Will Grigg’s on Fire: The Wigan striker who is much more than just a chant
The striker’s excellently-taken goal against Manchester City continued the Northern Ireland striker’s fantastic campaign.
Amid the pitch invasion, the shenanigans after both the half-time and full-time whistles and the sheer significance of the result, it was easy to forget just how good the goal was that decided the season’s most stunning result to date.
It had all the qualities a striker dreams of showing: awareness, anticipation, pace, strong hold-up play, shaking off a challenge before picking out the perfect finish.
A piece of play that would not have been out of place in Manchester City’s star-studded line-up, it could well prove the most memorable goal in the career of Will Grigg, the 26-year-old who had threatened to become somewhat of a meme thanks to the viral chant in his honour which had praised his goal-scoring prowess.
Before his breakthrough in the 2012-13 campaign, the Solihull-native had spent the entirety of his career in League One. Playing for Walsall, the club at which he started his career, Grigg bagged 19 league goals that season and was promptly poached by Brentford.
The Bees won promotion in Grigg’s only season at the club but, with only 16 league starts to his name, he was loaned to third-tier MK Dons.
Capped at Under-21 level by Northern Ireland, his strong form in Milton Keynes – hitting 22 goals in his sole campaign – earned him a call-up for Michael O’Neill’s side against Scotland.
His resurgence in form earned him a move to Wigan Athletic, newly-relegated to League One. Grigg finished as League One’s top goalscorer – with 25 goals – to help Wigan earn automatic promotion.
You meme the world to me
Timing is an oft-overlooked factor in a player’s rise to prominence and it was certainly the case for the striker.
In 2016, Northern Ireland had confirmed their place in the European Championships in France. A month before the tournament began, Latic fans Sean Kennedy uploaded a YouTube video titled “Will Grigg’s On Fire”, to the tune of 1990s dance anthem “Freed from Desire” by Italian singer Gala.
“Will Grigg’s on fire, your defence is terrified” became the de facto soundtrack to the European Championships as the striker earned a place in O’Neill’s 23-man squad, yet never actually took to the pitch.
It was hard to travel in France or go into a bar or nightclub in Northern Ireland without the infectious track being blurred out.
Such was the remarkable bandwagon which had gathered around Grigg, he earned a tied 25th place in the initial voting process for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award after the 2015–16 campaign.
Turning things around
On the pitch, Grigg struggled for form in his first season in the Championship with Wigan, scoring only seven times as the Lancashire were relegated once more.
Eventually, the striker lost his place in Northern Ireland’s squad and his career threatened to stall, just as it should have been really taking off.
This season has been a pivotal one for Grigg and, while he has returned a respectable nine league goals as the Latics appear on course for automatic promotion once more, it is in the FA Cup where his star has shone the brightest. He now has seven goals in seven appearances in the competition, with over half of them coming against top-flight opponents.
Grigg scored at Bournemouth, eliminated by the Latics following a replay, before scoring both goals in a starring performance against West Ham and then, astoundingly, the goal which ended Manchester City’s quadruple dreams.
Such form – especially in high-profile games – should be enough to bring him back into the frame at international level and, when that happens, don’t expect Grigg’s flame to burn out anytime soon.
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