The 12th Man: There's never a dull moment enjoying all the Perks of following this special club
A David Perkins goal, a surreal cup situation, a Lancashire hotpot to savour and some truly sad news means that there's lots and lots and lots to chew over this week over in Latics Land.
Let’s begin with a fine display against Blackpool and the elements on Saturday. I think it’s fair to say that the Fylde Coast’s reputation as the party capital of the North West is more than justified where Wigan Athletic trips are concerned as we returned home merry after a 3-1 win on the road.
Close to half time I was telling anyone that would listen that we would turn the game around once we got the wind behind us. What I didn’t bank on was that the strong wind and torrential rain would more or less stop once we’d swapped ends. Yet as soon as the conditions settled down, we got on the ball and our class started to shine against a team previously unbeaten at home.
Wasn’t that a sparkling performance from our young guns on Tuesday night to follow it up with? I wouldn’t know as I didn’t go, predominantly because I chose not to go. I could write 3,000 words about the sad tale of the Checkatrade, and indeed I have done recently but suffice to say you can all make your minds up on it and we should all respect each other’s take on it. I am softening towards the idea of attending the next one, when we won’t be playing a barely bothered kid’s team.
The league tests come thick and fast and it’s a vastly improving Blackburn Rovers who come to the DW next, no doubt backed by that rarest of things in League One, a large and lively away following. They will be looking to benchmark themselves against us given their own promotion credentials, whereas we will simply need to put in another top performance to keep stretching things at the top.
Finally, I’m sure I won’t be the only one in this column to wish all the best to Jordan Flores in what must be a terrible time for him and his family. One of our brightest prospects in recent years, he really is a lovely lad and he comes from one of the biggest Latics’ families around, let’s hope he makes a full recovery. A rousing rendition of “Jordan Flores, he’s one of our own” throughout the game on Saturday would really let him know that we are all thinking about him at this time.
A great regret
Sadly I missed the game at Blackpool on Saturday. It certainly sounds eventful on and off the pitch. Social media was awash with a tidal wave of photos and videos of the fun being had by the seaside. Blackpool is certainly a very popular away day for Wigan fans, if not for all football fans.
It is days like those which make it clear how great watching football can be, regardless of the match. However the match seemed to be a sensation as well. While it got off to a disappointing start, with Latics conceding a poor goal inside 10 minutes, that just made what followed all the better.
Not only did the man responsible for the Blackpool goal score the equaliser, his first for the club, he scored again early in the second half. With one moment a notable exception, Chey has played really well for Latics this season. That is clear when we see players like Alex Bruce and Terrell Thomas finding it hard to get much of a look in.
I think Chey deserved his goals.
Whether that is a controversial statement or not, I don’t know. But I am certain that no one disagrees that the other goal scorer deserved to get one. As much fun as was had before and after the game on Saturday, I am also certain that there was no greater sense of occasion than when David Perkins put the ball in the back of the net.
The fact that Perkins had never scored for Wigan had become one of the great sagas of recent times. I remember when he hit the bar in an earlier game and the sense of disappointment from the fans was clear. He is such a popular player and everyone has been willing him to score.
I wonder how many outfield players have been named player of the season without actually scoring a goal. Perkins achieved that two years ago which showed his popularity, and how important he was to Latics that season as there were many other candidates for the award. While the squad has improved since then, and Perkins, who that little bit older, albeit no less energetic, is having to make do with appearances from the bench, he remains a very popular player. One of my biggest Latics regrets will always be that I wasn’t there when Perkins finally scored.
At this time when there continue to be rumours about a change of ownership in Wigan Athletic, we should remember that Blackpool are a warning to us and all football clubs. We should find no joy at all in the state if Blackpool FC. With so many of their fans boycotting games and the very public disputes that they have with the owners, we should be very grateful for Dave Whelan.
Over the years Latics fans have not agreed with every decision that he has made, but he has done well by our club and whenever he hands over the ownership, he will leave it in a better state than he found it. He has never done anything that has truly harmed our club in the way that some owners do.
I am not sure if I could embark on a long term boycott of watching Latics, even if I genuinely believed that it was in the best interests of the club. But I really hope that that is a decision that I will never ever have to make.
The other game this week was in the very controversial Checkatrade trophy. There should be no controversy about the result or the team selection. It is good to see fringe players and especially young players getting their chance and doing well. By all accounts there were some great performances and this will hopefully point to a good future at the club. The controversy over this competition surrounds the way that it is organised, specifically the inclusion of the under-21 teams of clubs with the better quality academies. They say that if you cannot say anything nice or positive, then don’t say anything at all. So I’ll finish there.
Keep the run going!
Another 12th man, another really impressive week!
Blackpool away is certainly a fixture Latics fans look out for, and look forward to at the start of every season.
Once again did not disappoint. Although the weather wasn’t on our side, with Storm Brian doing his best to try to spoil the party, 2,100 fans went home happy after a fantastic 3-1 win.
For the first time this season Wigan took three points from a game after being a goal behind, and it is fantastic to see the character of the side, especially considering how tough it is to go to Bloomfield Road and take home any points in recent times.
The Seasiders were unbeaten in all six league home fixtures before playing the Latics and boasted a fantastic home record in League Two also. This emphasised further how well Paul Cook’s men did to come from behind to win the game.
Chey Dunkley scored a brace, with claims for a ‘fake hat-trick’ for the central-defender after believing he scored an own-goal in the early stages of the game. Kyle Vassell was credited with the goal, however I’m curious whether the dubious goals panel have something to say about that.
To say Dunkley had an eventful game in an understatement, but I believe he deserves a lot of praise for the way he reacted to his early mistake. A lot of players who make a game-changing mistake often feel sorry for themselves, however Dunkley carried on and rectified his mistake with two goals and a fantastic defensive display. Dunkley was deservedly awarded the EFL Star of the Day, however, somehow, some way, Dunkley was overshadowed by one of his team-mates.
David Perkins scored, and it still doesn’t feel real writing this. Fans have been patiently waiting and hoping that Perkins will eventually score in Latics colours and he certainly did just that with a lovely placed finish. It was great to see the celebrations, as it meant so much to the players likewise to the fans, which is a really good thing and shows the positive mentality of the club.
With the win Latics gained a further gap on promotion rivals Bradford City, forming an eight-point lead which is massive, even at this point of the season. Charlton are in fourth, however they can narrow the gap to five points if they win their game in hand. It’s fantastic to see Wigan creating distance between themselves and their rivals, and hopefully it continues to grow.
Wigan extended their unbeaten run further to seven games with a commanding 4-1 win against Middlesbrough in the Checkatrade Trophy. I know everyone has their own views for the Checkatrade Trophy, but I personally feel it’s a great platform for Wigan to help the youngsters career progression. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the academy lads, especially considering they have the chance to play and train with experienced pros such as Noel Hunt and Perkins, which can only help them improve further and help make the step up.
Four academy products started(Long,Golden,Burgess,Maffeo), with fellow academy products Mwiya Malumo and Divin Baningime coming on from the bench. The lads all looked really promising, with Maffeo, on his full debut, scoring a composed finish after Ryan Colclough’s cut-back. Tuesday really demonstrated the great work that Gregor Rioch has done with the academy, and hopefully we will see a few young lads break into the first team soon.
Saturday’s clash versus Blackburn is an attractive game, with Wigan hoping that they can return to the top with the win at the DW Stadium. It could be the toughest game so far, especially looking at the strength in depth that the Rovers have, with players such as Dack, Whittingham and Mulgrew.
But I’m more than confident can continue with their impressive home form and make it eight wins out of nine at the DW Stadium.
Testament to Cooking power
Last Saturday in some of the worst conditions I have experienced at a football match, Latics still managed to stay composed, play controlled football and produce a memorable victory at Bloomfield Road.
In the extremely wet and windy conditions Chey Dunkley had inadvertently gifted Blackpool the lead when he headed over Jamie Jones. But the big central defender was able to shrug off his disappointment and show great character by first drawing Latics level just before half time and then giving them the lead in the second half.
The icing was put on the proverbial cake when the fans’ favourite, David Perkins, scored his first ever goal for the club much to the great delight of the travelling fans.
The performance was testament to the power of manager Paul Cook’s leadership skills, as many teams would have crumbled in the adverse conditions after going a goal behind so early in the game away from home.
Latics’ players showed their skill and determination by persevering with their short passing football and not resorting to long ball tactics. Cook and his coaching team have instilled good habits into the players and there was no sense of panic despite going a goal behind.
The strength and depth of Latics’ squad is also paying dividends as despite the absence of the suspended Lee Evans and the injured Will Grigg they have continued their excellent form.
It was an important result, which helped Latics to open up an eight-point gap on Bradford City and Charlton Athletic and kept the pressure on surprise leaders Shrewsbury Town. After 15 games the League One table is starting to take some shape with many of the teams expected to be in the promotion mix now in the top half of the table.
Latics will face a real test of their promotion credentials on Saturday when they come up against Blackburn Rovers. Rovers were the close season favourites for promotion and after an indifferent start to the campaign they have now moved into the play-off places with two games in hand on most of the teams above them. Since Tony Mowbray was appointed as their manager in February this year they have only lost nine of his 32 games in charge, a win rate of nearly 44 per cent.
One of Latics’ former transfer targets Rovers midfielder Bradley Dack is starting to hit some form and has gained many plaudits for his performances. The 23-year-old former Gillingham star is even being tipped by his manager to one day play in the Premier League.
But Latics have their own special midfielder in captain Sam Morsy and I’m expecting the hard-tackling Egyptian to keep Dack in check on this occasion and help Latics to maintain their excellent home record.
Football doing the talking
Two games, seven goals scored, two wins. Alright one win came from the bulk of our youth side in the imaginatively named Checkatrade trophy but that’s a decent return by anyone’s standards.
Saturday was excellent from start to finish as is any away day in Blackpool where Latics are concerned. There’s no understating just how poor conditions were on Saturday. Storm Brian hit the Fylde coast hard and Bloomfield Road, never the most inviting of arenas to begin with, was centre to that. Those conditions probably had an impact on Blackpool’s goal. Any other afternoon it would have been a simple ball for Chey Dunkley to deal with but in those conditions it could have gone anywhere, and it did, deceiving Jones and giving Blackpool a valuable early goal.
The Seasiders hadn’t lost at home all season prior to our visit, which shows just what a performance it was from Latics once we had gone behind. In those conditions to score three goals and still play some decent football is a great achievement, to beat a solid Blackpool side as well makes it all the better.
It was nice to end a week of takeover talk with our football doing the talking, it seems that news about any potential takeover has gone quiet for the time being. Which is fine by me, the last thing we need is for anything to derail all the good work of Paul Cook and his players.
It was good to see so many young academy graduates get their chance against Middlesbrough’s own kids on Tuesday. The fact so many took it so impressively tells me that an area that has been so neglected over the last twenty years could finally be paying dividends. Victor Maffeo and Tyler Golden certainly look good enough to feature in the first team again soon.
It’s Blackburn tomorrow, they’ve had a difficult start to life in League One but we know from previous experience that doesn’t mean they won’t come good at the end of the season. Let’s hope we’re able to put in another performance like Blackpool.