Talking football: Latics looking for red-emption

Lee Evans is sent off at Scunthorpe
Lee Evans is sent off at Scunthorpe
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With a quarter of the campaign gone – where did that go?? – Wigan Athletic have already been collecting records.

Their 28-point tally is the most they’ve accrued after 12 games since joining the Football League in 1978.

Along with the joint-best defensive record in League One (seven goals conceded), they are also the second-top goalscorers (22).

But it’s another total – four – that may well be occupying Paul Cook’s thoughts this week.

That’s the tally of red cards Latics have picked up in their opening dozen matches.

Which Cook readily admits he needs to address as quickly as possible.

The Latics boss has insisted after each red card this term – and with Sam Morsy becoming the first player in England to serve a ban for accruing five yellow cards – that the side doesn’t have a discipline problem in general. And I’m inclined to agree with him.

Morsy, as Cook has been quick to point out, is Morsy.

Take out that niggle, that bite, that aggression from his game, and he wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective.

But that attitude doesn’t stand up when assessing the sendings-off.

First up, let’s be fair, Callum Elder was unlucky to see red on the opening day at MK Dons for an honest challenge in centre-field that saw him fall to victim, in my view, to a card-happy official.

But as for the other three reds...well, there’s less cause for mitigation.

Yes, Chey Dunkley didn’t make much of any contact when he lashed out at Portsmouth’s Brett Pitman, but that’s not the point.

By throwing out a flailing arm, he was leaving himself wide open to what happened, and hopefully – as he saays – he’s learned his lesson.

The less said about Ryan Colclough’s dismissal for foul and abusive language to the referee after the final whistle at Shrewsbury the better.

And Lee Evans was quick to admit at the weekend that he’d let everyone down, including himself, by putting his head into the face of a Scunthorpe opponent following an innocuous foul.

As Cook contends, these aren’t a series of events that suggest a systemic discipline problem at the football club.

They’re three random incidents, committed by three random individuals, who have lost the plot for one reason or another.

All three have publicly apologised to Cook, their colleague and the fans – and let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson.

Because at the moment – apart from Shrewsbury, who surely can’t keep up their early-season form – regular red cards look like being the major obstacle to Latics finishing the campaign where they want to be.

In the top two, preferably the top one. Because the quality within the dressing room is certainly not in doubt.

For further proof of this, it’s worth pointing out the lads who weren’t even in involved in the squad squad at the weekend – Christian Walton, Craig Morgan, Reece James, Morsy, Shaun MacDonald, Colclough and Michael Jacobs.

Arguably four certain first-team starters, and three debatables.

It would be such a shame if the potential for what could be achieved this term was derailed from within.

Very sad to hear this week of the death of former Latics manager Ian McNeill at the age of 85.

The man who guided Latics into the Football League in 1978, without which none of the subsequent journey would have been possible.

It’s fitting Southend – for whom McNeill played before becoming a hugely-successful and respected manager – are the visitors to the DW on Saturday.

And the Latics fans young and old will have their chance to show their respects to one of the most important figures in the club’s history.

They were one of the stories of last year’s Euros, but sadly Wales won’t be part of next summer’s World Cup.

Which will at least save everyone in the world who suffers from OCD the sight of their now-running joke during the pre-match team pic (google it!)!

Wales’ elimination this week will come as a crushing blow to Shaun MacDonald, who was hoping a successful second half to the campaign – when he returns from a broken leg – might have got him on the plane.

On-loan Wolves midfielder Lee Evans, who was in the squad for the last round of games last month, was also hoping to make the cut.

Fingers crossed Northern Ireland make it through the play-offs, which will give Will Grigg the chance to get back into the squad – and become the major talking point at the World Cup, as he was at last summer’s Euros!

“We are only in the first week of October,” acknowledged ex-Latics striker Paul Warne, who has guided Rotherham into the play-off positions.

“I am not trying to wee on dreams, but we need to keep performing.”

Warne, quite rightly, wants to flush out all thoughts of complacency, to avoid the season going down the pan.

Something which would drive anyone round the u-bend...

“It’s become an exercise of how many goals can you score and how many can you keep out.”

Martin Keown is getting really good at this football punditry work.

“Ex-Middlesbrough player Fabio Rochemback arrested in Brazil accused of involvement in cock fighting.

Police seized 89 roosters & £24k in cash.”

Insert ‘fowl play/in a flap/poultry amount’ gag at your leisure...