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Wigan's shock win sparks joy in troubled season


Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan with the FA Cup

Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan with the FA Cup

Getty Images

Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan with the FA Cup

Roberto Martinez was late coming into the press conference but when he walked in, he had a reasonable excuse: "Sorry for the wait, we're not used to celebrating."

The football authorities pretend they care about the FA Cup but they don't. Last night at Wembley, Wigan Athletic overcame Manchester City to make the FA Cup final a memorable day once again. During the years of its decline, the Cup has usually been a consolation prize for the big clubs who treat it with disdain but can't bear to let it go. Wigan changed all that, winning their first major cup, unless you count the Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy and the Freight Rover Trophy.

They may not have saved the FA Cup – the screeching PA and the sound system drowning out any real atmosphere are only two of the reasons for contributing to its demise – but they have made a season in which they look likely to be relegated memorable.

Ben Watson's injury-time header won the match and Wigan deserved to triumph for the adventure and maturity shown by Martinez's team. City played the last seven minutes with 10 men after Pablo Zabaleta was sent off.

Martinez wondered what the victory will do to their hopes of avoiding relegation: "From an emotional point of view, it helps. From a physical point of view, I don't know how quickly we can recover from this."

If Wigan's victory bordered on the romantic, Manchester City's defeat will have no bearing on Roberto Mancini's future: he seems doomed anyway.

Mancini insisted after the game that the season has not been a complete failure, asking, "How many clubs did better than us? One."

Wigan may dispute this argument but City's early exit in the Champions League and their feeble defence of the title suggests Mancini may be out of time. Yesterday's papers suggested Manuel Pellegrini will arrive in the summer.

"I don't know if it's true or not," Mancini said. "I don't think so but I know football and anything can happen. I don't know why the club didn't stop this because I don't think it's correct. We will see in the next two weeks. If it's not true, you wrote a lot of stupid things. If it is true, I'm stupid."

Yet it was Martinez who had more important concerns, questioning the fact that his side are prevented from celebrating this victory by the two league games they have left.

"It is a shame that it can't be the final game of the season and we can be celebrating. Instead the players can have an ice bath and enjoy training tomorrow," he said.

Irish Independent