The 12th Man

Craig Davies
Craig Davies

Latics fans have their say on the return of Jordi, four points in four days, and a look ahead to this weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

So after two good results on our own patch against Blackburn and Birmingham, people are now starting to think we do have the squad capable of doing okay at this level.

Following our defeat at Bristol City, our own fans were starting to question basically everything about the squad and whether we had the capabilities to stay in this division.

I’m not sure as to what most were expecting from this season following our title win in 2015/16, but for me this year is all about ensuring we stay a Championship team.

With the money being thrown about at the top end of the division, we can’t really expect anything else.

We have to be shrewd in the transfer market, and I believe that is what we’ve done, prime example being Nick Powell.

Questions were asked of his attitude following his arrival, although there was never a question of his undoubted ability which we saw first time around during his loan.

Three years ago, Nick spent most of his time as a striker under Owen Coyle. But having watched Powell play in his natural position in centre midfield, albeit briefly, I can see glimpses of what made Manchester United pay £6million for him four years ago.

Bringing in Jordi Gomez is another bit of great business.

We have a relatively young squad, and bringing somebody in who knows the club and the league, and can still add quality to the team, is something that could be rare for the budget we are on.

However, what this league has already shown to me is, despite all the money being thrown about, any team can beat anyone on their day – and that is the mentality we need to take when we’re on the road.

At the DW, I think we’ll be fine and pick up points consistently. But it is away from home where I think we need to put emphasis on winning as many games as we can.

There’s no better place to start that kind of run than at Nottingham Forest – a team struggling for form which can push us further up the table, even if it is still early season.

SAM WHYTE

I thought the Select Group 2 of professional referees was a great idea.

This meant this season’s Championship games would be taken charge of by full-time officials.

So surely the standard of refereeing should improve?

On Tuesday night at the DW Stadium, Carnforth’s finest, Jeremy Simpson – aided and abetted by his assistants Nick Hopton and Jonathon Hunt – proved you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.

Or, in this case, a decent ref out of a duck egg.

But to focus on the match officials following such a display of guts and determination, plus quite a bit of skill, from the Latics, detracts from what was a rousing display from Gary Caldwell’s men.

They were outstanding, especially in the second half, against a resolute Birmingham side.

Craig Davies grabbed the equaliser in the 90th minute and, if Michael Jacobs’ goalbound effort hadn’t been somehow touched over the bar right at the death, no-one could have complained.

The Latics deserved to have won the game but, nevertheless, a draw was still good.

Rumours were rife around the DW on Tuesday about Jordi Gomez returningand, by 11am on Wednesday, those rumours were substantiated with the Latics confirming his signing on a 12-month deal.

Gomez is an excellent addition to what is starting to look like a very good squad.

His guile and experience, especially in the final third, will be a great advantage to the Latics over the coming months, and we have what looks like a really exciting team to drool over.

It’s Nottingham Forest on Saturday, and we know Gomez likes to score against them.

He has had a couple of wonder-strikes at the City Ground in the past, and he must be relishing getting at them again.

Hopefully, this weekend’s Select Group 2 ref, James Linnington, performs a little better than Doh! Simpson did...

Up the Tics!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

The big news this week wasn’t the last minute equaliser against Birmingham.

It wasn’t the mightily impressive four points in the space of four days.

It wasn’t even getting one over Owen Coyle.

It was all about the return of Jordi Gomez to Wigan Athletic.

A move that had been mooted all summer finally transpired as the Catalan put pen to paper on a year contract, two years after departing for Sunderland.

Jordi quite obviously split opinion amongst the Latics support – certainly in the Premier League days.

For many, he came to symbolise the Roberto Martinez era – ambitious but sometimes not good enough.

Whether or not you agree is another matter, but I fall firmly in to the don’t agree camp.

The Championship is where Jordi can and has shone in the past.

Nobody can doubt that he was the beating heart of our first season back at this level, shining in both the league and European campaigns, and of course also having a starring role in our second FA Cup run in as many seasons.

A lot has changed at Latics since the former Barcelona and Espanyol player left for Sunderland, and if there is anyone who can get the best out of Jordi it’s his former captain.

Gary Caldwell doesn’t seemingly do sentiment – especially with how the likes of Emmerson Boyce and Jason Pearce have left the club in recent times.

This isn’t a move grounded in sentiment.

Jordi only recently turned 31, and has never been blessed with pace, so that won’t be an issue on his return.

This is a move for a midfielder who should and could be a class apart in this division.

A midfield with the likes of Yanic Wildschut, Michael Jacobs, Alex Gilbey, Max Power and Nick Powell supplying Will Grigg is an exciting prospect, and one that should see any defence in this league worried.

So welcome back Jordi - the ‘b****y hell Gomez’ club will also be relishing your return!

But you know they love you really.

SEAN LIVESEY

Alternative Match Highlights: ‘Welcome Back to the Championship’

Blackburn-Birmingham Super Edition.

The Rovers fans made a sudden decision to boycott the game and head for the bar as soon as Wigan’s second goal hit the net.

The hardy ones that remained were reduced to cheering for substitutions.

Ahh, being able to make one’s own entertainment is an admirable skill.

Owen Coyle’s surprising outfit: he was the only one on the Blackburn bench wearing tracksuit pants as opposed to his usual shorts.

Hmm, he must be a tad fashion conscious after reading last week’s WEP 12 th Man column…

Edit: I have it on good authority that Coyle and Gary Lineker orchestrated a clothing swap for one day only.

The latter presented the first 10 minutes of Match of the Day in just his (or maybe Owen’s) shorts.

Owen Coyle appearing on a terrestrial highlights show to remind us that he “didn’t inherit a team of champions”.

A knowing nod to Gary Caldwell’s League One winning team, perhaps?

Good old Coyley, we knew you loved Latics all along!

Enough pants talk.

On to Birmingham.

David Perkins bashing one just over the bar in the first 10.

Had that crept in, you could have stopped football forever as the sport would have achieved its final goal – letting Perks score for Latics!

Adam Bogdan’s extraordinary mind-control techniques, which allowed him to easily predict the direction of Clayton Donaldson’s penalty.

Maybe the goalkeeper should have used his powers on the officials instead.

The highly-enthusiastic East Stand single-handedly inspired Latics to a much-warranted last-minute equaliser.

Well OK, maybe having every one of the club’s attacking options on the field also had something to do with it…

…And that last one was dangerously close to an actual highlight, so we shall leave it there for another week.

DAN FARRIMOND

Back-to-back home games, has resulted in ourselves taking four points out of a possible six.

On Saturday, a 3-0 thumping victory over Blackburn and, on Tuesday, a 1-1 draw against Birmingham, which we’ll feel hard done-by not to come away with all three.

Birmingham proved a much tougher test for us, playing two banks of four, making it difficult for us to create clear cut chances and hitting us on the counter attack.

Their plan was pretty much evident from the outset.

They came the DW for one point, but nearly did a smash-and-grab in securing all three.

It was only until substitute Craig Davies’ 90th-minute equaliser, which made sure our unbeaten home run continues.

The only thing missing from our overall play on Tuesday was that final killer pass in and around the penalty area.

With the addition of fan favourite Jordi Gomez, I’m sure he’ll do exactly that, giving the likes of Will Grigg the chances he needs, to put the ball in the back of the net and stay on fire.

To put things into perspective, with how good of a job Caldwell is doing, last time out in the Championship, our home form was nothing short of a disaster.

Only three wins at home all season out of a possible 23 games was simply not good enough.

Also taking last season into consideration, 14 home wins was the most of any side in League One.

Hopefully, on Saturday, we can get our away form up and running when we visit Nottingham Forest.

JOE O’NEILL

Latics have started brightly, picking up four points out of the first three games.

Having got off the mark with their first win after a dominating 3-0 victory over Blackburn, they maintained the unbeaten run with a 1-1 draw against Birmingham, which could have been more.

We have looked like a really good side, and you can see the team coming together as games come thick and thin.

New signings Alex Gilbey and Nick Powell have impressed, and look the part in our youthful midfield alongside Max Power.

The squad is very talented and, with more recruits set to arrive, who knows what the Latics can achieve?

Latics are set to travel to Nottingham with two massive boosts.

With the signings of Everton starlet Luke Garbutt and former fan favourite and cult hero Jordi Gomez, the fans are buzzing in what could be a fantastic season.

I’ve been very impressed with the performances and transfer business so far, and I’m very excited to see what lies ahead for the rest of the window and the Championship season in store.

JAY WHITTLE

Latics have got off to a satisfactory start in the Championship with a narrow defeat at Bristol City followed by a comfortable victory against Blackburn and a hard-fought point against Birmingham.

The new recruits have already made a good impression with Latics’ fans – Alex Gilbey has made a good start while Nick Powell has been the pick of the new-boys.

The former Manchester United man has the potential to play at the top level, despite never fulfilling his promise at Old Trafford.

Gary Caldwell identified Powell as his top summer transfer target, and the 22-year-old’s signing could prove to be a masterstroke.

Powell made his first start of the season against Blackburn and made an immediate impact, demanding the ball from his colleagues and starting many of Latics’ best moves.

Powell scored from a superb curled free-kick and was probably Wigan’s best player.

He is currently working to improve his fitness levels and, if he can get back to full fitness, he will have a massive say in the club’s fortunes this season.

Gary Caldwell has continued to strengthen the squad with three new signings.

Shaun MacDonald will add more strength to the midfield, while Luke Garbutt should provide strong competition for the left full-back/wing- back position.

But the biggest news this week was the return of the talismanic Spaniard Jordi Gomez, whose return will give the club a huge boost.

Caldwell now has plenty of options in most areas of the pitch.

He has added young players with potential and players with Championship and Premier League experience, he has also added extra creativity plus goal scoring ability.

Latics are already building on the momentum from last season and, with the new signings and the probable addition of another striker, they are getting stronger day-by-day.

IAN ASPINALL

I must admit that, after theLeague Cup defeat to Oldham, I was slightly worried, despite it being early in the season.

Our squad was thin due to injuries and departures, and defensively we didn’t look great.

However, what a difference a week makes in football.

We are unbeaten at home after demolishing Owen Coyle’s Blackburn 3-0 and earning a respectable point against Birmingham.

Not only that, we have strengthened the squad significantly.

The arrival of Jordi Gomez means we have a creative player who can provide some much-needed service to both Will Grigg and Craig Davies.

It also means Nick Powell can bring some much needed competition to the frontline, by moving him further forward out of the deep midfield role he has been occupying.

In fact, looking at our squad now it is full of competition.

Our defence looked strong in those two home games even with so many players out.

Luke Burke has done an admirable job at right-back and our left-back issue has been resolved by the capture of Luke Garbutt from Everton.

Hopefully the competition within the team can only be a good thing, and we can give the Championship a run for its money this campaign.

KIERAN MAKIN