I don`t profess to be young, in fact I am anything but, and that realisation has sunk in quite deeply whilst I was thinking about next Saturday`s opponents, Aston Villa.
My abiding memory of Latics clashes with Villa is the very first meeting between the two clubs in the League Cup 4th round, a cold but clear Tuesday night on the 1st December, 1981, was it really 30 years ago?
We had a great team back then, Larry Lloyd had come in as manager towards the end of the previous season, during the summer, then chairman Freddie Pye, sanctioned the release of some finances to build a side capable of gaining promotion from what was English footballs bottom tier, the old 4th Division.
Lloyd added to what was already a half decent squad, bringing in centre forward Les Bradd, speedy winger Kevin Sheldon, midfield men Clive Evans and Graham Barrow, plus experienced fullback John Mahon and goalkeeper Roy Tunks. With Peter Houghton and Colin Methven already in the squad the team looked more than adequate of achieving promotion.
The season had started off fantastically well, the newcomers had blended in quickly and the Latics were enjoying early season success in the league and were embarking on a cup run in the League cup. After demolishing Chelsea 4-2 in round 3, Latics were rewarded with a glamour home tie against current League Champions, Aston Villa.
Now Villa were everyone`s second team back then, they played the ‘sexy football`, flamboyant, swaggering and exciting. They would go on to win the European Cup at the end of the season, but next up for them was a trip to Wigan to face Larry Lloyds Latics.
This was a time when sides ALWAYS fielded their strongest team whatever the competition and Villa were full of household names, internationals and great players such as Jimmy Rimmer, Dennis Mortimer, Peter Withe, Gary Shaw, Gordan Cowans, Kenny Swain and Tony Morley. This would be a great test for the Latics and a great occasion for the Latics fans.
Colin Methven had the task of marking Gary Shaw, Villas leading goalscorer, Latics led the tie 1-0 at half-time with a superb Peter Houghton effort scored at the Shevington end, he lobbed Villa keeper Rimmer from 20 yards, but Villa pulled a goal back through Peter Withe mid way through the second half, then with just minutes left and the tie seemingly heading for a replay, Shaw took a dive in the area under a Methven challenge and the referee awarded Villa a penalty, Shaw got up to score and Methven was devastated.
The Latics skipper had kept the England striker quiet all game only for the ref to be conned in the final moments of the match, a lasting memory is the sight of Villa keeper Jimmy Rimmer shaking his head at the decision and giving apologetic hand gestures to the Latics fans at the back of his goal.
A fantastic performance though from a very talented Latics side that stretched the English Champions and soon to be European Champions all the way.
Latics and Proud
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