Roberto Martinez fights Cup final curse

Sometimes reaching Wembley and getting relegated go together

Gary Lineker's first view of Wembley ended in tears. The eight-year-old travelled with his father and grandfather to watch Leicester lose 1-0 to Manchester City in the 1969 FA Cup final. He cried all the way home.

Within the month, there would be more tears for the young Lineker to shed as Leicester became the first club of the modern era to couple an appearance in an FA Cup final with relegation. There have been three more since and, should Roberto Martinez get his calculations wrong, Wigan will be the fourth.

The price they will pay will be measured in more than teardrops. Wigan, who spend almost three- quarters of their income on players' wages, are facing exclusion from the biggest television deal the Premier League have ever negotiated, and there would be no easy way back. Of the previous 18 clubs relegated to the Championship, two-thirds have stayed down.

In the wake of a crushing 4-0 defeat by Liverpool a month ago, Martinez appeared adamant he would not risk Wigan's survival by going all out to win his next match – the FA Cup quarter-final at Everton. When asked if Cup runs affect League performances, the Wigan manager said the statement was "proven". He added: "Success in the FA Cup is what we want, but not at the price of our League status. I will never allow that to happen."

He said he would make changes for the quarter-final, and nobody in the DW Stadium's press room would have expected anything else at Goodison Park other than a home win. Instead, Wigan produced their finest performance of this or almost any other season, one which Martinez now claims "galvanised the dressing room" to two ugly but desperately needed wins over Newcastle and Norwich. How they could do with a another one at Queens Park Rangers this afternoon.

And yet Martinez knew what he was risking. For clubs like Wigan the FA Cup carries, if not a curse, then a heavy price-tag. Since 1964 seven clubs from what used to be called the Second Division have fought their way to an FA Cup final. None were promoted.

Coventry were the Wigan of their age, a club with limited resources who somehow always seemed to avoid sliding over the cliff edge. In 1969 they survived by one point. Over the next dozen seasons Coventry finished in the top 10 three times. On each occasion they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round. Their longest Cup runs – to the quarter-finals in 1973, the fifth round in 1981 – saw them miss out on relegation by two places and one point respectively.

Too often exhaustion was the enemy. The story of Middlesbrough in 1996-97 would make a film; a squabbling, fragile, wonderfully talented side, starring Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli, that reached two finals and got relegated. Between 6 and 22 April, they played and replayed the League Cup final, played and replayed the FA Cup semi-final with Chesterfield, not to mention two Premier League fixtures. By the time they had hacked their way through that lot there were five games remaining, and they could summon strength to win only one.

Jimmy Case was part of the Brighton side that reached the 1983 FA Cup final after a run that saw them overcome Newcastle, Manchester City and, famously, his former club Liverpool. "We were like Wigan in as much as we lost quite a few League games without playing particularly badly and the supporters forgave us the mediocre performances because of what we did in the Cup," he said.

"But the FA Cup seemed far more important then and, although we failed in the League, we did something that hasn't been forgotten on the South Coast.

"If you asked Wigan's players and supporters if the Cup run is worth the risk of relegation, I think to a man they would say yes.

"If you asked the money men at the club, they would probably tell them to stuff the glory and take mid-table every time."

Queens Park Rangers v Wigan is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4.10pm

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?