Football: Whelan still happy despite Wigan's heavy defeat

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 4 Wigan Athletic 2

At the risk of stating the obvious, it is a different world when you are a multi-millionaire. The last thing Jack Walker said to Dave Whelan before this tie was "Now don't go ruining my holiday, will you?" Both of them were in Barbados.

It is a different world, too, when you are in the Premiership and while Walker, the owner of Blackburn, did not let the FA Cup interrupt his sun worship, Whelan shot back to Lancashire just for this match. He did not think he would turn Walker's sun cream sour, either, but he had to be there just to be sure.

The Wigan chairman will return to the West Indies tomorrow a contented man. "I'm just happy we gave them a run for their money," he said of his Second Division side. "We didn't crumble when we went 4-0 down, we came back at them and gave them a right good game." His next destination was a meal, paid for by himself, for 50 players, officials and wives.

Whelan, a Blackburn supporter who played for and broke his leg when the club last played in the FA Cup final 38 years ago, makes no secret as to where he found the master plan for his Wigan ambitions. Work on his new stadium starts next week and the architects and builders are the same as those who have built Ewood Park. Even the manager, John Deehan, is expected to instruct his team to play in the Rovers manner.

Such respect rubs off and Wigan played with the polite courtesy of butlers to their masters until the prospect of humiliation loomed. Had they gone at Blackburn at the start with the same verve that they finished, we might have had an eyebrow-rising result on our hands. Instead any Cup magic was of the child's conjuring set variety - you could see precisely how it was being done.

Wigan pussy-footed around in a 3-6-1 formation, allowed Tim Sherwood to give a Sir Simon Rattle performance in midfield and were 4-0 down after an hour courtesy of an own goal from Pat McGibbon, and others from Sherwood and Kevin Gallacher (twice) before they halted the exhibition of a fall before pride by the novel notion of trying to attack their opponents.

David Lee, a veteran of Cup shocks with Bolton, pounced on a slip by Patrick Valery to beat Tim Flowers and then the winger passed precisely from the right wing to the substitute, David Lowe, when he was alone in the six yard-box. Had the referee awarded a penalty when Flowers brought down Lee soon afterwards, the match might have taken on an altogether different and desperate nature.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been awarded," Blackburn's manager, Roy Hodgson, said. Had he been worried at that stage? "No, I thought we were more likely to get a fifth than them a third. I'm not happy about conceding two goals but I think Wigan are happy at not conceding 15."

Whelan definitely was, as well as looking forward to renewing his holiday and seeing Blackburn at Wembley. "I want them to win the Cup now," he said. "I have a feeling, I don't know what it is, but I thought if they could get over us they will go all the way. I want to see them win the Cup before I die."

Hard to beat and with players who can provide moments that turn matches, Blackburn might just realise Whelan's dream. Wishes have a habit of coming true when you are a multi-millionaire - ask Jack Walker.

Goals: McGibbon og (20) 1-0; Gallacher (37) 2-0; Sherwood (48) 3-0; Gallacher (59) 4-0; Lee (61) 4-1; Lowe (67) 4-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna, Henchoz, Hendry, Valery; Ripley (Bohinen, 58; Beattie, 76), Sherwood, Flitcroft, Duff; Gallacher (Wilcox, 70), Sutton. Substitutes not used: Pedersen, Fettis (gk).

Wigan Athletic (3-6-1): Carroll; McGibbon, Greenall, Green; Kilford (Lowe, 58), Smeets, Martinez, Rogers, Morgan, Lee; Jones. Substitutes not used: Sharp, Warne, Fitzhenry, Farnworth (gk).

Bookings: Wigan: Green, Lowe.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Man of the match: Sherwood.

Attendance: 22,402.