July 15, 2024
Wembley Stadium (Wembley Park)

Look, it says Wembley Stadium there. It's *definitely* Wembley Stadium.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “How on earth did he have time to travel home and type up this article so quickly?” Well, it’s quite simple, really – I ‘borrowed’ Uncle Dave’s helicopter from the roof of the town hall and parked it behind the Wembley arch so nobody would know.

There was a sticky moment when said chopper was briefly visible on ITV’s television coverage, but I think I got away with it because my co-pilot, the Honey Monster, distracted viewers with a risqué dance. Yes indeed, I kidnapped him after his appearance at the Tottenham game and he’s been living in my spare room ever since. I originally did it to avoid the bedroom tax but have since realised owning a furry, cereal-obsessed creature has other benefits.

Look out for my forthcoming paperback self-help book, How The Honey Monster Changed My Life, in Waterstones next week. Only £9.99 while stocks last! I’m currently printing the final batch of them with my dot matrix printer, so if you’d like an advance copy send me a telegram NOW!

Wembley pre-match
This picture is actually from the semi final, but don’t tell anyone or they may get mad

What this has to do with the FA Cup Final, I have no idea. But the sad news is that I was unable to make it down to London due to unforeseen circumstances entirely beyond my control. I’ll say only this: the JWAW medicine cabinet has been taking an awful hammering for the past three days or so. That idiot coughing behind me on the bus last week will surely pay for his blasé approach to personal hygiene.

The pub it was, then, and a cornucopia of televisual delights courtesy the BBC… oh wait no, it was ITV Sport. I know this because I remember only advertisements for Strepsils… grumble. A pre-match highlight was the appearance of rapper Lethal Bizzle wearing a Bench baseball hat and t-shirt bearing the very same cap on Sky News. You’d never be able to get away with that on the BBC, I suppose.

Those momentous 94 minutes in full

In an even first half contested by two well-balanced sides, Latics produced a performance to match their solid effort at the Etihad Stadium. Callum McManaman was his usual slippery self, and had his side’s best two opportunities. His first slid just past Hart’s right hand post when it looked easier to hit the target, though in fairness there was a defender and goalkeeper between him and the net.

McManaman’s second effort, the culmination of yet more impressive passing from Latics, fell victim to slight indecisiveness, for by the time he shot there were enough defenders back in the City box to repel his strike with some ease.

At the other end, Carlos Tevez should also have scored, but Joel Robles produced a superb reaction save with his outstretched boot. One might even term it a ‘miracle save’ – more evidence that Jesus is indeed a Wiganer?

Roberto's Wembley celebrations
Roberto thanks his adoring supporters.

Certainly, Roger Espinoza was central to much Latics did well on the left wing. He was eternally sprightly and alive to any situation, even if he did not experience a great amount of success. He almost found himself through on goal with a shooting opportunity, but instead decided to down under a challenge. The Honduran’s extravagance completely erased any chance of a penalty being given, though with a bit more subtlety, it might possibly have been. If this were Old Trafford, and Wigan were Man United. Being reffed by Howard Webb.

Wigan were fluid moving forward, and with Antolin Alcaraz back in the centre of defence, those silly errors had been stamped out… for the time being.

In the balance

City emerged from the half time break with renewed vigour, but the men in black were equal to everything thrown at them. The prospect of a potential FA Cup winners medal invoked an amazing resilience from the sturdy Latics backline, and as the game wore on, so did their belief.

After the Man City backlash, Wigan were able to settle into their preferred passing mode, and the possession –and chances– started to come again. Joel Robles reassuringly came to collect a Silva cross, instilling a great confidence that seemed to filter through the whole side. Before long, McManaman was once again giving City’s defence more than a little to think about… it couldn’t happen, could it?

The real turning point came on 84 minutes, when Pablo Zabaleta felled McManaman just outside his own area. It was undoubtedly a yellow card, and since he had already been booked, the long Wembley tunnel beckoned. Yet more evidence to support the fact Wigan’s name was already on that cup, perhaps?

This was Latics’ chance to shine. Immediately putting their opponents on the back foot, they lay siege to the City goalmouth in the only way they knew how – with intricate and accurate passing.


Roebrto Martinez bows to fans
Relegation or no, Roberto has written his name in the history books

Then, the moment that will live forever in the memory of many an observer. When Ben Watson entered the field for Jordi Gomez on 81 minutes, I raised a wry smile as I remembered my flippant prediction all those months ago that he ‘would come on as substitute to score the winning goal in the cup final’. If I had been a betting man, I would be disappointed that I never considered sticking a tenner on it.

Shaun Maloney sent in the corner which Watson met with glorious purchase, deflecting the ball over Joe Hart and delivering the killer blow with just two minutes of stoppage time to play. It was a moment you could only dream of, except it seemed to be happening somehow. Even now I am unsure if it really happened, despite seeing Boyce and Caldwell climb those steps to collect the cup. Just wow.

If I sound a might emotionally detached, it’s because the achievement has yet to fully sink in. I have exhausted the acceptable word count but you definitely haven’t heard the last of this. In fact I fear I may be posting articles on this subject from now until the year 2032. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious celebrating to do.

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