At this time, seven years ago, Wigan Athletic were still basking in the bright silver limelight cast by their newly-acquired FA Cup trophy.
Their shock 1-0 victory over the champions of England had been one of the greatest final upsets in the history of the competition – with Ben Watson’s last-gasp header sealing the Latics’ first major accolade in 80 years and plunging the tiny Greater Manchester town into delirium.
The celebrations, quite rightly, went on for weeks.
Locals knew how to throw a football party. By 2013, scenes of intense jubilation among supporters had become something of a semi-common occurrence.
Wigan, traditionally known as a rugby league town, had succumbed to football fever during their epic journey to the top tier in the noughties – and their FA Cup triumph ensured the club would forever hold a place in the history books.
But today, Wigan fans aren’t dreaming of silverware. They’re not even thinking about winning the next match.
They just want to finish the season.
On July 1, news rolled in that the Latics had entered administration – with an imminent 12-point deduction from the EFL all set to send them bottom of the Championship.
A series of financial issues had been pushing the club to the brink for several months, and coronavirus was the final nudge needed to knock them off the cliff.
Wigan’s money woes were well-known, but the announcement still came as something of a shock to many in the footballing world.
Only last month, Hong Kong businessman Wai Kay Au Yeung, of Next Leader Fund (NLF), took full control of the club – with executive chairman Darren Royal claiming this would “negate some of the immediate” damages caused by the pandemic.
The owners passed the EFL’s test and takeover process – which ascertains whether the buyer can financially support a club.
But within weeks, the survival of Wigan Athletic has been left on a knife edge.
Board members are dealing with administrators at Begbies Traynor as we speak – scrambling to find interested parties to save the side.
Wigan enjoyed a fairytale rise to the golden land of the Premier League under former owner Dave Whelan, with the tactical shrewdness of manager Paul Jewell fuelling the firepower of strikers Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts to propel the Latics into the Premier League.
Defying expectations to finish 10th in their debut season, Wigan would remain part of British football’s 20 elite clubs for eight seasons – stunning City in 2013 to lift the FA Cup against all odds and competing in Europe the following year as a result.
The Latics have yo-yo’ed between the second and third rung of the EFL in the past decade, with Whelan stepping down as owner in 2015 and handing the reins to his grandson, David Sharpe.
International Entertainment Corporation bought the club in 2018, but sold off their shares to NLF a little over one month ago.
Wigan’s recent past has been remarkable, but for now, their future appears uncertain.
Fans will be under no illusions as to the gravity of the situation, with the tragic plight of not-too-distant neighbours, Bury, still fresh in the minds of football followers across the country.
Nonetheless, as history has taught us, these next few weeks will see rivalries set aside to provide Wigan with the support they need.
The whole of Greater Manchester – even Manchester City fans who had their hearts broken by the bulge of the net at Wembley in 2013 – will be behind them.