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May 9, 2013

Caldwell sets sights on FA Cup 'dream'

For Wigan's Gary Caldwell, FA Cup final day is about making history, about civic pride and realising a childhood ambition. It is also about proving his older brother wrong.

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The central defender can recall a conversation earlier this season with his brother Steven, a former Wigan team-mate who recently ended a two-year spell at Birmingham.

During the chat, Gary spoke of his ambition to bring a trophy to the DW Stadium. Steven was less than encouraging.

"I spoke to him earlier this year, saying it would be great if Wigan could win a trophy, and he didn't think it was possible," the Wigan captain said. "I hope I can make him eat his words on Saturday."

For Wigan and for the younger of the footballing Caldwells, Saturday's meeting with Manchester City represents a first-ever FA Cup final appearance.

It is the realisation of an ambition formed during spring childhood days in Stirling watching English and Scottish cup finals on television with his brother, 19 months his elder, both dreaming of becoming professional footballers. Both dreaming of, one day, playing in such a match themselves.

"I always remember getting up with my big brother and my family and watching the whole build-up," the 31-year-old said. "The cup final, back in the day, used to be a whole day of build-up. It was the last day of the season, and it would be a real showpiece.

"We used to watch that every year, and to think that one day you could be a part of that was a dream. That dream will come true this weekend."

Caldwell has played in three cup finals in Scotland, with mixed results. He was in the Hibernian side who lost the 2004 Scottish League Cup final to Livingston, and the Celtic team who won the trophy by beating Rangers in 2009.

In between, he won his one Scottish Cup medal, thanks to Celtic's 2007 victory over Dunfermline at Hampden Park. This experience, though, he expects to be a little different.

He said: "With Celtic, the pressure was always on you to win every game you played. Here, it's a little less, and you can go in, and there's a real enjoyment to it.

"With the cup run we've had, the fans have got behind us and we've gathered momentum throughout the rounds. We hope the club can have a great day that they can enjoy. It's the first time we've been to the final in the club's history, and we hope the fans can enjoy that occasion."

Reaching the FA Cup final, Caldwell believes, means a lot to the people of Wigan. He can feel an old-fashioned sense of occasion around the town in the build-up to Saturday.

"Yeah, you can feel that," Caldwell said. "We've had school visits, where children sing us songs, and we've people from around the town bake us cakes.

"You can feel the special atmosphere building in the town, and there will be a lot of people going down to Wembley on Friday and Saturday to enjoy the occasion. It will be great to see so many Wigan fans in the stadium."

The build-up to the first FA Cup final in Wigan's history has been accompanied by an increasingly fraught battle to stay in the Premier League. Their chances of survival suffered a significant set-back on Tuesday night with a 3-2 defeat at home to Swansea.

Caldwell and his team-mates will have two more league games to save themselves after their trip to Wembley; away to Arsenal and at home to Aston Villa. He is hopeful that the cup final can not only provide a great day for the town, but also boost the team in their push to secure a ninth consecutive season in the top flight.

"I think it can," he said. "We have to focus now 100 per cent on the cup for now, but a win on Saturday would give us a lot of confidence and belief that anything is possible going into the last two games."

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