The 12th Man

Yanic Wildschut
Yanic Wildschut

There’s a lot of the use of this word “agenda” doing the rounds at the minute.

Does the club have an agenda? Can fans have an agenda?

The idea that fans will demand a certain style of play, or round on a manager who refuses to conform to that style of play is a highly speculative theory.

I’m a firm believer in watching things unfold in football.

We like to think a football club is our club because players and managers come and go whilst we stay loyal but is that even true?

Our football club is nearly 85 years old now and will hopefully outlive all of us.

In reality, we hop on our supporting journey when we go to our first game and either get off when we’ve had enough, or when it is time to shuffle off our mortal coil.

The truth is we have very little influence bar the physical and vocal support we give the club, only a handful of people are really responsible for the actual decision making.

As fans, we get into watching our team not knowing whether we will win the FA Cup or get relegated, one scenario bringing great delight, the second massive anger.

There’s not many football clubs who can do that in the same season mind you.

So now we begin again on another journey with another manager, who has had something of a baptism of fire.

He may baffle us by leaving strikers on the bench, ostracising popular players and setting us up defensively, yet the pedigree of Warren Joyce suggests he will have a plan in place.

My only input during the Gary Caldwell era was to defend him against those criticising his every move, this was after all a man who won us the league just a few months back.

Now, we face another overhaul, just 12 months after Caldwell oversaw the last overhaul, while the club makes noises about having got their man for their long-term plan.

Just as Caldwell, 18 months earlier was the long-term man for their long-term plan.

Given this scenario, it is possibly right to retain a degree of scepticism.

Yet football is a results business and so long as Joyce can turn in some better results for the rest of the season than Caldwell did to keep us up, then for me, he will have done a great job.

In the short-term, I look forward to the subtle changes in both the personnel and the way the team play, and watching them make an impact on the field.

There is always that temptation when things seem to go wrong to pipe up and ask what on earth is going on, but hopefully there is a long-game going on.

As Joyce continues to cut his teeth in management once more, we will hopefully see a resurgence in form the longer that he gets to work with the squad and impress his ideas on them.

And if we don’t see that?

Well, it’s all part of the journey isn’t it...and what can we, as fans, do about it anyway?

Martin Tarbuck

I don’t think there is anyone more deserving of a statue being put up outside a football stadium across the country more than Dave Whelan.

Broken leg jokes aside, Whelan has been the driving force behind every bit of success I and many Latics fans have had in the last 20 years.

In a footballing world that is growing more and more into a rich foreign man’s toyshop, Whelan has ensured the future of the club is secure while also chasing dreams we could only have imagined two decades ago.

The talk of the ‘war chest’ and Whelan pocketing money from Latics are way off the mark.

The fact he wrote off millions to secure the long-term future of the club a few years ago is testament to just how much he loves this club, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

His crowning moment?

The speech on the pitch against Leeds United as he said goodbye to one era and pushed us into another with David Sharpe.

Around 5,000 barmy away supporters trying to put him off with every word, he replies: “We won the FA Cup in 2013, a trophy Leeds United haven’t won for 35 years”, silencing the travelling support.

Bravo Mr Whelan, and thank you for everything.

With all the furore surrounding the statue, it’s easy to forget there’s been so much going on.

A dull and uneventful 0-0 draw at Barnsley was Warren Joyce’s first point, but I left the game feeling a little bit uninspired.

Someone made a comment leaving the away end that this season seems a lot like 2014/15, and I found myself slightly agreeing.

Of course, Joyce has only been in charge for two games, but the signs already must be alarming.

Zero goals is definitely a worry.

If Gary Caldwell was criticised for fitting square pegs in round holes, then so must Joyce.

Hopefully there was lessons learned, and he has to do it quickly, as we face four very good teams in succession, and we could be cut adrift if we don’t start picking up points fast.

Sam Whyte

A point at Barnsley, in the circumstances, was very good.

The Tykes had us on the back foot for most of the game, but the defending was resolute and displayed a real spirit in the players to dig out a result.

Personally, I felt we were set out quite negatively, and sat in the bottom three isn’t the time to experiment with Yanic Wildschut as a lone striker with Will Grigg, Adam Le Fondre and Craig Davies sat on the bench.

But we got a result, kept a clean sheet, and it most definitely gives Warren Joyce something to build upon, so I can’t be too critical.

Dan Burn pulling out ill before kick off and two forced substitutions would have majorly disrupted Joyce’s plans.

It was also a shame to see Adam Bogdan suffer such a bad injury, which means we have seen the last of him at the Latics.

With just 41-year-old Jussi Jaaskelainen and 19-year-old Dan Lavercombe the only two pro keepers at the club, we have a bit of a goalkeeper crisis.

Hopefully we can pull a non-contract player from somewhere to ease the situation until January at least.

It was a great pleasure and a relief to see Dave Whelan’s birthday present unveiled on Thursday.

For what Whelan has done for the Latics over the past 21 years, he deserves the recognition.

It is highly debatable we would still have a club to support if he hadn’t stepped in all those years back.

The relief part? Well have you seen some of the statues that get produced? It was a nervy wait I can tell you until the covers were pulled back.

It is a cracker, a real likeness, and the FA Cup in his hands adds the magical touch that not only Whelan but all Latics fans have cherished memories about.

Yes it is a statue to honour Whelan, but it also displays a remarkable chapter in our history and one we can all be proud of - a statute for all of us.

We’re on the telly on Monday, so a dull weekend of pre-Christmas decorating in store.

Hopefully we can pull another resolute performance out of the bag and gain a positive result at Huddersfield.

Barry Worthington

Dave Whelan announced somewhat in jest that if Warren Joyce manages to get us back to the Premier League he would commission a statue of Joyce next to his.

He must have seen the previous game at Barnsley on Saturday because, at present, this Latics side are as far away from a promotion push as at any time this season.

Next up it’s another trip over the Pennines – this time to Huddersfield.

Any sort of result would but welcome, but we really need to start winning games.

I didn’t manage to get over to Wigan on Thursday to witness the unveiling of Dave Whelan’s statue, but it looked a wonderful event, befitting of the man and a wonderful honour for someone who has given the town so much.

Whelan is often much maligned, but there is no escaping the fact that without him there would be no Wigan Athletic.

Certainly not in its current guise, and it was great to see Roberto Martinez and Emmerson Boyce return to celebrate.

There is now a permanent memorial now to the most famous day in our history and, although some will laugh, there is no better monument than seeing the man behind that day honoured outside his stadium.

Sean Livesey

I know it’s still early days in Warren Joyce’s tenure as Latics boss, but so far it’s looking like new manager, same old story.

On paper a clean sheet and a point at Barnsley, who were the second highest scorers in the Championship, isn’t bad.

Having said that, when you look deeper, it isn’t encouraging to see we only had one half-decent opportunity through Yanic Wildschut.

You would have thought that with Gary Caldwell’s exit would have gone the club’s tendency to use players out of position.

However, here we are again, discussing bizarre decisions such as playing Wildschut, who is a left-winger, as a lone striker, while Will Grigg, Adam Le Fondre and Craig Davies are sat on the bench.

Moving on to another thing that worries me – I have no idea how we are going to play or what our philosophy is.

At least Caldwell was open about his style of play.

It was very much possession-based and, even though many disagreed with it, we all knew what we were going to get week in, week out.

At Oakwell we had 38 per cent possession and did a lot of defending.

Now you can read those statistics whichever way you like, but for me that says we want to be solid at the back and counter-attack teams under Joyce.

But to counter-attack teams you actually need to attack, which is evidently something we struggle with considering we’re the lowest scorers in the division with 14 goals in 17 games.

As you can probably tell, I’m slightly concerned.

The only way is up, but we need to head in that direction sooner rather than later.

Kieran Makin

Saturday’s dismal 0-0 draw with Barnsley was the first time I’ve seen us under Warren Joyce.

The performance doesn’t fill me with much confidence going into the run of games we’ve got coming up. When I saw the team sheet, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t start with a striker when we had THREE on the bench.

Joyce’s decision to bring Luke Garbutt on, when Nick Powell walked off injured, seemed to suggest he came for a point and didn’t want to get beat at any cost.

Powell got a lot of stick from supporters around me.

You can see where the anger comes from, because at times it seems like he’s disinterested and just isn’t up for the fight.

Which is a shame, becaue he’s definitely got the ability to be a brilliant player.

But sometimes his attitude lets himself down.

Also I don’t think Yanic Wildschut is a striker.

His second-half chance when he was one-on-one with the Barnsley keeper summed it up.

If Will Grigg had that chance, he would have tucked it away.

It might seem obvious, but to win football matches you need to score goals.

When you’re a team struggling to score goals, not even bringing your top scorer on as a sub seems a little odd.

Joe O’Neil

The unveiling of a statue depicting Dave Whelan parading the FA Cup was a fitting tribute to the man who has transformed the club during his 21 years in charge.

To climb through the divisions and to enjoy eight years in the Premier League, reach a League Cup Final, win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League is an unbelievable achievement.

When Whelan stepped down as chairman in March 2015 after the damaging tenure of Malky Mackay, the appointment of his grandson David Sharpe proved successful as Latics won League One under Gary Caldwell.

However, Latics are now going through a difficult period, and there is some uncertainty about the direction of the club.

Recent events and changes in personnel would suggest the owner has not taken a backseat, and is still the driving force behind the big decisions – and there is a risk these decisions might not always be in the club’s best interests.

Latics have sacked four managers since the start of the 2012/13 season, with only seven other clubs in the Premier League and Football League having a higher turnover.

It is fair to say Whelan has made some poor managerial appointments, in particular Owen Coyle and Mackay, during his chairmanship.

But Caldwell’s sacking was perhaps the most surprising, given he’d won League One and was only 14 games into this season.

When Caldwell was appointed, chairman David Sharpe said it was “an appointment for the long-term” and spoke about having a “blueprint for the future”. But that has all gone out of the window.

Warren Joyce is only recently in post, but he has set about making significant changes.

The uncertainty off the pitch is certainly not helping performances on the field, as results have not improved.

Whelan has achieved so much for during his time in charge, but he should be careful not to taint his legacy by continuing to intervene in the big decisions

Ian Aspinall

Although we didn’t offer much going forward at Barnsley last weekend, the side looked solid defensively for a very long time and did well to keep Barnsley .

The players worked very hard for the team, and fought for every ball, which was refreshing to see.

Although three points would have been nice, I was very happy to take a point.

This week has certainly been a feel-good week as a Wigan fan.

Luke Burke signed a new deal until 2018, while on Thursday we celebrated Dave Whelan’s 80th birthday.

The statue is much deserved, as Whelan has done so much for the club, including an eight-year Premier League stint, and a FA Cup win.

Monday should be a very tough game at promotion-chasing Huddersfield in a TV clash.

I’m strangely optimistic as, although we are expected to taste defeat, it will be such a Latics thing to do to pull off a result. Hopefully we do, and the Joyce era can finally kick off.

Jay Whittle

“Where in the World Are Wigan Athletic’s Strikers?”

That’s not the title of an educational video game for the Apple II and Amstrad CPC, but the latest in a series of puzzlers fit for Wigan Latics’ Christmas fun and games annual.

Just where on earth could those mischievous goal-hangers Will Grigg (codename Wilberforce Griggson-Fire) and Adam Le Fondre (codename ‘ALF’) be hiding?

Since our regular private detective is currently ‘refusing’ to answer his telephone, we decided to conduct our own very thorough investigation.

After consulting the Encarta 97 CD that came free with our copy of Windows 98, we have narrowed our search down to the following locations:

Burnley – they both entered the wrong address into their GPS and ended up there instead of Barnsley.

Voice recognition still has a long way to go, at least on Ford Zephyr sat navs.

The Pennines – Griggsy and ALF are held up at customs on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. Since neither have their passport, they have been forced to sample watery tea and sugarless biscuits in a dank, featureless mountainside hut… for a whole week.

HM Prison Wakefield – They were initially apprehended on suspicion of tampering with the Oakwell floodlights, but later questioned over the theft of a point.

Kerguelen – they’re just now returning from their autumn holidays in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

Since there are no airports on the island of Grande Terre, they are forced to swim the full 8,300 miles from Port-aux-Francais to Higher Ince.

Inside their inch-long stubble – They were each swallowed by their burgeoning Movember beards. Not such a silly suggestion, as Nick Powell collapsed under the incredible weight of his own glorious 5 o’ clock shadow at Oakwell.

Our extensive research has led us to believe the final option is most likely.

It also provides an answer to the question of where Jordi Gomez’s beard might have disappeared to – he simply shaved it off, having seen how the extra weight can put strain on your hamstring.

Just ask Adam Bogdan… if you can afford the train fare to Liverpool.

Garmin Winnebago