We turn our focus onto the FA Cup final’s Man of the Match and his rise into the Wigan Athletic first team.
Four years ago in May 2009 an unknown 18-year-old was introduced to the Wigan Athletic supporters for the first time with 12 minutes remaining in the final game of the season against Portsmouth.
Spin the clock forward to May 2013 and that same player was lifting the FA Cup after a Man of the Match performance.
Each year Callum McManaman as proven himself a bright spark for Latics, having scored his first goal for the club against Hull City in 2010 and impressing on loan in the Championship with Blackpool, but it was the 2012/13 season that the now 22-year-old really came to life.
There were positive signs from the start, when McManaman scored in his first appearance of the season as a substitute against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup.
Despite a bright start statistically, McManaman admitted he was left frustrated but determined.
“To be honest I was a little disappointed at the start of the season because I wasn’t involved in match day squads as much as I would have liked.
“It was a blow for me at the start and it was hard to get into but I knew if I worked hard I’d be able to prove I was good enough.
“I knew that if I kept on going then I’d get my chance, I carried on playing in the Under 21s every week and showing the gaffer what I could do in training.”
While playing in the Under 21s this season, McManaman scored three goals in six appearances and even dragged Latics back from a 3-0 half time deficit against Barnsley to draw 3-3 with a brace and an assist.
The forward was quick to acknowledge his time in the Under 21s and said he was grateful for the help that coaches Graham Barrow (pictured) and Dennis Lawrence have given him.
“I owe a lot to Graham and Dennis because they always told me that I could make it professionally and that my time would come.
“They told me to be patient as I was getting older and their advice has been a real benefit because there were times that I was getting impatient and they would just help paint a bigger picture.
“Both of them have helped me a lot and they’re a big part of why I made it into the first team.”
McManaman admitted that his first team progress had hit a stumbling block due to low confidence but says that there was a moment before the FA Cup fourth round game against Macclesfield Town (pictured) that changed the shape of his season.
“My confidence was low up until the Macclesfield game in the FA Cup.
“I’d just signed a new contract before that game and it gave be a massive boost.
“At the time I felt unfit and I was disappointed with myself because my performances weren’t very good, I was doing okay but for my own standards it just wasn’t enough.
“I haven’t looked back since I signed that new contract and if gave me the confidence to really kick on.
“I knew from then on that I could go as far as I wanted and it happened because we went all the way to win the FA Cup which was just unbelievable.”
The FA Cup has been a big part of McManaman’s progress at Wigan Athletic and with his three goals this year; he now has five goals in the last three FA Cup campaigns.
On his respect for the competition he added:
“The FA Cup is how I got my chances so I owe a lot to the competition as a place to impress.
“My first goal for the club was in the FA Cup against Hull City and my second, third, fourth and fifth goals were in the cup as well without even getting one in the league.
“I’ve always liked playing in the FA Cup and I always liked watching it when I was younger so to end up winning it here is just a dream come true.”
In 2013 McManaman got his first ever league start, his first Premier League goal and his first piece of silverware, but among those moments he said that scoring the winning goal in the dramatic 3-2 comeback against West Brom was high on the list, (pictured celebrating).
“The highlight of my season in the league was definitely scoring the winning goal at West Brom, it was the best feeling in the world.
“It was a great feeling and to score it in front of our fans and be able to go and celebrate with them made it even better.
“I love the supporters, I’ve always got on really well with them and they seem to have taken to me for some reason.
“I always lose my head when I score so maybe they just like that sort of passion.”
The icing on the cake for McManaman this season by his own admission was winning the FA Cup, something he described as ‘everyone’s dream come true’ and he said that the positives from that must be used to spur the club on in its attempts to bounce straight back into the Premier League.
“We were dealt some massive blows against Tottenham and Swansea that had a big impact on us being relegated but I’m sure if you ask anyone, they’ll look at the positives and the fact that we won the FA Cup.
“The moment of being relegated has been and gone now and nobody at the club can beat themselves up about it.
“It was a fantastic achievement to win the FA Cup and there are plenty of players, teams and fans who will be in the Premier League next season who’ve never won the FA Cup, it’s definitely something everyone can be proud of.
“We’ve got to enjoy that success now, there’s no point being too down about getting relegated because with the right amount of hard work we could be straight back up.”