Harry Houdini, watching Wigan Athletic put in performances worthy of his acts year after year, would have been proud. The Lactics, promoted to premier league in 2005, have defied all odds to stay alive at top level for seven challenging seasons. The small club from Great Manchester has been source of inspiration for other newcomers like Swansea city. It has been testament to fact that small clubs can play game beautifully and still survive the real test. It’s story has become a folklore in English football; a story worth hearing for all the right reasons.
Houdini performed his tricks to entice the audiences, where as for Wigan Athletic these acts are for its very survival. However, the differences end there. Magician’s secret lies in consistency-his ability to successfully perform the trick. Just imagine- the magician failing to pull a rabbit out of a hat when all the eyes are fixed on him. It’s the factor that differentiates the special from the mere mortals. It is for this reason that Wigan deserves it’s due. Just as consistent ManU has been in winning titles, Wigan has been in winning the relegation battles. Not to mention the dents they have dealt to title hopes of contenders on their way to saving themselves
The above tables show the month wise break up of Wigan’s performance in the years, when they carried out their escape heroics- 2006-07(17th); 2007-08(14th); 2009-10(16th); 2010-11(16th).In each of these years, the results drastically improved in the closing months-Feb, March, April and May- during thick of survival battle.
This season has been no different. They were bottom of the table for most of the season until they started their golden run with a draw against Everton. Since then, they have collected 16 points from ten games including wins over Manu, Liverpool and Stoke.
The other point of interest is Wigan’s performances in the same corresponding months in the seasons 2005-06 & 2008-09. In each of these seasons, Wigan was in a better position to finish the league engagements in mid-table. Accordingly, their performances in final four months were left a lot to be desired.
Both sets of statistics point glaringly to fact that Lactics thrive under pressure.
Sqaud Rotation- Is it the key?
Search for reasons behind this peculiar trend in fortunes of club will leave you on a wild goose chase. Pundits say depth in the squad will keep the players fitter and fresher to perform well in the closing stages of the league. For a club like Wigan, that depth seems a distant dream.
The Average number of starts of ten most used players for 2010-11 season:
Looking at the above stats for last season, it is evident that Wigan and wolves managed their squads effectively than relegated clubs -Birmingham and Blackpool. But it isn’t a decisive factor as seen from relegation of West ham united, the club with much bigger squad, along with Blackpool and Birmingham.
Men of Steel- ‘Haka’ Influence!!
However, the real influence behind these feats is the Wigan’s rugby team- Wigan Warriors the most successful club in the British rugby league. The qualities of grit, determination and fortitude originate here; qualities inbred in Wigan’s culture by the rugby club; the very qualities that enable Lactics to pull of these Houdini-esuqe feats year in year out. Incidentally, they share the DW stadium with their football mates.
Come end of season, as a true football fan, I only hope that Chairman Whelan’s words come true-
“We will not get relegated and we will not be going back in the bottom three.”