Prolific former Latics man talks goal scoring, Wembley and his affection for the club.
Stuart Barlow was the last Wigan Athletic player to score at Wembley Stadium back in the Division Two play off final in 2000 against Gillingham and he said he’ll be more than happy if that isn’t the case come Saturday.
“I’ll take anybody to score it doesn’t matter, I definitely won’t mind if there’s a new Latics’ goal scorer at Wembley.
“It’s great for me to say that I’m the last Wigan Athletic goal scorer at Wembley but I really want someone to take that off me on Saturday.”
And Barlow is tipping a fellow Merseyside man to take that mantle from him.
“If I had to pick someone out I’d want Callum McManaman to score especially after what has happened this season.
“The times I’ve seen him he looks a really good player and the goal he scored against Everton in the last round was just something else.”
It was a taste of defeat the last time Latics played at the national stadium but the year before marked the victory in the Auto Windscreens Shield, a run in the competition that started with a Barlow penalty.
“I actually remember the penalty that started the cup run in 1999 against Rotherham and I just blasted it right down the middle, it nearly knocked the goalkeeper’s head off.
“The penalty in the play off final the year after was supposed to be like the one against Rotherham the year before because I went to smash it down the middle but I slipped and it turned into one the best penalties I’ve ever taken.”
Barlow’s second consecutive trip to Wembley almost never happened due to injury and recalls the feeling of representing the club in such an occasion.
“To play at Wembley is every footballers dream and all I can say to the players who are going to play on Saturday is express yourself, enjoy the experience and do the fans and the club proud, because that’s what we were thinking ourselves in 1999 and 2000.
“At the time of the second Wembley trip I was actually out injured at the start of April because I’d had an ankle operation but John Benson said to me at the time that he needed me.
“He said as long as you can walk you’re going to be involved and just for that to happen and be involved in the play off final was amazing.”
Although it’s now 13 years since the 44-year-old pulled on a blue and white shirt, his connection with the club is one that he admits will never go away.
“People ask me now when was your best period as a footballer and obviously I played for Everton for five years in the top league of English football and all the trimmings that came with that were great but, my answer is always Wigan Athletic because being at the football club was just amazing.
“I used to go home to my family after a game and say that Wigan Athletic is my football club and I love it.
“I loved all the clubs I played for in my career but the bottom line is the most successful time I had on the pitch was with Latics.”
Even after Barlow’s departure he was adored by Latics supporters, he added:
“There was a connection between me and the fans straight away.
“The fans and the club were great to me and it’s a relationship that carried on after I left.
“I remember going back as a Tranmere player and I got up off the bench to warm up and the whole ground stood up.
“You usually get a bit of stick when you go back to a former club but when I scored the Tranmere fans cheered and the Wigan Athletic fans cheered, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in football before.”
With two former team mates and a former manager of Barlow’s involved with Latics now, his final word was to wish them all the best
“I’ve worked with Roberto (Martinez), Graeme (Jones) and Graham (Barrow) very closely in the past and I couldn’t wish three people anymore luck then them three and I just hope they get what they want come the end of this season.
“I stand them in very high regard and they’ve got to where they are through hard work and determination and they’ve made things great at the club.”