Jewell backs Wigan Cup bid
Paul Jewell would not be surprised to see old club Wigan write yet another unlikely chapter in their history when the FA Cup holders return to Wembley to face Arsenal.
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Uwe Rosler's Latics will be back in the north London stadium where Ben Watson's late header stunned Manchester City in one of the greatest FA Cup final upsets of all time last May.
Those feelings of euphoria would turn to despair just three days later, though, as Arsenal's 4-1 victory confirmed Wigan's relegation and ended their eight-year stay in the top flight.
Jewell was at the helm when they were first elevated into the upper echelons of English football in 2005 and, after enjoying two promotions, twice preserving their Premier League status and taking them to their first major cup final in 2006, the 49-year-old has played a huge part in overseeing the swift rise since their inaugural season in the Football League in 1978.
Even so, events at the DW Stadium over the past 12 months have dumbfounded Jewell, who also played for the club in the 1980s. It has been a year in which they have twice beaten Manchester City - once in their own stadium to book this semi-final spot - won their first major trophy and played in the Europa League.
"It's been a brilliant journey," Jewell said.
"They must be the most difficult team in the country to try and predict the result. Again, this year they go to Manchester City and get a fabulous result and it was fully deserved.
"I'm sat here now and looking at the FA Cup trophy and who would have thought that Wigan would have even been in the Championship at one time? To be the FA Cup holders - it's just a brilliant, brilliant story."
The consensus is that Wigan could lose their status as cup holders by Saturday evening when they come up against an Arsenal side desperate to ensure their wait for silverware does not reach nine seasons.
However, Jewell sees no reason why Latics cannot continue their love affair with the competition.
"You can't predict with Wigan," Jewell, speaking in Wigan at the Beko Keepy-Uppy Challenge, added.
"Arsenal have had a few struggles since Liverpool beat them terribly and I watched the game on Sunday at Everton, they were very well beaten.
"I'm sure Uwe will be saying we've got to be careful with the wounded animal because they've had a bit of stick in the press. But I look at the way Wigan have played this season and they're aggressive in their style of play, their movement is good and I think they have a chance.
"They're second favourites but Wigan have made complete nonsense of people betting on favourites with Manchester City in the final, Everton in the quarter-finals (last season), Manchester City this year. Who's to say they can't get another one against Arsenal on Saturday? It's going to be tough but they'll go there with absolutely no pressure."
Jewell was in charge when Wigan defeated Arsene Wenger's team over two legs in the League Cup semi-final eight years ago and is amazed that their trophy cabinet has remained bare since 2005.
Asked whether defeat on Saturday could determine Wenger's future, he replied: "I don't think there's any doubt about that. I don't know whether they would take finishing fourth or winning the FA Cup but winning a trophy as a supporter, as a player, that stays with you.
"Finishing in the top four doesn't get you a medal, just like survival in the Premier League doesn't get you a medal. It's a huge, huge game for Arsenal, a bigger game for Arsenal than it is Wigan.
"When I was at Bradford they were 'The Invincibles'; they were the best team I've seen in the Premier League. (Thierry) Henry, (Emmanuel) Petit, (Patrick) Vieira, they were an awesome team.
"To see that they haven't won a trophy for eight years - everyone goes on about it and it will rankle with Arsene. Even though he's cool, calm and collected he's been a bit more twitchy in the last three or four months than I've noticed in a while. I'm a big fan of his but the pressure's coming on to him that he needs to win a trophy."