It was supposed to be the match that decided their futures. Instead, with one club safe and the other down, it's all a bit meaningless...
It was all going so well. Wigan were beginning their annual survival surge at exactly the right time, keeping in touch with Aston Villa above them. Had both sides continued on that same trajectory, there was only one outcome.
On the final day of the season, with Paul Lambert’s side visiting the DW Stadium, it would be winner-takes-all.
And then the Latics put in a defensive horror show against Swansea, before Arsenal filled their boots in a 4-1 win last Tuesday.
So instead of Sunday’s match being the exciting, see-saw encounter we had hoped for, it is instead a showcase for one club’s relief and another club’s bittersweet swansong.
Villa fans won’t be complaining. Having spent the vast majority of the season fearing relegation, they can enjoy their final game safe in the knowledge that no result can send them down. For once, a game with nothing to play for will be welcomed with open arms.
And for the Latics, it will be their final match in a league they have graced so well. For many supporters whose side is safe this season, they will still feel disappointed by Wigan’s fate. They have become many a neutral’s second-club, perhaps even more so since last weekend’s improbable yet outstanding FA Cup triumph.
How hard it must be for players to turn out knowing their efforts will count for little more than hollow smiles and bragging rights. And yet Roberto Martinez and his side should feel pride despite their fall. They have won the FA Cup. And whichever league they are playing in next season, that fact can never be lost.
For those of us hoping for a game that decided two clubs’ fates, we should remember the fans involved.
For the Villa fans who have seen their young side grow before their eyes. In such a way as to suggest that the future will be anything but a replica of the now.
And for Wigan fans, who have gone from elation to heartbreak, with both feelings now fighting for priority in their hearts and minds.
So maybe it is an anti-climax. But that is not for us to bemoan. Both sides have played huge parts in the story of the season.
And in truth, my only regret is that the match isn’t meaningless for both sides, with both already safe from the drop.
Can Wigan get straight back into the Premier League? And how high can a youthful Villa side finish next year?
image: © illarterate