Sunderland have suffered back-to-back relegations and will be playing in League One next season — but Wigan have bounced back yet again to the Championship.
Chris Coleman’s Sunderland were leading 1-0 with four minutes to go against Burton Albion when their former striker Darren Bent silenced those booing him with a close-range finish before Liam Boyce headed the winner for the visitors in the 93rd minute.
And in another calamitous twist, Sunderland’s players did not even realise they were down until they were back in the dressing room.
Sunderland have suffered back-to-back relegations and will play in League One next season
Liam Boyce headed the winner against Black Cats in the 93rd minute on Saturday afternoon
That’s because Burton’s fixture against fourth-bottom Bolton next weekend means one of those teams will have at least 41 points — one more than the maximum of 40 the Black Cats can get. ‘Yes [they didn’t know], word spread when they got back in the dressing room,’ said Coleman.
‘Everyone got a bit confused. It was after I left the dressing room, towards the end of what I said. But we didn’t have what was needed. It’s a brutal experience but, over 44 games, we haven’t been good enough.’
Sunderland are only the fifth team in history to suffer consecutive relegations from the top-tier to the third.
Incredibly, the players didn’t realise they were down until they were back in the dressing room
Burton boss Nigel Clough, born in Sunderland and whose dad Brian played for the club, said: ‘I have unbelievable sympathy for Sunderland.
‘My dad used to talk with such affection about the people, he enjoyed his time here.
‘Now it’s just a time for them to take stock and rebuild. This club has to strip everything back and start again. Hopefully this is rock bottom for them.’
Wigan clinched promotion 12 months after falling out of the second tier. Paul Cook’s men sealed promotion with a 4-0 win at Fleetwood.
Burton boss Nigel Clough said: ‘I have unbelievable sympathy for Sunderland
Cook said: ‘We’re the first team to be promoted and it’s a great day.’
It is the second time in three seasons that yo-yo club Wigan have followed relegation from the Championship with immediate promotion.
Cook, whose triumph at the DW Stadium came a season after guiding Portsmouth to League Two glory, added: ‘I’m so proud of the players. We might be a good fit now but football changes. My time at Portsmouth showed that because we were happy — and then it all changed.
‘It’s great to lead a club to promotion and I’m going to enjoy this. Our record — points, goals, wins — speaks for itself.’
Promotion has capped a memorable season in which Wigan beat Manchester City and two more top-flight sides to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals, where they lost to Southampton.