The 12th Man: Such a huge difference after back-to-back wins

Teenager Callum Connolly behan his time at Latics with a bang last weekend
Teenager Callum Connolly behan his time at Latics with a bang last weekend

What an incredible debut for Callum Connolly at Burton last Saturday.

The 19-year-old Everton loanee had only signed for Latics just prior to kick off and he made a dream start scoring two headed goals to clinch a vital win. It’s hard to remember a better Latics debut and in such an important game. If they had lost to Burton the gap between the two clubs would have been nine points. But the victory keeps Latics within touching distance of the clubs above them and a home win against Brentford tomorrow could move them out of the bottom three.

The mood around the club this week has been much more upbeat because of the win but also because Warren Joyce has made some very good new signings. The building blocks are now being put in place to help Latics pull away from the bottom of the table. The addition of the England U20 international Connolly has hopefully resolved the problematic right-back position and should give the team a more balanced look.

The club has also brought in Danish keeper Jakob Haugaard on loan for the remainder of the season from Stoke City. Like Connolly, Haugaard made an impact in his first game at the club by saving a penalty in the FA Cup win over Nottingham Forest and he followed this up with an assured performance against Burton. The 6ft 6’ stopper is an imposing figure and he has added a new weapon to the Latics armoury, the very long kick. Haugaard was launching some massive kicks deep into the Burton half and with a little more luck Latics might have taken advantage.

It is looking likely that Latics will sign Turkish midfielder Jem Karacan from Galatasaray. The 27 year-old former Reading player, who has also had loan spells at Bournemouth and Millwall, should provide more competition in the centre of midfield. Karacan was on the bench for the Turkish national team in 2014 but his career has been blighted by a series of serious injuries and Joyce is taking a chance that Karacan can get his career back on track with Latics.

But perhaps the biggest bonus this week was the permanent return of Sam Morsy to the club. Morsy’s career looked to be heading away from Wigan after Barnsley triggered a transfer fee but Joyce’s determination to keep the player at Latics has given everyone a boost. The fans’ favourite has made a positive impact in the last two games and it is now up to the player to justify the manager’s faith in him.

I suspect Latics’ transfer business is not yet over and the manager will have other targets in mind before the window closes at the end of January.

Joyce has brought new blood into a squad, which has always been competitive, but just hadn’t been getting the results. The signs are now looking more promising, but Latics must continue to improve if they are to escape the drop.

Ian Aspinall

Looking up

Life as a Wigan supporter seems to be a little rosier in the last few weeks. Another fantastic display at fellow strugglers Burton put us just three points behind the Brewers as it seems we’re hitting form just at the right time.

Only Wigan could put a player in their starting line-up without actually announcing that we’ve signed him. When I read the team on Saturday I thought we might have picked the lad up off the M6 on the way down to Burton.

I don’t even think Callum Connelly could have thought his debut would have ended with him scoring two headed goals and being man-of-the-match.

A few weeks ago, it’s safe to say I wasn’t Warren Joyce’s biggest fan. I was very critical of him and I didn’t think he would last much longer in charge.

But from the past two performances it seems the players are buying into his ideas and he’s getting the best out of them.

I think even Joyce would be the first to admit, we don’t always have to just ‘park the bus’ and play on the counter attack. Because he’s actually got players at his disposal what can hurt teams in this division.

Also, I am pleased David Sharpe and co at the club listened to Joyce and the fans in making sure we did all we could in keeping Sam Morsy at the club.

With Morsy signing a new contract it seems he could be the signing of the transfer window for us.

Hopefully we can add a few more additions to the club before the end of the window. Plus with Alex Gilbey back in training this week, it adds extra depth to the squad.

It’s crucial yet again tomorrow that we secure three points against Brentford. We need to keep the winning streak going especially before the FA Cup tie next Sunday.

With any luck, their top striker Scott Hogan will make the switch to West Ham before tomorrow’s game.

Joe O’Neil

Positive signs

First things first, I would like to wish Gary Caldwell all the best for his new challenge as the manager of Chesterfield.

He’s got a tough job on his hands to keep the Spireites in League One, but he has the experience of that division and I’m sure he’ll do well.

Life after Caldwell at Wigan Athletic hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses. In fact, it’s been a baptism of fire for manager Warren Joyce.

However, after a tough start to life at the DW Stadium, there seems to be signs that Joyce could turn things around in the crucial second half of the season.

In arguably the biggest January transfer window of the club’s history, the ex-Manchester United man has done an excellent job so far.

We haven’t rushed into any deals and we’ve avoided panic buys/sales. Instead the gaffer has analysed the squad from head to toe, picked a consistent team week in week out and has done his business based on where he needs to strengthen.

Joyce’s man management skills have been evident both on and off the pitch, and that was proven this week when he managed to persuade Sam Morsy to stay at the club and sign a new contract as well.

There’s been an upturn in results too, and, most importantly, the wins have come against teams around us.

Back-to-back 2-0 victories against relegation rivals Nottingham Forest and Burton Albion (albeit the first was in the FA Cup) will do our confidence the world of good.

We’re hard to break down defensively and now we’ve improved our transition from defence to attack, meaning we’re scoring goals to compliment the clean sheets we’ve been earning.

It’s easy to get carried away with the current situation, but you have to admit there are signs of improvement.

Brentford at home tomorrow will be a tough game, yet it’s a very winnable one.

We didn’t concede in the reverse fixture at Griffin Park and their top scorer, Scott Hogan, doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going amid interest from Premier League side West Ham United.

The Bees have only won two of their last five away games and one of the three losses was a 3-2 defeat at our relegation neighbours Blackburn Rovers.

Get that believe bus up and running.

Kieran Makin

What a difference two weeks make

Two weeks ago, fans were arguably at an all time low, with little confidence in the team, or in their belief that the side were able to win games. People were wrongly calling for Joyce’s head but I feel they may feel silly now.

Joyce has already been relatively busy, with signings Jakob Haugaard and Callum Connolly already being early successes after two consecutive clean sheets and two consecutive victories.

Sam Morsy believed he would never play for Wigan ever again, and move permanently to Barnsley. However, under Joyce, he has been a vital part to the midfield, and had two standout performances since his return. Morsy, to the fans delight, signed a new deal, mainly due to the influence of Joyce, and people doubted his managerial skills.

Alex Gilbey returned to training which is a massive boost to the club. He was great at the start of the season, and hopefully he will add even more quality to the midfield.

I’m feeling confident going into Saturday’s game, and if we replicate the performances from Burton and Nottingham Forest, we’ve got every chance to win against Brentford.

Jay Whittle

History books

I know I’ve not been alone on these pages in expressing my concerns that history may be repeating itself at the DW over the past few months. However, the last couple of weeks suggest that history may well be repeating itself, not for Wigan Athletic but for Warren Joyce.

A week or so ago I put an article online at the Pie At Night website, which had been written by a Hull fanzine all about the Great Escape they encountered over at Boothferry Park during the 1998/99 season. The architect of that escape was none other than Warren Joyce. I was keen to publish this to quell any accusations that I may have been somewhat less than positive or ambivalent towards his appointment.

He took over a struggling side, far further adrift than Wigan Athletic in the basement division and continued to struggle for a while, until slowly but surely they began to improve. New recruits were acquired and a cup run galvanised the squad culminating in a gallant defeat at Aston Villa.

The key to Joyce’s plan back then appeared to be to recruit a load of complete psychopaths. I don’t think we’d get away with that in the Championship in 2017 but his alternative plan of sourcing young Premier League reserve players is also starting to pay dividends. Team that up with an FA Cup run – if we can call two games a “run” and further parallels can be drawn.

I fear the cup run may come to an abrupt end at Old Trafford, but if we can put up a good show then it may give us the confidence to go out and accumulate more points in the league games to come. The foolproof formula for any manager of Wigan Athletic implies that if you win some football matches, any managerial murmurs of discontent quickly go away, albeit it throughout our title win last year, Gary Caldwell continued to attract criticism from certain quarters.

The Championship is a different ball game though and we are now not far off the position we were in when the new manager of Chesterfield was launched from his ejector seat in November. It has been somewhat grim since then, however, the momentum we are gaining is similar to that when Rosler got us to the play offs and Wembley or when we stayed up in the Premier League years under Martinez. What did Gary Neville call it? It’s Wigan time!

From looking doomed at teatime on Boxing Day, it now feels like a case of when rather than if we can climb out of the bottom three. Tomorrow’s game against Brentford will prove to be a good benchmark as to whether we are gearing up for lift off.

The Bees have fallen a long way since we played them in October and their star striker is being unsettled by a big money move to West Ham.

It looks like the ideal opportunity to steal three more points and with “that” cup game coming up next, you’d certainly hope that the players will be desperately playing for their places.

Martin Tarbuck

The only way is up

Two wins in two weeks, a money spinning TV tie at Manchester United on the horizon, debut goals and new contracts being signed. I said on Saturday there had been a sea change following the win over Burton and it’s not hard to see why. The atmosphere at the club has changed drastically from the Christmas period.

We’re not out of the woods by any stretch and we’re still in serious trouble at the bottom end of the table but it feels like we may have turned a corner in recent weeks. The win over Burton was much needed, I hate the term six-pointer but if any game was a six-pointer Burton away was definitely that.

If we had lost Saturday’s game we would have been nine points behind Burton and again a side low on confidence would have yet another dent to a fragile state of confidence. The win was inspired in no small part to a little known Everton loanee, so little known that many Wigan Athletic supporters including myself were asking ‘who’?’ before kick-off.

If you didn’t know Callum Connolly’s name before kick-off you certainly knew it at full-time, two brilliant headers made it a dream debut for Wigan Athletic for the young Scouser. Warren Joyce’s first signing of the transfer window Jakob Haugaard put in another assured performance, those two loan signings have made a big impact in their two games.

The other big news of the week surrounds Sam Morsy and his contract extension. The whole situation regarding Morsy is mystifying. We’ll never know what really went on between him and Gary Caldwell in the summer but he’s definitely made an impact since his return to the club and it’s good to see he’ll be staying at Wigan Athletic.

With a midfield of Power, Perkins, Gilbey, Morsy, Gomez, Macdonald, Jacobs and Flores provides somewhat of an embarrassment of riches for Warren Joyce and again another indication of why we shouldn’t be down at the bottom end of the table.

Next up on Saturday it’s Brentford, the last time we faced Brentford they were flying high towards the top end of the table and looked to be in with a decent shout of the play-offs. Since then they’ve dropped off the pace considerably but should still have more than enough to stay in the Championship. Last time out Gary Caldwell’s side were unlucky not to take all three points from Griffin Park. A similar performance this time out would be most welcome.

Things are looking up at the moment, we need to keep that momentum up now and get ourselves higher up the table. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.

Final word this week goes to Gary Caldwell who is back in management with Chesterfield. It’s good to see Latics former captain back in management if a little strange seeing him at Chesterfield. Certainly so soon after that amazing League One season last year. Caldwell impressed many last season with his approach and attitude to management, and although it didn’t work out this year for one reason or another I’m sure he’ll become a favourite at Chesterfield if he can get them out of trouble.

Sean Livesey

A message from King Warren

Verily, this is Warren’s Column. Oh sorry, where are my 12th Manners? It’s King Warren’s Column! My word, I do hope I’m not beheaded for that remark…

The Wigan Athletic press conference room, replete with ornate patterned wallpaper and gold plated sandwich trays, is filled with an expectant hum. Suddenly, three trumpeters burst forth from the ladies’ toilets, beginning a spectacular rendition of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ (full ten minute mix). Just as the bass is about to kick in, a tall, bespectacled gentleman addresses the assembled reprobates:

“Good tidings I bring, for Warren is our king. Residents of Wigonia rejoice -here’s Joyce in his Rolls Royce!”

The trumpeters abruptly end ‘Blue Monday’, launching into a note-perfect version of ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’. And sure enough, the double doors swing open to reveal the king seated inside a silver Phantom labelled ‘on hire from Whelley Poundsavah Motor Cars’.

“Greetings, citizens! Nathan Ellington might have been your Duke, but I am King Warren, as declared by my most ardent fan in some article for the club’s third fanzine.”

There is a deafening silence punctuated only by a lone whisper: “I didn’t know Wigan Athletic had three fanzines”.

“That, my loyal servants, is where you were supposed to applaud. But I shall forgive this oversight as there are more pressing matters to attend to – namely allocation of duties here at Whelangham Palace.

“For royal training ball polishing and shorts washing – the most crucial aspects of day-to-day operations – I appoint Graham Barrow. My kingly pantaloons shall be allocated their own separate washing machine at the highest point in the kingdom atop the East Stand.

“And as my royal toilet cleaner with trusty toothbrush and soap, I hereby re-appoint Gareth R Caldwell. His royal anthem shall henceforth be altered to ‘Caldwell is Pooper Man’.

“To the dissenters, I remind you that there is no chance of abdication, since nobody else would dare take this job right now. And don’t even think about forcibly removing me from my throne, since these shorts are lined with lead – there’s £2.14 in 2p coins in my pockets.”

The amazed audience gasp as King Warren proceeds to take a sip from a goblet – possibly even a chalice – marked ‘poison’.
“But now I ask you to join me for a ten-course meal followed by the guillotining of vagabonds.

“Barrow, my dear butler! Fetch the candidates for my seventh wife…”

Dan Farrimond

Mystery man

What a masterstroke Warren Joyce pulled on Saturday at Burton, just who is this Callum Connolly that has been announced on the Wigan Athletic team sheet?

We soon found out as the 19-year-old defender, who it turned out is on loan from Everton, popped up with not one, but two headed goals to give the Latics the three points in what was a genuine six-pointer.

All was revealed after the game that Connolly had actually come in on the Thursday prior to the game, but it had been kept hush-hush, no doubt to leave the Burton manager and coaches assuming that we would be continuing to play Max Power at right back.

That is two games in a row now that we have sprung a surprise with the match day team sheet, Jakob Haugaard for the Forest cup tie and now Connolly. I wonder who will be the surprise addition this weekend?

Latics were very good at Burton, they defended excellently and attacked with purpose. It was backs to the wall at times but such was the resoluteness of the defenders that I never felt at any time we would concede, credit to the manager.

Warren Joyce has received a fair amount of criticism this past few weeks, most from me. But the last two performances have been very good and when it goes well then praise needs to be handed out. He has set us up with a well structured game plan, we have looked the best team in both games, by far, scored goals and conceded none. What more can you ask for?

This weekend though we will face a much sterner test against a decent Brentford side. A positive result on Saturday will bring a real hope that we can in fact get out of the bottom three, we’ve just got to keep the run going.

Up the tics!

Barry Worthington