THE MAGIC OF THE CUP! What a feeling rushing through my bones when Northern Ireland legend William of Grigg sent that bobbling ball past the outstretched arms of the onrushing Claudio Bravo to send Wigan through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. To score a goal of that calibre against all the riches of Manchester City must have been surreal, yet to knock them out of the cup and single-handedly end their quadruple hopes must have been an entirely next-level sensation. What a moment for the young Northern Irish man from Solihull, England, and what a moment for football itself.
Grigg was somehow awarded the Man of the Match award on BBC One, despite literally having only one touch in the game, the crucial one that steered the ball into the back of the net in the biggest Cinderella story sport has ever seen since Leicester one the Premier League that time. A fine finish from the former MK Dons loanee, but a performance that I for one felt hugely overshadowed the colossal effort from the entire Wigan side, especially a defensive unit that amazingly managed to prevent the likes of Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, who couldn’t help but keep a lid on things at the final whistle as crowd trouble marred a spectacular evening for the League One side.
One man that stood out from the sensational evening of soccerball was, however, Wigan skipper Dan Burn who battled out, in my opinion, one of the best 90 minutes on a football pitch I have ever had the joy of witnessing. The 8ft4 centre-half outclassed those around him, and if I’m not mistaken even flew down the left wing at one stage in an attempt to outpace the pacey Kyle Walker (which Grigg did minutes later anyway).
His post-match celebrations, with the thousands of Wigan streaming onto the pitch, were, however, the highlight of the entire evening. In an industry plagued by the issue of players failing to speak up for fear of further repercussions, or even managers scared to speak their mind for fear of losing a job, it was amazing to see the true passion felt by all after the impossible was made possible on Monday night. Dan Burn stood tall in a blue sea of Wigan ultras, and, exactly like the giant centre-half, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as countless strangers hugged, slapped and kissed his beautiful face. Some may ask what else was the poor guy to do? But to stand there and take it like that, what an absolute champion, a true professional.
Former Sligo Rovers gaffer Paul Cook also showed his love for the club with a feisty bit of argy-bargy with Stone Island Shareholder Pep Guardiola – an incident fellow Tales writer and avid Wigan man Ryan Murray predicted would happen – but disappointingly calmed down in his post-match interview, congratulating his team rather than speaking his mind and calling his fellow manager a slap head (although admittedly, being bald himself, this wouldn’t have made much sense). He was, however, refreshingly honest, while to be fair to Pep, his honesty also shone through after the game, slagging off the home side with his ‘Congratulations to Wigan, they had one shot’ jibe, what a man.
P.S. Wigan-mad Ryan would also go on to win big bucks having stuck his beloved side on to win 1-0 with a cheeky bet, jammy git. Congrats though m8.
Whether it be a huge grin on the face of Alexis Sanchez after a long-range stunner, or Raheem Sterling jumping into the crowd after a last-gasp winner, it’s great to see a bit of life in these footballers, a bit of ‘character’ – Brendan Rodgers, 2013. To send the boy off simply made matters worse, officially stamping out any passion shown by these modern-day robots. Well, obviously not all of them are robots, but when their Twitter accounts are posting out the same garbage day in day out, or their post-match interviews comprise the familiar old ‘it was a great win today, I am happy for the team’, it’s hard to warm to any of these so-called role models. And then when you see them rolling all over the floor trying and succeeding to win a pen, wow, you can’t help but think that football is well and truly down the pan.
So, all in all, a bloody fantastic evening of football followed by some nasty post-match scenes. But great to see some passion in football, in a time where money dominates all, and so hopefully there are many more cupsets™ to come. I’m sick of hearing the same old garbage from players and managers alike, speak your mind fellas, it’s a free country after all.