TALKING SPORT - Something fishy going on

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson

WHEN Conor Sammon is finding the back of the net in opposition colours, you know things are not going your way.

As soon as he scored last night’s winner, headline writers were smacking their lips at the fish gags they could use (ours was, as you can see, only too happy to join in)!

But this is no laughing matter.

While it’s too early to reach for the panic button, Latics do need to sort out their early-season problems. And fast.

Having been tipped among the pre-season favourites for promotion – and having made four quality signings on deadline day – it’s been a frustrating campaign to date for Uwe Rosler’s men. Just when they seemed to find a rhythm with back-to-back wins over Blackpool and Birmingham, along came the international break to knock them off track.

It’s nothing that can’t be put right, but Latics need to rediscover their swagger. It won’t be easy, with Saturday’s tough trek to Bournemouth being followed by a visit of table-toppers Nottingham Forest and a trip to high-flying Wolves.

But while Latics need fear no-one in this division – if they can hit the straps we know they’re capable of – they need to remain on the coat-tails of the promotion and play-off chasing sides, or risk slipping further back and face another second half to the season of playing catch-up.

THERE was something about last Thursday’s demolition of Huddersfield which made it even more satisfying. The team which did it.

The style and scale of the win endorsed Shaun Wane’s ethos of developing players – either homegrown or not.

Five of the six starting forwards were academy-products. The other, Ben Flower, was recruited from Wales – and is now arguably the form front-rower of the last month.

Sure, Matty Bowen, Blake Green and Eddy Pettybourne add a sprinkling of NRL experience. But of the players signed from other clubs, many fall into the bracket of ‘rough diamonds polished by Wigan’. Blokes like Anthony Gelling. He was working a full-time construction job, playing part-time rugby league, when Wane gave him a chance.

Dan Sarginson, the London centre, is 21. Yet he is learning the finer finesse of centre play, and his partnership with Joe Burgess is getting stronger each week.

And what about Burgess – can you believe this winger is still 19? It’s a credit to him that he has done so well – and for Wane for giving him a chance, rather than sign a replacement when Pat Richards left. By developing so many players, Wigan have had to take some hits along the way. But with Old Trafford just 80 minutes away, it’s great to see it now paying dividends.

THE RFL has had long enough to solve the problem with the play-offs crowd.

The buying habits of season-ticket holders means they are reluctant to pay for games at the end of the year.

Especially when they’re not cheap. Especially when there may be a Grand Final to pay for in the same pay-cheque.

And it’s a scaled-up story in the NRL, with Sydney Roosters attracting 18,335 last week – a little more than half the crowd which turned out to watch them play against Wigan in February.

I still can’t understand why officials don’t heavily discount tickets to get fans packing into the grounds.