vindication for sticking by Roberto Martinez

Never has there been a bigger upset in the FA Cup than Wigan’s last minute goal from substitute Ben Watson to win the world’s most famous domestic knockout trophy – and what a fairytale for much loved chairman David Whelan to see his minnows leave the planet’s richest club Manchester City trophy-less.

It was wonderful to see Whelan, who broke his leg playing in the 1960 FA Cup final defeat for Blackburn against Wolves, lead the team out at Wembley. And the Latics supremo could not have dreamed up a more romantic storyline than the Roy of the Rovers winner from Watson, six months after being ruled out for over half the season with a fractured shin.

Whelan has stood by his manager Roberto Martinez with the loyalty and pride of a father figure, despite season after season fighting relegation. There is no better manager-chairman relationship in British football – and it was pure theatre the way Martinez made the decisive substitution when he sent on Watson for his moment of destiny.

It was the stuff of legends the way Wigan defied all the odds [ ] and outplayed their mega-rich neighbours with a brand of swashbuckling football that is typical of their hugely talented manager Martinez. When Watson rose magnificently to head home Shaun Maloney’s corner that flattened 10-man City, minutes after Pablo Zabaleta has been sent off, it was no more than the Latics deserved.

City boasts of future domination looked lame as Roberto Mancini lost the tactical battle and failed to inspire his team

Beaten boss Roberto Mancini may have been given a bottomless budget to buy success since taking over from Mark Hughes in December 2009. But his team were again a pale shadow of the side that got lucky last May when they stole the Premier League title off Manchester United with the last kick  of the season from Sergio Aguero.

For all his resources and his club’s boasts about future domination, City have under-achieved during his reign. It is ironic that a week in which the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement – prompting premature predictions from the Etihad that a shift in the balance of power in Manchester is on its way – that the Blues have blown their chance to make a statement on the pitch.

Yaya Toure made the mistake of taking victory against Wigan for granted and talking about a power shift when he highlighted the prospect of City benefitting from Ferguson calling it a day in the dugout. “He has built  everything at United and the balance I hope will go to the City side now,” said the Ivory Coast midfielder.

Instead of celebrating their third trophy in three seasons, the talk now is whether or not Mancini will be allowed to carry on as manager, despite being rewarded with a new five year contract last summer. Rumours that the City boss will be replaced by Manuel Pellegrini will accelerate despite Mancini insisting such headlines are “rubbish.”

The truth is that while Champions United have restored sanity and promised continuity by giving outstanding British boss David Moyes a six year contract to succeed Ferguson, City are a club with owners who have previously demonstrated they have no patience when they discarded Hughes to bring in Mancini .

How significant is Mancini’s lament when asked about his future that he complained: “Why didn’t my football club do something to stop the rumours.”  The uncertainty, whether intended or not, can only have distracted his players in their preparation for the cup final.

Meanwhile, it is the consistency of triumphant chairman Whelan who so richly deserved the glory of completing his “unfinished business in the FA Cup” that  has been rewarded. No-one in football will begrudge the 76-year-old owner his finest hour. Huge credit too must go to Martinez, who has returned the loyalty shown by his chairman and battled on with Wigan despite previous offers from bigger clubs including Aston Villa

Not only is it a fairytale conclusion to a dream that began thirty five years ago for Wigan, when the club was in the Northern Premier League. But it is proof, if proof is needed, that a long term plan is more satisfying and rewarding than the populist  demands for instant success.The final twist will come over the next seven days as the Latics fight for Premier League survival in their two remaining games, at Arsenal on Tuesday and then at home to Villa.

However the story ends Wigan’s FA Cup heroes have earned a unique place in football folklore.


Wigan win FA CUP and Whelan completes unfinished business with fairytale triumph . .

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Two days later . . . Mancini is sacked as United celebrate

13 May 2013 – A year to the day after leading Manchester City to their first League title in 44 years Roberto Mancini is sacked. In contrast, rivals Manchester United spent the evening parading the 13th Premier League title won by Sir Alex Ferguson who retires this week after an unprecedented 26 years in charge at Old Trafford.