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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss