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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Wigan Athletic: Wembley woes and Super League talk


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Sqf Steve Coulter general

Poor Wigan Athletic. In the club's finest hour the Latics are still getting stick from the media, as the Lancashire side has failed to sell around 10,000 tickets for today's FA Cup semi-final clash.
 
Regular Squarefootball readers will know I'm a great admirer of Roberto Martinez's side. We always associate Wigan Athletic with poor attendances, but closer inspection reveals a different tale. The town has a population of just 81,000. The Latics' average attendance is around the 19,000 mark meaning a fair proportion of Wiganers do venture down to the DW.

Martinez worriedOther factors have to be taken into consideration. With Manchester and Liverpool on the doorstep a fair percentage of the fan base may be tempted to support one of the North West giants. Then their is the town's highly successful Rugby League team. Long before Maloney and Gomez, the likes of Martin Offiah and Ellery Hanley ruled the roost.
 
The shortfall in ticket sales has sparked debate on various forums. As a Birmingham City fan I had a peek at our vox-pop outlet. Most Bluenoses were sympathetic to the Wigan cause, but one poster floated the idea of introducing a Super League. There would be no place for little old Wigan Athletic in the bright new world, while the likes of Fulham, Reading, QPR and Norwich would suffer the same fate.
 
Their places would be taken by former giants of the game in the shape of Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City.
The two Sheffield clubs could also replace Stoke and Swansea, the poster added. 
Now I have no problem with any of the proposed gatecrashers. They are all fine clubs will fine histories. But the thing is they aren't great teams at this precise  moment in time. Hence the fact they currently all ply their trade outside the top flight.

Playing performance is the nature of associate football. The best teams on the field of play should always prosper. This gives our beloved game a sense of honesty. Talent and commitment are genuinely rewarded. While success in the real world is largely governed by financial wealth the ordinary Joe can still triumph in the beautiful game.

The Premier League has watered down this romantic ideal to an extent. Gone are the days of Ipswich Town or Burnley been crowned Champions of England. But so-called smaller clubs still have the chance to live the Premier League dream.
Although fleeting in many cases, their struggle to survive captures the imagination. Who wasn't thrilled by Blackpool's season in the sun? Free of expectations Olly's men played in a manner fitting that vibrant Tangerine shirt. You can't argue that Swansea City haven't breathed new life into the big league.

Another problem exists. I would suggest that Ipswich Town, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Derby County, Leicester City and Middlesbrough have strong grounds to be included in the fat cat league. Several of those clubs have won more trophies my beloved Blues, so may be entitled to feel a little miffed at their exclusion. Where do you draw the line?

Promotion and relegation are the life blood of the Football League. Change brings interest and hope. How dull would this season's Premier League be if the threat of relegation was removed? All 92 league clubs should be treasured and given the chance to shine. Fantasy should never be the sole preserve of Walt Disney.

Calling all football fans: What are your views on launching an English Super League made up of clubs with big traditions and history, rather than teams who are getting it right on the pitch now? Who would make it into your 20-team Super League? Should Wigan not be praised for their resilience to stay in the Premier League rather than hounded because of their small fan base? Whatever your view we'd love to hear from you.

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Antony Melvin

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