You’d have got long odds upon Wigan Athletic’s promotion to the Premier League in 2005 that seven years later the small-town Lancastrians would still be among English football’s elite.
But here we are with Wigan preparing for an eighth consecutive season in the top flight that they had never graced before their rise up the leagues under Paul Jewell (or perhaps more accurately, the money of Dave Whelan).
When you consider the former Premier League clubs who have languished in the lower leagues while Wigan have mixed it with the big boys – Leeds United, Southampton, West Ham, the Sheffield teams – their achievement is put into stark context.
The Latics are so erratic you’d have to be as mad as a box of frogs to back them at 9/25 to win under any circumstance.
Of course, the majority of those years have been a struggle against relegation but the Latics have somehow managed to escape the dreaded drop, and in what seems certain to be yet another season in the lower reaches of the Premier League Wigan have already had something of a great escape this summer.
Manager Roberto Martinez will start the season at the club, which did not appear likely as the 2011/12 season drew to a close. A truly fantastic run of results towards the end of the campaign – Wigan took 24 points from their last 10 games, including wins over Manchester United and Arsenal, to secure their top flight status – made 38 year-old Martinez hot property and there was strong interest from Liverpool and Aston Villa in securing his services.
But despite meeting Liverpool’s American owners nothing materialised and the Spaniard remains at the helm at the DW Stadium, a huge plus for Wigan as they bid to defy the odds once again.
Of course, speculation about their better players will never go away, and with Chelsea sniffing around the talented Victor Moses, Martinez may well have to again find cheaper replacements.
As it stands though, the former Swansea boss will be happy with how things have gone.
Wigan started their preparations for another long, tough season with a 3-1 win over Micheldorf on Tuesday and they step up their schedule with a match on Thursday against Bulgarians Botev Plovdiv.
Wigan are strong favourites to claim a victory at 9/25, with Botev the outsiders at 25/4 and the draw at 16/5.
Botev are celebrating promotion back to the Bulgarian A League having been demoted to the third division three years ago after being declared bankrupt under previous owner Dimitar Hristolov. A 2-0 play-off win against Sportist Svoge secured their place in the Bulgarian top flight and with a spring in their step the players will relish a match against Premier League opposition.
With that in mind, Wigan are too short at 9/25 (the Latics are so erratic you’d have to be as mad as a box of frogs to back them at that price under any circumstance) and tempting though the big price on Botev is (again, any time a side is massive odds against when playing Wigan they are worth a look) I fancy this one will have a few goals and 29/20 on over 3.5 goals is my play here.
Three of Wigan’s last five have had four or more goals (three of seven for Botev) and with plenty of changes certain but confidence high in both camps, it could be one of the more entertaining pre-season affairs.
Recommended bet: Over 3.5 goals @ 29/20
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