Anyone of a certain age might remember a children’s gameshow called Runaround hosted by a gravel voiced pre-Eastenders Mike Reid, who implored the kids to “Run-arrrraaannnd” in that comedy Cockney accent and find a corner to put themselves into.
Well it’s that time of year again when the clubs in the Championship carry out that exact same exercise as those of us who narrate upon the sport seek to compartmentalise each of our competitors into a suitable box.
For example, there are the “Big Guns” such as Newcastle, Villa and Norwich. The perennial bridesmaids: Derby, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday. The “good club gone bad” – Blackburn Rovers, please feel free to run over and join Leeds and Fulham.
There’s the “Eternal Strugglers” such as Rotherham and Preston North End (arf!) and then there’s those “New Wave” clubs jostling out of their own mould of mediocrity such as the Dortmund influenced Huddersfield and the latest billionaire’s plaything, Wolves.
Where do Wigan Athletic fit into all this, I hear you cry? Well, I don’t think we will ever agree on a consensus on paper let alone in real life so it could be a challenge.
It’s very difficult to place us given we have hopscotched up and down the leagues so much in the past 20 years, but it’s safe to say that even the most optimistic of fans cannot possibly envisage us being one of the big guns in this division
Even when we did finish 2nd and 5th we were tiny in comparison to many of the clubs around us, and if you use attendances as your benchmark, we are grimly hanging on to 19th spot, just above Blackburn, who I should imagine have quite a few staying away.
At the other end of the scale, there is one corner of the room which we must avoid and has remained strangely vacant thus far. This despite a reserved placeholder with “Burton Albion” marked upon it and the aforementioned Blackburn Rovers getting sucked slowly towards it, and that is the notorious “Whipping Boys” corner.
Clearly, there are a few problems defensively with Latics at the minute, and one characteristic of the Whipping Boys is a leaky defence. Yet, all is not lost.
Last time we went to Forest we got battered 4-1 in an awful, inept performance in what turned into an awful, inept season. We are at least competing this time, with arguably fewer resources.
To lose by the odd goal in seven is not a disgrace, though there is clearly work to be done on Wigan’s away form.
What will hopefully remedy this is our ability to score goals – which we also appear to have in our locker.
And if we can cut out those defensive mistakes then the results will pick up on the road.
First, however we have the small matter of QPR visiting the DW Stadium, and I think it’s fair to say we owe them one from the play offs.
Let’s hope their team coach is parked firmly within a regulated zone this time and not in front of the away goal.
Yet again, last-minute goals and defensive mistakes has been the downfall of our championship campaign thus far.
On Saturday, it was a comedy of errors with let to all four of Nottingham Forest’s goals. They all could and probably should of been prevented.
On the other hand, it would of so easily been many more, if it wasn’t for Adam Bogdan to be on hand to reduce the deficit. A string of fine saves in both half’s and also a penalty save was undoubtedly his highlight of the match.
We saved one of the best comedy of errors till last, Nottingham’s right back Pereira strolled through three defender’s unchallenged, and then found Lam on the edge of the area, who guided the ball past Bogdan with ease.
One Wigan defender who came under heavy criticism for his performance was Dan Burn. A sloppy back pass to Bogdan let Forest in to take the lead. The ‘sloppy’ back pass is identical, to the one Titus Bramble played against Manchester City all those years ago.
Burn seems to have one or two errors in his game which if aren’t corrected, could end up costly for us throughout the season.
Also, Caldwell selecting to start Yanic Wildschut at right wing back wasn’t one of his better managerial decisions. You could see the threat he causes the opposition when running at their goal, but when he’s running towards his own and having to track back, it’s not hard to notice it isn’t his preferred position.
However, there’s no doubting our attacking ability in the final third, scoring three goals away from home and end up on the losing side is hard to take, but if we can’t get the simple defending basics right, we’re going to lose a lot more than we win.
One might assume that a certain island in the West Indies will be watching Saturday’s game very closely indeed.
After all, the combined squads of Wigan Athletic and Queens Park Rangers contain a healthy total of two players representing the tiny British Overseas Territory of Montserrat. Such a contingent would in theory account for about 1/2500th of the island’s total population.
However, it might surprise you to learn that according to Wikipedia, the Montserrat national team’s 2018 World Cup Qualification squad contained 19 British-based players.
Granted, since those individuals are plucked from clubs in disparate non-league divisions, they don’t often face each other in domestic competition. Hence, it will be a fairly significant moment in Montserratian football history should Donervon Daniels and Brandon Comley square off for their respective Championship clubs at some point this season.
But not as significant as one might first think. As Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory, it is relatively easy for residents to migrate to the United Kingdom.
“According to the 2001 UK Census 7,983 Montserratian-born people were residing in the UK (almost twice the population of Montserrat itself).” -- Wikipedia
When Montserrat’s Soufrière Hills volcano became unsafe in 1995, much of the island’s population – and thus footballing talent – departed, accepting the UK Government’s offer of residency in Britain (source: The Football Pink).
Over 20 years later, Montserrat football still shares a strong bond with the United Kingdom. Many of those selected for the island’s national team were born in England – that is certainly the case for QPR’s Comley, and while Daniels was born in Montserrat, he has spent much of his football career in England.
Owing to injuries and selection preferences, it’s unlikely both will feature on the pitch tomorrow. But having spent a whole summer screaming ‘get Grigg off the bench’ at Northern Ireland Manager Michael O’Neill, we know how Montserratian fans might feel.
So come on, Gary! Put Donervon on… for the nation of Montserrat! Even if he is injured.
The 4-3 loss at Nottingham Forest could just be the wake-up call that Gary Caldwell suggested his players needed.
On paper, you would expect to get at least a point if you scored three goals away from home.
We did exactly that, but we came away with nothing thanks to a deserved last minute sucker punch.
Having said that, the result showed us a lot about this current crop of Wigan Athletic players.
The teams heart and spirit can’t be questioned, as we came back not once but THREE times to level up the scores.
Going forward we are ruthless, we really are. Our strikers, Will Grigg and Craig Davies, have both been amongst the goals early doors, and now they have some quality service behind them.
We have creative players like Michael Jacobs and Jordi Gomez, who can unlock Championship defences.
We also have some quality wingers in Yanic Wildschut, Ryan Colclough and Alex Gilbey, who all have the pace and trickery to beat a defender and get in behind a backline.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying every position is sorted, except the defence…
Okay, Jake Buxton is back from suspension this weekend for the visit of Queens Park Rangers, but we need a defender with pace.
Because our wing-backs pushed so high up at Forest, their pacey wingers had space to exploit and they could get one-on-one with two of our three centre-halves.
Nothing against Stephen Warnock, he’s a great player, however, he came up against a young and hungry winger in Oliver Burke who tore us to bits at the back.
Dan Burn got a lot of stick in pre-season, but I thought he had a decent start to the regular campaign.
Despite a steady start, it has become evident that he does have a mistake in him when he’s under pressure on the ball.
I’m sure Caldwell has a few more deals up his sleeve before the transfer deadline, but let’s hope he can make them happen.
We need some speed at the back, or else we’re going to throw away points we’ve earned and we simply can’t afford to do that.
The September 1 transfer deadline is fast approaching and the turnover in the Latics’ playing staff shows no sign of abating.
Gary Caldwell has already been very active in the transfer market and has brought in 10 new players: Stephen Warnock, Alex Gilbey, Dan Burn, Kyle Knoyle, Nick Powell, Adam Bogdan, Jake Buxton, Jordi Gomez, Shaun MacDonald and Luke Garbutt but there are likely to be more comings and goings before the deadline.
Caldwell created practically a whole new team last season and he seems to be working on similar lines this time around. The manager is determined to bring in more new players to boost the club’s chances this term. Currently top of Caldwell’s shopping list are a right back and a striker but don’t rule out further additions in other positions as well. Latics have been linked with numerous transfer targets, most recently Benfica striker Nélson Oliveira, Bolton defender Josh Vela, Hearts defender Callum Paterson and West Ham defender Reece Burke.
Of course, there are also likely to be outgoings as well. Latics have already released several players either permanently or on loan, and Tim Chow, Sam Morsy and Ryan Colclough have all been attracting interest from other clubs.
The scramble for players will reach a crescendo next Wednesday as each team seeks to gain an advantage. There is so much media hysteria around the transfer window and players’ agents are constantly talking up their client’s abilities so Latics must not get caught up in the hype. The quality of the incoming players is paramount and Caldwell and his recruitment team must ensure that they bring in the right type of player.
Latics come up against old foes Queens Park Rangers on Saturday and they will be looking to revenge the disappointment of an extra time play-off defeat in May 2014. Gary Caldwell will remember the game for all the wrong reasons as he conceded a penalty and Rangers went on to win the game 2-1 and progress to the play-off final.
Caldwell will certainly be looking for Latics to improve defensively against QPR after some basic errors let the team down at Nottingham Forest. The manager was very critical of the team’s defending and admitted that they conceded some ridiculous goals. He went on:
“It’s basic things like tracking runners, making tackles and allowing their right back to get into the box too easily and cutting it back for the lad to have a free hit from the edge of the box”. Add silly back passes to the list and you have a recipe for disaster.
The priority this week will have been working on defensive drills and cutting out basic mistakes. Let’s all hope all the lessons have been learned and Latics can quickly get back to winning ways.