Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Wembley Return a Reward for Whelan ; Latics Heroes Lead Mr Wigan Back to the Scene of His Broken Leg Horror

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Wembley Return a Reward for Whelan ; Latics Heroes Lead Mr Wigan Back to the Scene of His Broken Leg Horror

Article excerpt

EVERTON 0 WIGAN 3 DAVE Whelan - the man they call Mr Wigan Athletic - has waited 53 long years for another crack at FA Cup final glory and now he has finally got his chance.

Whelan, now 76, has taken Latics up in the football world from non-league to the dizzy heights of the Premier League, and now wants a payback from the game's greatest knock-out competition after suffering Wembley heartache as a player.

Back in 1960 as a tough-tackling Blackburn Rovers defender, Whelan broke his leg in the FA Cup final against Wolves. It is a painful memory which still forces him to shed a tear and reflect on what might have been.

Ironically, five decades later, Whelan's Cup story could turn full circle - his Latics side will take on Blackburn at Wembley should Rovers win their quarter final replay at home to Millwall on Wednesday.

Regardless who provides the opposition at Wembley, there were tears of joy after Saturday's stunning 3-0 win at Everton secured Latics a place in their first FA Cup semi-final.

It really is a remarkable achievement for a club threatened with relegation and written off ahead of the quarter-final at Goodison.

Three slick goals from Maynor Figueroa, Callum McManaman and Jordi Gomez in as many first-half minutes turned the tie on its head and have sent Wigan to Wembley.

"What a great result for the club and for the people of Wigan," said a jubilant Whelan, who bought the Latics for just Pounds 400,000 in 1995. "I am delighted. Anyone who downgrades the FA Cup has never played in the FA Cup themselves.

"As a player, the FA Cup is the trophy you want to lift at Wembley.

"I remember walking down the Wembley tunnel on the day before the final and thinking there would be 100,000 people in there tomorrow.

"During the game I went for a ball with Norman Deeley from Wolves and ended up being stretchered off.

"I can still remember being told in hospital we had lost 3-0. I burst into tears.

"I would never, ever part with my cup final medal, even though it is a loser's medal.

"A lot of Wiganers love going to Wembley. The rugby league club have been there plenty of times and Wigan Athletic have been there twice in play-offs, but to go to an FA Cup semi-final and then the final would be extraordinary. …

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