Graham Barrow has pledged to give long-suffering Wigan Athletic fans something to smile about – and be proud of – in the nine games that will shape their season.
The 62-year-old has taken over as interim manager following the sacking of Warren Joyce on Monday morning, and is hoping to get off to a positive start this weekend when Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa visit the DW Stadium.
Joyce paid the price for a dreadful run of results that saw Latics win only six of their 24 games under his charge, which leaves them second-bottom of the Championship and requiring snookers to escape the drop to League One.
Their form on home soil has been even more grim, with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bristol City one of seven in 11 league games at the DW, which produced only one win.
Even more damningly, Latics failed to score in eight of those 11 matches, which has led to booing inside the stadium during each of the last two fixtures.
The first task for Barrow, who’s enjoyed a long and distinguished association with Latics stretching back over three decades, is getting the fans back onside – and ensuring everyone is pushing in the same direction.
And he’s confident he can do that from the off.
“I’ve said before, I know exactly what gets a Wiganer behind their team,” Barrow told the Wigan Post.
“And I’ll spend the next few days hammering into the players what they need to give the supporters.
“If we can give that to the supporters, then I know the supporters will give us something back.
“That’s the way it’s always been here, that’s the way it always will be, and I wouldn’t expect it to ever be any different.
“I’d feel exactly the same way if I was sat in the stands watching the game as a fan.
“I do know that if we are to do anything this season, if we are to make a fight of it and give ourselves a chance, we’ll the need the fans behind us.
“And I am 100 per cent sure they will give each and every one of the lads a chance on Saturday.”
With only 34 points on the board from their 37 matches played, Latics face a fight to first of all get to the point-a-game 46 which is seen as a minimum requirement – and hopefully even to the 50-point mark, which would almost certainly guarantee safety.
“We’ve got to give ourselves a fighting chance,” recognised Barrow.
From back page
“I’m trying to avoid looking too far down the line. But I sort of have a figure in my head in terms of a points total.
“I’m just trying to focus my utmost on getting a performance on Saturday, and taking it from there.
“If we can get a performance, and the result, we’re looking for, it can be a massive lift for everyone.
“If we can get those two things together, I think the whole picture would change so dramatically. It’s obviously not just down to one game, but it is a massive game for us all.”
Having returned to the club under Roberto Martinez in the summer of 2009, Barrow shared in several special ‘Great Escapes’ before Latics finally lost their Premier League status in 2013.
And he points to the miraculous come-from-behind victory over West Ham in 2011 as proof that miracles can happen in the right environment.
“We’ve had many a day here at the stadium where the fans and players have enjoyed something special,” he added.
“You look back to the West Ham game, and you’ve got Gary Caldwell charging down the line at 2-0 down.
“It was one of those days where everything positive you can see in a player, they were cheering.
“It never used to happen in my day – crowds cheering for winning a corner, winning a tackle or playing the ball forward.
“But that was one of those days where everything we did was met with a huge appreciative sound from the stands.
“I think it’s fair to say the players are lacking a little bit of confidence at the moment – you can see that.
“But if the fans were to cheer the lads on to the field, right from the off, it would give us a lift, and then it would be up to the players to respond.
“If the crowd respond from the off, I’m sure I can get the players to respond to that.”