What’s that glare heading up the M6?
Why, it’s the gleaming figure of Phil Brown of course, a man who has miraculously somehow managed to resist eating himself over all these years.
Whereas his Premier League days at Hull may seem a lifetime away, he deserves a lot of credit for the longevity he has managed at Southend.
We know only too well at Wigan Athletic that four years in the job is a lifetime in managerial terms.
I don’t have good memories of Southend, and certainly not from trips to Roots Hall, the home of the Shrimpers.
Like Tranmere back in the day, they were one of the pioneers of Friday night football – keen to tap into the London market and entice fans of other clubs to watch them.
I went there a couple of times on a Friday night with Darren Todd’s Executive Travel Club (anyone remember that?) and on both occasions the game was an absolute sickener.
The first time we were 2-0 up at half-time and ended up losing 3-2 to a wonder-goal from Martin Ling, he of the infamous sweary post-match dressing-room rant.
I watched it over and over again on the end-of-season video – he was basically out on the touchline, just over the half way line, and smacked home a banana shot which swerved all over the place and ultimately nestled in the top corner!
I don’t think any of the 50 or so away fans who went spoke a single word on the five-hour journey home.
I seem to recall we went there again the year after and lost 2-1.
Finally, to add insult to injury, I booked on the coach when we played them again a couple of years later, with Southend flying at the top of the league, and you can guess what happened!
Yes, we won 2-0!! Unfortunately, I was suffering from a rampaging bout of ‘man flu’ (years before it became an officially recognised condition) and had to drop out of the trip.
So, it’s nothing personal but, seeing as everyone keeps saying some team is going to be on the receiving end of a good hiding from us sooner or later, I hope it’s on Saturday.
It’s not without logic either, given the number of chances we are creating, but there’s also the possibility those chances will dry up too, so we can’t afford to be over-confident.
Our home form has been superb so far and long may it continue, but there’s always the chance that a tight 1-0 win could go the other way.
Let’s hope the superb fight (literally in some cases) and desire that has been exhibited thus far remains within the team throughout the season, and the ability that exists within this squad should take care of the rest.
There were three significant things about the win at Scunthorpe.
Firstly we won despite being without captain Sam Morsy and our most important player Michael Jacobs. This is pleasing.
Secondly we have responded to a defeat with three consecutive wins again. This is very pleasing.
Thirdly we have to think of something to write without resorting to complaining!
But the main talking point this week is discipline, after Latics had yet another man sent off – the fourth straight red card of the campaign.
This latest one will be in the running for the title of ‘most stupid moment of the season’.
Yes, it was quite a cynical trip on Lee Evans. Yes I have seen much more aggressive head-butts than that.
But yes, it was always going to get him dismissed – and rightly so!
Of the four red cards we’ve seen this season, only one was even remotely excusable – Callum Elder at MK Dons.
I am still not sure it deserved a red card but, even so, it was a tackle, which is part of the game.
Chey Dunkley’s swinging fist, Lee Evans’ head-butt, whatever Ryan Colclough said after the game at Shrewsbury...were really stupid.
Paul Cook says the problem with these red cards is down to the youth and inexperience of players involved, rather than a wider disciplinary problem.
I agree these are a series of individual actions rather than a more systematic disciplinary issue. But I am not sure it can just be put down to youth.
Colclough is 22, Dunkley is 25 and Evans is 23.
While not ‘old’, they certainly should know better.
So far this ill-discipline has not cost us too badly.
Evans and Elder were dismissed in games we won anyway, while Colclough was sent off after the game finished.
Only in Dunkley’s case, can the red card be argued to have cost us points.
And that was in the Portsmouth game, when we should have been so far ahead at half-time, we could have had four men dismissed and still won.
While we do miss the players for subsequent games, so far the ones involved have been replaceable.
But we cannot guarantee it will not cost us in future.
We all want to see passion in the team – we saw very little of that last season – but we do not want to see stupidity.
Latics are the best team in this division. But that doesn’t mean we need to try and even things up by playing with 10 men every so often.
Hopefully the usual punishment of sending the suspended players to the Family Fun Zone at the DW will help them to learn their lesson!
But perhaps the most baffling thing is this: how has Sam Morsy not been sent off yet?
A quick word on Dan Burn.
We all remember his poor start to his Latics career, and his transformation into a superstar has been remarkable.
Latics fans are not the most forgiving supporters in the country, and so to become a genuine fans’ favourite is testament to how well he has played over the last 12 months.
It was fantastic to see him score a great goal like he did on Saturday. There is no more popular scorer.
But what I notice most about Burn this season is he is a measure of our success.
Forget his defensive dominance, or that he has really good ability with his feet for a big man.
The main difference between last season and this season – and a good sign that we are doing well now – is that Burn stays in defence for 90 minutes and isn’t shoved up front for the last 10!
There’s no telling how important a win Scunthorpe could turn out to be at the end of the season.
Expectations were mixed going in to the match – although we were on the back of two wins, we were heading to the side with the best defensive record in League One.
A side notoriously difficult to break down, but Latics found a way, and once again could have been further ahead if attempts had gone our way.
Dan Burn has been nothing short of a revelation since he arrived at the club.
Those opening weeks where he was struggling to find his feet and getting the crowd on his back are long gone, and his form over the last 12 months has been fantastic.
You can see why Gary Caldwell brought him to the club, and long may his stint in our defence continue – especially if he’s going to pop up with goals like Saturday’s on a regular basis.
Nick Powell was once again in the right place at the right time and, although it may not be the sort of goal you’ll see from this Latics side on a regular basis, it came at the right time.
Powell is another one who is finally showing his worth – firstly under Graham Barrow and now under Paul Cook.
He’s turned around the fans’ opinion of him, much in the same way Burn has – and after watching him get crucified during the match away at Barnsley last season, that is no mean feat.
Another two big games coming up this week, starting with Southend, who’ve had a mixed start – so much so it’s difficult to predict which of Phil Brown’s sides will turn up.
He’s been quiet of late has the former Bolton favourite, so much so our list of a ‘101 things Phil Brown definitely does’ in the Mudhutter fanzine hasn’t really grown much!
I’m off to Gillingham next Tuesday, because one of the longest away days of the season on a Tuesday is an ideal way to spend your one day off of the week...
I’ve never been before and, with how the League One table looks, we may not be making the trip again for a while.
I’ll never forget the gloating from the 40,000 residents of Kent who turned out to watch that Gillingham team win in the play-offs at Wembley in 2000.
I’ve never felt pain like it but, looking back at our respective fortunes, I think it’s fair to say we’ve had the better of the last 16 years.
Media pundits and football fans are prone to hyperbole but Nick Powell is justifying all the hype this season.
Powell is an exceptional talent who is proving to be a cut above most in League One.
He is Latics’ top scorer with six goals so far and he is certainly capable of bagging 20 plus at this level.
The goalscoring midfielder is now showing the type of form that encouraged Manchester United to spend £6m back in 2012.
However, until Paul Cook took over as Latics manager he was unable to put together a consistent run of appearances.
Cook sent him to Everton’s training facility pre-season in a bid to resolve the niggling injury problems and this appears to have made a difference this season.
The manager has a good working relationship with Powell and, although he’s not completing the full 90 minutes, he gets plenty of game time.
While he is on the pitch he is almost unstoppable, and the team have usually confirmed the three points before he exits the pitch and milks the rapturous applause from the fans.
He is supremely confident on the pitch and very difficult to dispossess.
He is two-footed with tremendous skill and technique.
He is a good header of the ball and is usually clinical with his free kicks and penalties, but he is also on a short fuse and looks like he might be sent off for haranguing the referee or when seeking retaliation.
He is still only 23-years- old and has a lot still to learn both on and off the pitch.
He jokingly calls himself a ‘pure sloth’ which reflects his lethargic approach to off-the- field matters including training.
Powell is probably the best player in League One, and is producing some of the best form of his career – and he may have found the perfect manager in the jocular Cook.
If he continues to mature and avoid further injury, he can lead Latics back to the Championship and one day maybe return to the top level.
Last weekend saw another positive result at Scunthorpe, bringing home the three points despite going down to 10 men yet again.
Paul Cook described our disciplinary record as ‘youthful exuberance’ following the latest red card.
Barring Elder’s red at MK Dons, I’d say it’s more towards petulance.
However, whether it’s youthful exuberance or petulance, it needs to be curbed as it will start to cost us points eventually.
The upcoming week sees us take on Southend at home followed by a long away trip to Gillingham.
Phil Brown may opt to play with three at the back this weekend following their injury crisis and, after seeing how we coped with that away at Peterborough, that worries me.
Dan Burn and Chey Dunkley were completely exposed that day in the second half and looked hapless at times.
Hopefully, we will see a repeat of the dismal performance that Southend put in last time they visited the DW, which saw the Latics 3-0 up after 36 minutes and Phil Brown making an embarrassing double switch on 41 minutes.
Gillingham should be another routine win on paper, but a long midweek away fixture always brings that feeling of unpredictability.
Looking forward, I cannot see beyond Wigan and Blackburn comfortably going up automatically this season.
Despite their valiant start, I think Shrewsbury will fall off the wagon once their confidence bubble bursts.
Blackburn are starting to put together a run now and creating a consistency in their performances and results, which is rare in this league.
A lot of people stated before the season this would be the most difficult League One campaign in years.
However, in true Wigan fashion, after 12 games we have made our best ever start to a season as an EFL club – and long may it continue!
Another week, another fantastic result!
Second-half goals from Dan Burn and Nick Powell were enough for 10-man Wigan to hold on to win at Scunthorpe despite Funso Ojo’s late goal sparking a nervy finish at Glanford Park.
I must say, I was nervous before the game as Scunthorpe are a very well organised unit, with their defensive record speaking for itself.
This speaks volumes of Paul Cook’s Latics side to be able to go to Glanford Park, and pick up all three points.
This time last season, it was hard to pick a man-of- the-match for all the wrong reasons. However, this season, it is difficult to pick a man-of- the-match for all the right reasons.
Nick Powell was fantastic again, Dan Burn was rock solid at the back – leading by example as captain in Sam Morsy’s absence – while Max Power was sensational, reminding us how good he can be.
I felt after Power was cut from the squad, it would be hard for him to return to the starting XI due to the performances of Lee Evans and Morsy.
However, Power has taken his opportunity and deserves to keep a place in the starting XI against Southend.
Unfortunately, Evans’ dismissal means Wigan have had four straight red cards in 12 league games.
This has sparked concerns whether there is a discipline problem amongst the squad.
I believe Evans’ sending off was a positive in many ways, in demonstrating how fantastic the character of the squad is.
Most sides who are reduced to 10 men usually feel sorry for themselves and hang on to what they’ve got, but we continued to look for the second ‘killer’ goal, which proved to be crucial in the end.
This is so encouraging of the mentality Cook is building within his squad.
Southend visit the DW on Saturday, and will keen to bounce back from their 4-1 loss at Doncaster last week.
Phil Brown’s talented team narrowly missed out in the play-offs last season by one point, after being pipped to sixth place by eventual winners Millwall.
They have made some great additions in the summer, including ex-Burnley winger Michael Kightly, who played a key role in Burton’s Championship survival last term.
Latics are in for another tough test, but I’m optimistic – especially considering the potential return of Michael Jacobs from injury, and Morsy back into the fold after helping Egypt qualify for the 2018 World Cup.