Manchester City v Wigan Athletic
The FA Cup with Budweiser
5.15pm, Saturday 11 May 2013
Live on ITV & ESPN
Winning club receives £1.8m and runner-up £900,000
Buy the official match programme online here
By Gary James
Cast your mind back to 1999 and in particular the Division Two play-off Final. Manchester City beat Wigan Athletic that day, but both sides were about to enter new eras of success.
When Manchester City and Wigan Athletic met for the first time in League football in October 1998, the two sides appeared to be heading in opposite directions.
City were playing at their lowest ever level while Wigan were at their highest level to date.
Manchester’s Blues were in a downward spiral, desperate to return to a level of stability never mind actual glory, while the Latics had been moving upwards ever since millionaire businessman and former footballer Dave Whelan had bought the club in 1995.
City won that first League meeting 1-0, as they did the second, by which time both sides were mounting challenges to reach the Second Division (third tier) play-offs.
Manchester’s Blues finished third and Wigan sixth, forcing the two teams to face each other in the two-legged play-off semi-final.
The first leg was played away at Springfield Park, and became the last competitive match played at the ground before the club’s move to their current stadium.
While 6,762 paid to watch at Wigan, there were also almost 10,000 fans at Maine Road watching the game via a large screen placed in front of City’s Main Stand.
They soon saw the first significant action of the game. Within twenty seconds of the kick-off, Wigan took the lead. Stuart Barlow rushed between Gerard Wiekens and Nicky Weaver to score a very simple goal.
There was still a long way to go, of course, but as the game progressed it did begin to look as if Springfield Park’s final game was to end positively for the Latics.
Joe Royle’s City did dominate much of the game after the goal. Attack after attack was foiled by Wigan until the 77th minute, when Michael Brown made a decent run down the right before crossing to Paul Dickov, who swept home a thoroughly deserved equaliser.
As the game wore on City went increasingly on the offensive. In the sixth minute of injury time Tony Vaughan narrowly missed scoring the winner when he headed fractionally wide, but the Blues felt satisfied.
Four days later, in the second leg, Wigan started well but City seemed to possess more grit and in the 27th minute the home side took the lead.
Terry Cooke sent a deep cross to the far post for Shaun Goater to force over the line. That goal was enough to send the Blues to Wembley for the first time since 1986 – and the last time at the old stadium.
Although Wigan had been defeated, the experience would also help push them forward. In a sense, reaching the 1999 play-offs had come too soon. In 2003 they won the Second Division title and followed this up with promotion to the Premier League in 2005. Meanwhile, City have re-established themselves as one of the game’s elite.
For both sides, however, meeting at Wembley is a reminder of where they both were only 14 years ago. Back then they dreamed of Wembley, today they are both here.
The full feature looking at that game in 1999, as well as a host of other Manchester City and Wigan Athletic, are in the official FA Cup Final match programme, which is available to buy online here. From Friday, you can also download the digital version from the Apple Newsstand.
Manchester City v Wigan Athletic
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