Warren Joyce insists Wigan Athletic can’t afford to approach the Boxing Day ‘must-win’ at rock-bottom Rotherham with a ‘must-win’ mentality.
Second-bottom Latics make the trip to South Yorkshire in desperate need of three points to keep them in touch with the sides directly above them in the Championship table.
The Millers, with only two wins and 10 points on the board so far, are effectively already looking at life in League One next term. And anything other than an away win will have a fair few Latics fans fearing their side could be making a similar trip.
Latics have won only one of their seven matches since Joyce took over last month, with five damaging defeats ensuring they’ll spend Christmas in 23rd position.
But the new man does not want the focus of his men to be too affected by the ramifications of the result, rather than the importance of the performance itself.
“I think the important thing is to approach every game the same way,” Joyce said. “You could say every game is a must-win game.
“But you’ve got to approach it with the reasoning of how to stop the opposition and how to give them a problem.
“You can’t just have it in your head that you’re frantic that it’s a must-win and not have a plan of how to win it.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing, stick with the side, stick with the players.
“I’ve not been unhappy with the effort and the performances so far.
“Small margins have cost us – management of the game, individual errors.
“That’s the frustrating aspect for me.”
Joyce was left to bemoan the concession of three poor goals that saw Latics somehow lose to Ipswich last weekend in a game they dominated for the majority.
“I think players have got to look at things they’re good at,” he acknowledged.
“There’s also things they’re not good at, and things I know they’re not good at, areas they know themselves they’ve got to improve.
“That’s cost us in a few situations, and it’s about examining yourself as a player, and doing what’s best for the team.
“If you do that, you raise the bar, you raise the level of the team, and you get better results.
“If you don’t work on the things you’re not good at, it keeps costing you goals, because there’s no hiding place in football.
“If we can eradicate the individual errors, the lapses in concentration...that’s what we’re looking for.”
And while most of us will be tucking into the Christmas turkey on Sunday, Joyce for one will have his sights firmly set on the following day’s events.
“Christmas Day will be just a normal day-before-a-game for me really,” the Latics chief added.
“We’ll be in for training, we’ll leave for Christmas lunch at home, and I’ll probably be watching DVDs of Rotherham while I’m eating.
“I’ll pretend I’m watching whatever boring film’s on, but I’ll have the laptop on!
“Obviously I’ll get stick – you’re in the room but you’re not ‘there’ – but that’s normal.
“My wife doesn’t see much of me in the house anyway.
“I’ll make a token gesture of pretending I’m watching Coronation Street, but I’ll be doing scouting on the opposition as usual.”