There aren’t many players, past and present, who care for Wigan Athletic more than Emmerson Boyce.
The side’s recent poor form has hit the passionate skipper hard. He hates losing and is determined to put it right.
But rather than mope and think about “what if?”, the 34-year-old has urged his teammates to get up and go again.
He’s getting tired of hearing sob stories and Wigan’s problems being blamed on external factors when he knows there is enough quality in the camp to put things right regardless.
One of the excuses used in the past for Latics’ recent slump in form has been a lack of luck with Owen Coyle, who left the club on Monday, bemoaning how close his side was coming to hitting the target.
But Boyce believes Wigan’s quality needs to start showing soon and for that to happen, everyone needs to stick together and stop feeling sorry for themselves.
The Latics captain declared: “No more excuses, no more hard luck stories, we have to make our own luck and start winning games to move up the table.
“The most important thing for the players, the fans and the club in general is not to panic.
“It’s so easy, I’ve caught myself doing it, looking at the top two and thinking ‘how many points are they ahead of us?’
“But the reality is we have to look at getting into the play-offs first before we even look at the top two.
“We’re not too far away from it, a couple of good wins and we move back into play-off contention with a game in hand and that’s our main aim at the moment is to do it by stages.
“First we’ll get in that top six and then kick on from there but we have to do the business on the pitch now.”
Coyle’s departure on Monday may have come as a shock to many outside Wigan Athletic, despite the fans making their anger clear during the defeat to Derby on Sunday.
The chants of “Coyle out” were hardly from a minority and within hours the Scot was in a meeting with Dave Whelan offering to resign after the chairman had told him how disappointed he was with performances.
Boyce offered some kind words for his former boss though, saying he gave all he could, but he was also aware of the supporters’ feelings.
“I think with Owen Coyle’s history in terms of Bolton and losing three games on the bounce, the pressure was always going to be on him,” he said.
“The crowd have obviously shown their frustration during the last couple of games. I’ve been here long enough and it’s never nice when the manager is getting booed or people are saying stuff about him.
“Whether the fans told in the end, I don’t know but obviously the chairman felt like he needed a change. The luck just wasn’t going at the time. But there were so many games that we should have won or got something out of, the luck just wasn’t there. I think he did all he could, but when your luck’s not there your luck’s not there, it’s as simple as that.
“We’ve just got to get on with the job now, Graham Barrow is with us at the moment, we haven’t got time to think around and think.
“Before we know it another game is coming up and as players you just want to play games.
“It’s up to the chairman and the powers that be to choose the next manager and we will kick on from there.”
Latics face Millwall tomorrow in a repeat of the FA Cup semi-final.
Caretaker boss Graham Barrow looks set to be in charge again as Wigan aim to stop the rot in what will be a very tough environment, not least because the London club are unbeaten in six at home.
“It’s a massive game,” said Boyce.
“Obviously we’ve got the history from last year in the semi-final.
“No doubt it’s going to be a hostile place to go and play. As a team, we know we need to go and sort it out quickly. The last thing we want to do is continue this losing run and a team of Wigan’s status, especially in this league, we shouldn’t be losing four in a row. But this is where we are and it goes to show how hard this division is.
“We’re confident we can go there and we have to start picking ourselves up and we have to win.
“It’s not going for us. It will be nice to go in front for a change and see what teams would have to do against us.
“Graham came in and he obviously knows us from the last couple of years and he thought he would try and change something.
“He changed the formation and went back to wing-backs and three at the back. At the moment we seem to be chasing in every game, we’re huffing and puffing but not getting the break then we get a suckerpunch when they go down the other end and score.
“It’s frustrating, disappointing but we have to keep going and hopefully, sooner or later, our luck is going to change and we can start looking up the table.”
A defeat against Millwall tomorrow would make it five on the bounce, something the squad is so desperate to avoid.
While Boyce has insisted that the excuses must stop, he can’t help but point out the lack of goals which has cost Latics this year.
So many near-misses and so many wasted chances have cost Wigan so many points this campaign.
The frustrating thing is that the side has more than enough quality across the pitch to be scoring freely, not jumping for joy because the ball is in the net for one goal.
It’s something which Boyce admits is affecting the mood in the camp with a lot of players determined to start putting things right.
“It’s disappointing,” he admitted. “A lot of people are coming in disappointed and frustrated more than anything.
“In the games we have played we’ve created loads of chances but we can’t score and then we let a soft goal in, whether it’s a set piece or soft play in general, it’s a suckerpunch.
“But we have enough quality in the changing room, training every day is really good, starting off the games are normally good.
“Look at the second half against Derby on Sunday and we should have more or less got something out of the game but that’s our luck at the moment. We’ve got some good characters in the changing room and hopefully our quality will come through.”
Latics were disappointed to come away with a defeat against Leeds on Wednesday.
Despite losing 2-0, there were signs throughout the game which showed Wigan were a side which can trouble teams.
Brian McDermott commented after the game to say that despite Latics’ recent slump in form, he believes they will finish at the top end of the table.
But those sort of compliments mean nothing to Boyce who would much rather have the points.
“I think we just need that break,” he pointed out. “I should have scored with a header and a couple more people had chances.
“It’s just one of them things where set pieces have done us and that’s the disappointing thing about it.
“The whole performance was all right and we controlled the game to an extent but set pieces let us down.
“On the pitch we generally felt better because we were passing the ball around. That’s not taking anything away from Owen Coyle because everyone has their own style of play but I think the formation might have helped us.
“The new manager will come in at some stage so everyone wants to impress.”