Just opened Day 16 on my Latics advent calendar.
No points, no shots, no goals.
Maybe, just maybe, behind tomorrow’s window there might be a small festive crumb of comfort hiding inside, and I don’t mean a mouldy mince pie.
There were enough glimmers of hope during the Newcastle game to suggest that, if we can play that way in the next few games, the points and goals will start to flow.
We have to hope and pray that’s the case, as we have gone nearly three months without even scoring a goal at home.
Still, look at our cheap season tickets, eh?
At least we get the plaudits in the ‘Price of Football’ review every year as reward for sitting through all those games were we get nilled at home.
I was talking to a mate of mine, who’s not really a Latics fan, but he’s started going with his son...only for his son to turn around and tell him he doesn’t want to go watching them anymore.
The thing is, they’ve been getting free tickets!
There has definitely been a negative vibe around the place over the past few weeks due to the upheaval.
I am sure I will be accused of contributing to it by making statements like that, but the crowd and players have been subdued, uninspired by uninspiring football.
We’ve had a pretty low base to start with this season, and it seems to be getting worse.
I am struggling to buy the notion things have improved so far under Warren Joyce.
And it seems somewhat perverse the only fans who seem deliriously happy so far are the same ones who were so critical of Gary Caldwell on a daily basis.
For me, we have gone perhaps 20-30 per cent backwards, and that can easily be measured by points tally, goals or chances created (I’ll refrain from mentioning possession!).
Yet there were signs of promise on Wednesday night, as we played with a centre-forward, actually managed to attack Newcastle for a few short spells, and were very unlucky not to get a gaol…goil….goul…..GOAL – sorry, forgot how to spell it there – when the ball flashed across the box a couple of times.
And God bless ES2, who were roused from their slumber to give the team some great vocal support in the second half in the face of 4,500 bare-chested, suitably refreshed Geordies in the away end.
That’s all we ask for as fans – signs of promise, and watching our own team actually on the ball, preferably in the opposition half.
Give us something to cheer about, and we’ll get behind you in spades. And with a handful of winnable games coming up, there is no better time like the present.
The world could look a whole lot rosier in 10 days’ time should we continue to perform like we did in spells against Newcastle.
We need to get this monkey off our back over the next two games, and maybe only then can we start to take a peek at the league table once more.
Two more defeats as the Latics fly headlong into a winter of discontent.
Villa away was heartbreak with conceding in the 88th minute, but that is what comes of having zero attacking intent – more often than not you get kicked in the proverbials.
On Wednesday at home to Newcastle, once again we were devoid of ideas.
At least we had a go in the second half, but in fairness it was more than comfortable for Rafa Benitez’s side.
Five home games without a goal, four points from the last 18 – not the form you want going into the festive period.
We have three big games coming up – Ipswich at home followed by Rotherham and Derby away.
If we fail to get six points then I’d seriously request the powers-that-be hold their hands up, admit they got it wrong, and look to bring in a manager that can get the team playing with some intent.
This is very reminiscent of the Kenny Swain era, when we also employed a fantastic coach as a manager.
Swain couldn’t make the step-up, but I’m hoping Warren Joyce can.
Maybe a win at home to Ipswich on Saturday will start the turnaround in fortunes.
I hope so for all of our sakes.
Up the ‘Tics!
The season begins this week.
How many times have we heard that this season? I’d wager half a dozen, and it’s virtually halfway through.
There seems a train of thought Warren Joyce’s time in charge truly begins this weekend, with games against struggling Ipswich and bottom club Rotherham to come over the festive period.
It’s something that could well have some traction to it, because Joyce has had an unenviable fixture list since he arrived at the club.
Not many would have expected points from the games we’ve faced. But, equally, many would have expected some sort of improvement since Gary Caldwell was sacked.
Someone recently posed the question on Twitter of what has been achieved since we sacked Caldwell, and I think it’s a fair question.
At the time of Caldwell’s sacking, we’d lost narrowly to top-of-the-table Brighton, similar to the results against Derby, Aston Villa and Newcastle this month.
Previously to that we had an unbeaten run that stretched to four games, where the consensus was that we were very close to clicking.
Nearly two months later, it feels not much has changed.
We still look ‘close’ to clicking without actually getting results, and we are still rooted in the bottom three.
Yes, Joyce was handed a difficult opening period of games, but I can’t help but feel that the last two months have been somewhat wasted.
It was said by many at the time that the sacking of Caldwell was the wrong decision.
That isn’t Joyce’s fault, neither is it a criticism of him.
It’s simply the circumstances we find ourselves in.
All that seems to have changed is the tone of the debate.
Where Caldwell was at fault for not getting the best out of a talented squad at the start of the season, the issue is now that the squad isn’t good enough.
You can’t have it both ways!
It’s either the manager’s fault or it’s the squad’s fault.
Personally, I feel we have one of the stronger squads in the bottom half of the division, and I hope Joyce can get the best out of them in time.
There were promising signs in all three recent defeats but, equally, we still have a return of zero points.
And the sides around us are starting to pick up points.
We need to do the same, starting tomorrow, and then perhaps our season can really begin...for the ninth time.
The result obviously wasn’t the one we wanted against Newcastle, but the performance was the first time under Warren Joyce I’ve come away being ok about what I’ve seen.
Let’s not kid ourselves, we are miles away from where Newcastle are in terms of budget, playing staff, coaching staff, supporters, etc.
They shouldn’t realistically be in this division so, to me, it was a free hit.
I was expecting another containment-style performance from us once more, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Will Grigg start and we had set up to try and at least impose ourselves on them.
We passed the ball better, looked half-decent going forward, and looked more balanced than I’ve seen us in a while.
The lack of options at right-back meant Luke Garbutt and then Andy Kellett had to fill in, but other than that I was happy with the selections.
The most frustrating thing about it all was the two Newcastle goals were not well-worked, high-quality goals.
Just sloppy from our side, and we can’t afford to be giving goals away every week off the back of slack defending.
I’ve been quite critical of Joyce since his arrival, and I still stand by my comments.
But I’ve had to sit back and realise the fixtures he’s faced in his first few games.
I hope he saw on Wednesday that, when we attack teams, we look threatening, and making the use of Grigg should be a priority.
Much has been spoken about the lack of genuine quality in the squad, which may be true, but the selection of players is still the issue for me.
We usually play with a midfield three of Max Power, David Perkins and Shaun MacDonald who, from what I’ve seen, lack any real attacking threat in terms of supporting Grigg and creating chances.
Jordi Gomez would be the obvious replacement for one of them, and maybe we might see an improvement in the goalscoring charts, as we’re the lowest in the league.
I hope that is the case, as we face Ipswich and Rotherham next, and we have to target at least four points, otherwise we’ll slowly be cut adrift along with the Millers at the bottom.
Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit you’re just not good enough.
That may be harsh on the players, but the truth hurts at the end of the day.
It’s not just the players and the manager who’ll be hurting either – it hurts the fans just as much to see our team struggle in what is an extremely competitive Championship.
Having said that, I like what Warren Joyce is trying to do.
We don’t possess the quality to dominate the majority of teams in this division, so instead we must be hard to beat.
We put in decent shifts against Derby, Aston Villa and Newcastle, and I believe if we can replicate those performances against the teams around us we will be just fine.
There is one major problem, though, and that’s the fact we haven’t scored a goal in our last five home games.
Obviously that needs rectifying, but we are more than capable of scoring goals in our next two games.
If we beat Ipswich at the DW, we could find some much-needed confidence to take to Rotherham on Boxing Day.
Two wins and we’ll have a completely different outlook on things – I think some people underestimate just how big of an achievement staying in this league will be.
The gulf in class between Latics and Newcastle was for all to see on Wednesday, but it is not surprising given the disparity in resources.
The current Newcastle squad is valued in the region of £130m while the Latics squad is worth around £10m.
Newcastle are likely to be promoted back to the Premier League sooner rather than later, and it is probably best Latics don’t dwell on the result but dust themselves down and come out fighting over the festive period.
In a hectic spell of four games in 17 days they will face Ipswich (h), Rotherham (a), Derby (a) and Huddersfield (h), and these could have a big say in the club’s survival chances.
Warren Joyce has talked about stopping the opposition playing, but this is only part of the formula for success.
Latics must commit more numbers forward if they are to be successful.
At least he adopted a more attacking line-up on Wednesday with Will Grigg making his first start under Joyce.
In the second half, Latics created several good opportunities when they pressed higher up the pitch, and this has to be the formula for the upcoming fixtures against Ipswich and Rotherham.
A couple of good results will boost the confidence and set the team up for difficult fixtures against Derby and Huddersfield.
On the horizon is the January transfer window, and I expect Joyce to bring in several loan players.
The big question, however, is will Dave Whelan and David Sharpe provide the manager with a transfer fund to spend?
With Latics 23rd in the table and four points from safety, surely now is the time for the owner and chairman to take action.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been very unlucky with the run of games we’ve had.
In Warren Joyce’s six games in charge, we’ve faced teams which lie first, third, fourth and fifth, plus two sides who are in mid-table.
And I’m not too down-hearted with our latest two defeats, against Aston Villa and Newcastle.
Last Saturday, we were desperately unlucky not to come away with a point.
On Wednesday, there can’t be many fans who would have been too disappointed we didn’t get anything out of the game against Newcastle.
However, I’m extremely worried it’s now five games in which we’ve failed to score at home.
These next two games against Ipswich and Rotherham are massive in our season – and it’s only December.
We’ve got to take at least four points from these games, and tomorrow we NEED to at least score a goal at the DW.
January is set to be one of the biggest transfer windows to date for the club, as it will be very exciting to see what players Warren Joyce will bring in to put his own personal stamp on the club.
Although we haven’t been as free-scoring, the defence is already looking stronger, and the players seem to be all working hard for the club, which is what we as Wigan fans can only ask.
We’ve had a tough period, and played some sides set to be up there come May.
However, I’m sure we will gain stability under Joyce and achieve survival this season, and fans who are calling for his head need to give their heads a wobble, as you cannot possibly even try to reach a judgement on him at this stage.
Here’s to Wigan’s season finally bringing some joy, and to a successful festive period.
Football League Championship Tips and Cheats Guide:
Is your team still under-performing?
Then, good sir, you are in dire need of Soccercheats.con’s [sic] Championship tips and cheats guide as follows......
Draw every game 0-0: On the title screen, hit I, M, N, E, J, I & T before the chocolate statue of Dave Whelan appears.
If performed correctly, you should hear Graham Lovett scream ‘ooh, I think we’ve got a goal… wait, no we haven’t’.
All goals will be wiped from the final scorecard of every single match, guaranteeing you a point each time.
The next Will Grigg: In the chat dialogue box, type ‘PIGSCANFLY’ to transform David Perkins into a 10-star centre forward with a new height of 7’2 and a shooting accuracy of 99.9 per cent.
The Titus effect: Instead of fielding Dan Burn at centre back, place him in a striker’s position. This way, his one mistake per game will almost never cause you to concede.
Furthermore, you will raise his value, since all strikers are worth far more than defenders. Sell him for £2million+ and repeat with Craig Morgan.
New wardrobe: This is quite useless, but fun nonetheless. On the manager stats screen, hold the analogue stick left until you develop a throbbing blister on your thumb.
When you hear a disgruntled spectator in ES6 shout ‘moooooove’, immediately play an exhibition game.
You will notice your manager is now wearing Hawaiian shorts and shades despite the match’s snowy conditions.
Win the FA Cup: Bring up the transfer market screen.
Now sign Ben Watson, Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone and Joel Robles.
Then make bids for Callum McManaman, Roger Espinoza, Paul Scharner…
Get a million quid: Press 0937495-8470947 on your telephone keypad and ask Grandad for ‘some spending money’.
Within 24 hours, £1million will fall through your letterbox, one crisp new £5 note (complete with picture of chocolate Mr Whelan on the reverse) at a time.