International breaks always come at either at the most perfect or most inopportune time, depending on how it fits a team’s narrative.
For Wigan Athletic, this one is just welcome respite from a season that most of us can’t wait to see the back of.
To paraphrase the great Edmund Blackadder: “It started off badly...tailed off a bit in the middle...and the less said about the end the better. But apart from that – excellent.”
Of course, there’s still time to turn this one around.
And if any club has previous for pulling rabbits out of the hat at this stage of the campaign, it is Latics.
But faced with a seven-point deficit and only eight games remaining, this one would surely beat anything we witnessed in the Premier League era.
Four of those matches are against clubs in the top five – Newcastle, Brighton, Reading and Leeds – with three of them away from home.
Admittedly, the home run-in looks less daunting, including fixtures against all-but relegated Rotherham, and two clubs – Barnsley and Cardiff – with nothing to play for.
Any club in Wigan’s position would be banking on nine points from those three home games to give them any chance of survival.
Only Latics boast the third worst home record in the Football League, failing to score an incredible ELEVEN times in their last FOURTEEN games at the DW.
They have mustered just three goals in open play since Boxing Day.
Only one of those goals – Michael Jacobs’ effort at Fulham in February – has come since the sale of Yanic Wildschut in January.
For the first time there was a real air of resignation in the aftermath of Saturday’s home defeat to Aston Villa
No boos, no anger, no vitriol aimed at those on the field, or in the directors box.
Just a seeming resignation of fate.
Even social media was surprisingly calm on Saturday evening.
A few threw in the old ‘none of the players care’ line.
But I’m not having that.
Watching the players trudge off, it was clear that every single one of them was gutted with both the result and the situation.
I’d be struggling to pick any of them who hadn’t ‘put in a shift’.
Whether the squad – and recruitment in the last two transfer windows – has been good enough will be shown at the end of the season.
But one thing that can not be levelled at them – and interim boss Graham Barrrow – is a lack of passion.
The players care, the management care, the fans care.
All we can hope is that Barrow and senior players like Stephen Warnock, Jake Buxton and Dan Burn make the most of this international break to rally the troops for one last effort for the last eight games.
Fingers crossed it will be enough for safety.
But if not, it would be nice to at least have some shred of positivity to be able to take into next season...wherever that may take us.
If Andy Kellett didn’t have bad luck, he’d have had no luck this season.
After missing a chunk of last season – including the best bit at the end – through injury, the ex-Bolton and Manchester United defender was looking forward to a big year with a full pre-season behind him.
Unfortunately a knee ligament problem picked up last summer wrecked those plans, with him eventually returning to the fold just before Christmas.
A fatigue-related problem caused by him playing too much football over the festive programme set him back even further.
And his first start of the year against Aston Villa at the weekend was cut short by a knee problem that is hopefully not linked to the serious one he suffered last summer.
His face as he limped off the field suggested he feared it could be.
Fingers crossed it’s only a minor issue, and Kellett can settle into a decent run of games between now and May.
Result aside, it was good to bump into former Latics boss Steve Bruce after Saturday’s home defeat to Aston Villa.
I asked Bruce whether he feared for his old club looking at the league table, and received the predictable response was that he did.
What I wasn’t prepared for was a two-minute expansion of the point that saw him admit that his time in Wigan was the best of his managerial career, his relationship with chairman Dave Whelan the best he’s ever experienced, and the team from 2008 being the best he’s ever managed.
He also closed by admitting it was ‘possibly a mistake’ that he left for Sunderland in the summer of 2009. Bruce’s standing with some Latics fans understandably took a battering when he walked out for a second time.
But it was nice to see he’s retained fond memories of the place – and a place in club folklore for a team that contained the likes of Valencia, Palacios, Heskey, Cattermole, Scharner, Melchoit...
Every fan of every football club gets riled at this time of year as the various ‘Teams of the Year’ begin to be selected.
Predictably most of the early Championship fictitious XI’s have contained plenty of Newcastle and Brighton men.
None have contained any Latics players.
On the face of it – and looking at the league ladder – fair enough.
But if there’s been a better, more consistent left-back in the Championship this year than Stephen Warnock, I haven’t seen him.
How great – and deserved – it was to see Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe back in the England squad...at the ripe old age of 34.
Proof of that time-honoured clich that if you’re good enough, you’re old (and young) enough.
Defoe must have thought his time with the Three Lions was up.
Especially considering the last time he pulled on an England shirt, he scored twice past TV presenter Patrick Kielty in the Soccer Aid charity match at Old Trafford!
Flicking the channels on Tuesday night, I came across the Oxford-Bolton game from League One.
The hashtag for the game, for social media purposes was #OxBol.
Thank goodness Latics’ neighbours Bolton weren’t the home team.
Post-match interviews on the pitch rarely produce anything memorable.
Unless, that is, your name is Mohammed Anas.
The Ghanaian star, who plays for South African side Free State Stars, hit the headlines this week when, with a microphone thrust under his nose after a man-of-the-match display, he thanked his wife...AND his girlfriend.
Which caused the clip to go viral.
Brilliantly, when in a hole, Anas has elected to keep digging, and now claims when he said his GIRLFRIEND, he meant his DAUGHTER.
We believe you, Mohammed.