The 12th Man : Latics fans have their say
A relegation battle? This isn't what we ordered, was it!
And we may not be in one yet but the next few games look particularly daunting and points may be at a premium somewhat.
Sheffield Wednesday are as ever sat perpetually on the edge of either greatness or financial meltdown, set against the backdrop of Human League, Henderson’s Relish and the brutalist Park Hill estate obviously.
They appear to be struggling a touch this season, but Hillsborough is a tough place to go.
And as the small club coming up to this division, we are struggling to impose ourselves away from home.
The only positive thing you can say about a midweek trip to Norwich is that it’s good to get it out of the way early in the season, if only to give your retinas chance to recover from all that garish yellow and green clobber on display at Carrow Road.
These are tricky games and even our next home game, Fulham looks tricky after that seem to have gotten their act together, perhaps since they got rid of a certain centre-half.
Sorry, that was mischievous!
So we need points urgently and that immediate stack of fixtures doesn’t exactly suggest an easy haul.
Yet the games we have lost thus far have all been by the odd goal, which suggests a team that is perhaps a touch unlucky and naive in the ways of the Championship.
I’m not one of those screaming for our young manager’s head just yet, but there are a few things he needs to fix in order to turn those defeats into draws and then ultimately narrow wins in our favour.
The recent squad additions have no doubt been carried out to address exactly that, and Gary Caldwell has shown himself to be quite adaptable in changing things when it was getting a bit tricky during our League One campaign.
You may be surprised to hear this from a devout footballing purist like myself, but I’d humbly suggest the need to “win ugly” is perhaps the priority right now, and we can add back in the nice, aesthetically pleasing side to our game once the team and performances are a bit more settled.
Since last season, we have turned from being ‘Big Guns’ to ‘Little Wigan’ again, and it’s time ‘Little Wigan’ got back to doing what it does best – upsetting the odds!
It’s back over the Pennines this weekend, with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday and Hillsborough in prospect as Latics look to get back on track.
It should be one of the most anticipated away days on the Latics fixture list.
An historic club and ground in a brilliant city should mean we’ve already sold our allocation, but Sheffield Wednesday’s pricing policy for Saturday means this away day simply won’t happen for many supporters.
£33 is a ridiculous price for second-tier football, especially when away fans now pay no more than £30 per person in the Premier League.
According to some on social media we should look towards Aston Villa who sold out their full allocation at an even higher price than that.
It seems to be a symptom of the modern-day football fan to laugh at those who question it.
Maybe if those Wednesday fans had questioned the club’s pricing like other Championship teams’ supporters are, they wouldn’t have to pay the outlandish prices either.
Hopefully the lack of Latics supporters who (quite rightly) have decided £33 is far too high a price to pay won’t have a detrimental effect on the side.
We’re desperate for a result after a few in different weeks at the start of the season.
It’ll be interesting to see which side Gary Caldwell lines up with.
There’s definitely strength in depth across the squad that wasn’t there a few weeks ago.
If we can utilise that we could be looking at our first away win of the season.
Regatta of the Roses: The Owlerton Swim-Off of 2013
Why am I wincing? Because I can still taste that salty rainwater trickling across my cracking, chapped lips to the tip of my reluctant tongue.
I wasn’t actually at the Owlerton Regatta in December 2013, when referee Chris Stroud called a halt to that infamous doggy paddle-off between Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic after 60 minutes.
But the 106 gallons of water shovelled and brushed from the pitch that evening caused Sheffield Town Centre’s drainage system to completely explode.
And that wascally water escaped as far as Argleton, Fulchester and… you guessed it, my (very damp) house in Wigan.
Why do I recall that evening so vividly, though?
Perhaps it’s the perceived injustice of having three potential points snatched from one’s oily grasp – Latics held a tempting 1-0 lead at the time of abandonment.
Although granted, they did take the rearranged fixture by three snowballs to nil– yeah, it never rained but it snowed.
Or perhaps I enjoy the apocryphal story that Uwe Rosler ordered half a cola from the concourse, but by the time it arrived it had become a bubbling cauldron of pale yellow rainwater-flavoured salt drink.
And that other tale about how Mr Whelan had to buy a new diary as his existing one had been filled with phantom Sheffield United v Wigan Athletic matches. But maybe, just maybe it’s the fact I was splashed by that genuine Sheffield rainwater as I strolled past the Yorkshire embassy in Orrell.
“Tekk that, yer Lanky twit,” yelled a man in a pristine white tuxedo and greased back hair, possibly John Cleese.
Actually, forget it – I think the weird taste in my mouth might actually be the last remnants of that particularly briny tuna sandwich I had for lunch.
So, I hear they’re forecasting rain tomorrow…
As I mentioned last week, we finally filled the voids that desperately needed filling during the transfer window.
Deadline day in particular, when we signed a pacey centre-back in Reece Burke, a natural right-wing-back in Nathan Byrne and a goal scorer in Adam Le Fondre, who can push and/or partner Will Grigg.
However, we all know it takes time for a squad to settle and a team to gel when there are so many incomings and outgoings throughout the transfer window.
It was evident the market was affecting our team spirit and structures on the pitch, especially in the home game against QPR.
We had square pegs in round holes and there was no balance to our formation, which is why we struggled to break down a team who were there for the taking.
And this is why I am kind of grateful the international break came when it did.
From Gary Caldwell’s point of view, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
It will have given us two weeks to work on a few things that needed improving but, more importantly, it will have provided some much-needed time for the new lads to get settled at the club.
I understand a lot of football fans would prefer to watch club football and absolutely despise the international break, but, if you ask me, the short season interval came at the perfect time for us.
We have a tough run coming up in the next month or so.
First up are trips to promotion favourites Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich City, before we welcome a revitalised Fulham to the DW.
All that before we play Preston North End away in the league for the first time in 11 years.
Preston vs Wigan is already a big game in these parts, but it could be even bigger depending on the next few results.
Latics’ newly-assembled squad face a tough test tomorrow against a Sheffield Wednesday team who are expected to be among the promotion contenders at the end of the season.
Like Latics, the Owls have had an indifferent start to their Championship campaign with only one win, two draws and two defeats in their first five fixtures.
They will be desperate to get their season on track particularly as they will be playing in front of a partisan 20,000-plus home support.
The pressure will be on Wednesday to perform and, if things aren’t going the home team’s way, Latics could benefit from the negative atmosphere.
Latics showed in their last away game at Nottingham Forest they are capable of scoring goals and, if they can tighten up in defence, they can spring a surprise result.
Will Grigg is still grabbing headlines, with three goals in five league games, and if his team-mates can create chances, he is capable of making the difference tomorrow.
Much could depend on how quickly Latics’ new signings settle into the team at Hillsborough.
I’m expecting debuts for defender Reece Burke and midfielder Nathan Byrne, with striker Adam Le Fondre to start on the bench.
Gary Caldwell will have been assessing his squad during the international break, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the new players can bed into the manager’s system of play.
With 14 arrivals and 20 departures during the transfer window it may inevitably take some time for everything to click together.
Just like last season Wigan haven’t got the points that their performances deserved in the opening games, and the turnover of players will inevitably have an impact on the performances.
The Championship is a much harder division than League One and some players are still adapting to the step up from last season.
Injuries, suspensions and silly mistakes have not helped the cause but, as more players become available, competition for places will hot up and results will hopefully follow.
Latics have been competitive in all their games so far this season and I expect that to continue against Wednesday.
But whatever the result at Hillsborough, in the longer term I expect the new signings to have a positive impact, and with a much-needed improvement in defensive areas, the prospects for the rest of the season are still looking good.
After a busy deadline-day period, the squad saw certain vacancies in positions filled.
Strikers Adam Le Fondre and Kaiyne Woolery, wing-back Nathan Bryne and centre-half Reece Burke joined Gary Caldwell’s men, while Ryan Colclough, Sam Morsy and Jack Hendry all left on loan.
The squad is now looking a lot stronger, which is very handy due to us having two tough games on the bounce away from home.
Sheffield Wednesday are our first challenge and, although they’ve had a slow start like ourselves, they pose a real attacking threat, and are a team that will be challenging for promotion.
They’ll play high-attacking football and, with the home crowd, it won’t be an easy game for us.
I’m excited to see how the new lads settle in, and hope we can pick up our first result away from home.
September looks set to be a tough month, so need to use our home games to our advantage and also pick up as many points away from home as we can to be in a stable position.