The 12th Man: Players common denominator in this season of woe

Callum Connolly
Callum Connolly
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There’s always someone worse off than yourselves.

A timely adage probably worth bearing in mind during the misery of recent weeks.

Two years ago, we weren’t very good but when we went to Blackpool away, we absolutely trounced a truly awful side.

There are reasons way too detailed to go into here as to why Blackpool have been in such a mess, and no such problems existed at our club, and hopefully never will.

This season has been dismal from the off but in some senses, compared to Rotherham, we have had plenty to cheer about.

Rotherham have won only 4 games all season, lost 31, conceded 90 [NINETY] goals and scored just 33.

I’m sure you don’t need me to prompt you as to who they got one of those wins and 3 of their goals against.

Incidentally, we’ve only scored 32 goals this season, one less than them.

So I suppose, what I’m saying is that, once again, there is someone worse than us and we’re not the complete whipping boys of the division.

It was much the same when we were in the Premier League, where by rights we should have finished 20th every single season based on the size of our club.

Yet we overachieved, even by finishing 17th, due to good management.

By default, no matter what division we are in, nobody is happy when we are losing, although some fans don’t even seem to be happy when we are winning as we saw last year.

Of course, Rotherham’s tale of woe, similar to ours, seemed to have been that they have burnt through quite a few managers this year.

Whereas their recent history is very different to ours, they are also a small town in a division increasingly getting dominated by big city clubs.

Yet they have been perennial strugglers, whereas we have undoubtedly been architects of our own downfall.

Even so, free from the shackles of relegation worries, Rotherham might well fancy doing the double over us this season as it could be their last chance to get three points this season.

Their players might already be planning to take the family out for a carvery on the Sunday off the back of the win bonus, even more so if they watched the ‘performance’ we mustered on Tuesday night.

There has been an air of resignation around the DW for a number of weeks with most level headed fans accepting our fate without too much waving of cyber pitchforks.

The club has got a lot wrong this year and there aren’t necessarily any signs of putting it right just yet.

Nevertheless, who knows, maybe just winning a football match at home on Saturday afternoon might be enough to put a smile on the faces of Wigan Athletic fans once more, at least for a little while.


And now, the end is near. And so I face the final curtain…

You can certainly say we’ve done it ‘our way’ this year, sadly ‘our way’ has just been the wrong way all through the season.

So where to start with the weekly review of all things Wigan Athletic?

Saturday at Newcastle was excellent.

Despite the defeat, Latics could and once again should have got something out.

Despite going behind to the best side in the division, we got ourselves back in to it thanks to Michael Jacobs’ virtuoso goal, and could have been ahead if someone had reached Ryan Colclough’s cut-back.

The Newcastle supporters I spoke to on the way out of St James and on the train home were all impressed with how Graham Barrow’s side had conducted themselves, and thought we were one of the tougher games of the season.

Sadly, though, despite the improvements it still gained zero points.

Those of us who may have retained a slight bit of belief after the Newcastle game saw that belief evaporate in the space of 45 minutes of Tuesday night.

You don’t take it lightly when someone like Graham Barrow says you’ve let him down, and I imagine the players didn’t take it lightly either when Graham was giving them his verbal volleying in the dressing room at Portman Road.

For too long this season the players have escaped criticism.

The blame was put on Gary Caldwell after the poor start to the season and, when that wasn’t working, the hapless Warren Joyce was the latest to face the can, swiftly followed by Barrow.

When even Barrow, who publicly at least is supposedly revered by the players, is faced with that performance, what more can the club do?

I’ve backed the players as much as I can this season as I believed – and still believe – they are too good to be in this position.

I realised the shortcomings of Caldwell, although I didn’t agree with his sacking, while anyone could see Joyce’s tenure wasn’t working when it came to an end.

But how long can the player be immune to criticism?

Ipswich was the ideal chance to claw back some ground, and at least take the relegation battle down to the last few weeks.

Instead we put up one of the worst performances of recent weeks and, like both Blackburn and Bristol City the month before, we blow an ideal chance to get ourselves back in to it.

It’s on the players now.

Three managers they will have seen off by the end of this season and, regardless of your thoughts on all of them, there will be an element with each one where the players have let them down.

Amazingly, there is still a chance of us getting out of this and retaining our Championship status next season.

But I can neither see it nor have any faith in the side giving us a chance.

The players need to stand up and be counted on Saturday.

If pride is all we have left to play for, then let’s see the pride back in the shirt.

Give the home fans something to shout about and build some sort of encouragement for next season.


Latics reached a low point on Tuesday night when they pressed the self-destruct button in an abject 3-0 defeat at Ipswich.

In a must-win game they committed football suicide by gifting all three goals to the opposition.

Mistakes by defenders Craig Morgan, Jake Buxton and midfielder Alex Gilbey presented the Tractor Boys with an easy three points.

It’s been a dreadful season at Latics and perhaps the most disappointing aspect is that many of the problems have been self-inflicted.

Gary Caldwell was unnecessarily sacked as manager after only 14 games of the season with the team only three points from safety with two thirds of the season still remaining.

When Caldwell was appointed chairman David Sharpe said it was “an appointment for the long-term” and spoke about having a “blueprint for the future”.

But short-termism quickly returned to the club as owner Dave Whelan had a big say in the sacking and the appointment of his successor, Warren Joyce.

Joyce was recommended by Whelan’s friend, Alex Ferguson, and what a disaster it proved to be.

Joyce was out of his depth in the Championship and he introduced a negative style of football which was not only ineffective in accruing points but also deeply unappealing to watch.

He lasted only four months in charge and left the club deeply embedded in the relegation zone.

Joyce was allowed to bring in 14 players in the January transfer window and many of these were either unfit or inferior to the players already at the club.

Latics also lost their talismanic winger Yanic Wildschut to Norwich and creative midfielder Jordi Gomez left for Rayo Vallecano.

The club had also risked a big salary on ex-Manchester United midfielder Nick Powell, but he failed to deliver and missed most of the season with injury.

Latics have now sacked five managers since the start of the 2013/14 season, and few other clubs in the Premier League and Football League have a higher turnover of bosses. Whelan has achieved so much for Latics during his time in charge, but the club currently lacks coherent leadership.

The Championship is full of impatient owners looking for instant success and chopping and changing managers on a regular basis does not guarantee success.

It is likely that if Latics had shown some continuity and been patient with Caldwell they would probably have finished above teams like Blackburn and Bristol City, who have been very poor this season.

Following Joyce’s dismissal, interim manager Graham Barrow had helped to improve performances against Aston Villa and Newcastle, but Latics plunged to new depths with a desperate display at Ipswich.

Barrow will want the players to restore some semblance of pride against bottom club Rotherham tomorrow at the DW Stadium.

But more importantly, Whelan and Sharpe have some very big decisions to make about how the club operates in the future as they prepare for life as a League One club.


We all know the old saying, it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

Well at this stage, the fat lady is humming, and awaiting to exercise her vocal chords.

It’s not something that should come to any sort of shock to us, as we simply haven’t been good enough this season.

We’ve repeatedly heard that from literally every post-match presser: ‘We’ll dust ourselves down and go again’.

But I’m still awaiting for the dust to disappear.

Let’s not sugarcoat anything here, and not make any more silly excuses - it’s our own fault, and the only place to point the blame is at ourselves.

People say: ‘Oh, if only Gary Caldwell was given more time’, ‘if Warren Joyce wasn’t appointed’, ‘if this/that decision didn’t happen’, etc.

But we can’t live by ifs. We can only deal with the concrete facts.

Would we have had a better chance of survival under Caldwell or a different successor?

Who knows. But we’ve got to stare reality in the eyes - this is the position we are in, and we can’t do anything to change that.

Of course, I’m extremely disappointed by what has happened.

I remember last season how everyone was expressing what a difference a year makes after our relegation under Malky Mackay to League One champions.

That phrase can be applied right now, but for a completely contrasting way to last year.

Recruitment, for me, is the main reason for our fall to despair.

There are a few other factors, but everyone is sure to have their own reasons to why we haven’t been successful.

Is this completely doom and gloom?

No. We will more than likely need to do a squad shake-up, with a mix of trying to keep our key players and signing players redeemed with potential to be excellent buys.

Everyone loved League One – I absolutely loved it.

I wouldn’t expect – and I hope no one expects – us to walk the league.

But I do feel, with the right decision-making from managerial to recruitment, there is no reason why we can not achieve promotion.

Hopefully we’ll get a win against already-relegated Rotherham on Saturday – it’s a great opportunity to add some points on the board.

It’s the first time in a while we are considered the favourites, so let’s match the odds and give Rotherham a beating.

Mind you, we’ve only scored 12 home goals – and achieved three home wins – in the entire Championship season, so hope is limited.