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Wigan – a rugby town. But they play some “football,” too

Wigan Athletic's Al Habsi celebrates his team's goal against Manchester United during their English Premier League soccer match at the DW Stadium Wigan

Wigan Athletic’s Ali Al Habsi celebrates his team’s goal against Manchester United during their English Premier League soccer match at the DW Stadium Wigan, northern England, April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR “LIVE” SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

REUTERS

Two shocking things happened on my latest, almost-annual England trip for soccer watching, beer drinking and … well, that’s pretty much what the trip is all about.

First, I got behind that right-seated steering wheel and maneuvered safely through UK streets without smashing myself or anybody else. Praise be.

Second, I found myself in Wigan of all places, on a surprisingly glorious February afternoon, sipping coffee in the teeming city center while killing time on a mid-week match day.

Only, nobody seemed to know it was match day. Wigan FC would be playing later that night at the nearby DW Stadium (formerly the JJB). Buzz? Nah. Vague awareness? A little bit, I suppose.

Wigan, I would discover, is “rugby country.” Who knew? Others, admittedly closer to the situation, might argue otherwise.

But how can you reasonably argue the point when Wigan meets mighty Manchester United, as Roberto Martinez’s side did today – and so few bother to make the date? You’ve probably heard of Manchester United, globally recognized icon, Premiership kingpins and all?

The big buzz today is about a Shaun Maloney 50th minute goal, one that threw a small “spanner in the works” of the Premiership race. Wigan manufactured perhaps THE upset of the Barclay’s season in a 1-0 shocker.

Anyway, I thought of this rugby town-football town tussle while watching Wigan hang desperately on against Sir Alex Fergusons’s men. They did, of course … but how nice if more Wiganites would have been around to witness it.

Plenty of good seats were available as the Latics put a wee little leak in the Man U. steamship, as yet another EPL crown lies dead ahead.