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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Bit of a new one this, it's for the Irish Examiner's football supplement, currently rolling off the presses as I type. Bit more wordy than the usual fare and with more Anglo-centric references. Anyway, give it a go and let me know what you think, it helps to have feedback with new stuff...

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And again. And, if you're Wigan Athletic, again and again and again until you've racked up 34 unsuccessful attempts at beating one of the big four. A whopping 3,150 minutes of Premier League football passed in the time it took them to prevail, but, ah, what a time it must have been to be alive and in possession of a season ticket at the DW Stadium this weekend. Roberto Martinez's noble band of warriors, cheered on by the indefatigable ghosts of Robert the Bruce, Robert the Bruce's spider and Patsy Kensit's agent, finally came through against Chelsea. Fuelled only by noble spirit, raw persistence and a highly questionable refereeing decision, the Latics ended a horrendous bout of 'big stage' fright that stretched all the way back to 2005.

Imagine how it must feel to be a Wigan supporter this morning. Walking into work, glowing like the Ready-Brek boy, gladly accepting the pats on the back and the ruffles of the hair from the Liverpool and Manchester United fans. Sure, it's condescending, but it's better than the silent waves of apathy that seep over your shoes every other Monday morning. Four years of clogging up the table like leaves in a drainpipe and you've finally played a part in the title race.

And yet it didn't have to be this way. Four years ago Wigan were the new kids at big school, plucky and precocious, fearless and frisky, and like all new kids who turn up for their first day at big school like that, they found themselves limping home at the end of the day without their lunch money. Despite outplaying and outfighting Jose Mourinho's champions on that bright August afternoon, they were punished by a 93rd minute thunderbolt from Hernan Crespo. It was a cruel introduction to their new life in the spotlight.

For the fan of the smaller club, there is a certain novelty in playing the big teams. Years of putting up with the assorted flotsam and detritus of the lower leagues and suddenly you get to see international footballers up close and personal. A little too personal if it's El Hadji Diouf, admittedly, but if you're going to get spat at by anyone, make it someone famous. Unfortunately, the glitz and the glamour is a novelty that wears off really quickly if you get spanked silly every time you play someone good.

Wigan's supporters, those few, those happy few, have had to put with so much in the short time in the top flight. Sneered at by their rivals for their lack of numbers or their apparent preoccupation with egg-chasing, they're mocked from one end of the country to the other. This is their moment, this is their time. This is vindication of their unfailing hope. In a league ruled by an elite tetrachy, dominated by money and obsessed with success, this is a golden, glorious morning for Wigan and their fans. It still wasn't a penalty, mind.
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