Talking football: Time to make this season more than a relegation scrap

Warren Joyce has put the players through their paces

Warren Joyce has put the players through their paces

It seems an eternity since Wigan Athletic were last in action.

America has even chosen a new President-elect in Donald Trump since Reading were gift-wrapped an early Christmas present on November 5.

Indeed, there was much symmetry in seeing the American public make as much of a pig’s ear of their choice as the Latics players did in welcoming new boss Warren Joyce to the DW Stadium.

While our friends over the pond will have to wait four years to make amends for their error, the Latics players can do so as early as this weekend when they return to Championship combat across the Pennines at Barnsley.

While most of us have been bemoaning the international break, it undoubtedly came at the perfect time for Joyce to get up close and personal with his new group of players.

The word from Euxton is that the players have really been put through their paces, and are desperate to get out there on Saturday to put right a few wrongs.

Let’s be honest, nobody came out of the Reading game with any real credit.

The frustrating thing is we know exactly what this group of players is capable of, and that’s what makes results – and especially performances – such as Reading particularly hard to take.

If the players need any extra motivation – and surely they don’t – they need only look back to last season, when most of them travelled to Barnsley for a tricky-looking clash just before Christmas.

Heading in on a real downer, with questions being asked of their credentials after four games without a win – and three without even a goal – Latics responded in the perfect fashion with a 2-0 victory.

What’s more, it set the platform for a fabulous 20-game unbeaten run that underpinned their League One title win.

As David Perkins admitted in midweek, it’s probably a bit too much to expect silverware at the end of this season.

But there’s still 30 games to go, and more than enough time to make the campaign more than just about scrapping for survival.

Latics also very much owe the Tykes one, having had some of the sparkle taken off their title-winning celebrations with Barnsley’s 4-1 triumph at the DW on the last day of the campaign.

Barnsley have settled into life in the Championship the quicker but, man-for-man, it’s Latics who possess the more quality – which they need to start proving on a far more consistent basis.

The word ‘legend’ is over-used so much these days it’s in danger of losing its meaning.

In fact, the only thing more over-used is the above sentence pointing out how much the word ‘legend’ is over-used.

But in the case of former Latics striker Bobby Campbell, it’s bang on the money.

Bobby, who died on Tuesday aged just 60, was only with Latics for less than two years, between 1986-88.

So it speaks volumes that he is rightly regarded by so many as a genuine Latics legend, and why men of a certain vintage were left somewhat misty-eyed when the news broke.

Bobby also represented his country, Northern Ireland, forming part of the squad that rocked the world – and hosts Spain – at the 1982 World Cup.

One of his team-mates on that trip, Norman Whiteside, was one of the hardest, most uncompromising players of his or any generation.

So when you see the ex-Manchester United hard man’s tweet (below) about his old pal, you know it means something.

RIP Bobby.

Usain Bolt – the fastest man in history – is apparently training with Borussia Dortmund.

The crack German outfit reckon it’s not a publicity stunt, with the big man apparently showing plenty of promise as an attacker.

If – and it’s a big ‘if’ – this is genuine, my thoughts are with the linesmen charged with keeping up with offside...

Joey Barton will be looking for a new club in January after his ill-fated time with Rangers was brought to an end ‘by mutual consent’.

Love him or hate him – and I have to say I find him quite entertaining – you had to laugh at the last line of the parting statement.

“Neither Rangers nor Joey Barton will comment further.”

Of all the unbelievable things we’ve seen and heard in 2016, Joey Barton keeping quiet would surely take the biscuit...

Regular readers of this column will know my thoughts on the utter farce that is the Checkatrade Trophy.

Incredibly, it’s still going, and in fact the draw for the knockout-stage was made this week.

One of the ties sees Bradford City drawn at home to Cambridge.

Yep, that’s a round trip of 314 miles.

In a supposedly ‘regional’ tournament!

Still, we should be thankful Cheltenham and Sunderland avoided each other...saving the car-load of fans that would have travelled a round-trip of over 500 miles.

It’s fair to say that if there was an award for innovative football chant of the year, ‘Will Grigg’s On Fire’ would win by a landslide.

But fair play to the Grimsby fans who have borrowed from Blur’s 1999 classic ‘Tender’ to pay homage to Omar Bogle.

If you don’t know the tune, google it...it’ll be in your head all week!

Speaking of terrace adoration, how about this Carlisle fan whose tribute to boss Keith Curle will have every person he ever meets singing THAT Peter Andre song you definitely WON’T need to google...