end. The five minute bell had already sounded and we hadn’t even finished our cucumber sandwiches in the pavilion dining room, let alone equipped pads and spikes. While myself and the MFE are left slightly egg-faced, it’s with delight we banish our misplaced resignation, for once again we sit in anticipation of another successive season in England’s top flight. As I repeatedly exclaimed in the aftermath of Shaun Maloney’s goal against Newcastle, just who would have credited it?
Events at the Etihad Stadium make me wish the Wigan-Wolves match was played on Saturday, the day before all that excitement unfolded, so I could follow the top-of-the-table soap opera in front of the telly. No matter how unfeasible such fiddling of the fixtures may sound, I feel as though I missed out on something special, the sheer craziness of the Premier League’s closest ever finish.
Not that I would have been anywhere other than the DW for our final game of the season which, had there been survival to contest, would of course have taken precedence over eating, sleeping and breathing (but not drinking). I don’t know, maybe we Latics supporters have become drama junkies thanks to season finales past – we seek to avoid those all-or-nothing one-shot playoffs, yet at the same time crave the emotion. I guess that’s entertainment for you.
I rushed home to watch Match of the Day on Sunday evening. As Sergio Aguero spun his shirt in triumph, memories of West Ham and that feeling of euphoria sparked by a last-minute winner came flooding back. When there’s something as huge as survival or the championship title riding on it, there really is nothing like a last-gasp strike to remind you just why you started watching football in the first place.
I did, like many others, expect City’s win to be more comfortable. While QPR’s resolve is no surprise, I thought home advantage would give City the edge and they’d win by the odd goal. The newsprint proves they did just that, but I wouldn’t ever have anticipated how close it would eventually be.
Amid this frenzy, however, I feel MOTD failed to convey the tension of the relegation battle. There was little coverage of Bolton’s frantic scramble for that late goal to save their Premier League lives, nor was there the usual sea of relieved faces from the ‘escapees’, in this case QPR. Sure, it was nowhere near as close as the title tussle but it was equally as, if not more gut-wrenching for the sides involved. Just imagine how nervy things would have become had the Trotters managed to score in those final 13 minutes. Just imagine how different it might have been had St Helens-born Chris Foy remembered this wasn’t a Challenge Cup quarter final and penalised Jon Walters for his rugby tackle on Adam Bogdan.
As the old saying goes, football is often decided on fine margins. If 13 minutes is but a miniscule part of a 38-game campaign, then 240 seconds is positively microscopic. But I feel the strangely addictive, feverish commotion surrounding another season-long relegation scrap has been lost in (partially) media-fuelled Manchester hysteria and given an undeserved cold shoulder by certain media outlets.
Perhaps, when the buzz dies down, people might take a moment to reflect upon what has actually been another butt-clenching final stretch down at the Prem’s backside. At this rate, however, such ruminations will dissipate in Euro Championship and Olympics-induced patriotic haze. Where Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves are concerned, it’s probably for the best.