They said it was impossible for Stoke to survive among thesophisticates of the Premier League, that promotion was a step too farfor the uncool Potteries club and manager Tony Pulis.
Pulis set out to prove them all wrong, and yesterday he couldcelebrate with the club's extraordinary fans in their last home game ofa remarkable and unexpected season.
Head boy: Stoke City's Ricardo Fuller (right) celebrates scoring the opening goal against Wigan
Not only have they managed to retain their status in the top flightbut it has been achieved thanks to the good old principles of teamworkand total commitment.
It was not always pretty, but pretty effective, with strikersRicardo Fuller and James Beattie securing yesterday's points with theirsecond-half goals.
Pulis said: 'We have done our damnedest to prove that we could,against all the odds , achieve our goals. 'To do it people had to betotally committed to one another. Off the pitch there have been noproblems. The chairman [Peter Coates] is very knowledgeable and will bedoing handstands.
'The fans? I have never witnessed a coming together quite as much as I've witnessed this year.'
While Wigan tried to flatter, Stoke dug in and waited, not always patiently, for the goal chances that were to be their reward.
Fuller took the first, his 10th of the season, in the 68th minute when he collected a pass from the right.
He muscled through the Wigan challenges as he took his time twisting and turning before finding the room to drive a shot past Richard Kingson.
The second came seven minutes later when Beattie headed in a cross from Matthew Etherington, his seventh goal for the club since joining them from Sheffield United. Steve Bruce's Wigan team have not had the best of luck or results in recent week and they have clearly relaxed a mite too much since their own Premier League safety was confirmed.
Bruce said: 'We petered out and I must take the blame for that. At the same time you must congratulate Stoke. Tony Pulis has done a great job with them.'
Antonio Valencia was missing with a hamstring injury, allowing a debut for little South Korean Cho Won-Hee, who will be part of better Wigan performances than this. This was Stoke's day: nothing was going to stop them.
STOKE (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson, Ab Faye, Shawcross, Cort (Pugh 46min); Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Diao 76); Beattie (Cresswell 86), Fuller. Subs (not used): Simonsen, Olofinjana, Kelly, Tonge.
WIGAN (4-5-1): Kingson; Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa (Edman 81); Cho (Watson 58), Scharner, Brown (Mido 73), Cattermole, N'Zogbia; Rodallega. Subs (not used): Pollitt, Koumas, De Ridder, McManaman.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire)