Emmerson Boyce is a player that will be immortalised in Latics folklore for years to come. A name that is etched in the Wigan Athletic history books as one of our greatest and most loyal players and the image of him clutching our only major trophy in the club’s history, raising it above his head to a thunderous roar of euphoria, is something that is permanently imprinted on to all blue and white brains that were fortunate enough to witness it. 286 total appearances, 13 goals and a myriad of unforgettable memories, Emmerson Boyce defiantly earns the label of “Legend” among Wigan fans.
I managed to catch up with Emmerson at the recent Kevin Davies XI vs GB Deaf Team charity match at Ashton Town football club, a setting he knows only too well as he has made an abundance of charity appearances at the ground, most notable for the charity Joseph’s Goal of which he is a proud ambassador of. I spoke to him before the event kicked off and he happily agreed to answer some questions:
“Firstly, since you left Blackpool you’ve been without a team. Are you actively looking for a new club or are you a retired man now?”
“I’m just enjoying time off to be honest. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to spend some real quality time with my kids and I’m enjoying my time at home in terms of being able to take the kids to school, that side of it. I still play for Barbados and I’ll be out there in a couple weeks, we’ve got a couple of games coming up. Never say never but, to an extent, I’m probably done now.”
After a career spanning almost two decades and consisting of 573 appearances, it would be hard to argue that a rest isn’t well deserved. Of those appearances, a large quantity came from his time at Wigan Athletic, a club where Emmerson had his best career moments and produced some phenomenal memories. However, Boyce’s golden tenure of 9 years came to an immediate and somewhat downhearted end as he was not offered a new contract as the club was relegated to League One and, subsequently, finsihed his career at Blackpool.
“You left Wigan after 9 spectacular years at the club but it ended quite abruptly, did you feel that you were hard done by when the club didn’t keep you on for another year to complete a decade at the club or did you feel it was time to go?”
“Well the club can only answer that one in terms of that. Things were said at the time and the club’s got to do what’s right for them. As a player it would have been nice to get to ten years but it wasn’t meant to be, I had a great send off from the fans and the “This Is Your Life” event but you know if football people move on. Obviously it was hard to take at the time but I still talk to Dave Whelan and they invite me to games and stuff and I still have a good relationship with people around the club. It’s the way things go and things happen, unfortunately I couldn’t get to ten years but I’ve had some great memories and great times at Wigan, can’t let one thing spoil it.”
It would be hard to allow one medial negative ending dampen a career of fantastic moments that Wigan fans will reminisce about for years. Although Boyce’s career ended at League One level, he was a competent defender throughout a huge amount of his playing career in the Premier League and often being a tough defender to come up against as an attacker. There were some world class talents in the top division of English football however that can make life difficult for a defender, even on as solid as Boyce in his prime.
“You were a rock in defence throughout your career spanning 18 years, but every defender can get turned over by a quality player. Is there any attacking player who sticks out in your mind who gave you a particularly hard game?”
“I keep saying right back to Ryan Giggs, when he was at his prime even in his thirties and a lot of question marks were over him. I was playing for Crystal Palace at the time and it was on Sky and I remember him absolutely destroying me, and I’m not ashamed to say it because he was a proven, world class player. But he was the toughest player I ever played against and one that sticks in my mind the most. I’ve had some fantastic players I’ve played against: Suarez, Henry and so on but Ryan Giggs was the one that taught me a lesson in my first time round in the Premier League and he’s the one that sticks in my mind the most.”
“Contrast to having a bad game against a player, can you pick out the best moment in your career?”
“It’s got to go to the FA Cup. Lifting the trophy as captain it was a proud day for the club, my family, everybody that’s associated with Wigan. It put us on the map and made history. However, even though that was winning the FA Cup, the year after against Man City at their stadium when I made the clearance on the line is one that sticks in my mind, that’s probably my best game. I must’ve been reaching 34 at the time and that was the best game I had ever played.”
That FA Cup final victory was the crowning achievement in an already impressive career for Boyce. One cup run that eternalised that Wigan squad in FA Cup history, as well as in the halls of Wigan Athletic, and possibly christened Emmerson as the Latics’ greatest ever captain.
“In your career that lasted almost two decades, were there any players or managers that moulded your playing style as a footballer and who you became as a player?”
“Yeah there were a lot of people. The first person that had a major impact on my career was Efe Sodje, he just said “make sure no one breaks you”. I can go on. Iain Dowie was the first manager that put a lot of faith in me, Ricky Hill, Steve Bruce, Roberto Martinez when I was coming towards the end of my career and my time at Wigan and he moulded my footballing ability and I still have great praises for him. There’s been a lot of managers through Wigan that had a major impact on my career.”
These figures provided the building blocks to build a prime defender that performed at the highest level. An array of teachings from a variety of respected footballing characters that ultimately made a strong and technically sound defensive player that became a Wigan idol, an idol that is still respected and adored throughout the fans even after his career has concluded.
“You are a true Wigan legend and I’m sure the fans would love to hear what you think. What’s your opinion on the club’s current state?”
“I’ve been in that position where it’s not nice, a lot of pressure comes on and the manager’s trying his best. Unfortunately he’s not getting the rub of the green when he’s down there and it’s tough going The fans have got to stick with him and the fans have always been excellent and I know it’s a hard time they’re going through at the moment but they’ve shown in the past that they can always be the 12th man and help Wigan through it. If you look at the table they’re only like 5 points adrift so it’s doable, the games are running out. But they’ve just got to believe and fingers crossed they can get good results in their next few games and there’s a chance coming towards the end of the season.”
Ironically, just two days after stating this, then current Wigan manager Warren Joyce has now been sacked and former manager and constant assistant manager Graham Barrow is now in charge till the season concludes. Emmerson’s message still stands though, the fans must back the team as a unit and keep our faith in the club.
“Speaking of managers, would you ever consider a career in management or does your pathway lie in coaching with your coaching badges that you’re obtaining now?”
“I’m not too sure at the moment. I’m just enjoying being down at Wigan and being around the academy and watching the youth setup. There are fantastic people behind the scenes that aren’t really recognised and they don’t get the attention that they should do. I’m just learning, whichever path it leads me I don’t know. As I say I don’t have much hair as it is so going into management may put an end to that! I could never say never but at this moment in time I’m just trying to get as much experience as I can and maybe in the future but at this moment in time I’m enjoying not having stress.”
Whether Emmerson Boyce will ever be seen in a suit on the touchline barking orders or remains behind the scenes as a coach is a mystery for the future to unfold. One thing that isn’t a mystery, however, is Boyce’s legend status to all the Latics acolytes that revere and idolise him. It will always be a name that is mentioned when talking about the luminaries of Wigan Athletic and one that is synonymous with the football club itself.
Emmerson Boyce is an essential part of the chronicles of this club, this is why he is etched in the Wigan Athletic history books for years to come.