12th Man: Latics fans have their say

Wigan Athletic players celebrate another goal
Wigan Athletic players celebrate another goal

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! Roll on Saturday, and let’s get to Blackpool.

There will be a massive party atmosphere at Bloomfield Road as the Latics look to clinch the League One title with a victory over the Tangerines.

The annual outing to Blackpool is always something of a carnival atmosphere, and this year’s trip will quite simply be mind-blowing.

Over 3,000 Latics fans in the away end, plus numerous more sampling the hospitality suite with a buffet breakfast, and of course don’t be surprised to find one or two in the ‘home’ end as this is the away day that we could have sold out three times over.

Unfortunately with the clubs going in opposite directions, this could be the last league encounter for quite a while.

And it’s sad to see the state that the Oyston’s have allowed the club to fall into.

Blackpool fans are staging a demonstration on Saturday, and many Latics fans have pledged support with this and will join them on their march.

But, despite having empathy with the Blackpool fans, this is our day, and I for one intend to enjoy a great trip to the seaside!

If we win we will secure the title, and next Sunday we can celebrate with a party at home against Barnsley.

What a season this has been – simply superb!

Let’s get it wrapped up, done and dusted, and bring the League One Championship trophy to the DW Stadium next weekend.

Up the ‘Tics!

Barry Worthington

The finish line is in sight!

The best part of nine months’ work, in fact 12 months’ work, if we think back to the start of Gary Caldwell’s reign.

It would take a collapse of epic proportions for Wigan Athletic not to be playing in the Championship again next season.

What isn’t yet confirmed is whether Latics will be promoted as champions.

Gary Caldwell and David Sharpe laid out their plans during the summer, and many scoffed at those ambitions.

Latics were still tainted by last season’s disaster, and the subsequent relegation with all the controversy that went with it.

But the young manager and chairman duo were steadfast in their belief that Latics’ stay in League One would be a short one – and they’ve been proved right.

People will say that this Latics side have achieved nothing more than was expected of them.

Many opposition managers point to the club’s supposed advantages in terms of finances.

All that is well and good, but doesn’t stop Wigan’s achievement being any less impressive.

This, bar the odd one or two players, is a completely different side.

Made up of many younger players who hadn’t played at this level before, along with seasoned pros who had.

When you take a step back from the partisan grind of week-to-week football, and think about the achievement of this season, it makes it all the more impressive.

Yes, Latics have had an advantage.

But it still needed someone to bring it all together, and Gary Caldwell’s first full season in management should be viewed as an absolute success.

Blackpool on Saturday can act as a party – the best part of 3,000 Wiganers visiting the seaside to toast a successful season, and hopefully go some way to clinching that title Caldwell and David Sharpe so craved last summer.

Comparisons will undoubtedly be made with Paul Jewell’s side that last won promotion from this division.

That’s only natural and, although this side have a long way to go until they can be compared with the likes of the Duke, Bullard, Teale and McCulloch, if they can carry their form from this season in to next, they could yet be labelled legends as well.

Let’s celebrate – the lads have done well.

Sean Livesey

It’s not official yet, but it’s party time at the DW!

Walsall’s huge defeat at Bradford last weekend, coupled with our victory over Southend, and we’re all-but promoted because of our superior goal difference.

The players, staff and chairman have all said that the job is not done yet, which is all well and good, but they know as much as we do that the job is done.

We just need to officially confirm it on Saturday against Blackpool.

Since our unofficial promotion, I’ve spent the last few days mulling over the squad, and where it could take us in the Championship next season.

The short answer, in my opinion, is quite well.

The long answer is that we have a spine of the team that can easily make the step up, and I think we would only need a few additions the squad to easily trouble the top half of the Championship.

The spine of Jaaskelainen, Pearce, Morgan, Morsy, Power, Perkins and Grigg is one that can trouble most teams in the league above.

And the likes of McCann, Jacobs and Wildschut all have experience in the division above, which could be vital.

The priority should be bringing somebody in to help Will Grigg.

He has been superb this year, and his goal tally shows that, but he can’t do it on his own.

So I’m hoping there’s a few strikers on Gary Caldwell’s radar for next season.

Other than that, slight additions and adding depth to the squad should be our way forward in my opinion.

We’ve only just come out of a period with a squad overhaul, and so many people coming in and out of the door, so I’m hoping we have a calm and stable summer where we keep the nucleus of our team.

The bookies have us down as fourth favourites already to be promoted again in 2016/17 from the Championship, but I hope fans don’t take that as gospel.

The last thing we need is huge expectations with a manager in Caldwell, who will be managing properly in the division for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should be safely away from relegation, and looking up rather than down as we have a squad with enormous potential.

But I want us to keep our feet firmly on the ground come August time.

Sam Whyte

As 3,000+ Ticsmen go nuts on Blackpool’s South Shore this Saturday, the nearby Norbreck Castle Hotel will be preparing for something considerably more… Sensible.

Jon Hare, founder member of 80s and 90s video game powerhouse Sensible Software, shall be overseeing a virtual football tournament as part of the annual PLAY Blackpool gaming festival just five miles down the Promenade from those wild championship celebrations.

The computer game in question will be Hare’s newest creation,Sociable Soccer.

It’s the spiritual successor to Sensible Soccer, the multiple platform, multiple award -winning football simulation your uber cool dad might have played.

Go and ask him now!

Sensi, as it was affectionately known, was far ahead of its contemporaries.

Running at a much quicker and smoother pace, it was structurally accomplished and aesthetically pleasing beyond its technical level.

If you’re being cheesy, you might even say it was the Wigan Athletic 2015/16 of its time.

But the Sensible series also became known for its creative player names.

In the absence of an official license, one would expect to see totally absurd made up players such as Max E Mumpower, Jacob Crackers and Will Griggson-Fire grace the virtual football field.

Bonkers and utterly unrealistic, but vaguely amusing nonetheless.

If you do decide to attend Hare’s Q&A panel on Sunday, dear reader, please remember to ask him about the mythical XBOX joypad that controls real life.

Internet rumour has it that he did indeed invent such a device, which, in conjunction with an anonymous local video game expert, has been used to guide Wigan to automatic promotion this year.

Oh, and if you’re feeling brave enough, casually reference Fish Athletic, Bad Words United (with superstars Crud and Umbrella), Dog Wednesday, At The Chippy and Chinese Food – all genuine teams from International Sensible Soccer’s legendary Custom League.

That’s if you expect to be anything close to coherent on Sunday afternoon, of course.

Dan Farrimond

After our emphatic 4-1 win at home to Southend, we all basked in an unofficial promotion party.

On the day of the game, I set my phone up so I would have regular Twitter notifications updating me on the Bradford-Walsall match.

Little did I know what was about to unfold.

Valley Parade is a tough place to go – it always has been and always will be – but I still didn’t expect a 4-0 drubbing.

Anyway, I’m not complaining.

That result means we are back in the Championship in all-but name, providing there isn’t a minor miracle.

Our superior +22 goal difference over the Saddlers/+20 over Milwall is the reason we can go to Blackpool on Saturday, have a massive party and hopefully tie up the League One crown.

I know it’s been a huge team effort and everyone in the squad has contributed to the success this season.

But I need to praise Michael Jacobs after that performance on Saturday.

Following the 2-0 away win at Rochdale back in November, I did a 12th Man piece solely dedicated to praising ‘Crackers’.

And here I am again, running out of superlatives to describe him.

To come back after approximately three months out injured, score a huge goal in the important game at Burton and then score and assist two more against Southend is testament to him.

I firmly believe that If Jacobs had been fit these last few months then we would have tied up promotion and maybe the title sooner.

We even could have reached Sharpey’s 100 points.

Kieran Makin

Just over 12 months ago Wigan Athletic were in a pretty bad place.

Relegation looming, an unpopular manager, a squad made up of loan players, players on short-term contracts, players with an eye on the exit door and an ageing board and chairman who’d undoubtedly achieved all they had ever set out to do.

Even the most optimistic fans were struggling to see much light at the end of the tunnel.

Fast forward 12 months and the club has been completely transformed – from top to bottom – and much of the praise must go to Gary Caldwell.

As an inexperienced manager facing a huge task, his appointment last year was a massive gamble – but one that has paid off.

As other managers in the league will tell you, he’s had money to spend and been backed to the hilt – of course he has.

And that’s played a big part in him being able to achieve what he set out to do.

Money isn’t everything, as Uwe Rosler’s horrific summer spending spree in 2014 showed.

Caldwell has shown a keen eye for a player, adapted his ideas on how he see’s the game being played to suit the squad we’ve got and, more importantly, to suit League One.

His lack of stubbornness and willingness to change (something he thankfully didn’t inherit from his increasingly forlorn-looking mentor up the East Lancs Rd) have played a huge part in our success this season, and stands us in good stead as we head into the Championship with renewed and hopefully realistic optimism.

A win by the seaside will be the icing on the cake, and round off what’s been a superb season, both on and off the field.

Up the time to party ‘Tics!

Mark Ashurst

What a sensational season it’s been at Wigan Athletic.

Many fans worried about the prospect of a young chairman and an untried manager running the club.

But David Sharpe has steadied the ship and Gary Caldwell has risen to the challenge of a quick return to the Championship.

There have been so many memorable moments on the pitch during this campaign, but here are my five personal highlights:

1. The first signs that Gary Caldwell’s team were moving in the right direction came against Scunthorpe United during a night game at the DW Stadium in August.

Latics gave the Iron a great lesson in pass and move.

The visitors had no answer to Wigan’s style of play, which was reminiscent of the dominant performances produced during the Roberto Martinez days.

The 3-0 scoreline did not flatter the team, who could have won by many more on the night.

Latics were still a work in progress, but they produced the kind of football that had the fans purring.

It had been evident in the opening games what they have been trying to achieve, but this was the first time that the team had fully clicked together.

2. Latics recorded their first away win of the season in September with a dramatic comeback from two goals down to win 3-2 at Chesterfield.

With nine minutes of normal time remaining Latics looked to be down and out, but Leon Barnett’s volley, Craig Davies’ penalty and Jordy Hiwula’s last-minute winner produced an amazing smash-and-grab victory.

There were some amazing scenes in the away end when Hiwula won the game, and Latics fans celebrated with a crazy mini pitch invasion.

3. Latics staged another amazing comeback against second-placed Gillingham in January.

They had trailed the Gills 2-0 after 60 minutes but turned the game around for an incredible 3-2 victory.

It was a defining moment in Latics’ season as they overhauled a Gillingham team who had previously looked likely to secure automatic promotion.

Latics had fought back through Will Grigg and Max Power and then captain Craig Morgan produced a stunning 96th-minute header to send the DW into raptures.

4. In February, Latics moved into second spot in the table with Yanic Wildschut’s 91st-minute winner at Walsall, and leapfrogged the Saddlers and Gillingham in the race for promotion.

They had taken the lead in the first half with a 30-yard screamer by Conor McAleny, but were pegged back by a long-range strike.

With both sides going for the winner, it was Flying Dutchman Wildschut who scored a stunning individual goal to give Latics a massively-important three points.

5. In April, Latics moved to the top-of-the-table with a 5-1 mauling of Shrewsbury Town.

The Shrews had taken a surprise lead on 28 minutes, but Latics quickly got back on level terms through Conor McAleny’s superb 20-yard volley.

After the interval, Yanic Wildschut fired home after McAleny’s shot came back off the post, and they quickly added a third when Jason Pearce headed home.

Will Grigg converted a penalty on 66 minutes, and then finished off a splendid day for Laticsby a dding a fifth in the 90th minute when he side footed Max Power’s cross into the net.

Latics produced another highlight last Saturday when they thrashed Southend 4-1, but the biggest highlight of the season should come at Blackpool tomorrow, when they not only confirm promotion but also the League One title.

Ian Aspinall