The 12th Man: Cooking-up a storm
Latics' unbeaten run came to an end as they lost 4-1 to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night but they will be hoping to maintain their winning League One form against Paul Cook's former club Portsmouth tomorrow.
Pompey are expected to have a 2,000 strong following at the DW Stadium and they are likely to give Cook a noisy reception after he left them for Latics. There has even been talk of inflatable snakes and other gimmickry to chastise him.
The Pompey fans were obviously disappointed when Cook moved to the DW Stadium but surely he deserves tremendous credit for getting them promoted from League Two. Portsmouth had been on a downward trajectory until Cook took over and transformed the fortunes of their club. They really should be very grateful for what he achieved during his time at Fratton Park rather than berating him for moving on.
There are a number of reasons for Cook’s decision to leave, but his desire for a new challenge at Latics, a return to his native North West and the takeover at Pompey by the former Chief Executive of Disney Michael Eisner were all contributing factors.
Many Portsmouth fans said they were actually pleased that Cook left, as they believe they now have a better manager in Kenny Jackett. Only time will tell who is right but Latics fans certainly feel that they have got the best of the deal.
Pompey’s fans have high expectations after the takeover by the Eisner family and the promise of investment. They wanted a fast start under new manager Jackett but they have had a mixed opening to the campaign winning one against Rochdale, drawing one against Walsall and losing one to Oxford United. I still expect them to be challenging near the top of the table but they will not want to fall too far behind at the start of the season.
Latics made 11 changes during the week at Villa Park as Cook rightly demonstrated where his priorities lie. The cup game gave the manager the opportunity to assess his players returning from injury, fringe players and some of the younger players but he rested his League One starting 11. He will be expecting his first team to be refreshed and raring to go against Pompey but he also made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the second half performance at Oldham.
HE said: “From half time onwards we weren’t the better team on the pitch and we allowed Oldham to get a foot hold in it, so looking back I was a bit disappointed. I felt we should have been stronger and put the game to bed, but luckily we won the game and I’m sure everyone will be pleased with that. There’s still a lot of improvements and work to be done.” It could be a feisty encounter tomorrow as Portsmouth will be keen to get one over on their former manager but Cook will be equally determined to show that he made the right choice coming back to Wigan.
A perfect 12?
Wigan travelled to Oldham on Saturday hoping for another win which would result in nine points from a possible nine in League One. After 16 minutes on the clock, the target looked to have been achieved as early goals from Ivan Toney and Michael Jacobs earned Paul Cook’s side a comprehensive 2-0 victory at Boundary Park. Unsurprisingly, Cook fielded an unchanged XI from the previous game, and even made the same substitutions. Consistency. A following of more than 1,800 must’ve made the encounter feel like a home fixture for the men in black, and the backing of the loyal Wigan faithful became even louder after Lee Evans’ short corner found Toney, who did what all good strikers do and prodded the ball home from inside the area, albeit via his back. Chants of ‘Ivan Toney’ to the tune of Tender – Blur, which was formerly used for Omar Bogle is a good reflection of how Wigan fans have got over the transfer of Bogle to Cardiff.
Soon after, Jacobs continued his fine start to the season as he doubled the Tics’ lead and ensured it was a long way back into the game for Sheridan’s men. Despite being two goals to the good away from home, Wigan’s attack minded four refused to take their foot of the pedal, as the two who hadn’t yet scored, Gavin Massey and Nick Powell, were only denied through two excellent saves from Wilson.
A comfortable second half performance followed, where the visitors enjoyed the majority of possession, limited Oldham to only one real chance and saw Will Grigg gain more minutes made sure the Wigan fans went home happy.
A midweek loss to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup didn’t seem to take any gloss away from a perfect start to the season, and probably provided more positives than negatives. Grigg must be nearly ready for his first league start since March, Ryan Colclough’s impressive start to the season continued as he scored a lovely goal, cutting in from the right flank, and academy graduates Callum Lang and Luke Burgess made substitute appearances in one of the country’s finest arenas.
Wigan now look forward to tomorrow when Portsmouth are in town for what promises to be a grudge match, after Cook, Richardson and co chose the Latics over Pompey in the Summer. Undoubtedly, some Portsmouth players will be looking to prove a point to their former gaffer and will be looking to show why they believe he shouldn’t have left. However, all things considered, I think the Latics will be too strong for Kenny Jackett’s side and Wigan will end up 3-1 winners and change nine from nine, into 12 from 12.
More of the same, please
It’s been a while since Latics made a start to the season like this one, unbeaten in the league with three wins out of three. Four out of five if we’re to include the cup win over Blackpool, even the cup defeat to Aston Villa on Tuesday hasn’t seemed to dent the confidence and positivity flowing through the corridors of the DW. It was another Scouse Paul, by the name of Jewell who last achieved a start like this. Winning the opening four league games of the season on our march to the League One (then Division Two) trophy. Of course it is still very early in Paul Cook’s reign but the comparisons are startling.
The kind of football employed by Cook at the moment at least is reminiscent of the best of the Jewell era, the pressing up the pitch is high, the speed in which the ball is transferred to the attacking players and the fluidity throughout the team reminds me very much of the early 2000s.
Cook’s style of play may be slightly more refined than Jewell’s and there’s no two man strike partnership ala Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington but the attacking three of Toney, Jacobs and Powell that has been employed in the opening weeks is every bit as effective and that’s without mentioning Will Grigg.
Going back to the two Scouse Pauls, if Cook achieves even half as much as his predecessor did we’ll doing well.
We’ve another week of the transfer window left to go and hopefully the only players we lose are those on the fringes of the squad. It was interesting to see Max Power come in from the cold against Aston Villa on Tuesday, was that a burying of the hatchet from Cook or more the opportunity to get Power in the shop window?
Young Max must be questioning his stance now, seeing his teammates make such a good start to the season whilst he sits it out with the kids. An understandable way to get yourself a move if the clubs were queuing up for his signature but I’m not entirely convinced they are. Compare that with Nick Powell, a player on his day who is clearly too good for this league.
Nick has surprised everyone by getting on with his job quietly and professionally and at the moment is central to all of Wigan Athletic’s good play. If he is still here come September 1 is another matter, but his attitude and approach for the start of the season should be commended.
This weekend sees the visit of Portsmouth and probably our toughest encounter so far, Pompey should be there or thereabouts come the end of the season and Paul Cook’s former side will be desperate to get one over on their former manager. Tuesday’s defeat to Aston Villa shouldn’t have much bearing on this result, it will be a completely different team that takes to the pitch tomorrow, and one that should still be buzzing after that comprehensive win over Oldham.
More of the same tomorrow would be good lads!
Which camp to stand in?
How long will it be before you give in and attend a Checkatrade Trophy match? At Blackpool on Tuesday night? After the group stage? Once Latics reach the final? Or maybe you’ll just turn up to wave at the Peroni-filled open-top bus ploughing through Wigan town centre?
Last season’s final between Coventry City and Oxford United saw an attendance of 74,434, which was the third highest in the competition’s history and the biggest at the new Wembley. But the crowds that saw Coventry and Oxford reach the final were pitiful compared to their Wembley turnout. Even more so when you consider that both are well supported sides.
As second favourites to win the Checkatrade Trophy, there is a real chance that we could find ourselves in a similar situation in a few months’ time – talking a good game until Wembley comes around.
Supporters of all clubs sit in one of three Checkatrade camps: A) Attend matches regardless of the opposition.
B) Attend matches that aren’t against Under 21 sides.
C) Boycott all matches. Our own little situation has been complicated even more since Blackpool away is just days away. My opinion at the moment (and ever since the competition was altered) is that B is the most pragmatic and sensible camp to be in.
Will my view change if it’s Latics v Man City U21s in the final? It might do*.
However, reaching the latter stages of the competition is not something Paul Cook is interested in – so much so that his Portsmouth side received several fines for playing weakened starting 11s in the competition last season and trying to bend the rules. The hierarchy at Wigan Athletic have never been ones to forfeit cash, meaning being forced to put out a strong line-up could see Cook’s team accidental cup winners. Cook probably won’t bother bringing Peroni onto the open top bus after all.