Former Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez said he was honoured to be part of a charity game between his former club and Manchester City that will raise awareness of a rare genetic disorder.
Joseph’s Goal is a Wigan charity in aid of Joseph, a brave boy who has Non-Ketotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH), very rare life-limiting genetic disorder that severely affects his development.
To help raise funds for research, Martinez was part of a start-studded line up as legends from both Wigan and City went head to head at Ashton Town AFC on Saturday afternoon.
Famous faces included the likes of Emmerson Boyce, Paul Scharner, Nathan Ellington and Georgi Kinkladze.
Speaking before the game, Martinez said: “Joseph’s Goal as a charity is a fantastic opportunity to sometimes take stock of life and almost look into the power of the figure of Joseph.
“He’s such a brave boy and everyone around him shares so much love and that opportunity to help people around the community has been a real strength of the charity and if we can be involved it’s a real honour.”
Almost five years to the day, then Wigan captain, Boyce carried out Joseph onto the Wembley pitch on the day Latics lifted the FA Cup trophy.
Before the charity legends match, Boyce said: “I keep calling Joseph my lucky mascot! He’s been a big part of Wigan history let alone personally for me and I’m just happy to play my part today and hopefully it can encourage more people to take part in raising awareness and supporting the charity.”
The match was hosted by Ashton Town AFC at Edge Green Street and both teams were all led out by hero Joseph Kendrick.
Wigan opened the scoring through Ellington. Famously known as the ‘Duke’, Ellington lobbed the keeper from the edge of the box to give Latics a 1-0 lead.
It was 2-0 before the break as Scharner got in on the act. Gary Teale caused trouble on the left side and his cross found the head of the Austrian who powered home.
City got on the score sheet after half time as Ashton Town Manager, David Dempsey put a bullet header into the back of the net from close range.
Dempsey levelled the scoring soon after as he capitalised on a loose pass in the Wigan defence and he found the bottom left corner with a cool finish.
Jason Jarrett put Wigan back in front at 3-2 after he slotted the ball past the keeper in a one on one inside the area.
The game then turned on its head when City equalised through Chris Shucker before Dempsey got a hat trick to make it 4-3 with a just a few minutes remaining.
However, it was not over there as Ellington forced a draw with a free kick masterclass, as he found the top left corner to make it 4-4.
The game went to penalties and after City missed three and scored two and Wigan scored three and missed one, it was down to Boyce, a Joseph’s Goal Ambassador to give Latics a victory.
Wigan won the match 4-2 on penalties!
After the game, Paul Kendrick, Latics reporter for Wigan Today, said: “It was brilliant – such a good game! It’s great that the lads can come and enjoy occasions like this and obviously the fans got a real treat of football as well.”
Paul, who is dad to Joseph Kendrick, said: “It was unbelievable! Ashton Town put this on for us every year and each year we think it can’t get any better and it’s just got even better. We’re grateful to everyone at Ashton Town, Mark Hayes especially and they never disappoint and we’re already thinking about next year and how we can do better.
“It’s been an amazing month and so hectic but we’ll probably have a sit down with the charity trustees over the next few weeks and we’ll certainly be having a legends game around the same time next year and it’s what events we can fit in now for the rest of the year.”
KEEPING A WATCHFUL EYE
During interviews before the match, some of the Wigan Legends revealed that they had been keeping up to date with the club’s success, as Paul Cook’s men were crowned Champions of League One last weekend.
Former Latics goal machine Nathan Ellington, said: “I’ve been watching Wigan and seen a few games so it’s good to see the team going back up and hopefully they can continue it again next season.
“I’ll never forget about the Wigan fans as they were the best times of my career with them so it’s always good to see them again.”
Martinez, now Belgium boss, said: “It’s been a really good period for Wigan Athletic – getting promoted and winning the League One trophy, it’s been a remarkable campaign. What Paul Cook has done and the players and one the youngest Chairman’s in the league I think it’s a very good reason to celebrate for every Wigan Athletic fan.
“I follow every scoreline and I’ve had the opportunity to see a few games live and it’s just impressive how quickly Paul Cook has put a team together that really understands Wigan Athletic and they play for the Wigan Athletic heart and I just hope that success can be promoted into the Championship because it’s a really exciting year ahead!”
For more information on Joseph’s Goal or to donate to the charity, visit the website.