Wigan face a very real “would you rather” scenario Saturday and in the coming weeks as the FA Cup final looms and the Barclays Premier League season comes to a close:
Would you rather feel the glory of winning the FA Cup and bring home silverware, at the expense of relegation from Premier League? Or would you prefer to forgo winning the Cup if it meant the guarantee of playing in the top flight again next season?
It is a decision that no doubt weighs on Roberto Martinez’s mind as he prepares for the coming matches – Wigan turn around to play their penultimate Premier League game on Tuesday, currently sitting in 18th place and the favorites to be sent down. But first, he must traverse the FA Cup final against Manchester City at noon ET Saturday.
Is stability and accumulated wealth what is valued by a club the most? The relative riches the Premier League brings with TV deals and the like are certain to draw any sensible front office.
Or is soccer ultimately about trophies and unforgettable moments that fans and players alike will never forget?
Take Fulham for instance. Poll enough fans at Craven Cottage – or even Clint Dempsey – and many are sure to list off a number of things they would sacrifice to have beaten Atletico Madrid at the end of their improbable Europa League run a few years back. For sure a few would have included their Premier League status in that group. Dempsey’s unbelievable chip goal to beat Juventus is still one of the greatest goals in club history, but the job was left unfinished, unresolved, forever lost to time.
Or flip the coin and ask a Portsmouth supporter if they’d still not want the club’s financial nightmares wiped clean in exchange for their 2010 FA Cup victory. Pompey have just this year been relegated yet again, down to League Two, the lowest professional division in English soccer – the old Fourth Division – after falling into administration for the second time in two years. The club came a whisker from folding altogether, unable to pay player wages. Would erasing years of heartache be worth a piece of silverware?
The choice is simple: short-term glory, or another shot at long-term stability? There’s no guarantee that even by avoiding relegation this season that they wouldn’t be sent down in the near future. But there’s also no telling when Wigan will come this close to obtaining a trophy – the ultimate prize of the sport.
One thing is for certain come this FA Cup final – Wigan are in the Europa League next season no matter the outcome, as their opponent Manchester City have already been booked into the Champions League.
Roberto Martinez has a chance to cement his name in Wigan lore. Just how he chooses to attack the history books remains a highly debatable question.
Would you prefer a trophy at the cost of relegation of your club? Or do you believe remaining in England’s top division should be the top priority?