The 12th Man: Cup boost can help survival

Martin Tarbuck, like many fans, would like to see Sam Morsy stay at the DW
Martin Tarbuck, like many fans, would like to see Sam Morsy stay at the DW

Last week, I stated the importance of winning against Nottingham Forest even though it was a cup game.

I’ve got to say, that was

probably the best performance we’ve produced since Warren Joyce has been in charge.

There were so many plus points from the game in terms of player performances but none other than Sam Morsy. He definitely offered something different to our midfield three which has been lacking all season.

It’s vital we try and do all we can to make sure he stays past the January transfer window.

If Kenno’s video pleading with Morsy to stay doesn’t work nothing will.

With Will Grigg getting back amongst the goals, hopefully he can find his form which he showed in the opening few weeks of the season.

We had a bit of luck on our side with the penalty save, as Forest should have never been given the chance to get back into the game.

As a result of Craig Davies and Nathan Byrne departing for Scunthorpe and Charlton Athletic, along with Nick Powell out for the season, I’ve been surprised that we haven’t added any new players into the squad. As it seems we’re down to the bare bones.

Now we’ve got the winning mentality back, with any luck we’ll take that forward into tomorrow’s relegation six-pointer against Burton.

The importance of coming out with three points is huge. If you needed a definition of what a ‘big game’ is, I think this is it.

If we lose on Saturday, the gap will be at least seven points away from safety depending on how Forest go on in their game.

For the first time in a long time I’m confident about tomorrow’s fixture, if we play as well as last Saturday I’m sure we’ll be taking the three points back to Wigan.

Joe O’Neil

Confidence boost

It feels strange writing a 12th Man piece on the back of a Latics victory at the DW Stadium, yet here we are celebrating a 2-0 FA Cup third round win over Nottingham Forest.

It’s been a long time since we saw one of those, in any competition, so I think we’re all grateful for it. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t a league game.

Despite that, it was a good win nevertheless. A first victory in front of the home fans for manager Warren Joyce and a confidence booster for the players.

I previously said that January will be a huge month for the club both on and off the field, and we’re doing great so far.

None of our prized assets, Will Grigg, Yanic Wildschut and the likes, have been strongly linked with other clubs in the transfer window.

Keeping hold of our best players is the first step, but we also need to strengthen in areas that obviously need the competition.

We’ve already done that with the goalkeeping situation by bringing in Stoke City stopper Jakob Haugaard on a season-long loan.

If his debut against Forest is anything to go by then we’ve done a shrewd piece of business, only time will tell.

It may not seem like a lot is going on in terms of transfer activity, but I have the utmost confidence in the club.

They are more than likely working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the right signings, with the away trip to Manchester United in the cup providing a timely chunk of cash.

On the field we’ve done well so far in the New Year. An unfortunate loss at home to Huddersfield Town wasn’t the best start, however, the Forest victory seems to have given hope to a lot of people, including me.

It showed to the players and the fans that we can beat the teams around us in this league, comfortably as well, if we produce our best football.

I believe that, slowly but surely, Joyce is getting his ideas across and we are starting to turn a corner.

If we win at Burton on Saturday, we’ll close the gap to three points and have some serious momentum behind us going into the crucial second half of the season.

With key players close to a return from injury (Donervon Daniels, David Perkins, Alex Gilbey etc.), three points at the Pirelli Stadium are absolutely vital to Championship survival.

We all know it’s easier said than done, though, but we’re Wigan Athletic and we thrive when our backs are against the wall.

Kieran Makin

Welcome to the window, crisp fans!

The football transfer window is the exemplification of Sturgeon’s Law, namely: ‘90 per cent of everything is rubbish’. Except in this case, that remaining 10 percent of players wish to spend transfer deadline day suckling a mug of baconated Bovril by the cyan glow of their favourite teletext page.

For the sake of claritainment (clarity + entertainment), here’s a more confusing straightforward explanation.

The last crisp in the packet, for whatever supernatural reason, is always the tastiest. In footballing terms: clubs will happily pay seven times the recommended retail price of a second hand inflatable dartboard during those final few hours of the window. All because they want a Sports Snooze presenter to stand at their ground’s front gate and look cold on camera.

Oh, let’s humour this obtuse metaphor a little while longer. Like Wigan Athletic, we already have one shoe buried deep in the quagmire, which is a good excuse to bunk off work anyway.

So what if those final crisps were each taken to form a new pack of ‘super crisps’? Chairmen whose name might be Roman have dedicated their working lives to assembling a packet of those ‘10 percenters’, a long-deserved premium product for the greased-up potato chip connoisseur of London town.

But as with all business, there exists one major pratfall to this seemingly golden commodity. What if the packet were opened from the wrong end, thus making that intended final crisp the first? Wouldn’t this make all January business a crapshoot of Oyston’s Blackpool Pier (believe me, it’ll happen one day) proportions?

Bingo. Yeah, Bingo – it’s an Indian brand of crisp.

Herein lies the ultimate irony of these thoroughly unsatisfying transfer window corn snacks – that ‘perfect’ crisp is actually the least healthy, and is thus likelier to rot your inner stomach with its extra salt and cow toenail shavings. In actuality, that ‘tastiest’ crisp is leeching flavour from its packet-mates to fuel a big money move to Monster Munchester United in July.

And there’s nought you, I or the former owner of an upmarket fried potato restaurant can do to prevent it. Little point fighting it, so… fancy a packet of Wotsits, Warren?

Dan Farrimond

Cup shock?

Latics reaped the reward of a first home victory in seven games against Nottingham Forest with a high profile fourth round draw at FA Cup holders Manchester United. Former United reserve team manager Warren Joyce will be relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against Jose Mourinho and Latics’ players will be looking forward to competing against some of the top players in the country in front of 70,000 supporters at Old Trafford.

The club will certainly benefit financially from the trip, but Latics have a proud recent history in the FA Cup, winners in 2013 and semi-finalists in 2014, so don’t rule out the possibility of another shock result.

Before that game however, Latics have some huge tests in the Championship and tomorrow they come up against Burton Albion in what could be a season defining relegation six-pointer. Going into the game both teams have selection dilemmas with injuries and transfer speculation affecting them.

Burton have been hit by a sickness bug this week and they are definitely without their new signing Luke Varney who was unluckily injured in last week’s cup defeat to Watford. The striker will be out for some time after suffering a punctured lung and broken rib. Top scorer Jackson Irvine, striker Chris O’Grady, defender Ben Miller and midfielder Will Miller are all doubtful for the game.

Latics are still without several key players and the injury list lengthened when Nick Powell hobbled off against Nottingham Forest with a reoccurrence of the hamstring strain that has plagued his career so far. It seems that the 22-year-old could be out for the rest of the season, which would be a huge blow to the club that gambled on him making such a big impact.
Speculation continues about Saturday’s man-of-the-match Sam Morsy’s possible transfer to Barnsley. The two clubs have an agreement about the transfer fee but the player has yet to agree personal terms. I expect Morsy to play at Burton, if no agreement is reached with the Tykes.

Warren Joyce will want the FA Cup win to be the catalyst for Latics to put a winning run together in the Championship. With Latics six points from safety, there cannot be a repeat of the disastrous result at Rotherham on Boxing Day. The manager will be aware that the players didn’t turn up in the first half at the New York Stadium and a similar performance against Burton would be catastrophic for the club’s survival chances.

Ian Aspinall

Luck of the draw

What’s that I see? Green shoots of recovery?

It may be too early to decide what Saturday was whether it was a blip on an otherwise downward trajectory or if it was the kick up the proverbial that we needed. Whatever it was it was welcome and it was timely, if we had lost against Nottingham Forest it would have been another psychological knock to a team low on confidence.

As it is that result now gives the lads the knowledge they can compete with the teams around us and yes can even win a couple of games against those sides. I wasn’t there unfortunately due to work commitments but did listen in to BBC Radio Nottingham’s commentary of the match. Local radio isn’t usually the most balanced way of covering games but even that commentary team couldn’t help but be impressed by a Latics side who got most things right on Saturday.

Admittedly Forest weren’t great opposition, they are going through their own problems at the moment and it showed but the difference with this match and what had happened in the few weeks was Latics ability to capitalise when they were on top. The draw for the fourth round threw up one of those ‘football eh’ moments, just a couple of months after leaving Manchester United Warren Joyce will be heading back over to Stretford to face his old employers in the FA Cup. I was hoping for one of the lower sides still in the competition such as Accrington Stanley away so the contrast is stark but if we can put on a good show at Old Trafford it will be worth it.

The draw is a financial boost for the club and despite worries over yet to be announced ticket prices I’m sure it’s a date a lot of Wiganers will want to be at. No one will give us a chance but we’ve been here before. Who could forget Uwe Rosler taking a Wigan Athletic side to his old club and beating them to reach Wembley? Admittedly we had a stronger side then than we do now but it shows in the FA Cup anything can happen. As we well know.

Latics should head to Burton this weekend with a deal of confidence about them, they now need to translate that in to results in the league. If we can perhaps this season isn’t the write off it was looking like a few weeks ago.

Sean Livesey

Sam’s the man

Well, we only went and won a football match didn’t we? It may have been in the cup and Nottingham Forest may have been absolutely diabolical but we applied ourselves and played very well, thanks in no small part to the return of Sam Morsy.

There’s rumours aplenty as to why Morsy was jettisoned to Barnsley in August, however which way you look at it, it has to be a mark against Gary Caldwell and whoever else was involved for not attempting to compromise and fit him into our plans.

I’m sure there will be tougher tests ahead but if Saturday was that glimpse of the rest of the season, then I think I like it. The squad will be buoyed by the forthcoming trip to Old Trafford, maybe even more so than the fans, given the talk of exorbitant pricing at the Theatre of Dreams.

These tougher tests come thick and fast and they don’t come much tougher than Burton Albion in a game which isn’t so much of a six pointer, as a nine pointer, given that’s how far adrift we could be if we lose.

However, victory at the Pirelli Stadium may well put the skids (sorry) on the Brewers’ own attempts to stay in this division.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be where they are than where we are. Plus, they have adapted to this division slightly better than us, much to the chagrin of many Latics faithful, but there is a lot to admire about them. It seems all the goodwill towards a small team doing well goes out of the window when that small team isn’t us but they have a style of playing which has served them well despite their poor recent form and meagre budget.

Compared to Latics, to paraphrase the dearly departed Notorious B.I.G., it has seemed to be a case of more money, more problems at numerous times over the past few years with our parachute payments giving us both a huge advantage and being a millstone around our neck.

The future beyond this season looks very uncertain without them but maybe, just maybe we can get back to being that team who punches above its weight, and let’s face it, survival in this division would mean that we would have to.

Yet first and foremost, we must do battle again with a club who are much smaller than us, yet we are still to register a competitive league victory against them. A key test awaits. Can Warren Joyce succeed where Gary Caldwell failed?

Martin Tarbuck

Wood for trees

Well that was more like it, a good performance by the Latics saw off a poor Forest side and the two goal score-line in our favour was somewhat flattering to the visitors.

Sam Morsy obviously made a difference to our set-up, he played in an advanced role and was able to break-up the Forest play high up the pitch allowing us to keep the pressure on. Gomez was excellent and Morsy’s tenacity gave our Spanish maestro the freedom to work at his creative best.

The whole team were on their toes from the off, even new keeper Jakob Haugaard who had only met his team-mates at lunch time looked impressive, at nearly 6’ 7 he certainly cuts a formidable figure.

Warren Joyce adopted a more adventurous formation than we have seen from him since he came in. We took the game to Forest and we played at a good tempo, maybe he felt he could set us up this way in what was essentially a no lose game for him with it being in the cup. I hope he keeps us this approach as we return to the Championship in the coming weeks.

Our play was reminiscent of last season from January through to April, direct and positive in possession, aggressive and hard working. Without the ball we showed hunger and desire and the reward was progress through to round four and the plumb tie of the round.

The club will make some money and it will also give the

players who haven’t been there an experience of the big stage.

The situation with Morsy and his proposed permanent move to Barnsley appears to be up in the air, but if he can play like he did against Forest for the rest of the season in our midfield then he would be an asset in our fight to stave off relegation.

On Saturday’s performance he would be well worth keeping hold of.

Back to the league this weekend and a trip to Burton, I’ve got my ticket for what is a massive game for both clubs. Play like we did against Forest and we will have half a chance to haul Burton close to us as we look to mount an escape.

Hopefully the Forest game gave the boss clear vision and he was able to see the wood for the trees.

Up the tics!

Barry Worthington

Long wait over

It’s a first time in a long time under Warren Joyce’s management were I have been happy with the performance I saw last weekend. A glamour tie away at Manchester United was our reward for a great attacking display against Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round, and it’s a performance I thought is something we can build on.

Gomez, Wildschut, Grigg and Sam Morsy all looked sharp against Forest and it’s been a long time since I could say we looked an attacking threat and the ones most likely to score. Very happy to be proved wrong from here on in.

I must admit, I was sceptical that Sam Morsy was the player that a lot of our supporters said was the answer to our problems this season, but if he continues in a similar manner to the way he played against Forest, he’ll be one of the first names on the team sheet for me.

Under Caldwell, he was a deep lying midfielder in a similar role that Shaun MacDonald now occupys, but when pushed further forward by Joyce on Saturday, he looked a massive threat, and he could be the answer for us now Powell is out for the rest of the season.

Who knows what will happen in the coming months with Sam, he may well end up back at Barnsley, but if he performs like he did last week, hopefully he sees his future with us.

The victory against Forest couldn’t have come at a better time with Burton Albion away up next for us.

I’ve been banging on about games against the likes of Derby and Newcastle won’t define our season, it’ll be the teams against those around us that will matter. I hope Joyce saw the attacking threat we posed to Forest on Saturday and see’s that going defensive like we have in previous games may not be the way forward.

Sam Whyte