The vagaries of English football are well illustrated by the disparate fortunes of the two clubs lining up to compete for the oldest trophy in world football. Wigan, relegation –imperiled, have the opportunity to secure the old pot for the first time in their history, whereas a victory for Champions League-qualified City would be their second such success in three short seasons. Those bald facts however disguise the fact as to which club would cherish the victory more.
For Wigan, a season where they finished in 19th position and as FA Cup runners-up would be deemed as a success. For the Roberto Martinez managed club, success will be defined by their finishing position in the Premier League – that is until the seemingly inevitable day when they fall through the relegation trap door. So, although adding the cup to a ‘safe finish’ would clearly add a large element of glamour, finishing in the bottom three and securing the cup will be a disaster. Ask the club hierarchy what is more important, the cup or league status, and although the heart strings may e pulling one way, cold-headed logic would call it for league survival. It’s perhaps sad, but entirely understandable. It’s perhaps ironic therefore that the added games commensurate with a cup run and all of the inherent injuries and wear and tear for players, may be the factor that sees Wigan’s demise as a Premier League club.
As reigning champions however, City are currently sitting on the sticky end of a poor season. They have offered a tame defence of their league title, finishing a distance behind champions United, with – let’s be honest – fresh air in second place. They also had another lousy episode in the rich fields of European football, and bombed out of the League Cup. As compared to Wigan’s aspirations, finishing second and potless would be a poor season for City – and possibly a sackable offence for Mancini. Truth be told, securing the FA cup would be a consolation prize, but at least it will be a piece of silverware to place on the scales when the moneyed hierarchy at the club come to balance out the season and weigh up its manager’s future.
The difference can then be seen that although surely Wigan’s players and the club itself would be ecstatic – and popular – winners, success for City is more of a requirement than a joy. The fate of the cup may well therefore depend on what is the greatest drive, desire or requirement.