The 12th Man Column: All we have to do to stay up is win a few matches...how hard can that be?
What? You mean the football season is still going?
I thought we’d decided we were declaring for this year before things get any worse.
So, as I slowly tune my battle weary brain back in again to the frequency of the remaining fixtures, I actually start to think we may have been a bit premature.
There’s enough games and enough points left isn’t there? We could do this, couldn’t we?
We just need to win a few games and hope that all those other teams above us lose a few. Right!
In that case, who’s up next then? Oh! Newcastle away then Ipswich away. Whoops!
I hate to say it, but I have much more confidence with Graham Barrow in charge than I did under Warren Joyce and even though we lost 2-0 at Villa, he stayed true to his promise and sent the team out to have a go.
The problem now is we are lacking in able bodies and quality on the field.
Several key attacking players are either out long-term or were offloaded in January and, of the ones we have left, many are struggling.
Omar Bogle in particular seems to have gone massively backwards since he first arrived.
Gabriel Obertan was kept under wraps for weeks, we finally got a decent game out of him and now he appears to be sulking a bit because his mate isn’t manager any more.
Still, the team has had two weeks together for the most part, and hopefully we will see some positive output from that work.
To go to Newcastle and get a win would be a first, and probably the most unlikely opportunity ever given the disparity in squads, but stranger things have happened.
Ipswich aren’t quite the same proposition, but it’s still a tough place to go, and as for a midweek trip there, well you could probably get to the moon and back much quicker.
There’s no point speculating where we might be this time next week but, with two home games to come, if there is a still a glimmer of hope, we may have the launch pad from which to go and grab it.
Still, look at me coming over all optimistic.
Like many fans, I suspect that, in my head at least, the damage has already done and we are as good as down, and I am already picking out the good away days back in League One next season.
Yet the heart feels slightly differently.
It’s only a few football matches isn’t it? We can win a few of those...can’t we?
It’s two weeks since Latics last took to the pitch for Graham Barrow’s first match in charge.
There were promising signs for much of the game against Aston Villa, with Latics the better side.
There was attacking play in abundance, certainly compared to what we had seen in the previous few months.
But sadly our usual Achilles heel was still present – we couldn’t convert our chances when required, and went behind when chasing the game.
Two weeks on, will much have changed? Hopefully the training ground has been a positive place this week.
The emphasis needs to be on our attacking play, and I trust Graham Barrow and Peter Atherton have been concentrating on just that.
There was a blow with the news that both Will Grigg and Andy Kellett look like they will be out for the season.
Grigg in particular has had a torrid season. After not featuring during Euro 2016, he actually started off relatively well under Gary Caldwell, with six goals by October.
Since Warren Joyce took over, though, Grigg has been out on his luck, played in a system that didn’t play to his strengths, and dogged by injury problems.
It can only be hoped that, whatever league we’re in next season, we will see the real Grigg return.
Kellett’s knock-out for the season is another blow.
Despite hardly featuring under Joyce, he looked sharp and ready for a big part in our run-in during his 55 minutes or so against Villa.
If he can get back to full fitness, he can be a real threat for us next season.
So back to Saturday – lose against Newcastle and that surely will be that, if we aren’t already at that point yet.
A win, however unlikely it might be, could be the turning point in our season.
Newcastle’s home form, despite their march to the title, is patchy.
They sit 13th in the Championship form table, and their last two home results have seen them draw 2-2 with Bristol City and lose 3-1 to Fulham.
A trip to St James’ Park is a daunting prospect, but there is a chance. However slim that chance is.
The lads will be backed by over 1200 Wiganers at St James Park, which is a great effort considering our current position.
Many of course looking forward to a full weekend sampling the delights of Tyneside.
Indeed it could be a trip we may not make for a long while.
What better way to reward those loyal supporters than with a win on Saturday?
If Barrow’s boys can pick up that elusive win, I can start to ‘believe’ again.
Anything less will more than likely see Latics facing League One football next year.
If only we could score goals.
With trips to Newcastle and Ipswich on the horizon, without doubt we could take a point at St James’, but Ipswich is a potential three points in my book. But we need to score.
It’s no secret we’ve been woeful at the sharp end this campaign – just 31 goals in 38 matches says it all.
Our top scorer hasn’t netted a league goal since September and, with three of the top four goalscorers at the club – Grigg, Wildschut, Gomez and Bogle, either injured or departed – we are desperate for someone, anyone, to step up to the plate.
Newcastle will be extremely tough, but Ipswich are another side that can’t find the net with any regularity.
Just 38 goals from their 38 games leaves them the division’s third-lowest scorers.
If we can nick something at Portman Road, the dreamers will start to believe.
The clubs in our sights – Bristol City, Nottingham Forest, Burton and Blackburn – all have very tough games over the next four days, so anything positive for us could put a bit of pressure on them.
I know I am clutching at straws, but we have still got to have some degree of optimism.
It is annoying that three of the teams we’re chasing had easy rides against us recently.
If we’d been set up with any sort of conviction, this sad and sorry picture could have been so much different.
Warren Joyce has gone now, though, and we can’t waste our energies dwelling on the abysmal tactics of the past few months, while there’s still a glimmer of hope we have to try and make something of it.
But as I said at the start, if only we could score.
Graham Barrow and his staff will have been working hard on getting players into goal scoring positions during the past fortnight.
Against Aston Villa there was a marked improvement in the numbers we committed forward, and that trend must continue.
We are going down, I believe, but if that’s the case, let’s at least go down fighting.
Up the Tics!
International break is finally over, and the real football is back when the Latics travel to Newcastle on Saturday.
The game is set to be one of our toughest fixtures this season, with Newcastle obviously having a lot of Premier League quality players in their ranks.
Although the table isn’t a pretty sight, there’s still no chance you can count Wigan out just yet, as we’re kind of like that candle on a birthday cake that you can’t blow out.
No-one can ever forget the Premier League days, in which the Great Escape theme tune ringed around every ground the team went, when the Latics did the impossible and defied odds to stay there for eight consecutive seasons.
Survival is unlikely and will be a difficult task, but since when do Wigan do things the simple and easy way?
Travelling to Newcastle as massive underdogs probably suits us.
Everyone will be lumping their money on a home win, but being under-estimated could give us a big chance.
Credit also to every single Latics fan going to Newcastle.
The news we had sold out our allocation must have caused disappointment to football away-day twitter accounts, who were looking forward to another cheap laugh at empty seats.
Hopefully the Latics can shock the world (maybe not the world, as I don’t think the outcome of Newcastle vs Wigan will be something the world would care about that much), and pull off an upset.
Latics go to Newcastle still hoping to pull off the greatest of Great Escapes.
They are seven points from safety with only eight games left, and most pundits have written off our chances.
Acting manager Graham Barrow was part of the coaching team that helped to bring about some miraculous relegation escapes in the Premier League under Roberto Martinez, and he’ll be using that experience to try to pull off another one in the Championship.
One of Martinez’s rallying phrases was ‘Sin Miedo’ – without fear – and Barrow’s team would do well to adopt a similar approach in the remaining games.
Latics are currently second bottom on 34 points but they have 24 points still to play for.
In previous seasons, Rotherham stayed up in 2016 with 49 points and in 2015 with 46 points, while Birmingham stayed up with 44 points in 2014.
A target of 50 plus will probably be required this time around.
There are some strong characters in the dressing room with players like Stephen Warnock, Jake Buxton and Dan Burn determined to give it their all.
But Barrow will want the rest of the squad to have the same self-belief and to show the same determination to fight for the cause.
Barrow must instil a mindset amongst all the players that they can get enough points to survive.
The Magpies may be going for the Championship title and automatic promotion, but their home form has been inconsistent.
Latics have performed much better away from home this season and fellow strugglers Blackburn and Wolves have both won, and Bristol City drawn, at St James’ Park.
They must try to build on the improved performance against Aston Villa and be prepared to take their chances when they get them.
The biggest problem this season has been in the final third, and the lack of goals has cost them dearly.
Barrow and his coaching team will have been working hard with the players on their finishing during the international break.
Whatever happens over the next eight games, it is important Latics get back to the type of football that was absent under Warren Joyce.
The stale defensive football that was served up was not only ineffective in accruing points but it was deeply unappealing to watch.
We need to try and salvage something from the remaining eight games.
A goal would be a great start.
I would love to see us take the lead at Newcastle tomorrow, as I can’t remember the last time I actually saw us score a goal.
Games don’t come any tougher than a trip to St James’ Park. But no-one expects us to get a result so we may as well have a go and see what happens.
The last time I went to Newcastle it was the Monday Night Football game on Sky, a 3-0 loss and Maynor Figueroa was sent off.
So hopefully we don’t see similar tomorrow.
Once again, the fans have backed the team even in ourposition, with 1,200 making the trip to the north east.
Most, including myself probably going for the booze up but it’ll be a cracking day whatever the result.
Seven points is the gap to safety.
If Graham Barrow somehow manages to pull off the great escape, I think David Sharpe will be forking out for a new statue.
While walking away from our 2-0 defeat to so-called mighty Aston Villa, I looked at my eight-year-old son Ethan, and he said: “Dad, we had a good go, and I enjoyed the game.”
When the post-match analysis took place in the Supporters’ Club, I didn’t hear a single criticism of the players’ effort nor desire to win – not only for the management or the fans, but I think also for themselves.
Those lads again in my humble opinion bust a gut and tried to win a match, while proudly wearing our club badge on their chest.
The sad fact is the side has been ravaged with injuries and unfortunate suspensions at key times.
But we also lack the cutting edge, the killer pass and cannot even get an own goal when we need Lady Luck to be shining.
Against Villa, I saw Graham Barrow – a bloke who continually has to pick up the baton, and then expected to achieve miracles with a squad which Guardiola, Klopp or even Mourinho would find impossible – doing his best.
To their credit Graham, along with John Doolan, Peter Atherton and the squad, used every ounce of effort to muster a victory, even putting probably the player of the season Dan Burn up to centre-forward in search for a goal!
What is done is done, and cannot be rectified.
We have to play with the cards we are dealt, and may I ask every man, woman and child to show passion for the team, vocal support, and no negativity for the first time.
Maybe Lady Luck will return. All is not lost yet.
Burgletron vs. Anti-tainment
Gilbertan, Bogletan, Bogleclough or Burgle.
Which of those four oh-so- catchy strike partnerships do you prefer?
I’ll admit the issue is clouded by lingering injury.
Gilbey and Obertan (known collectively as Gilbertan) are each carrying gremlins under their respective bandages – why else would they have been reluctant to perform in that first-half rain shower against Aston Villa?
(If that last reference confused you slightly, ask your dad if you can rent Gremlins on VHS from the video shop.
Also, I recommend borrowing the video games Super Mario Kart and Premier Manager 97 while you’re at it.)
As for Bogle and Colclough (Bogleclough), neither has been fully housebroken into this £10 million tool shed they call the Championship Dogs’ Home.
The Bogmaster may chase that ball, but he has no idea what to do when he gets there.
Should he fetch it back to his master or race giddily into the tall grass, linesman’s offside flag rippling in his honour?
While a wonderfully odd couple, Burn and Bogle (Burgle) are destined for a break-up.
They are forced together only in times of sheer judgement-impairing desperation, which can place great strains on the strongest of relationships.
Besides, Burn already has a faithful partner in Jake Buxton, who becomes understandably upset when his other half vacates his penalty area.
Which leaves us with incumbents Bogle and Obertan (Bogletan).
Much like their predecessors Grigg and Bogle (Griggle), Fortune and Holt (Fault) and Bouaouzan and Aghahowa (Bouaouzahowa), they have consciously chosen to abstain from goalscoring.
And though we respect their decision, it’s not one we League One-fearing Laticians might personally agree with.
The obvious solution to this potentially delicate issue?
Call upon Burgletron, a side-splitting combination of Burn, Bogle… and Sir Killertron from DBC’s mechanical bash-up Robot Bores with Clara O’Breen.
Then build a bulletproof cage around the DW pitch, install trapdoors and CO2 flippers, and get Jonathan Pearce to scream family friendly clichés through loudspeakers for 90 minutes.
I dare you to tell me that won’t be more entertaining.