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Wigan ready to enjoy rare status as FA Cup underdogs against West Ham

first_imgShare on Pinterest Read more Share on WhatsApp Share via Email Share on LinkedIn Topics FA Cup Reuse this content Share on Facebook Wigan Athletic Read more Wigan sense repeat of history after crushing win over Bournemouth It seems safe to say Cup progress cannot have been all that important to Bournemouth either, and the same may be true of Saturday’s Premier League opponents, West Ham. David Moyes has spoken of the importance of the next two league matches against relegation rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton and that was before he learned that Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini will miss the Wigan game because of injury. On paper this should be an even contest, given that both sides could be described as on the fringes of the Championship, though in the FA Cup these days one never quite knows what one is going to get until the teams are on the pitch.“We like playing against Premier League opponents because it is a break from the normal routine,” said the midfielder Sam Morsy, a scorer in the last round against Bournemouth. “Everywhere we go in League One we go as favourites, opponents pack their defences and we have to try and find a way through. In the Cup the shoe is on the other foot. Premier League teams come here expecting to win and often that can help us, because the game is more open and our style is suited to playing on the counter.”Wigan might as well enjoy it while they can for, if promotion is achieved, they will not be considered favourites for many matches next season. Things have changed a great deal since the club scorched through the Championship in 2004-05 en route to an unlikely eight years in the Premier League. Then they were backed by Dave Whelan, reckoned to have spent around £100m on the club since taking over in 1995, and for a club record £1.2m it was possible to capture a reliable goalscorer in Nathan Ellington. Not only is the Championship a much tougher and more financially challenging proposition now, the Whelan family are in the process of selling the club to overseas investors. Whelan resigned as chairman in 2015, his reputation somewhat tainted by ill-advised comments surrounding the controversial appointment of Malky Mackay as manager, and though his grandson David Sharpe has been in charge since, the family says it recognises that the level of investment necessary to compete in the Championship is best found from outside. At the AGM last week the club confirmed it was in advanced talks with a Hong Kong group with a takeover apparently imminent.All of which raises, or re-raises, the question of how far a club can go when based in a small town halfway between Liverpool and Manchester. No one sniffily dismisses Wigan as a rugby league town any more – that battle has been won – though it remains to be seen whether a takeover valued at around £20m can really lead to the stated aim of a return to the Premier League.Of rather more immediate interest is what happens to Cook and his players should promotion be achieved – both have been attracting interest from other clubs and new owners may have their own ideas – but before that the FA Cup is here to be enjoyed again – or at least embraced. “We have become embroiled in the Cup,” Cook said, choosing a word not readily associated with the supposed romance of the competition or the hallowed memories of Wembley 2013. “It’s up to us to cope with the extra fixtures and keep our momentum going.” When Wigan Athletic won 3-1 at Plymouth to go five points clear at the top of League One last Saturday Argyle’s manager, Derek Adams, described them as a Championship side in waiting. “Wigan and Blackburn stand out in this league because of the quality they still possess,” he said. “They are not League One sides, they should be in the Championship or the Premier League. Wigan are only in this division because of factors out of their control.”That may be more true of Blackburn, whose supporters can point to a hugely unpopular and woefully misjudged takeover as the cause of all the ills to befall them since Premier League status was lost. Wigan were unlucky in the season that followed their FA Cup win and relegation to the Championship, when they struggled to cope with a fixture overload brought on by Europa League involvement and another Cup run, though they slipped into League One a year later and could blame only some muddled managerial appointments of their own for that.Since then they have been up and down again, largely through gambling on an inexperienced manager in Warren Joyce, though now under Paul Cook they appear on course for another promotion. Wigan are even back to their giantkilling exploits, having disposed of Bournemouth via a replay in the last round, though supporters who turned up for the second game assumed six changes meant a Cup run was not the highest of Cook’s priorities. Share on Twitter Eight players who could light up the FA Cup fourth round Share on Messenger featureslast_img read more