It was the 14th August 2005. I remember it vividly, sitting at my cousin’s house with my uncle, two cousins, my dad, and a few family friends who were all round to watch Wigan’s first ever match in the Premier League. The weather wasn’t the best, grey clouds drifted in the sky but the only time we saw them was when the near goals flurried at every other moment and sent us praying for the Wigan goal we all wanted. The day was good to us, the barbeque was set up and the sun could still be felt amongst the grey blotches every now and then.
A few hours earlier, we had half-heartedly watched Arsenal hammer Newcastle 2-0 whilst the barbeque blazed, and the memories of the Latics were passed around the house. My uncle is an avid Everton supporter, but had played football as a lad growing up in Wigan. He told us of the time he played against some Latics players for a charity match. He joked about how one of the lads had been overly cocky, so he had stuck to him the entire match and never let him by without sliding in.
It was great hear footballing stories from my family, we were mainly followers of the rugby but with the recent promotion, and Chelsea’s money and victory of last season under the belt, we were all curious to see how the home side would fair. I still remember vividly in the pre-match build up, the reporter stood outside of the then JJB stadium, and announced that Wigan was famous for "tries and pies" but now maybe football could be on the card as well. He wasn’t wrong. That match set us up for eight seasons in the top flight. Each match was a battle, and each match showed a side of Wigan that no one in the Premier League had ever thought existed. We were expected to be the quiet team that came up and dropped straight back down again, but our stubbornness and desire for respect washed all that away. We climbed to second place in our second season, made it to the final of the League Cup and gave the "Big Four" a run for their money in every match. Why? Because that’s what we do.
We ended that season in a cosy 10th position, the highest spot we ever reached. Sure, after that, the Latics seemed to dwindle a bit, the competition strengthened, and bigger clubs sought after our best players, but that just fortified our will. We brought in veterans and new youths. I remember watching Antonio Valencia and thinking, "that lad has a future". I saw the potential the club had; we could build up these young players and sell them to the bigger clubs to fuel our club for the future, something that seemed to happen. Baines went to Everton and Valencia went to Manchester Untied, and both became major threats for their teams.
Now, the Latics have dropped out of the Premier League, but not without that Wiganese fight. We took the FA Cup with us, proving we are a good team that deserves respect. I know we’ll be back. When exactly, I can’t say, but you can bet your life savings that Wigan will face the giants again, we’ll stare them back into their corner and I’ll be watching them once more with my family.