The 12th Man Column: Week off was no good for the fans but we are in a great place to kick on
Gary Caldwell's side looked as though they had hit a wall a few weeks back, losing a feisty local derby to a poorly performing Preston side under clear view of the sky cameras.
One couldn’t help but make comparisons to a couple of seasons ago where defeat away to our other local rivals Bolton spelt the end for Uwe Rosler. Some would suggest that Gary Caldwell could well have gone the same way as his former boss, but this Wigan Athletic side like the Championship winning side of last season are made of sterner stuff. An excellent performance at home to high flying Wolves got things back on track and that was followed up by a crucial point at play-off chasing Brentford that could have been all three points on another day. The defence that has been the source of much cause for concern in the opening weeks of the season has been steadied with Dan Burn and Jake Buxton in particular showing why they were such a big part of Caldwell’s summer plans. Add in to that the leadership of Stephen Warnock and Latics look to have turned a corner.
It was always going to be a slow start to the season in hindsight, with so many new players coming in and the terrible luck with injuries the lads were up against it from the start. That’s not to excuse some of the performances or results but there always two sides to a situation. With players recovering from injury and a couple of decent results in the bank the lads can look forward to a return to action after the international break with a renewed focus.
Too many times this year we’ve said the season starts now but if we can build on the last few weeks with a favourable result at home to Burton it certainly will feel that the stuttering start has been laid to rest.
A matter of timing
Okay, so last week I said the international break came at the wrong time for Wigan Athletic.
And I still stand by that statement, because it has hindered the momentum we built up after the 2-1 home win over Wolves and the 0-0 draw at Brentford.
However, the biggest negative of this international break is that it’s been extremely boring and, not to mention, pointless.
It’s hardly inspiring watching England at the best of times, never mind when they face teams like Malta in a routine World Cup qualifier.
Even if we’ve had a tough start to life back in the Championship, I’m still craving club football come the end of the week.
The game against Burton Albion at the DW Stadium tomorrow isn’t exactly a glamour fixture, but I still can’t wait to see the ‘Tics back in action.
Having said that, one can only hope that Gary Caldwell and his coaching staff have used the two-week lay-off wisely.
It has provided extra time for the many new signings to settle into the club by learning the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates, as well as the philosophy that Caldwell implements.
Midfielder Shaun MacDonald was the only player from our squad to be called up for international duty with Wales – he was an unused substitute in the draws against both Austria and Georgia.
MacDonald was the only one missing, so that means the rest of the first team have had plenty of time training and practising on the grass over the last fortnight.
Let’s hope the hard work they’ve put in behind the scenes will help us climb the table and get as far away from the relegation zone as possible.
Bungs and backhanders
Football has been under a cloud in recent weeks with all the revelations about corrupt practices, bungs and backhanders. The lacklustre performances by the England team hasn’t helped matters either, but amidst all the doom and gloom there have been some shining examples about why we all still love the game so much.
AFC Wimbledon rising above MK Dons
AFC Wimbledon reached a significant milestone last weekend when they climbed above Milton Keynes Dons in the football ladder for the first time in their short 14-year history. The Wombles defeated Oxford United 3-1 to move up to 10th in League One, two places above MK Dons, who lost 1-0 at home to Port Vale.
AFC Wimbledon were formed by Wimbledon FC supporters in 2002 after the original club were disappointingly allowed by the FA to relocate to Buckinghamshire, and were later renamed MK Dons. The new team started life in the Combined Counties League and they have steadfastly worked their way through the divisions to their current position in the third tier of English football.
For many football fans the way that Milton Keynes stole Wimbledon’s place in the football league still rancours. The concept of relocating football clubs away from their natural homes, effectively a franchise system, is an anathema to true fans of the game.
It is heartwarming that AFC Wimbledon fans have built the club from the ground up and have deservedly progressed through the league’s pyramid system. The club is planning to build a new stadium in the London Borough of Merton where the original Wimbledon FC played, and if they finish above MK Dons at the end of the season football fans everywhere should be celebrating.
Burton Albion’s meteoric rise
Latics’ next opponents Burton Albion are another great success story. The club was only formed in 1950 joining the Birmingham and District League and in the last seven seasons they have enjoyed a meteoric rise from the Conference to the Championship.
Like Dave Whelan at Wigan, their Chairman Ben Robinson has been the driving force behind Burton’s rapid progress. Robinson took over in 1997, and moved them to the Pirelli Stadium in 2005. The club has done remarkably well considering that their stadium only has a capacity of fewer than 7,000 and their average attendances were only 4,000 last season.
One of Burton’s biggest strengths has been recovering from losing managers to bigger clubs. Nigel Clough left for Derby County in 2009, Gary Rowett joined Birmingham City and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left for Queens Park Rangers. Nigel Clough returned in 2015 and took them into the Championship behind Latics last season.
Robinson’s patient approach should be a model for other owners to follow. He has sacked only one manager, Paul Peschisolido in 2011. Robinson told ‘The Guardian’:
“It’s the manager who should stand or fall on his beliefs, tactics and skills.
The big factor with us is we’ve had our gradual development over all these years. We’ve
always given our managers time to develop and not interfered.”
The Brewers have made a good start to the season and currently sit in 15th place in the table with 13 points, but despite the good start the priority is still to stay in the division.
Latics’ fans will be hoping for three points tomorrow but I’m sure that most will appreciate the Brewers success story and after the game will want them to enjoy a good season in the Championship.
Just no need for a break!
A winter break for football league clubs is a proposal of the governing body of the EFL, a big no thank you to that, these international breaks are bad enough.
We have had two already this season and there is another one planned for mid November, the lack of Latics action over these two week periods is enough to drive a supporter to distraction.
I settled back to watch England and Malta on Saturday, what an absolute bore-fest, it was so bad I switched over to the rugby and there is my distraction! I watched the Grand Final.
The powers that be appear intent on initiatives to drive fans away from our beloved sport, if ever there was a reason for no winter break this past two weeks have proven it.
In the past fortnight I have had my thoughts reconfirmed that we have a national team with no flair, no heart, no desire, no leadership, no direction, led by a body with no flair, no heart, no leadership and no direction and we are having the league programme decimated so that the football loving public can be served this dross!
Gareth Soutgate’s remarks that the performance against Malta ‘was brave’ had me hanging my head in disbelief. Brave? Come on Gareth it wasn’t brave, it was dull,
unimaginative, mediocre, poor, but it certainly wasn’t brave.
This was followed by an even worse performance against Slovenia on Tuesday when England were lucky not to have been thumped out of sight.
This season has been stop start so far and, as I mentioned, there will be another stop in three weeks’ time for yet another international break, very frustrating.
But thankfully we are back in action on Saturday when Burton visit the DW Stadium, the first game of a busy seven days for the Latics, Leeds away on Tuesday before Brighton come up north on Saturday week, an interesting three fixtures.
I would be happy with five points from these three games, Burton are just above us in the table and a win against the Brewers is a must for me, they have stumbled a little of late following a good start to life in the Championship and I’d expect us to get the three points.
Leeds are on a roll at the
moment, four wins in their last five games and excellent
at home, but they aren’t scoring freely and I do fancy us with a chance of a point to build on the last one gained away at Brentford, who were also flying when we played them.
It’ll be nice to get back to ‘real’ football this weekend and hopefully the bozos at EFL HQ have taken heed of the public comments about these disruptions in the football season and see sense and knock any ideas of a winter break firmly on the head.