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The 12th Man: Hopefully no transfer window pain for Wigan Athletic!

Nick Powell and Will Grigg
Nick Powell and Will Grigg

Our panel of experts bring you a unique insight into the goings-on at the DW Stadium...

Martin Tarbuck:

Only a few more days to go until the dreaded transfer window slams shut and my main concern is ensuring we keep our squad intact.

Clutching rosary beads and praying that no desperadoes out there start throwing silly money towards our lovely players at the 11th hour.

In recent years, we’ve been spoilt with a flurry of incomings and the odd angry outgoing (looking at you here – Yanic “The Snake” Wildschut!) but all’s fair in love, war and transfer dealings...so here’s hoping we have a quiet one.

Signing 10 players on transfer deadline day is not a time for great excitement as some of our fans and even the club itself have been known to herald it as.

It is a sign your football club is in a right state and you are just trying to get random bodies in as a last-ditch desperate attempt to bolster your squad to get promoted or stave off relegation.

This time last year was the most shambolic of the lot, as every single player signed has now been booted out 12 months later, what does that say about stability?

Yep, it’s fair to say I’m not a fan.

With the few signings we have already made, we should have more than enough to continue our first half of the season’s form and for that reason, I’d like to see a deathly quiet deadline day.

So to Saturday and, needless to say, my attitude to the cup has changed a touch now we are a round further and the Happy Hammers will be visiting our fine town on Saturday.

After all, we’re only three wins away from Wembley, so who wouldn’t want to take it seriously at this stage?

That’s after starting all the way back in the first round as well.

This will be our sixth FA Cup game this season, which surely must constitute a serious cup run?

Having said all that, I’d take a win over Rochdale on Tuesday and an entertaining but gallant narrow defeat against West Ham every day of the week though if faced with a hypothetical either/or choice.

If we were to win in the cup, it would also mean that our game at Bradford on Feb 17 would also be moved to a midweek fixture towards the end of the season, and it may be the Bantams have finally sorted out their dreadful home form by then.

These are nice problems to have however, and I suppose winning is a habit and we are having a terrific season, so let’s just enjoy Saturday for what it is, turn out in numbers (as I’m sure West Ham will) and roar the Tics on!

Stuart Glover:

It’s still going very well.

Latics returned to winning ways after a draw before Saturday.

After the constant disappointment of last season, it is strange to think that we’ve lost only three games in the league this season.

The last loss was against Bradford in mid-November. That is amazing.

Indeed, that goal we conceded on Saturday was the first league goal we’ve let in since the end of November.

No goals against since then. That is ridiculous.

Two years ago, when we won League One, the secret to our success were two long unbeaten runs.

Consistently picking up points when others were going through rough patches.

When we won this league in 2003, I remember that we had a spell of about 10 games without conceding a goal.

This season we seem to be combining both of these features into one super season.

The bad news for our opponents is that we’re now not due to let in another league goal until early April!

While the gap to third has been trimmed in recent weeks from seven points to five, the gap between us and second has widened.

I am happy with this. I understand we need to get promotion and that because second place is good enough to achieve that aim, the gap to third is the crucial one, but I really want to win this league this year.

A bit of competition between Shrewsbury and Blackburn may help them to feel a bit of pressure which will hopefully lead them to slip up, offering us the chance to sail away towards the Championship-shaded horizon.

We took some stick at the weekend for the number of fans that made the trip to Plymouth.

The natural reaction is to find the reasons and the arguments as to why more fans haven’t made the trip.

The truth is, however, there is no reasoning with such people.

They just want to try and rile us, and right now there is no other ammunition.

We know that we’re not the world’s best supported club in terms of numbers.

We also know that we never will be. But there are some positives to having fewer fans.

Rarely having problems getting tickets for games being the first one.

In all my years supporting Latics, I have never felt any embarrassment with our fan base and I have never failed to have fun being among them.

If there is a serious point we can learn from attendances it is that, considering we seemed to be taking decent away followings last season when we were doing terribly, it is clear that there is no logic to be applied to this numbers game. These days people will talk about football being a market and that things like TV rights and ticket prices will be dictated by market forces.

The truth is that football is not a fair market. It is not a free, open market.

Fans will pay over the top prices, even when their teams are doing badly and providing little entertainment, simply because watching their team is what they do.

We cannot choose between watching this club or that one because we have lifelong attachments to them.

The normal rules of competition and market forces do not always apply in life, and they certainly do not in football. This perhaps explains why some seem to run the game to the detriment of the fans, with high prices and odd kick-off times, safe in the knowledge that the fans will still turn up.

As the transfer window approaches its end we’re all hoping to keep our star player and perhaps bring in one or two reinforcements.

There is also talk about how much teams will have to pay to get the Powells, Griggs and Burns out of Wigan.

While we cannot really stop players leaving if they want to, and indeed we shouldn’t try to keep them if they want to leave, the statement that Paul Cook made with Max Power in the summer lets the squad know what may happen if they start looking for a move.

However the financial reality of the club is that we cannot not really afford to stop players leaving.

While we would want to maximise the price received for anyone who leaves, and most would agree we got a good deal on Yanic Wildschut’s last year, we may have to sell for less than we think we should accept, simply to help balance the books.

We are fortunate that while we have an owner who is looking to sell, and will no longer be sinking lots of money into the club, he is a man who loves football and who loves Wigan and who has taken the most enormous pleasure from being involved with us over the last 20 odd years, so we do not seem to be in the position of having to sell.

That said, it seems certain that we will make a financial loss unless players leave the club for cash.

The next few days will be interesting.

West Ham at the weekend. I hope that chemists in the Wigan area have stocked up on paracetamol as I can sense many of us are about to relapse into cup fever.

Sean Livesey:

They say the sign of a good team is the ability to pick up results when you’re not at your best, and Saturday was a fantastic example of that.

If any game could have been considered a potential banana skin it was the trip to Plymouth, coming after the superhuman efforts of the previous Wednesday against Bournemouth and up against a side that were on a run of consecutive wins and pushing hard for a play-off place.

The writing seemed to be on the wall when Latics fell behind midway through the first half but this Latics side are made of stern stuff, Will Grigg assisted by the impressive Nick Powell got Latics back on level terms instantly before a fantastic team goal rounded off by the improving Gavin Massey gave Latics the lead before half-time.

Paul Cook’s side were still made to work hard for the win but Dan Burn put things beyond doubt with his second goal in as many games.

The win means Latics have now won an impressive six away games in a row, a run that stretches all the way back to October and the win over Blackpool.

So it’s back to the FA Cup tomorrow and this match has the true buzz of a big match, it may only be five years since we were in the Premier League but it can often feel a world away.

The fourth round draw threw up an interesting match with West Ham, they’ve struggled for the best part this season but like all Premier League clubs can be dangerous on their day.

And in fairness to the much maligned David Moyes he’s managed to stabalise the Hammers and get some impressive wins along the way.

There’s a twinge of sadness that this match isn’t taking place at the Olympic Stadium for us ground hoppers but despite our impressive away form I think we have the best chance of progressing to the fifth round at home.

The weather forecast predicts a cold and wet Lancashire afternoon on Saturday, throw in a bumper crowd swelled by 4,500 or so Hammers fans and it has all the ingredients for a cup upset.

West Ham are reportedly in the midst of a mini injury crisis, whether that’s mind games on the part of the aforementioned Moyes or not we’ll find out on Saturday with the side that’s named.

That shouldn’t be the expectation though, Latics have done fantastically well this season but there is still a massive gulf in class between us and West Ham.

A lot has happened to both clubs since that famous win in May 2011 that relegated the Hammers.

There are very few connections left to that side in the current Wigan line-up but if they could summon the spirit of 2011 and show the fight, skill and heart that they did against Bournemouth last week we’ll have a chance.

A slim chance, but a chance all the same.

It’s time for Wiganers to go out and get behind the lads on Saturday, £15 is a fantastic price for a cup game against a big London club like West Ham and long before the Premier League came along it’s the kind of draw Latics would have been desperate to pull out of the hat.

The fact that this side are performing so well just adds to the attraction, West Ham have done their bit by selling out - if we could get a few more through the door it would make for a fantastic atmosphere and could well give us the edge on Saturday.

Come on Wigan, let’s get behind our lads.

Paul Middleton:

The takeover of Latics is, or at least we’re told it is, “at an advanced stage”, but what does that mean?

One might assume that “advanced” means “almost complete”, but it might also mean it’s reached a point where there are wide gaps between the parties on the finer details.

Given the way the Whelan/Latics empire is structured and owned, I imagine there are complications that wouldn’t exist if there was but a single company up for sale.

A potentially bigger question is how the club have managed to keep the details pretty quiet – secret, even – with few leaks.

Normally, the DW Stadium leaks more than the cover on the old Shevvy End, but not this time.

Is it that any potential leaks were disposed of before talks even started?

Or is it just a case of nobody outside a privileged two or three people have had any involvement?

Probably a bit of both, I think.

One thing which we do really well as a club is wind people up with minimal effort.

Whether it’s winning an FA Cup or employing a racist and sexist manager, we always seem to touch just the right (or wrong) nerves in the football world.

Having no truck with Dave Whelan’s “Two Teams, One Town” nonsense I, along with many Latics fans, would like nothing more than to see the new owner’s hammer come down on the rugby club.

It may be that any agreement of sale might include a clause to protect the standing of the rugby as tenants of the DW, but we live in hope.

Ian Lenagan is adamant that the rolling 25 year lease won’t be affected by the takeover, but it is hoped that we start to charge them a hefty rent and not continue the doubtlessly favourable terms under the Whelan stewardship.

Wealthy people in Hong Kong who have never heard of rugby league, let alone Wigan Warriors, probably won’t worry too much about their long term future unless the income from the tenancy agreement is substantial.

Personally, I’d like it left in no doubt that the DW Stadium (or whatever name it may take) belongs to Latics, and is not a “ground-share” as is often quoted.

All blue/white seats, and “LATICS” mapped out in the East and West stands would be a start, but I fear it won’t be a financial possibility at this stage.

Finally, I am trying to push fears about the takeover to the back of my mind, but it’s a fact that many far eastern-backed takeovers of football clubs end badly.

Here’s to us bucking that trend and touching more nerves than ever when we go on to win the FA Cup again, starting with humiliating that horrible shower from West Ham this weekend.

Ian Aspinall:

It was a very pleasing result at Plymouth as Latics came through one of their toughest tests of the season.

The large Home Park crowd had come with high expectations as their team were unbeaten in eight games and they wanted to see the league leaders toppled.

In an exciting end-to-end game both teams produced high quality attacking play, but it was Latics who were the more clinical and secured the three-points to extend their unbeaten league run to 10 games and move five-points clear at the top of the table.

It is no overstatement to say that Latics’ away form under manager Paul Cook has been nothing short of phenomenal. Since the start of the season they have won 10, drawn one and lost two, scoring 32 and conceding only nine.

Latics’ next away day is on Tuesday night at Rochdale and I would hope as many fans as possible make the short trip to Spotland or the Crown Oil Arena as it’s now called.

If it’s like any of the last six away games you are in for a real treat.

First though we have a small matter of an FA Cup fourth-round home tie against Premier League West Ham.

The national media spotlight will be on the game and Latics are certainly capable of causing another upset.

The unhappy Hammers have struggled this season under Slaven Bilic and they recently appointed David Moyes as manager in an attempt to keep them in the Premier League.

Moyes has made an initial impact by stabilising their position but they are still only four points above the drop zone.

West Ham are also in the throes of an injury crisis and could be without up to 11 players for the game.

Several of their top players are in the treatment room, including forwards Andy Carroll £10m, Manuel Lanzini £15m and Marko Arnautovic £20m.

Former Latics loanee Reece Burke saved the Hammers from a penalty shoot out against League One opposition in the last round when he scored in the second half of extra time as they edged out Shrewsbury.

The Premier League team will still be favourites to go through but Moyes knows only too well that being favourites doesn’t necessarily equate into winning.

His Everton team were expected to progress against Latics in the FA Cup quarter-final in 2013, and we all know how that ended.

Jack Unsworth:

When the West Ham board replaced fans’ favourite Slaven Bilić with David Moyes in November, the feeling around the London Stadium was mostly of discontent.

Many of the Irons faithful thought the appointment signalled a lack of intent.

It would be fair to say Moyes had turned into a bit of a journeyman as of late with unsuccessful spells at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland turning his respectable managerial career into a bit of a laughing stock.

However, to the Scotsman’s credit, since his arrival they have risen from the bottom three all the way up to an impressive 11th place.

Moyes has made West Ham hard to beat, implementing a system with wing backs quite regularly.

He made the gutsy decision of replacing Joe Hart with Spanish shot stopper Adrian and it has seemed to spread confidence throughout the team.

Expect Hart to be in between the sticks on Saturday, mind, after appearing in both legs against Shrewsbury.

Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautović have struck up an almost telepathic relationship going forward, but luckily for Latics the pair will both miss Saturday’s fourth round FA Cup tie due to injury.

The injury list doesn’t stop there either.

The Irons are currently missing no fewer than TEN first team players.

As well as Arnautović and Lanzini; forwards Andre Ayew, Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio join the treatment bench leaving them with only one first team forward available, Chicharito.

José Fonte, Edimilson Fernandes, Winston Reid and Aaron Creswell all remain a doub.

Matchwinner against Shrewsbury in Round Three, Recce Burke, is expected to make a return to the DW.

The defender was one of our better performers in an awful season last year, despite only appearing 10 times - scoring once in a win away at Huddersfield Town.

Wigan fans can also be expecting to see some other familiar faces in what promises to be an intriguing cup tie.

Pablo Zabaleta will be up against the Latics for the first time since Callum McManaman made him look stupid on that famous day at Wembley.

Mark Noble, who played and scored against us during our stint in the Premier League, will probably be the captain and former Bradford and Bolton loanee Josh Cullen will be hoping to start in midfield.

With the West Ham squad depleted with injuries and ourselves nearly at full strength and coming off a great win on Saturday, dare I say we are looking good for a ‘cupset’?

This one will be our toughest game at the DW up to date this season, so the lads will need your backing.

Get down to the ground on Saturday and cheer the lads onto victory, and who knows who could be awaiting us in the magic fifth round of the Cup.