As history making years go 2013 will certainly go down as the biggest of the lot for Wigan Athletic. The first FA Cup Quarter-final appearance in 26 years was closely followed by the clubs first ever FA Cup semi-final and you know the rest.
Another landmark moment takes place later this week as Wigan Athletic embark on their first ever European campaign, the Europa League has crept up on us. After that glorious day in May it was back to the day to day business of football and with upheaval both on and off the pitch supporters and players alike could be forgiven thinking this is a distraction we don’t need.
But whoever is named in the squad on Thursday night will be part of living history, the first and most probably only team to represent Wigan Athletic in European competition. When you take a step back and think about what this small club has achieved over the last two decades its all the more remarkable.
It’s disappointing that most of the media have decided to concentrate on Swansea’s return to European football as oppose to our debut in the competition. Part of that may well be down to the effect of relegation, relegation means you are an irrelevance in the eyes of the Premier League obsessed press and as the draw for Group D was made it certainly wasn’t going to help our efforts to get noticed on the European stage.
But that could of course be a benefit the club have to decide just how seriously they want to take this competition, I understand completely the calls for us to play a reserve side and to concentrate on the punishing Championship campaign but the Europa League could work in our favour. A couple of decent performances and maybe a win here or there could build that momentum that we’re clearly in need of.
For Wigan Athletic to represent England in European football is a pipe dream even Dave Whelan wouldn’t have considered when he took us over in 1995. Promotion to the Premier League is one thing, staying there for eight seasons another but to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League is really something else.
Wigan Athletic formed in 1932, only promoted to the Football League in 1978 and residing in the bottom two divisions until 2003 are amongst some of the biggest names in Europe. If you’re heading over to Bruges or watching on TV just take a moment to think about that and think back to all of those who went before us and who have missed out on some of the greatest days in our history.
If it wasn’t for those that fought so hard to get us in to the league, we wouldn’t be here now.