Ten years is nothing: a Pollitt-ical retrospective of Highbury 2006

I can barely remember what happened last week, let alone a decade ago. But I recall vividly the events of January 2006, when Latics reached their first League Cup Final, squeaking past Arsenal over two legs.

Aye – Neil Rimmer scored a first half hat trick in the first leg, while Ian Wright repeated that feat in the return leg at Highbury. In the end, Roberto Martinez tucked the winning penalty past David Seaman as Latics won the shootout 8-7… at 12.07am, in front of a BBC2 audience of 15 million.

Okay, maybe my memory of 2006 isn’t quite so fresh. Just give me five minutes while I trawl through the AGL archives…

Ah, right. Apparently, the tie was much more interesting than that!

During the first leg at the JJB Stadium, everything went black. Someone, probably Jimmy Bullard, plugged in one too many hair dryers and tripped the floodlight fuse. And when the lights did come back on, said owner of the bouncy barnet stood on the opposition goal line, ready to roll the ball over it!

Ref Howard Webb refused to award the goal – presumably because Bullard was not playing for Manchester United at the time. But debutant Paul Scharner made up for it, gracefully diverting Gary Teale’s cross past Manuel Almunia with 12 minutes to play.

If it were at all possible, the second leg was even more engaging. Phil Dowd refused to award Latics any of their three penalties, presumably because they weren’t the home side at Old Trafford. Hence, Thierry Henry could even the aggregate score and force extra time.

Robin van Persie’s 108th minute free kick changed nothing as such – Latics could still go through to the final on the away goals rule with a single strike.

And in the penultimate minute of extra time, Jason Roberts finally broke through. Though travelling fans were jubilant when the Grenada international rolled home, nobody celebrated as exuberantly as Mike Pollitt. The Farnworth Flyer defied a plethora of international stars for two whole hours of football, even stopping a Jose Reyes penalty kick way back in the first half of normal time.

So here’s to Michael Francis Pollitt, the unsung hero of 2006. It was the Latics goalkeeping coach’s 11th birthday on 29 February – he’ll soon be old enough to play for the U18s.

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