Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan, who broke his leg playing in the 1960 FA Cup final, will lead the team out for today’s cup final against Manchester City at Wembley.
Wigan wanted Whelan, 76, to lead them out at the stadium for the semi- final against Millwall last month, but the protocol for that match did not allow them to do so. However, the FA had no problem with granting their wish for today’s showpiece. “The FA have given permission for the chairman to lead us out and we are all delighted,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez told reporters before leaving for London.
Whelan, playing for Blackburn Rovers, broke his right leg shortly before half-time during the 3-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1960 FA Cup final. The injury put paid to Whelan’s career in the top flight, although he played 115 matches for lower-league Crewe Alexandra before retiring in 1966. He then started a business and became a multi-millionaire before buying control of Wigan and watching them climb through the divisions to the Premier League eight years ago.
Martinez, meanwhile, has told his players they should dare to dream about the possibility of an FA Cup final victory over Manchester City.
Talk of the Latics’ first appearance in FA Cup final has inevitably included discussion about a relegation fight they now look certain to lose. Yet it is an undeniable truth that a win today will have an effect on Wigan that will last far longer than what league they end up playing in next season.
For Jim Montgomery, Bobby Stokes and Lawrie Sanchez are part of the very fabric of football in this country, and will continue to be so no matter what strife Sunderland, Southampton and, most tellingly of all, Wimbledon find themselves in at any given moment. It is these names the Latics will join if they can find a way to overcome City at Wembley. And the impact of such a success is not lost on Martinez.
“You have to dream and the bigger the dream the bigger the achievement,” he said.
“Winning the FA Cup would be there forever. Just arriving in the final is a photographic moment in the history of our football club. Winning a major trophy would take our club to a different level. We are all well aware what this could mean. There are a billion people watching this game. It is one of those key moments that help develop awareness.”
Martinez’s own cup final memory is watching Ricky Villa slalom his way through the Manchester City defence to help win the trophy for Tottenham in 1981.
Little did he think at the time that 14 years later, he would be playing professionally in England, albeit at a level much lower than the one Wigan find themselves in now. “When I came here in 1995, there were around 1,500 people watching us in what is now League Two,” he said. “Tomorrow, we will be taking 21,000 to Wembley, which is incredible.”
Maynor Figueroa, Jean Beausejour, Ivan Ramis and Ronnie Stam are definitely out and Antolin Alcaraz seems certain to join them on the sidelines. It gives Martinez a tricky decision about fielding skipper Gary Caldwell, who was particularly poor in midweek, or Roman Golobart, who is badly lacking in experience, alongside Paul Scharner in central defence. “The defensive problems are something we need to accept and find solutions to,” the Spaniard added.
“I have never seen anything like the injury situation we have. But we have to cope with it. We won’t use it as an excuse. We need to find the answers.”
Routes to Wembley
January 5 Third round v Watford (H) 3-0
Mario Balotelli was the focus of attention pre-match after a training ground bust-up with Roberto Mancini, but Carlos Tevez made the headlines on the pitch. The Argentinian struck a superb free-kick and Gareth Barry and youngster Marcos Lopes also found the target in a routine win.
January 26 Fourth round v Stoke (A) 1-0
David Silva hit the post early on for City but a tight contest at the Britannia Stadium was not settled until Pablo Zabaleta struck from close range five minutes from time.
February 17 Fifth round v Leeds (H) 4-0
City responded to a damaging Premier League loss at Southampton by outclassing Championship side Leeds. Yaya Toure began the procession early on before Sergio Aguero added a penalty and a fine finish either side of a close-range Tevez effort.
March 9 Quarter-finals v Barnsley (H) 5-0
Barnsley were swept aside in even more clinical fashion as the outstanding Tevez, putting aside off-field problems after being arrested on suspicion of driving whilst disqualified, plundered a hat-trick. For good measure, the striker also set up goals for Aleksandar Kolarov and Silva.
April 14 Semi-finals v Chelsea (Wembley) 2-1
For just over an hour, City were outstanding, building up a seemingly comfortable lead through Samir Nasri and a rare Aguero header. The closing stages required resilience after Demba Ba pulled one back but City came through, surviving controversies over an Aguero tackle and a rejected Chelsea penalty appeal.
January 5 Third Round v Bournemouth (H) 1-1
Eunan O’Kane gave the League One side the lead just before half-time with a 20-yard strike but Jordi Gomez avoided an upset by scoring his own 70th-minute penalty rebound.
January 15 Third Round replay v Bournemouth (A) 1-0
Mauro Boselli scored his first FA Cup goal but probably his most important goal for the club to secure progress.
January 26 Fourth Round v Macclesfield (A) 1-0
Another Gomez penalty after just seven minutes against the Conference side, the lowest ranked left in the competition, proved just enough to sneak through.
February 17 Fifth Round v Huddersfield (A) 4-1
Latics’ most comfortable win on their way to Wembley as Callum McManaman, Arouna Kone and James McArthur put them 3-0 up inside an hour with Kone grabbing a late second after Lee Novak had pulled one back.
March 9 Quarter-final v Everton (A) 3-0
A blistering spell of just 202 seconds in the first-half stunned Everton as Maynor Figueroa, McManaman and Gomez all scored within quick succession.
April 13 Semi-final v Millwall (Wembley) 2-0
An inspired performance from Shaun Maloney was rewarded with a goal midway through the first-half and McManaman made sure of a place in the final with the vital second 12 minutes from time.