12th Man: Here’s to you, Mr Joyce...

Sam Morsy
Sam Morsy

Well, well Mr Joyce, with all these shiny gleaming wins you are really spoiling us.

Apologies – if that sounds a bit like a chocolate advert featuring sharp-suited ambassadors, well it’s not exactly by accident.

As ever at Wigan Athletic, we go from feast to famine, and then feast again the last few weeks.

Yet I think we all acknowledge that it will be a tall order to keep this going beyond Sunday, so we must turn to discuss the matter of what would be considered a positive result.

“Of course, you fool, a 3-0 away win for the mighty Wigan Athletic would be considered a positive result!” I hear you cry and, of course, I concur wholeheartedly.

However, let’s get realistic here.

Maybe a 1-0 scrappy away win in the last minute, as Jakob Haugaard boots the ball directly into the empty United net after their 11 players have all been camped in our half trying to score for the previous 89 minutes.

Would that do? Of course it would, and in many ways that would be even better.

Let me keep going as we head towards the ‘moral victory’ end of the spectrum.

When assessing the merits of the possibility of a draw, all focus turns to the financial benefits of such a result.

Plymouth took a bit of stick a few weeks back for going to Anfield and parking the bus, but then what else do you expect a lower division club to do when facing a Premier League giant?

Agree up front how many you’re going to let them score? Now we’re getting to the point.

We have our hopes and dreams, but I suspect very few Latics fans will travel to Old Trafford expecting to cement our place in the fifth-round draw, despite our superb recent FA Cup pedigree.

So we are left contemplating what would be an acceptable defeat.

I personally hope we can have a bit of fun and hold out for 45 minutes or even an hour, and maybe have a hard luck story or two (please no ridiculous refereeing decisions, mind you!).

The theory being that if we lose, but put up a spirited display, it will not affect our league form in any way.

If anything, it will hopefully strengthen it by galvanising the team.

The unthinkable, worst case scenario is that we concede early and get walloped, but just scratch that bit out of your thought process RIGHT NOW.

Why? Because all bets are off with regard to prior visits to Old Trafford – in those days, it was (theoretically) one team of Premier League players versus another team of (sadly inferior) Premier League players.

The crop of players we have now will all be looking forward to the game arguably even more so than the fans, a chance to test themselves against one of the best teams in the country and really raise their game.

So, on second thoughts, if they are turning up intending to give it their all and refusing to accept defeat, then why should we?

Come on you Latics, let’s see if we can make another piece of FA Cup history!

MARTIN TARBUCK

It’s FA Cup time again!

What a brilliant draw for the Latics, a real ‘no-lose’ tie.

All and sundry expect us to lose, but this is football and it is the FA Cup.

Who knows what shock we could pull off, after all we do have a special affinity with the competition, and the way we have played over the past three games suggests there is some steel running through the side.

This new-found positivity I have acquired does have me holding my hand up to admit it looks like I was totally wrong to castigate Warren Joyce over the past few weeks.

We’re out of the bottom three for the first time since October, and the future for the first time in months is starting to look rosy.

It isn’t just the fact we have been winning I feel the boss deserves credit for, but also the way that we have been winning.

When you are down at the bottom of the table, you lose belief and then the fight.

Joyce has certainly instilled both the belief and the willingness to stand up and be counted these past three games into his players.

With the announcement of the new backroom staff coming in this week, Joyce is getting his own team together.

If we can build on the current league form then we will undoubtedly be climbing the table – but let’s leave that for a week and enjoy the distraction of a plum FA Cup tie.

Up the Tics!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

As horrific as December was for Warren Joyce’s Wigan Athletic, January has been a completely different matter.

Whatever has changed for Joyce and his side it’s working.

The win against Brentford was our third win in a row, Joyce’s first home win in the league, and probably the best performance I’ve seen under the new manager.

So many things about Saturday were right, we outplayed one of the better footballing sides in the division, and could have been three or four up long before Brentford got their consolation goal.

The catalyst for our recent up turn in fortunes could well be a certain Sam Morsy.

His performances since he returned have been a key part in us getting those three wins, and he repaid the faith in him by the manager with a virtuoso performance on Saturday.

All eyes turn to the FA Cup on Sunday as the 2013 winners travel to the current holders.

Buoyed on by 3000 Wiganers at Old Trafford, it should be a fantastic atmosphere.

I’m not expecting us to get any sort of result against United – they’re on a great run of form and any side managed by Jose Mourinho will be well-drilled.

But maybe I’m being too quick to dismiss our chances.

It would be a fairytale for Joyce to return to his former club and get one over his former employers, but we’re well versed in fairytales.

The last time we played one of the Manchester clubs saw us earn a return trip to Wembley under one Uwe Rosler.

A win on Sunday would eclipse that achievement.

The one thing that could work in our favour is United’s match with Hull in the League Cup last night.

Meaning we’ve had a full week’s rest were as United have had to concentrate on the League Cup until Thursday.

The club have done their part ensuring so many can be at the game for an affordable price and, once again, should be commended on making football affordable.

Questions remain why a struggling Championship club should have to subsidise the richest club in the world, but that’s for another day.

Whatever happens, as long as Latics put in a good display and do all they can for the shirt, Latics fans will be happy.

Though it would be nice to add another chapter to the FA Cup story, wouldn’t it?

SEAN LIVESEY

Well I think it’s safe to say there has been a radical improvement to Wigan Athletic in the first month of 2017.

If you had told me we would win three games on the bounce while keeping two clean sheets after the Boxing Day defeat at Rotherham, I would have said you were mad.

Yet he we are, one the Championship’s in-form teams, and about to face Manchester United in a televised FA Cup tie at Old Trafford.

It’s easy to get carried away after the experience we endured in the first half of the season, but you have to admit there is a much more positive vibe around the club now.

Warren Joyce’s ideas are finally getting across to the players, and this is because he’s worked out who he trusts in the squad and who he doesn’t.

It’s evident in his consistent team selections, he’s picked the same core group of players since he’s been here.

He slowly but surely worked out where he needed to strengthen in this transfer window, and he’s gone out and made some shrewd additions.

Okay, they’re all loan deals until the end of the season, but I think Joyce had both short-term and long-term targets for the club in his mind when he made these signings.

Injuries have plagued our squad, and he’s used the loan market to give us some strength in depth and help us reach our short-term target, which is to stay in this league.

If he meets that aim and saves us from relegation, then he can start planning for the long-term in the summer.

He can attempt sell the fringe players he doesn’t trust and use said money to try and make a few additions in the summer, as well as using his man-management skills to help some of the younger players in the Development Squad make that progression into the first team.

And let’s face it, the club can’t spend like it used to, because attendances aren’t what they were in the Premier League, and our parachute payments finish this summer.

The fans have to understand the club is using its money wisely, and we may just find Sam Morsy is our marquee signing this month.

KIERAN MAKIN

Latics face the daunting task of trying to eliminate the current FA Cup holders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Most people will be predicting a comfortable win for United against a team near the bottom of the Championship.

But United are not invincible, and Stoke, Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham and Liverpool have held them at Old Trafford this term.

The Red Devils also struggled with Sheffield United last year in the FA Cup, when only a last-minute Wayne Rooney penalty saved their blushes.

Latics do have insider information, with Warren Joyce overseeing the development of the likes of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, and the insight he can provide could be invaluable.

Latics are now in a good vein of form, and will be relishing the prospect of competing against some of the top players in the country in front of 70,000 supporters.

If United underestimate Latics and are in any way complacent, there are players who can cause a surprise.

Yanic Wildschut is a product of the famous Ajax Academy and is very capable of producing some magic.

Will Grigg grabbed a brace for MK Dons when United were knocked out of the League Cup in 2014, and I’m sure Latics’ leading goal scorer would love to hear a chorus of ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’ ring out around Old Trafford.

Sam Morsy has been rejuvenated since returning from Barnsley, and he’ll want to make a big impression against some of the elite.

United may be favourites to go through to the fifth round, but Latics have pulled off some miraculous FA Cup results in recent times – and they might just do it again.

IAN ASPINALL

It’s been a long time since we’ve had back-to-back wins in the league.

Also, it’s a very long time since we’ve been out of the relegation zone.

The 2-1 victory against Brentford, was an outstanding performance overall.

It showed the extra quality Sam Morsy brings to our midfield, and the importance of the role he’ll play from now to the end of the season.

It seems, under Warren Joyce, we’re getting better game by game.

Even without Yanic Wildschut last Saturday, it still proves we’ve got quality in our side which can grind out results when they need to.

Will Grigg got some unfair stick from a few of our supporters, and he had a little pop at them for during the match.

Even though Grigg hasn’t hit the goalscoring heights of last season, he still puts in the hard yards and chases tirelessly up front on his own.

Grigg definitely just needs a goal to restore his confidence. What better way to kick start than at Old Trafford?

This week we can forget about the league, and focus on the FA Cup.

There will be 3,000 Wigan supporters making the short journey to Manchester United – and I for one, cannot wait.

It’s fair to say we’ve not got the best record against United, and Joyce will have to use all his experience from his days there to pull off a shock.

We’ve been the underdog in this competition before, none more so than the 2013 FA Cup final, and we all know how that ended up… WATSONNNNNNN!

There’s no reason why we can do the same against the red side of Manchester.

JOE O’NEILL

Reasons why Sam Morsy’s sweatband is magical...

* It has yet to be placed on the list of banned headgear alongside bowler hats, feather bonnets and those baseball caps with helicopter blades you see in Looney Tunes cartoons. Amazing!

* It’s made from the fabric of Paul Daniels’ most successful magic hat. Morsy is never short of emergency handkerchiefs, coloured thimbles or playing cards during a football match, Monopoly tournament or naturalist volleyball party. Marvellous!

* It masks the fact the barber keeps messing up his haircuts. Currently his head resembles a Battenberg underneath that bandana of lies. Delicious!

* It makes him easy to identify. Except when he’s playing against a certain Czech goalkeeper with an equally natty item of headwear… oh, what was his name again? Better check…

* It smells of year-old sock cheese soup. Defenders daren’t wander within 10 feet lest their nostrils be tainted forevermore. Stinktacular!

* It makes him completely immune to bookings. Against Brentford, Morsy hacked down an opponent and even tripped the ref without being pencilled into Jimmy Adcock’s little notepad of naughty children. Astounding!

* It grants him unlimited ammunition in his fight against FOXHOUND on Shadow Moses Island. Oh sorry, maybe I’m thinking of Solid Snake’s bandana there. Still, impressive!

* It allows him to channel the spirit of Boris ‘Headband’ Becker. This is quite useless in football matches, but does allow him to break into German conversation at random intervals. Wunderbar!

* It makes him look like Paul McCartney c. 1968. This prompts a cacophony of screaming fangirls that temporarily deafens all other players. Morsy’s headband greatly reduces this noise, allowing him to score while the others writhe in agony. Groovy!

* It has been possessed by the spirit of Jamie Vardy’s bandage. The Leicester striker’s magical armwear has been rendered completely ineffective since its powers transferred to the superlative sweatband. Supernatural!

* It’s a mind control device. There exists an identical headband worn by World Football Manager Champion Lumme Baygo, who is remotely directing Morsy’s actions by sending electrical impulses to his brain. Incredible!

DAN FARRIMOND