The 12th Man: Baby steps in the right direction...
Despite a two-goal reversal to Aston Villa, I left the DW Stadium on Saturday feeling a bit more positive than usual '“ and a lot more entertained.
We more than matched our expensively-assembled opponents for the majority of the game.
We probably should have been a goal up by half-time, and it was good to see Wigan players actually progressing into the Villa penalty area.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but I think it’s safe to suggest the gloomy cold winter has passed.
There was a sense of acceptance of our fate around the stadium at the final whistle too.
There may be eight games remaining but, with a deficit of seven points and a home form that makes decidedly poor reading – just three wins from 19 games, and 12 goals scored – it is probably safe to assume we are down.
Goals win football games, we haven’t scored enough...simple.
Our set-up hasn’t aided our strikers one bit – restrictive, defensive football has brought just what it deserved.
Under Graham Barrow on Saturday we saw more attacking intent than we have seen in a long time.
We just weren’t clinical enough where it mattered, but that can be worked upon.
The remaining games of this season are there to be enjoyed, so let’s enjoy them and more of the same from Saturday please.
On Monday there was an FAB meeting with Jonathan Jackson and supporter representatives.
The main topic of conversation, once the preset agenda had been dealt with, was who the next manager would be.
No hints from Mr Jackson, but he did say due process would take place to ensure we get the right man.
With our recent record, I hope we can indeed find the right man.
From Paul Jewell’s appointment in July 2001 until Roberto Martinez’s departure in June 2013 we had four managers – Jewell, Chris Hutchings, Steve Bruce and Martinez.
That stability brought success, promotions, cup finals and some fantastic football.
Since July 2013, we have sacked five managers and suffered two relegations.
That speaks volumes.
So let’s take our time with the next appointment, let’s get the man for the here, now and the future, to take the Latics on another journey that hopefully will bring success.
Up the Tics!
Was that a little glimpse of the old Wigan Athletic coming back on Saturday afternoon?
No, I don’t mean getting nilled at home after an abject performance. Again.
I mean some semblance of play and cohesion to our game.
The back four looked a bit more comfortable keeping hold of a ball a bit longer (but not for too long heaven forbid!) and, further up, midfielders were actually trying to pass to one another, build passages of play.
We even created some chances, had some attacks and forced Villa’s goalkeeper into an outstanding afternoon.
This constantly reinventing the wheel is doing us no favours but, if we are reverting back to the style which garnered so much success last season and sporadically throughout the last seven years, that is fine by me.
I’m not objecting to the sort of negative, defensive, low-possession game that Warren Joyce was obsessed with – well, no, actually I am – but I think we, as fans, deserve to at least see an attempt to entertain us, particularly at home.
It’s not as if the Joyce approach doesn’t work – it does.
Malky Mackay’s Cardiff team were masters of a tight defensive game, long balls and counter and a dependency on winning and scoring from set-pieces.
Unfortunately, Mackay – like Joyce at Latics – tried to introduce it here without due consideration to the forward-thinking half of that equation.
Thus 1-0 wins become 1-0 defeats.
Of course, the constant throughout the season has been the lack of quality and goals in the team generally.
These problems have been exacerbated by the sale of Wildschut, Grigg being out for the season, ditto Powell, the release of Gomez and Craig Davies (OK just kidding on the last one!).
At this point, I suppose I should round on Gary Caldwell for a poor summer of recruitment, but it does just amplify the difference between Championship and League One.
Namely, that this was a team that was frequently scoring three, four or even five goals at home and away, particularly in the second half of the season, yet this year the goals scored column has been so barren.
Of course it has to be said again that other teams have come up and managed it, and Barnsley and Burton – who finished behind us – look set to stay up.
It does sadly seem in our case the cure to our goal drought will inevitably be relegation.
The goals and wins may be flowing again as soon as August if we can keep hold of the nucleus of our squad, and install the right manager.
One who understands budgets, can progress youth development, and is a broad fit with the way we like to play from the youth team upwards.
Then maybe next year the gloom will lift again.
For the time being, there is very much an “interim” feel about Wigan Athletic.
Not down, not out but perhaps just awaiting the inevitable.
The defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday had somewhat of a final feel to it.
Not a cup final, of course – those days are long gone.
But a final nail in the coffin? Perhaps.
Although Latics lost on Saturday, it was one of the better performances of this year.
Certainly the most attacking performance.
The lads put their heart in to it and we came up short.
If only we’d put that same sort of effort and attacking intention in to the games against the easier sides and the aforementioned Bristol City – and before that the games against Blackburn and Nottingham Forest – who knows where we could be now.
It was interesting to see Andy Kellett return to the starting XI at left-wing back.
It’s a system Graham Barrow knows well, played under Roberto Martinez, Gary Caldwell and Uwe Rosler.
Equally it was disappointing to see him go off midway through the second half, after breaking down again.
He’s had some real injury trouble since he joined Latics, and one can only hope he gets fit again soon.
I thought Saturday was 10 times better than what we had served up in recent weeks. Yet we still didn’t have enough.
That said, the atmosphere at the DW will be a lot less toxic if the lads, and indeed the management, look as though they’re having a go and trying to win the game.
We’ve eight games left of this awful season, and in that time the lads and Barrow can hopefully get some pride back.
Build up our performances and lay the building blocks for next season – whichever division that may be in and whoever may be in charge.
Until it’s mathematically impossible there is always a chance, but if Graham and the lads got themselves out of this hole it would probably eclipse that survival battle of 2011/12.
Even the most optimistic Wiganer would be hard-pushed to see that. But stranger things and all that...
We’d be kidding ourselves if relegation wasn’t looking like a likely outcome for the end result of the 2016-17 season.
The season has been a disaster to say the least, with disappointing circumstances both on and off the pitch.
We find ourselves in a very similar predicament from that season to forget in 2014-15, and the club seems to have a very negative atmosphere at the moment. However, I do not believe it is doom and gloom for the future.
The minutes from the most recent Fans’ Advisory Board look very promising, with the club in a healthy financial position, without the need to sell any players in the new season.
Of course, players come and go as that’s part of the game, so it’s guaranteed we’ll see a few new faces, and the back of some old faces.
I believe the most important part of our future is making sure our next managerial selection is the right one.
Wigan have had a lack of managerial stability since the departure of Roberto Martinez, with the longest serving since then, being Gary Caldwell, with 18 months in charge.
Warren Joyce, was sacked after just four months, however he wasn’t the right man for the club.
We need a candidate with a passionate and hard-working character, someone with potential to develop a special relationship with the fans, who plays football in the ‘Wigan Way’ so to speak.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Wigan fans, are not easy to please, so no matter who we appoint, it will bring some opposition, but we need to find one who ticks all the boxes.
Putting everything to one side, whether we miraculously stay up or we do get relegated, I will look forward to supporting the Latics in the seasons to come.
Fingers crossed the lads do the business and keep us in the Championship, but if they do not, League One is certainly nothing to be down about.