Wigan’s Will Grigg plays catch-up until 4am after the night of his life

Paul Wilson on 20 February 2018

Wigan seem to be making a habit of it but for Will Grigg it is not every day you knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup and the goalscorer in Monday’s dramatic tie cheerfully admits the first thing he did when he got home was put the television on and watch it again.

And again and again, from the sound of things. “The last time I looked it was about 4am,” the Northern Ireland striker says. “I needed to catch up with the television because the match itself went by in a blur, but to be honest the whole night was a bit like that. By the time I got home I had about a hundred WhatsApps and 50-odd text messages. A mix of friends, team-mates, ex-team mates, it was great to see them. So I made myself a drink and sat down, keeping in touch with everyone and flicking through the best bits on television. I couldn’t have slept anyway. I’m usually bad after games but this one especially so.”

Until his 79th-minute winner against City, the 26-year-old was worried he might not be able to sleep for a different reason. “I’d missed a chance in the first half, and because I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of chances I couldn’t stop thinking about it. You know that you are only going to get a handful against a team like City, and the key for underdogs like ourselves is to take them.

“Potentially that could have been our moment in the first half, our one opportunity to take the lead, and once I missed it I spent most of the rest of the game worrying that another might not come along. It is probably a good thing I managed to take the chance in the second half because otherwise I wouldn’t have been sleeping for a long time.”

If that makes Grigg seem a nervous type, nothing could be further from the truth. His winning goal still took some scoring but he tucked it away with great composure. “I don’t normally worry about missed opportunities but this wasn’t a normal game. All that was playing on my mind was that City might not let us have another chance but when the moment came I was ready for it, I knew what I had to do.

“I’ve always said I’m a goalscorer, I don’t care what level it is, and as soon as I noticed that bit of hesitation from Kyle Walker I knew I had half a yard, which is all you need. All I was concerned about then was making a good enough contact to sort of pass it into the far corner. The way the game was going I had been feeding off scraps for a while, having to chase everything down, but I was happy to do that because the rest of the lads were working so hard. We knew we would need a little bit of luck to get through, and we had that, but we had a gameplan and we managed to stick to it.”

To the naked eye that gameplan seemed to involve 10 players defending and Grigg on his own up front, though he insists a little more thought went into it than that. “I know what it must have looked like, and probably at times we were just soaking up pressure as best we could, but we tried cut the game into stages. We knew in the first 15 minutes we just had to stay in the game, we set up as 4-5-1 and tried to get the hang of their rotation.

“It’s OK to watch videos of them moving the ball around but in a game you have to feel it for yourself. Then after the first quarter we felt we could have a spell, to try to press them a little more, which is easier to say than to do. The way they rotate the ball it’s hard to get near them, let alone press them. Going into the game we weren’t sure how we were going to come out, but after coming out on top we will be going into the game against Southampton with no fear.”

Given Wigan’s FA Cup record this season it surely ought to be the Saints fearful about the quarter-final. A side struggling with relegation concerns are going to do well to succeed where Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City have failed.

For Grigg and Wigan there is just the small matter of putting their own promotion push back on track after two league defeats, beginning with Rochdale at the weekend. “We know how important Saturday is,” Grigg says. Not even the FA Cup’s leading scorer can overlook the significance of the next few league results. “It’s back to work now after all the celebrations, our job is to try to beat whoever is in front of us and that’s what we will be trying to do for the rest of the season.”

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