The 12th Man column: The next three are massive

Ian Aspinall says Yanic Wildschut has been a revelation at Latics
Ian Aspinall says Yanic Wildschut has been a revelation at Latics
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IT was another great away day last Saturday as Latics dominated proceedings to win at Rochdale.

Latics should probably have won by more than two goals on the day, but it was still a classy performance by Gary Caldwell’s team.

Caldwell has put together a very strong squad for League One, and he continues to add quality through the loan market.

Middlesbrough winger Yanic Wildschut has been a revelation since his arrival at the club, and his powerful attacking play has caused havoc among opposition defences.

The fans are understandably clamouring for the flying Dutchman to be signed permanently or, if this is not possible, at least until the end of the season.

The addition of Cardiff City loanee Alex Revell has further enhanced Wigan’s forward line and, if his performance at Spotland is anything to go by, he will be a success here.

Vice-captain Jason Pearce’s return to the starting XI has got to be a big bonus, and his no-nonsense defending at Rochdale helped the back four to keep a clean sheet for the first time away from home.

As one of the promotion favourites at the beginning of the season, Latics were expected to be at the top of the table.

Despite an indifferent start, they are now rising to the promotion challenge.

Latics have a large squad with strength in depth, with only Kevin McNaughton currently on the injured list.

The competition for places is now hotting up with at least two players vying for each place in the first team.

The mood at the club is buoyant and, if they can maintain the momentum, their prospects are looking good.

Latics are also going well in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, making the dream of a third Football League Trophy success a real possibility.

The prospect of playing in a Wembley final will be a major incentive for the players, and should help to give more squad players game time and further galvanise the club.

Latics are now 10 games 
unbeaten in League One, fifth in the table and only four points behind leaders Gillingham.

The next three games 
are Shrewsbury (h), Burton (h) and Southend (a), and should provide a good indication of the team’s promotion credentials as they seek to move into the automatic places.

IAN ASPINALL

AS the season unfolds and our new team progresses, I still can’t believe that Wolves sold us Michael Jacobs.

He was deemed surplus to requirements at Molineux, down the pecking order behind Portsmouth graduate Jed Wallace and Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo (once a Latics player).

No disrespect to those two players, but I believe Jacobs (inset) is just as good – if not better.

After watching him become a first-team regular for us, I see no reason why he can’t compete at Championship level if we are to be promoted.

The tricky little forward has been outstanding for us, chipping in with five league goals and several assists.

On Saturday at Rochdale, he showed what he was really about.

He played in the number 10 role behind Craig Davies and reminded me of Shaun Maloney in his Wigan days.

‘Crackers’, as he is nicknamed by his fellow squad members, picked up pockets of space well, which he showed for his goal.

He can also run with ball and commit defenders.

However, it was his set-piece delivery that stood out for me.

Cast your mind back to Bury, he must have had at least 20 crosses, but only one of them was on the button and it provided the goal that got us back in the game.

At ‘Dale, every delivery he whipped in had pinpoint accuracy; you just have to watch Jason Pearce’s goal again to appreciate the technique on the cross. His performance didn’t go unnoticed as well.

Jacobs won the Sky Sports man-of-the-match award, and he also got into the Football League Team of the Week.

At just the age of 24, he still has a lot to learn, but there is lot of talent already available at Gary Caldwell’s disposal.

KIERAN MAKIN

I thought Saturday’s victory away at Rochdale on Saturday was probably the most professional performance I’ve seen from this current Wigan Athletic team.

In front of the Sky cameras, we produced a clinical and controlled display.

Once Jason Pearce put us in front early in the first half, I never really felt like we were going to lose the game.

People will talk about our attack, and rightly so given the high quality of players at our disposal.

But the most pleasing aspect of Saturday’s win was the first clean sheet on the road this season.

If we are to get into the automatic promotion spots, a solid defence and clean sheets should be a necessity in the coming months.

As simple as it sounds, if you don’t concede goals, you don’t lose football matches.

And we then don’t have to rely on scoring two or three goals every time we play away because we’re letting soft goals in.

Gary Caldwell has spoken about it already, but it’s no coincidence the clean sheet was on the back of Jason Pearce’s return alongside captain Craig Morgan.

We have yet to really see the qualities of the pair of them together, and here’s hoping an extended run in the side for both gets rid of the defence frailties we possess at times.

Like I’ve already said, the talent we have going forward really is quite exciting, and I’d go as far as saying it’s possibly the best in the division.

With players such as Michael Jacobs running the show just behind our striker, it’s no surprise to see him have a hand 
in both our goals at the weekend.

And I can’t do a piece this week without mentioning Yanic Wildschut, as I’m now running out of superlatives to describe the performances of the Dutchman.

If there is even a five per cent chance we can extend his stay beyond his original loan deal, then I hope we’re doing everything we can.

He’s quickly becoming a fans favourite, and could end up being the difference between going up automatically or having to battle it 
out in the play-offs come May.

SAM WHYTE

LATICS were back in the national spotlight last Saturday, and the Sky Sports lunchtime kick-off game saw Rochdale beaten. Two goals scored without us really getting into top gear and a clean sheet, the first away from home this season.

The away following at Spotland was the largest across the Football League last weekend, despite the game being televised and an early start.The Latics fans made up roughly one third of the attendance, which was another superb effort from the lads and lasses that have bought into this season’s adventure.‘Gary Caldwell’s Blue And White Army’ were in great voice too, making all the noise on a damp day.

It was great to be a part of such a carnival atmosphere and the away stand was really bouncing.The players appeared to enjoy playing in front of the travelling hoard and the mutual appreciation at the end of the game had both the players and fans giving each other a standing ovation. With two big games coming up at the DW over the next four days – Shrewsbury and then Burton – the home support can go a long way to lifting the players to perform at their peak. Six points from these two fixtures would likely see the Latics breach the automatic promotion spots for the first time this campaign. Let’s get behind the lads. On a final note, the decision to play the JPT northern area semi-final against Barnsley at the DW Stadium on Saturday, December 5 is spot on.

Latics will be charging just £5 a ticket and a quid for concessions - brilliant news!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

IT feels good to be a Wigan Athletic fan at the minute.

There is great momentum and we are ready to make a serious challenge in this division. We seem to be getting a lot of plaudits from opposing managers, too, with both Keith Hill and Gary Flitcroft praising us in recent weeks - albeit through gritted teeth as soon as they mention the “M” word. If there’s one things that irks me, as a football fan and (unfortunately) an accountant, it’s parachute payment envy.

We had this last year off Brentford and Huddersfield among others – claims that Wigan have an unfair advantage because we have parachute money. There’s a simple way to iron this one out. Suppose those clubs got promoted to the Premier League. If we have a financial advantage this season it is not due to parachute payments. It is because when we were in the Premier League, we always spent wisely. We always paid the lowest wages in the league (although still extortionate!), and we have managed to recoup a small Fortune (not on Marc-Antoine, mind you) in transfer fees since.

Plus we have jettisoned off an entire squad of players on big wages. Without those parachute payments, we’d be £50m in debt by now and that is AFTER we have dismantled an entire squad and rebuilt the wage bill from scratch. Latics are actually an example of a success story in spite of this.

Clubs like Bolton and Blackburn who carried on paying big wages or didn’t have players to sell as assets have gone £100m+ into debt because they couldn’t or didn’t apply the brakes. Bolton’s reputed debt would be closer to £230m without the assistance the parachute payments afford! However, I don’t like parachute payments. No club should need this sort of support, but every relegated club does need them because those at the top of the tree insist on paying their players millions. Thankfully, we have been prudent. That money is now coming to an end, but it’s pleasing to see that what is left is now being spent on young, talented players who will serve us for years.

MARTIN TARBUCK