Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Top marks to the Class of 2016

Has everyone's hangover cleared up? Heads are a little better and there's a spring in everyone's step again?

No, not the hangover from an aptly-timed bank holiday (or was it an aptly-timed promotion?), but the hangover from this time last year. When we all, quite frankly, couldn't believe what was going on in front of us. 

Our beloved Wigan had dropped down to the third tier of English football for the first time in twelve years and it's fair to say the club was shell-shocked at a season that started badly and progressively got worse.

I haven't blogged at all this season, but a quick glance back at my most recent posts (from the second half of 2014/15), and I'd probably say it's because I'd become so accustomed to writing negative comments that I'd forgotten what it was like to appreciate attractive and successful football.

One element my last few blogs did have however, was optimism. From May 8, 2015 I predicted the following:

"Caldwell has promised us the Wigan way of football and promotion; and I fully expect him to deliver."

Pretty spot-on assessment. That's until the next sentence, that is...

"The Twittersphere has been full of banter about Mckay and Holt banging them in in League One, but this is completely what I expect to happen."

You can't win them all, and that's why Gary Caldwell led us to promotion rather than a group of fans making plans on Twitter.

Caldwell always played the Martinez way; played the ball out from the back and liked the ball to feet. So it's been no surprise to see him adopt the same style as manager.

I'm currently on a quest to speak to every member of the FA Cup final starting XI (plus a few more important individuals from our greatest success story) to form a book about that famous day in May 2013. The players I have already spoken to were Caldwell's team-mates, and some remain his close friends, but none of them have been surprised to see Wigan's current style (and subsequent success).

The Class of 2013 have all also been quick to admit they are glad to be watching Caldwell's journey from afar. Not because they prefer life away from Wigan (don't worry - not a bad word has been spoken!), but because they wanted to see Caldwell get his chance without his mates being around to cramp his style. He's their mate, not gaffer. 

But to this group, he's very much the man in charge and he built this squad we see before us. 

Not only have Wigan gained plaudits for the way they moved in the right direction in the League One table, but our promotion celebrations have gone viral. Perhaps the Class of 2016 are making up for the FA Cup winners having pizza and soft drinks on the coach back from Wembley?

This side's legacy may be one of a few things: the discovery of a true goalscorer in Will Grigg (arguably for the first time since Nathan Ellington); the best song about a player possibly ever; the return of Wigan's famous end-of-season upturn; or more likely, the best individual celebrations since Stuart Pearce at Euro 1996 (Max Power wins this award for his consistency over the season - from the Tigger bounce, to getting fans to pour lager over him in Revs).

Whatever we remember most about this season, we can have another summer of optimism. And not because we'll be going into a league as heavy favourites and a pledge of 100 points (we nearly did it), but because we've had our faith in football restored. I just hope the summer is long enough for me to make it through a day without humming 'Will Grigg's on fire...'

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