Jacobs: New boys will hit the ground running
Michael Jacobs believes a behind-closed-doors training session at the DW Stadium could be the key to Wigan Athletic getting back to winning ways against Fulham this weekend.
Latics entertain the Cottagers looking to break a four-game losing sequence that’s seen them sink to second-bottom in the Championship standings.
They haven’t played on home soil since going down 1-0 to QPR on August 27, since when we’ve had an international break, a transfer deadline, not to mention the small matter of four players – Reece Burke, Nathan Byrne, Adam Le Fondre and Kaiyne Woolery – arriving at the club.
But a masterstroke by boss Gary Caldwell has ensured Latics should be able to hit the ground running when they get back to the DW,
“The gaffer did a great thing during the international break, by getting us to train on the pitch at the DW,” Jacobs told the Evening Post.
“That means the players who arrived just before the transfer deadline won’t be playing on it for the first time – which should be a big help.
“And we have started quite well at home, apart from the loss to QPR in our last game.
“We want to get back to last year, when it became a bit of a fortress for us.
“It won’t be easy, though, because Fulham are flying high at the moment.
“They’ve always had quality, but I think they took confidence from beating Newcastle on the opening day and they’ve not looked back.”
Jacobs does not need to do much homework to work out who may be the biggest threat in Fulham’s line-up.
Striker Chris Martin, who moved from Derby just before the transfer window slammed shut, is a former colleague of the Latics schemer at Pride Park – and his reputation speaks for itself.
“Chris is different to a lot of No.9s, who like to get in behind you,” Jacobs explained.
“The team builds around him, and his finishing is second to none.
“He’s also one of those players who can go 10 games without a goal and then, all of a sudden, bang in six in six – and we need to be careful of that.”
It’s been a gruelling week for Latics, who’ve lost 2-1 at both Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich – two teams hotly-tipped for promotion.
Although they were second best at Hillsborough, Latics only had themselves to blame in midweek, having gifted the home side a two-goal start in no time.
“We know we didn’t start very well at Norwich,” Jacobs acknowledged.
“You go there trying to stay solid from the off, be tight, and suddenly you’re 2-0 down inside 10 minutes.
“You’re giving yourself a massive mountain to climb when you do that, and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen in future.
“We just need to stay positive. Looking at the seven games as a whole, we’ve had our fair share of possession, and we’ve been in all the games.
“We’ve lost the last four games, but they’ve all been by the odd goal.
“Little things are just not going our way, and at this level you’re going to get punished for that.
“We also need the crowd behind us this weekend.
“They’ve been great with us, certainly while I’ve been here, and it showed last season the effect that can have.
“Even in the QPR game, which was fizzling out in the second half, they kept with us and we appreciate that as players.”
On a personal level, the 24-year-old has fought back well after surprisingly finding himself on the bench for the start of the campaign.
He followed up his first goal of the season at Nottingham Forest with a sparkling assist for Will Grigg at Hillsborough last week, and is feeling good at present.
“I’ve been pleased with the way it’s going,” Jacobs recognised.
“And I think the competition for places in the squad has helped.
“I worked so hard last year and, apart from the injury, I was pleased with my form.
“I’ve had to be patient at times this season and wait for my chance.
“But I’ve done okay and it’s up to me to hold on to my place in the side.”
Jacobs, born in Rothwell, near Northampton, has become part of the furniture at the DW since his arrival from Wolves in the summer of 2015.
So much so, in the midweek clash at Norwich, he was afforded honourary Wiganer status when a section of the home support took exception to him playing on while one of their players went to ground – and then made the most of him waiting to take a subsequent corner while Ivo Pinto received treatment.
“I know, I was trying to take the corner, and I’m getting dog’s abuse from the home fans,” Jacobs laughed.
“All that’s going through my mind is: ‘Please get up, please get up’...and all I can hear is ‘Dirty northern’ ringing round the stadium.
“I’m thinking: ‘Hang on, I’ve only been up here for 12-18 months, I can’t have got the accent already!’
“But it’s part and parcel of the game, you get on with it.
“It can get a bit lively like that at big away grounds, but I thought we overcame that as a team and imposed ourselves on the game.
“Sometimes you need to show a bit of aggression and that you won’t be rolled over, and we showed we had that.”