The 12th Man: Wigan Athletic fans have their say on another wonderful week!

Latics enjoyed another great win in midweek at Rochdale
Latics enjoyed another great win in midweek at Rochdale
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I’m a bit dubious about what to write here, mainly because I’m of a nervous disposition.

In life generally but especially when it comes to all matters Wigan Athletic.

As football fans, we invest such a large part of our lives in our football club and the full range of emotions is never far away.

We’ve been lucky to have been repeatedly jumping with glee on many occasions during the last two games.

When you see the players reacting in exactly the same way, then you know we’re part of something truly special this year.

Yet in that time honoured fashion, I feel duty bound to say...we haven’t won nothing yet!

When we’ve had our blips, it has hurt me to the core.

Even though I expected us to lose at Portsmouth, due to the circumstances of Paul Cook’s return, it still hurt to see us lose, and my mind started whirring as to all the negative permutations.

Briefly back in third place and staring down the barrel at those ill-fated play-offs.

I feel such a strong emotional investment this time, mainly due to the way the players and the whole squad conducts itself – you can tell they care, which hasn’t always been the case here.

The manager himself is a warm and engaging character who oozes passion and, like the rest of us, appears to be kicking every single ball in our collective desire to get promoted.

It’s getting close now, with the games coming thick and fast.

So close that I am loathe to make predictions for fear of appearing overly confident, overly pessimistic, or indeed wanting to jinx the team.

The nervous disposition in me walked on to the games against MK Dons and Rochdale thinking: “today could be the day we slip up”, only for me to exit a couple of hours later with a daft grin on my face.

I’ve always maintained our fans have had far more than our fair share of success over the years – it’s been almost continual, apart from a couple of dreadful periods under Mackay and Joyce.

Yet, this is not about the fans...it’s about Paul Cook, his backroom team and that squad of players, who have, to a man, been absolutely superb for most of the season.

Even those few players who some fans like to have a gripe about.

Some people always need a scapegoat to vent their spleen upon, though their task is getting more difficult by the week.

As it stands, six more performances like the last two and nothing can stand in our way, though there may be further twists and turns yet.

Obviously as a fan, I want us to steam to the title.

But not for my own selfish pleasure, however, oh no!

But because they deserve to be crowned the best team in this division.

Blackburn have played some mind games, their fans have tried adopting the victim mentality – one blog said we had benefitted from them being in the same division with them being a “big scalp”.

We now know this to be nonsense – after watching them bully us at Ewood Park and blame a very lenient ref (in their favour) for their shortcomings, it is in fact the opposite – they’ve used their status to their advantage.

We now know the only reason they were top of the league at all is because they had played so many more games than us due to our spectacular cup run, which again points to what a brilliant team we have.

I bear no malice to Shrewsbury, even though they also tried to kick us off the park on Boxing Day.

There’s clearly a lot more to them than that, and I’d love them to get promoted (so long as we do first!).

Full credit to both of them and ourselves, as we’re all having to do it the hard way.

We’re only one point off our title-winning haul of two years ago with six games to play, so technically all three of us deserve promotion.

We can’t show too much sympathy, though, as it’s every man for himself in these remaining few weeks. Or rather every team for itself.

As for our team, well, just keep doing what you’re doing lads – and you’ll do for me!!

MARTIN TARBUCK

The good times are back!

Let’s be honest, the whole of this season has been great.

Lots of fun and lots of goals.

The players clearly are getting on really well together.

Paul Cook has trimmed his squad down and created a close-knit group.

When you see the gaffer talking about players laughing at each other, you know there is a strong chemistry within the group.

This is probably where players like Noel Hunt, Gary Roberts and David Perkins come in.

Older pros who don’t contribute that much on the pitch any more, but do more than their fair share off it.

Cook relayed the story this week of Roberts rolling around on the floor laughing at James Vaughan, who had missed a sitter in training, only to find Vaughan was less than sympathetic after Roberts’ extraordinary miss in the closing stages of the MK Dons game.

These sort of tales add real colour to the way the players interact and get on.

We hear of so much drama, arguments and pettiness between players these days, it is great to see a group of players who, while ambitious and who all will want to play and succeed, seem to want to help each other, share in each other’s’ success and achieve firstly for the club.

Another such story I heard from the training ground earlier in the season was Noel Hunt booting a ball from a pitch, through a door.

A few seconds later, Dan Burn’s head appeared from inside the door, and said – in a rather dry way – “I suppose you think that was funny!”

Yes the good time are well and truly back.

Speaking of the Roberts miss, we can put that in the same sort of category as the penalty Chey Dunkley gave away at Rochdale during the week.

These sorts of mistakes or errors can cost you when you are only scoring a goal a game as we were in the middle part of the season.

But now we are back to averaging three goals per game, over the last six matches, we can get away with them.

Roberts’ miss was very funny at 5-1 up. It wouldn’t have been funny at all at 0-0.

By the time you read this, Shrewsbury will have faced Bradford on Thursday night.

As it stands we are five points clear of third and, with our vastly-superior goal difference, we are effectively six points ahead with six to play.

That means Shrewsbury need to average one point per game more than us over the rest of the season to deny us.

That doesn’t mean averaging one point per game, it is averaging one point per game more than we get.

At risk of looking very stupid (again) come early May, the fact is they are not going to do that.

If we won three and drew three of our remaining games, they would need to win all of theirs to finish above us.

Promotion is very nearly secured.

The race for the title is on.

STUART GLOVER

So, for now at least, the panic is over.

All those crying for the head of everybody at the club following the loss to Portsmouth seem to have crawled back into the woodwork.

Two thumping wins against an actually quite useful MK Dons, and a slightly less useful Rochdale has put us top of the league. Now, we just need to stay there.

I’d like to say I’m not bothered whether we finish first or second , and it’s just a case of getting automatic promotion.

Except I can’t.

Blackburn fans have been so gobby that I’d love to stick it to them in the best way possible.

In fact, It’d be even better if Shrewsbury claimed second, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray has also said a few things about Latics, seemingly forgetting he’s not in the Premier League any more because nobody there will give him a job.

Even when the old English faces carry on with their merry-go- round of clubs trying to avoid relegation, Mowbray has been cast into the wilderness.

But enough about them.

Back at the DW, the Chinese takeover still appears no closer to competing.

Either, as I’ve said before, they buyers are waiting to see if we get promoted, or the deal is off altogether.

Either way, I still maintain there’s been something dodgy about it all along.

I’m not usually one for I-told- you-so, but I’ll be painting it all over the place if I (for once) turn out to be right.

On the field, things have rarely been better.

We’re on course for 100 points, a massive goal difference a team that can – for the most part – compete in the Championship.

Off the field, the uncertainty about ownership and future direction has been lost underneath all the great results.

It would be nice to think promotion and ownership could all be settled at the same time. But I won’t hold my breath.

PAUL MIDDLETON

Nine goals scored, six points recorded, back on top of League One still with a game in hand of our nearest rivals.

It’s certainly been some response to the disappointing result against Portsmouth a couple of weeks back, and just underlines how strong this Wigan Athletic side are.

My fellow 12th man columnist and MFE co-editor Paul Middleton spoke about the over-reaction in some quarters about the defeat to Portsmouth and of course he was right.

On any other given day Latics could have left the south coast with all three points and, as disappointing as it was, it certainly wasn’t the disaster it was made out to be in some quarters.

In a season like this consistency is key and we have been a model of consistency throughout the season.

Generally Paul Cook’s sides react well to defeats.

That’s been borne out by the reaction in the last week, Milton Keynes and Rochdale may be battling it out at the wrong end of the division, but both posed problems for different reasons.

Milton Keynes had pushed Blackburn all the way in their previous match, but a show in clinical finishing from Cook’s attacking men put them to the sword.

While Rochdale, who had only lost four games at home all season, had started to get the results they hope will guide them away from the relegation zone.

A boisterous away following saw Latics step up a gear and put Rochdale to the sword.

James Vaughan and Will Grigg look to be in fantastic form going in to the run-in, and that can only be good news.

Add that to goals coming from around the rest of the pitch and Latics know if they create chances, they’ll get goals.

So on to the next period of games, Rotherham will quite probably present the toughest test of the next few weeks. They’re pushing hard in the play-off places and, although a spot in the automatic positions will probably elude them, they’re dangerous.

But if Cook’s side show the talent they have in the last few games, they surely must be favourites. The finish line is in sight, the lads just need to concentrate on the prize.

SEAN LIVESEY

Latics surged to the top of the League One table with two magnificent performances against MK Dons and Rochdale.

The finishing in the last games has been nothing short of breathtaking, with some stunning goals from Will Grigg, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell, James Vaughan and Dan Burn.

The two superb attacking displays have produced nine goals, and it looks like they could add plenty more in the remaining six games.

Grigg has scored 24 goals with four in the last two games, and is very capable of reaching at least 30 before the end of the season.

Nick Powell has 15 goals and would almost certainly have scored many more if he wasn’t being hampered by a succession of injuries.

Winger Michael Jacobs has a very creditable 11 goals to his name, and has now surpassed his tally from the League One title-winning team in 2015/16.

Not only are Latics firing on all cylinders, but also they are keeping them out at the other end.

The defence has been outstanding and only conceded a miserly 27, which is the best in the Football League, and only Manchester City and Manchester United in the Premier league have conceded fewer goals.

Latics are in a rich vein of form and, if they were to maintain their current form with an average of 2.15 points per game, they are on course to reach 98 points, which you would expect to get them promoted.

But they are surely capable of getting the 100 points achieved by Paul Jewell’s title-winning team in 2002/03.

Jewell’s team only lost four games all season, scoring 68 goals and conceding 25.

The current team has already scored 81, and you would expect them to score plenty more in the last six games.

The maximum points available to the three automatic promotion contenders is: Latics 104, Blackburn 101, Shrewsbury 99.

Both Blackburn and Shrewsbury still have promotion-chasing Peterborough and Charlton to play and Latics face fourth-placed Rotherham at the DW tomorrow.

The Millers have had a remarkable rise since Latics won 3-1 at the New York Stadium in November.

It looked as though they would remain marooned in mid-table but ex-Latics man Paul Warne’s team have soared into the play-offs.

Despite losing on-loan top scorer Kieffer Moore to Barnsley, they have continued to get results by spreading the goals around the rest of the team.

Latics will need to be on their guard against any complacency after two comfortable victories but, if they can maintain their current performance levels, they should retain top spot.

IAN ASPINALL

Two of our best performances of a memorable League One campaign came in back to back fixtures against MK Dons and Rochdale.

An aggregate scoreline of 9-2 paints a clear picture of the control Latics had in both games against two of the form sides in this division.

After the disappointment of Easter Monday’s loss to Portsmouth, the response to the defeat was critical.

All the way through the season, Latics have bounced back from losses exceptionally well, and have often gone onto string a run together of four wins on the bounce.

Maybe the Pompey defeat was one of the better things that could’ve happened to our run-in, in hindsight.

As you will be well aware by now, we are now approaching ‘Will Grigg season’ and he followed up goals in consecutive games against Oldham and Portsmouth with his third hat-trick for the club.

The downside of Tuesday night was star man Nick Powell going off just before the break when he felt his quad’, but early indications suggest it isn’t season-threatening.

In what promises to be an exciting and memorable end to this season, get down to the DW for our remaining fixtures and give the lads the backing they deserve.

JACK UNSWORTH