July 15, 2024

Phil Neville in the commbox

You may well recall Yanic Wildschut’s heart-stopping added time winner at Walsall in February – it did, after all, spark wild celebrations and lift Latics into the automatic promotion places.

And of course, you have an equally vivid memory of the 5-1 Shrewsbury-smashing that began an extended chorus of ‘We Are Top of the League’ as early as 2 April.

These are the moments that will be fondly discussed over a mocha chocolata-yaya in trendy King Street coffee bars come the year 2026. They will be extensively documented in the history sections of matchday programmes, Shoot! Annuals and the reverse of corn flakes packets to ensure they are never forgotten.

However, a football season is not 180 minutes, but eight months long. Before they are so cruelly written out of history, I feel it is my duty to record for posterity those previously under-documented incidents and misdemeanours that have made Wigan Athletic’s 2015/16 League One season so entertaining. Please remember them, even if the mainstream media doesn’t!

Those lesser discussed moments in full

10. The return of Emmerson Boyce, Wigan 0 Blackpool 1, 12 December 2015. The only bright spot of a torrential afternoon at the DW Swimming Pool. Boycey receives a 30-second standing ovation on his first footballing appearance in Wigan since leaving the club that August.

9. Zine Wars, Wigan P Sheff Utd P, 26 December 2015. All three Wigan Athletic fanzines release festive editions in the same week, raising the possibility of direct competition on the Bridge Over the River Pie. But the Boxing Day game is postponed due to floods, averting any opportunity for fanzine sales wars.

8. #WiganUltra gees up the fans with his megaphone, Wigan 1 Partick Thistle 1, 21 July 2015. It might only have been a pre-season friendly, but one jolly Latic fanatic was treating his cheerleader role very seriously… until he had his mini megaphone confiscated by a steward (allegedly).

7. Max Power’s ‘Highland Fling’ goal celebration, various. I can only describe it as the ‘leaf blower up the kilt Highland Fling’, though I’ve heard some say he more closely resembles a bouncy Tigger from A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh Bear.

6. Gary Caldwell’s post-match press conferences, various. The source of much teatime amusement on Twitter and in local newspapers.

Gary Caldwell on Jordan Flores’s red card v Oldham:

Do it properly

…And ‘esteemed’ goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt:

Do it properly

5. Beach football is kids’ stuff, Wigan U18 1 Manchester City U18 3, 2 February 2016

Remove boots

Technically, it was obvious that City were considerably more adept at football than their Category 3 opponents. But at the DW sandpit, the Sky Blues’ wunderkinds were gallantly matched for 90+ minutes before a prolonged period of extra time finally killed the persistent and heroic Robin Park beast.

Latics might even have stolen it Ben Watson-style with the final kick of normal time, but Thomas Powell could only divert Alex Lingard’s pinpoint free kick into the keeper’s grateful arms.

As it happened, the game only finished at 2.05am after stoppage time upon extra time upon stoppage extra time had been exhausted. One can only assume the referee didn’t want to go home and face his wife.

As a result, this was famously the match that finished off the already mutilated DW Stadium beach; a subsequent rugby game would consume the pitch’s final remnants three days later. Thankfully, the shag pile was relaid in double record time before Latics’ first team contest with Oldham the following Saturday.

“I would liken it to crumbs on a snooker table, or maybe dust on a compact disk.” – JWAW on the DW pitch, 3 Feb 2016

4. Leon Barnett’s advertising hoarding limbo, Bury 2 Wigan 2, 10 October 2015

Barnett Limbo

As if the football match wasn’t entertaining enough in itself, Leon Barnett resolved to impress the Gigg Lane crowd with some throw-in gymnastics. But not all went according to plan.

You see, there was literally no room on the touchline for Barney to step backward. By the time he realised this, it was too late – he was already embarking upon a slow-mo reverse somersault over the static advertising boards.

Ever the showman, there was just enough time for him to skilfully roll the ball up his right arm and down his left before he tumbled, legs flailing, beyond the strategically positioned hoarding.

Barnett sheepishly collected the ball once more, hoping nobody had noticed, but the commotion of 8,000 chortling spectators confirmed his fears. Worse still, some sneaky swine just so happened to be filming the incident with their mobile phone, and the video became a viral sensation within hours.

The Internet, and indeed paper fanzines, will never let you forget.

3. The paper memos saga, Bradford, Rochdale, Coventry etc., March 2016 onwards

Caldwell Old Tech

Not so much a moment as a collection of small moments – personal paper messages from the gaffer, to be precise.

As Latics’ campaign reached its final stretch, in-game tactics became increasingly intricate, with minor changes occurring on an almost minute-by-minute basis. To keep everyone up to speed, Gary Caldwell issued a series of scribbled memos to be distributed among his comrades during matches.

And it quickly proved a much better method than screaming coded instructions over the boisterous Jussi J. In the absence of iPhones or tablet PCs for each player, little love notes from GC’s heart were the perfect secretive communication system as Latics strung together victory upon convincing victory.

But what exactly was written on those bits of paper? When asked to investigate, AGL’s resident analyst Rob Freegun admitted he ‘didn’t fancy touching anything that had been shoved down Max Power’s sweaty pants’.

So we can only suggest it’s actually an ongoing game of hangman, the loser of which must pay a £5 forfeit… in pennies.

(That last sentence will make more sense in about 15 seconds.)

2. The Humbling of Lawrence Vigouroux, Wigan 1 Swindon 0, 31 October 2015


Goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux loves to be the centre of attention. After arriving late for training one morning in September, he paid his £50 fine entirely in pennies… and promptly had his loan contract with Swindon Town terminated.

But after apologising for having the minutest sense of humour, he was justifiably reinstated to the squad in time to face Wigan. And his performance was almost perfect, save for the final, crazy minute of stoppage time.

His melodramatic saves were each garnished with their own artistic flourish, his goalmouth clearances imbued with an almost lethargic smoothness to match his languid style. And the crowd loved him.

…By which I mean they were frustrated as heck. But they would have their release.

The referee finally saw fit to recognise Vigouroux’s undoubted time-eating prowess with a yellow card some four minutes into second half stoppage time. It was gleefully accepted as a badge of honour… for 120 seconds, after which it became a badge of dishonour.

Big Vig’s first, and only mistake of the game came in the 96th minute as he fumbled a relatively innocuous Craig Davies cross at the edge of his six yard box. The opportunist Francisco Junior was present to sidefoot home, and the game was cruelly lost in its final heartbeat.

Had he avoided the booking, there would not have been enough time for any of this to happen. There again, one could also say the same of the umpteen over-deliberated goal kicks spread across 90 minutes. Perhaps you just can’t change the course of fate.

1. Ball Boy is Superman, Wigan 0 Walsall 0, 3 October 2015


The modern football manager is in perpetual search of the mythical 12th man. Sometimes it is one of the officials that fills this role with the biased awarding of a penalty kick. Other times it is the collective effort of an army of chanting supporters.

But on this day, it was a solitary 12-year-old ball boy that helped deny second-placed Walsall three points at the DW Stadium.

Though Latics controlled its first half, Captain Craig Morgan’s 69th minute red card changed the game’s entire complexion from smooth and peachy to bumpy and splodgy. With Walsall now pushing for a late winner, the hosts’ positive pressing gave way to slow-paced containment.

Orchestrating this rather one-sided staring contest was 40-year-old debutant goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. On two separate occasions the foiling Finn had instructed a certain ball boy situated in the North West corner of the ground to take his time returning the ball… and his wish was about to be fulfilled.

With under ten minutes to play, Walsall were understandably eager for Wigan to hurry up and take their goal kick. Romaine Sawyers scampered a full 40 yards to retrieve the ball from the clutches of said ball boy, who waited patiently for him to reach the touchline… before tossing the ball tantalisingly over his head at the very last moment.

The kid became an instant celebrity, earning screams of both adulation and disgust from the home and away fans respectively. His theatrics transformed a potentially tense finish into a light-hearted singalong for ES2, who dubbed their hero the new Superman.

Jussi Jaaskelainen would become Latics’ no. 1 keeper throughout the season, his predecessor Richard O’Donnell eventually being pawned off to Bristol City.

And that ball boy? Well, I sincerely hope he was signed on a record 5-year deal, because we would very much appreciate more moments like that to fill fanzine pages!

Note: this was written before ‘Will Grigg’s on fire’ took the world by storm. Said meme is far too big a phenomenon to be summarised in a few paragraphs – it deserves its own article (hint?)…

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