The 12th Man: Christmas No.1...but the pressure starts here!

Ivan Toney was subject to racial abuse on social media last Sunday
Ivan Toney was subject to racial abuse on social media last Sunday
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With four games coming up in a very short space of time it could mean nine days to define our season.

Does that seem fair or over-dramatic?

Nothing is decided in December but then again, every season is determined by pivotal spells where you pull away or get dragged back.

We are certainly in the best position we can be right now but Shrewsbury and increasingly, Blackburn are snapping at our heels.

With the games coming thick and fast, things can quickly change.

I would genuinely be glad if we emerge on January 2 with at least the same gap between ourselves and the chasing pack, or being greedy, maybe one or two points more.

Is it better to be on top leading from the front or part of a chasing pack?

It’s only where you are on 5th May that matters ultimately.

Yet, having read around a bit, quite a few Blackburn fans seem tremendously cocky that they are going to catch us and overhaul us sooner rather than later and power their way to the top, in much the same way that we have done to the Shrews.

Because we’ve been there, we know all about the power of momentum and it can sometimes be more difficult to get that momentum when you’re already as high as you can go.

Once you’re top, all the pressure is on you to stay there.

There is a recurring theme which we need to address, which is the need to pull off stylish, committed and comfortable results not just against the teams at the bottom of the table but at the top.

Beating both Shrewsbury and Charlton would certainly put that ghost to rest, drawing either would not be a disaster but losing could send us on a wobble.

Before that, we have to go to the unpredictable Oxford United, who seem to win 4-0 one week and lost 4-0 the next.

Again, three points may be a necessity given the form of the chasing pack.

Whereas we may look proud and comfortable right now perched atop of the table, we haven’t got a lot of breathing space, despite setting a staggering pace and just one slip up could prove costly.

Enough of my nervous disposition, we are going to be top at Christmas.

Even if we do encounter setbacks along the way, every time it has happened thus far this season, we have bounced straight back.

With the help of a positive mindset, a positive manager and positive support from the fans, we will do the same again I’m sure.

We had a truly awful first half of the year and a fantastic second half of the year and the credit for that lies solely with Paul Cook and his squad.

Let’s hope 2018 is the Year of the Tic!

Martin Tarbuck

This side haven’t got close to even reaching their full potential yet and that should strike fear in to the rest of League One.

Another Saturday, another three points, another convincing win and another four goals.

We’re completely on target and the minor blip of drawing with Blackburn and losing to Bradford last month looks to be well behind us.

It was an excellent first visit to Kingsmeadow for Paul Cook’s side on Saturday.

Backed by a noisy contingent from Lancashire, Latics set out their stall early against a physical Wimbledon side. Attempting to play their football whilst the Dons as expected try to make it in to a battle.

Wimbledon would have been the happier of the two sides at the break but there was only one team in it after half time.

If Latics can get a win against Oxford on Saturday we’ll be on 51 points.

That’s with two games still left to play in 2017 – in other words keep up this form and we’re on target.

Blackburn look to be getting their act together and like us in 2015/16 are leading the chasing pack.

As long as we keep ahead of Blackburn the likelihood is we’ll be promoted.

I think we’d have all taken that after last season’s disasters. It’s all about setting the pace now and Cook’s side are doing that so well.

Hot on the heels of Wimbledon it’s a first visit to Oxford this Saturday.

I’ve always wanted to visit Oxford but by the time I started watching us in the early 90s Latics were beginning the rise and Oxford were on the wane.

Still football is a great leveller and we travel to the Kassam Stadium on an equal footing on Saturday.

Chey Dunkley will be revisiting his former stomping ground but I imagine Oxford are a very different side this season from last now.

A win for those Latics fans making the long journey would be the ideal present.

Sean Livesey

It’s been a bit of an odd seven days to be a Latics fan.

In the week that AFC Wimbledon became our 101st victims in league football, off-field news wasn’t so good.

A Latics supporter posted racist comments on Twitter about Ivan Toney, sparking an investigation involving the club and the police in an effort to track him/her down.

Following on from the Mackay/Whelan fiasco, this was the last thing we needed. But it also begs the question of what prompted it?

Sadly, the reason for the abuse appears to be little more than Ivan Toney not scoring enough goals. He was even booed before even entering the pitch as a substitute a couple of weeks ago.

This, sadly, is typical of how some of our fans are these days.

Despite being four points clear at the top of League One, with a massively superior goal difference, this isn’t good enough

As soon as we don’t win by at least three goals, the knives are out and sharpened. It’s true that Toney hasn’t been exactly prolific this season, but neither has Will Grigg.

Somewhat ironically, the last two games have seen Toney score two goals, bringing his total to six in 23 games.

This actually compares well to Grigg’s seven in 24, and yet Grigg is feted as a hero week in, week out.

So why, exactly, is it that Latics fans always need a target to hurl abuse at? Nobody seems to know, but it doesn’t stop it happening. It seems that we just won’t accept that things are going well, and that not everybody can be a world beater every week.

Mind you, it happened with Jordi Gomez and then we voted him player of the year, so you just can’t tell.

Ivan Toney isn’t the natural goalscorer that Will Grigg is, that’s obvious.

He is, though, a Latics player and that should be enough. Unfortunately, it never will be and so it seems that it’s just his turn to be targeted.

With four games coming up in a 10-day period, we’re going to need every player we’ve got.

And that includes Ivan Toney.

Paul Middleton

Paul Cook will be very pleased with his first seven months in charge at the DW Stadium but he also knows that Latics will need to improve in certain areas as they plan for the Championship.

As we approach the halfway stage in the campaign Cook’s team have shown that they are a cut above most of the teams in the division and if they can maintain their current form they will comfortably be promoted back to the Championship. Latics have a strong squad and will also have defender Craig Morgan and midfielder Shaun MacDonald returning in the New Year, but they will still be looking to strengthen in the forthcoming transfer window.

Cook will already be looking to the future and will have a Christmas wish list of players he would like for next season. So which areas do Latics need to strengthen?

Goalkeeper - Latics have two good quality keepers in Jamie Jones and Christian Walton. Walton in particular has the potential to play at the top level but he is on loan from Brighton and the England Under-21 keeper would demand a significant transfer fee if he was to sign permanently.

Central defence - The defence has been outstanding so far this season and they have only conceded 12 goals in 21 matches.

Dan Burn in particular has been a rock at the heart of the defence and he has already shown that he can impress at the higher level.

Chey Dunkley has also done well in League One and Alex Bruce has provided good cover, but if Latics are promoted they will need to recruit another experienced centre-back.

Midfielder - Latics do have plenty of options in midfield but they may want to take the option to make Lee Evans a permanent signing from Wolves. Latics are usually at their best when they have captain Sam Morsy and Evans playing together in front of the back four.

Wingers - Both Gavin Massey and Ryan Colclough have potential and have done well in patches this season but if Latics do step up a level they may need to add more quality in this area. A return to Latics for Yanic Wildschut anyone?

Striker - Will Grigg is starting to get back to his best after a long injury lay-off and I expect him to bag plenty more goals before the end of the season. I’m confident that the Irishman will also score goals in the Championship but Latics will also need to add another central striker to the squad. Newcastle United loanee Ivan Toney has done well in League One but he may find the going much tougher in the Championship.

Best wishes for Christmas to all Latics’ fans. Let’s hang on to top spot and make 2018 a year to remember.

Ian Aspinall

Latics hit the goal trail again on Saturday afternoon when they thrashed Wimbledon 4-0.

While we were not able to find the net in the first half, four goals without reply after the break made the game a comfortable win for the League One champions elect.

It was also good to see four different scorers in the game.

Goals from Michael Jacobs and Nick Powell are no real surprise. But it was pleasing to see a goal from Max Power, which is well deserved for some excellent performances since coming back into the squad. And what a goal it was.

Whenever Max gets the ball in an advanced position, the crowd always wants to shout “shoot.”

But for the past 18 months, that has been a rather dangerous thing to do!

Let’s hope this new found accuracy is not a one off.

A confidence building goal from Ivan Toney was also good to see.

Toney gets some stick from Latics fans.

While he does seem to have a problem staying on his feet at times, he is certainly able to score goals and he is a decent back-up forward.

No, he is not as good as Will Grigg. Certainly not.

But the talk of him being the “worst Latics forward ever” is an insult to Pat Gavin, David Adekola, Winston White, Jamie Barnwell-Edinboro, Peter Thorne and the like.

It is very difficult to have a back-up forward who is as good as the first choice one, but Toney is good enough for the job.

That said, if Grigg was to get a long-term injury, I would want us to get active in the transfer market.

The Christmas fixtures are a time which can start to make or break a season.

Starting on Saturday, Latics will play four league games in 10 days.

Include the FA Cup trip to Bournemouth and we’ll play five in 15. We will have to have a squad which can cope with this.

Expect Paul Cook to make a few changes.

Expect to see Toney play his part over the festive period.

Cheer when he scores a goal!

We are in the luxurious position of knowing that, whatever happens tomorrow at Oxford, we will be top on Christmas Day.

And then on Boxing Day, we entertain Shrewsbury when we will have a chance to get closure on one of our defeats earlier in the season, and to put further distance between ourselves and the early pace setters.

Boxing Day will be our 23rd league game of the season and therefore will mark the halfway point of the campaign.

All is going well with us being four points clear at the top, five points clear of third place, and in great form with four consecutive victories.

Even our superior goal difference gives us the advantage of effectively having an extra point.

One feature of this season is that we have not drawn many games.

We are one of the more decisive teams in the division with the joint third fewest draws.

It was when I was studying the table that I noticed that in 22 games so far this season, Bristol Rovers have not drawn a single game yet.

While I find that amazing, I assume they would rather swop some of their 13 losses for some draws.

hen we won this division two years ago, we drew 15 games.

The secret we had then was to have a couple of very long unbeaten runs which built confidence and keep us picking up points. With fewer draws this season, we can afford to lose more games but still get a higher points total. However, if we can avoid defeat on our next two games, we will actually be on course for fewer losses than last time we played at this level. This explains why we are on course to comfortably beat our points total from that season.

With us playing three teams in the top half and two currently in the top six, the festive fixtures are not easy for Wigan.

We surely cannot get 12 points out of 12, can we?

Well we could, but the truth is that we probably won’t. So how many points do we need to get?

Seven will definitely keep us top as long as Shrewsbury don’t beat us. Six might be seen as a disappointing return from four games.

While we should, of course, aim for all 12, I am sure that most of us would settle for nine.

But however many points we should aim for, or we would accept, to have a successful, peaceful and stress-free footballing Christmas, we need to keep banging in the goals – like we did last Saturday in the capital.

Stuart Glover

A year ago to the week Warren Joyce’s Wigan Athletic were sitting second bottom in the Championship heading into a relegation ‘six-pointer’ away at Rotherham United, where a toothless performance would see the Latics 3-0 down at the interval.

Fast forward a year, and the ‘Tics are sitting merrily at the summit of League One, guaranteed to be top at Christmas with a game to go.

The club has gone from fielding games without a recognised striker and the most defensive football most of our fans have ever seen, to a free-flowing possession styled play with Will Grigg up front and three attacking midfielders supporting him - yet just over a week ago there were boos during our FA Cup replay against AFC Fylde.

It’s not even subtle, as well. The man who’s turned our club around, Paul Cook, commented on the negative attitude that was beginning to creep in amongst supporters after our first home loss in over six months.

November’s Sky Bet League One ‘Player of the Month’ nominee Max Power received criticism on Twitter after the Latics’ 2-0 victory against Fleetwood – dare I suggest I heard a few boos from ES3 too.

Forward Ivan Toney was this week’s victim of ridiculous abuse on Twitter.

Supporters pay good money to follow THEIR Wigan Athletic every week, and should be allowed to voice their concerns and criticise where appropriate, but surely there’s a line?

Toney, who has scored five goals so far this season, was the subject of racial abuse on Sunday night, weirdly after scoring twice in two games…

To the club’s credit, they have promised to investigate further and hand the culprit a lifetime ban from the DW Stadium (if found).

So those of you who will be joining myself at Oxford on Saturday, be sure to get behind the lads from the first minute to the last, and please, let’s cut out the ridiculous booing – we’re top of the league!

Jack Unsworth

Our start to the season this year has been nothing short from spectacular.

As we approach the mid-point, Wigan sit relatively comfortable at the top of League One, and will be sitting at the summit on Christmas Day, which I’m sure will bring extra festive joy for Latics fans. Wigan face a tough period ahead with the top-of-the table clash against Shrewsbury at the DW Stadium on Boxing Day being in particularly very mouth-watering.

And the Latics have great momentum going into the late December-early January fixture pile-up. I feel Saturday’s 4-0 win at AFC Wimbledon speaks for itself.

Our quality in the second-half must have proved to much for the Dons, with Latics fans lucky to see two goal-of-the season contenders in the same afternoon.

Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell and Ivan Toney added to their already sensational goal tallies, where-as Max Power ended his 20-month goal drought with a long-range thunderbolt, after scoring his last previous Latics goal in March 2016, in a 4-1 victory at Swindon Town.

Power has deserved that goal for a very long time, and he’s been a sensational influence, on and off the pitch, this season.

Power has also been a very influential figure in the dressing room as he’s helped multiple players with advice and guidance, including helping Ryan Colclough in his return to the side with extra work.

His goal on Saturday will take some beating to not-win the club’s goal of the season.

But I’m sure Powell will have something to say about that with his effort at AFC Wimbledon.

The classy midfielder waltzed past the defence, unleashing an strike that moved in the air, leaving goalkeeper Long routed to the spot. Powell has been the X factor this season for Wigan, and he’s been a match-winner on multiple occasions.

When you watch him, you can tell that he is a class above, and we should be very lucky to have him at the club. In 21 games, Wigan have won 15, drawn three and lost three, accumulating 48 points.

Wigan have scored the most and conceded the least number of goals, and Wigan have a relatively good chance of promotion this season.

Wigan are 11 points better-off than they were at this point in the 2015-16 season, which as we all know, led to the Latics winning promotion, and a certain striker’s chant going global.

In January I do not want to see many departures or signings, as the last January window was comparable to a revolving door with Wigan signing eight players on deadline day alone.

The Latics also lost our potential saviour Yanic Wildschut, which ultimately played a part in our demise and fall back to League One.

I feel it is so important to keep this squad together, as when you have a squad who want to play and succeed together, like we have now, it’s very rare in football so you have to do everything you can to keep them together.

I do believe we can strengthen in certain areas, but I’ll leave that one to the experts to work it out.

Wigan travel to Oxford United tomorrow and once again it’s another tough clash. Oxford started very well, and although they have seemed to have burned away, they are still around the play-offs, and at home.

It will be very hard to come away with some points.

Jay Whittle