2002/2003 - What a season that was!!
After the disappointments of the previous seasons Latics fans viewed 2002/2003 with a mixture of optimism and foreboding. This was going to be THE year - but niggling away at the back of the mind was the "what if"?
The fact that chairman David Whelan had held faith along with the supporters with Paul Jewell despite a disappointing 2001/2002 campaign augured well. So in retrospect it proved. The bald figures show that Latics ran away with the title - they amassed 100 points, they only conceded 9 goals away from home, they only lost 4 games all season and broke 15 club records. The truth is they dominated the Division. But that niggling doubt for the true Tics fans stayed.
Even nearing the end of the season, when every other team at the Division was looking at the "other" promotion place, Latics fans were calculating how they could throw it away. Honestly!!
Highpoints of the season were a Worthington Cup run that finally killed the ghostly memories of Man City and despatched three Premiership teams, the League wins at Crewe and QPR where we finally began to believe that we could do it. Sitting around a radio on a Tuesday evening when we had no game and hearing that Crewe had failed to win which meant we were promoted, taking on 4th place Oldham with a makeshift team and despite going behind within 12 seconds running out 3-1 winners, the celebrations at Huddersfield when we actually won the Championship, packing into the JJB for the final game of the season when we got the trophy, a game heralded by Showaddywaddy miming (badly) and featuring a pigeon who refused to leave the pitch during the game despite every effort by Latics' keeper.
We remember a rare opening day win (at Cheltenham) when the first thoughts of success started to be planted, we remember the Schadenfreude of ex-Latics Simon Haworth and Darren Sheridan both being sent off against us. We remember not giving a stuff about losing in the Cup to Stoke, cos "we are going up".
This was the year that "Let's hang on" became a club anthem. When teams were subjected, in some cases undeservedly, to "We'll never play you again".
This was the year when all the players deserved medals: Nathan "The Duke" Ellington hit goals against the Premiership, Neil "Bomber" Roberts again found form, John Filan proved himself to be possibly a better keeper than Roy Carroll had been. A year when the defence stood proud, and everyone's player of the season, captain Jason De Vos, proved himself a colossus who could score as well as stop.
Most of all, this was the year we finally, finally, finally made it - and not one person outside of Bolton said we didn't deserve it.
As for the future - the Chairman looks to the Premiership, and no-one in Wigan is laughing at him. Maybe outside, but not in Wigan. It's a very open First Division this coming year, and with a fair wind, a couple of players extra, another solid performance from the defence, then maybe, just maybe a play-off place, and then who knows?