12th Man: Let's pay tribute to Bobby Campbell in style
I suspect many readers of this column may be familiar with the app called Timehop.
Essentially it trawls through your social media accounts, and tells you exactly what you were talking about one, two or even 10 years ago.
I occasionally find the use of it a bit tedious, like the perverse way our own fans use it to remind us of the day we lost 9-1.
It’s also a scary reminder of how quick time passes, and how life accelerates like a cheetah trying to catch a bus.
This week, it gave me a stark reminder that it was a year to the day since we lost one of our finest ever players.
He only played for the club for a short time, but Robert McFaul Campbell captured the fans’ imagination, was a real character and was no slouch as a footballer either.
The type of player sadly gone forever from the game.
Yet he will never be forgotten by those who saw him play.
He was the player adored by those of us too young to have seen Harry Lyon play.
Big Bobby was revered even more so among the supporters of Saturday’s opponents, Bradford City, and that is one of a number of reasons I have a soft spot for the Bantams.
I have been involved with fanzines for over 25 years now and, back in the pre-internet days, I used to religiously read the Bradford fanzine, the ‘City Gent’.
Back in the day, it was simply the best around, and I believe it is still going.
It sounds daft but I like the kit as well – blues, reds and whites are two a penny but that distinctive claret and amber stripes is striking, without ever being garish.
Of course, we also have the connection of Paul Jewell, as player and manager, enabling the sort of Premier League dream we could never have believed possible.
If you want a final reason to like them, then they have developed something of a reciprocal dislike of Bolton these days too, due to them poaching Phil Parkinson and the inevitable, ensuing, “our club is bigger than your club” arguments.
Yet, Bantams fans seem a lot happier to be free from the shackles of Parkinson’s defensive style and are playing some good stuff now.
There’s no room for sentiment on Saturday, however.
They are undoubtedly one of the biggest clubs in this division and will be backed by a large travelling support.
From our perspective, if there’s one negative to this season so far, it’s that we have not put our promotion rivals to the sword.
We have been highly adept at skittling over the lower order, but failed to bowl out the big-hitters near the top of the table.
If we can now redress this by beating Bradford, it’s a great opportunity to put distance between ourselves and the chasing pack.
In contrast, City will see it as an opportunity to close the gap, and Charlton are also coming up fast with games in hand too.
So it is a huge game, one for the fans to savour, and I hope we have used the two-week break wisely to gear ourselves up for it.
Perhaps it’s sentiment talking again but, speaking to Bradford fans, they certainly have a feeling this could be their year.
If (and it’s still a big if) Shrewsbury were to fall away, I’d be perfectly happy to see them promoted, but preferably as runners-up behind us.
That’s not much to ask for, is it?
I don’t know about you, but it feels an age since we last played a league game.
That frustrating goalless draw with Blackburn may as well have been last season, let alone last month.
A lot has happened since then – any potential takeover talk has calmed down and Latics have progressed through one cup and were unceremoniously dumped out of another.
With that in mind, it’ll be good to get back to league matters this weekend.
Stuart McCall and his Bradford side won’t be pushovers, though.
Always backed by a traditionally partisan support, Bradford have continued where they left off under Phil Parkinson.
I imagine they’ll be disappointed they still haven’t cracked that return to the Championship, but they always seem to be there or thereabouts in May.
I imagine, like Blackburn, they’ll have a strong second half to the season and will be challenging for a place towards the upper end of the league.
Hopefully we’ll be able to stop that from happening, and there’s some interesting points to look at selection wise for Paul Cook – namely who will get the nod alongside Sam Morsy in central midfield?
Max Power had played four consecutive matches before the international break, while Lee Evans served his ban.
But with Evans impressing against Crawley in the FA Cup, and with a first Welsh cap in midweek, will he get the call?
Will Grigg could also make a return after featuring against Crawley.
With the first team having effectively two weeks off since the last match, you would hope they would be feeling fresh – but international breaks do strange things to sides.
So let’s hope there’s no repeat of Shrewsbury this time.
So it’s going to be a 10 full days between Latics’ last game and kick-off against Bradford.
In fact, as that last game (against Accrington) was a much-changed team, it will be a full two weeks between first-team outings.
This provides an opportunity to review the season so far – and Latics are doing really well.
Second in the league. One point off the top. Six points clear of third. Second most productive attack. Meanest defence.
The only reason for disappointment could be the fact we are not top of the league.
But looking beyond the obvious stats, how else are we doing? Really well.
Firstly we are sharing the goals around.
Rotherham are League One’s top scorers, but nearly half their goals have come from one man (Kieffer Moore).
Latics have had multiple scorers – Nick Powell (7), Michael Jacobs and Ivan Toney (4), Will Grigg and Gavin Massey (3).
Yes we all want to have the top goalscorer in the league, but actually if you rely too much on one player, you can easily run into problems if that player is out of action.
We should also remember that, when we have lost players, the players coming into the squad have done very well.
This suggests good coaching and player management.
It is also important to point out that not having one of the league’s top scorers in the squad is not to say we have a weak squad.
Consider Oldham, who have the division’s fourth-top hitman (Eoin Doyle) but are near the bottom of the league.
Former Latic Craig Davies is also their second-top scorer.
I liked Craig when he played for us two years ago, as he offered something different up front. But it is slightly baffling he has scored as many goals as Powell this season.
Powell remains an enigma.
Clearly a very talented player – the most naturally gifted player in the division.
He often doesn’t look interested, but pops up with goals.
Fans like players who work hard and get stuck in and give their all for the cause.
Nick doesn’t often appear to fit that bill, but he does score goals which is the other reason fans like players.
Not all teams need a ‘Powell’, but no successful team can include too many of them.
Teams need to be based around the grafters – those who work hard, give their all and do it week after week.
And that is why we are fortunate to have players like Dan Burn and Sam Morsy.
They show the work ethic required to be successful, and it is no coincidence they are the two captains this year.
So we appear to have good management, a good squad, a strong team backbone and some genuine flair.
We are playing in a quite entertaining way and getting good results.
It is important that our form, in terms of results, is maintained until the end of the year, because we have the approaching uncertainty of the January transfer window.
It is quite possible some players will leave and, even if some arrive to replace them, that will unsettle the team and could disrupt things.
So how will we do on Saturday against Bradford?
We should certainly be confident, but Bradford are a good team who are doing well despite struggling to hold onto some of their best players from last season.
We could go top on Saturday, but we shouldn’t take three points for granted – and I am sure the players won’t be.
I always hope Latics win, but I especially hope they do in this game.
That is because a lot of my in-laws come from Bradford, and so it is a big family derby!
So play to your potential lads and don’t let me down.
A peaceful home life may depend upon it.
A weekend without football feels so empty within its absence.
International breaks just aren’t as fulfilling as league action, with England being as dull as always, and the only bright spot being former Wigan loanee Harry Maguire looking very comfortable in the Three Lions backline.
Jonathan Jackson said it was a difficult decision to postpone the Rochdale match, but I think we should have played.
Sam Morsy, Lee Evans, OwenEvans and Matija Sarkic were all selected to represent their countries, but only the first two have featured in league action this seaso.
You could argue it was the correct decision, especially considering the injury concerns surrounding key player Michael Jacobs.
However, Gary Roberts has proven more than capable to fill the void left by Jacobs.
Roberts is a vastly experienced professional, and interestingly, has the best assist-to- game ratio in the league – setting up a goal every 102 minutes.
Latics have the depth in the squad to fill absences, and this was proven during the last international break, as they ran out 2-1 winners at Scunthorpe in October.
However, it’s been and gone now, and we’ll move on to the Rochdale game in January.
Another boost for the Latics is Jordan Flores being back on the mend, having been released from hospital after a car accident last month.
Flores is a cult hero among Latics fans, and everyone will be delighted the classy midfielder is back at home.
Bradford are next up at the DW, looking to end our unbeaten home league run.
Latics have still only conceded twice at home this season in league action, and they will be looking to maintain this against the Bantams.
Bradford, likewise, have made a fantastic start to the League One campaign, with Stuart McCall’s men occupying fourth spot, level on points with third-placed Charlton.
At this stage of the season, although nothing is decided, it is always beneficial going into the Christmas period with momentum, and a gap over rivals, especially with the fixture pile-up ahead.
Bradford are always stubborn opponents, and have been built into a very strong side under McCall, playing attractive stuff, and Latics will be in for a tough afternoon.
Paul Cook is deservedly getting plenty of media attention after a superb start to his career at the DW.
The popular Scouser has steered Latics to second in the table, and they are gradually closing the gap on leaders Shrewsbury.
Cook was awarded Manager of the Month for October after leading his side through an unbeaten month, collecting 11 points from a possible 15.
Latics’ attacking play secured important away wins at Scunthorpe and Blackpool, and they remain unbeaten in the league at home.
Since taking over the hot seat in May, Cook and his coaching team have created a positive atmosphere at the club.
Cook’s banter and plain speaking has endeared him to the fans, and the players have responded with improved performances on the pitch.
Allied to a consistent formation of 4-2- 3-1, he has introduced an attractive passing style of play, which has delivered results.
He certainly has the potential to be successful, like another Liverpudlian, Paul Jewell, who led the club from the third tier to the Premier League between 2001-05.
Cook knows the lower divisions very well, having got Chesterfield and Portsmouth promoted, but he has also played in the Premier League with Coventry.
Cook aspires to manage in the Premier League one day, even though opportunities for home-grown managers are now few and far between.
Of the few English managers at the top level, Eddie Howe at Bournemouth and Sean Dyche at Burnley both understand the importance of team spirit and work ethic.
Both their teams demonstrate willingness to battle and Latics under Cook have a similar vibe.
Cook has brought his coaching team with him from Portsmouth and ‘old hands’ Gary Roberts and Noel Hunt, and this has certainly helped the team spirit and the upbeat feeling has been transferred to the pitch.
Latics have plenty of talented players and, with the addition of some intelligent free transfers and loan signings, the squad now looks very strong at this level.
Cook’s team will have one of their sternest tests of the season tomorrow as they come up against Bradford.
The Bantams just missed out on promotion last season when they lost 1-0 to Millwall in the play-off final.
They are likely to be in the promotion mix at the end of this season, so Latics will have to be at their best if they are to maintain their unbeaten home league record.