Wigan Athletic 12th man column: What the fans think

Latics boss Paul Cook
Latics boss Paul Cook

The new season has only just started but four straight defeats and no goals scored since the opening day is worrying.

I think the vast majority of fans wrote off the Leeds game due to the red card for Joe Williams (and the poor refereeing decisions made by Andy Madley).

But the sending off was justified and disappointing as if we’d have stayed 11 against 11, I would have fancied us to take something from the game, however it wasn’t to be and Leeds fully deserved the win.

Against Middlesbrough we started well for the first 20 minutes and had chances to take the lead, but with their first real attack Boro score and our heads drop. In the second half, Boro looked incredibly comfortable, we failed to test Randolph in goal and sunk to yet another away defeat.

Come Saturday against QPR it’ll be over a year since we kept a clean sheet away from home, with just eight points collected on the road during that time too.

Having such a large turnover in the squad over the summer was always going to change the dynamics of the team, but on Tuesday night only three players who arrived in the summer started the game. The rest of the starting XI played with each other last season so I don’t think team cohesion was the reason for the poor performance after going a goal down. It’s obvious Paul Cook is still trying to find his strongest XI, and injuries aren’t helping him achieve this, but we need to see better performances than we have against Preston and Middlesbrough, especially with the money that’s been spent over the summer.

MIKE GOODMAN

Down to earth with a thud. After the emphatic first game of the season’s 3-0 win over touted promotion contenders Cardiff, Latics fans have been brought down to earth with a bang after four straight defeats in the space of 10 days, and to add insult to injury without a single Wigan goal.

The latest was a 1-0 defeat to, at the time, winless Middlesbrough which was a poor game overall not helped by a lacklustre performance for the Tics.

Other than a handful of half-chances in the first half, they didn’t test Darren Randolph in the Boro goal.

Paul Cook changed the formation to three at the back comprising our Dunkley, Fox and Kipre, and Robinson and Byrne as wing-backs.

Despite having an extra centre-back on the pitch it made no difference when no one was touch tight to Assombalonga to head in the game’s only goal, flashbacks to Preston with poor defending of crosses which needs to be nipped in the bud, and quick!

It says it all about the game when the most entertaining part was when the Sky Sports red button commentator didn’t stop his watch during half-time and pulled out all his ‘closing stages’ catchphrases ready for full time 75 minutes!

Questionable substitutions from Cook reverting to a back four and taking off two of the only bright sparks in Robinson and Lowe, were questioned even further after Moore’s injury left us down the 10 men for the final 10 minutes with all three substitutions already being made.

Twitter was awash with the ‘Cook out’ brigade as expected and wasn’t helped with the manager’s pos-match comments of: “Obviously the result here’s disappointing, but I thought we did smashing in the game.”

With other than Boro being nearly as bad as us, I can’t see where he’s getting that from.

But surely it’s too early to be pulling the trigger?

With only four league games gone and two of the sides finishing in the top seven last season, it would be too early to be making changes.

I hope Cook will turn it around – starting at QPR on Saturday. If not, pressure will continue building and test the board’s resolve.

NATHAN GRIFFITHS

I like change. Change is good. After the first few games of the season, it’s clear to me now that Wigan Athletic need to make a change.

I’ve supported Paul Cook in my scribblings last year, but that was for a good reason then, as we were scrapping for survival with a thin squad and loads of injuries, I thought he was doing okay for us at home and we ended up grinding out the results that kept us up.

I honestly thought he would go in summer, but the owners backed him and gave him a pot of gold to play with, and we have made some great signings on the face of it.

However, the Cardiff game apart, we have looked terrible, and exactly the same as we did in the spell from Christmas last year, players playing out of position, substitutions that defy all logic and no pattern of play other than Danny Fox running out left and pinging a 40-yarder to the right for someone to head on.

We have two full-backs who are blessed with pace and energy but can’t defend for toffee, and four centre-backs who can’t work out how to play with each other.

My biggest disappointment, though, has been the goalkeeper.

I wrote recently that I thought that David Marshall would really have an impact on our confidence and ability to stay in games, but how wrong I have been.

My lad hit the nail on the head after the Boro game: “He looks and plays like an owd mon, dad” – and do you know what, I think he might be right.

I am a big fan of Jamie Jones – full of energy, loads of chatter and a great influence.

He played so well in the cup match against Stoke and deserves a run in the team.

Everyone likes Paul Cook as a person, there can be no denying his commitment and passion for the club and I have no bad words to say about him.

But at this level, I just think he is not the man for us if we have any ambitions other than scrapping for relegation each year.

The owners are clearly very hopeful for this season, and I think they will be looking hard at the situation to see what the best move will be.

My own personal thoughts are that we should replace Cook as soon as we can to give the new manager enough time to implement his plans on the squad.

We have to end on a positive note.

Hard to find one at present, I know, but I think the performances of Jamal Lowe and Kieffer Moore over the last couple of games show real promise for us in the months ahead.

Will those performances be guided by Paul Cook, or will we have a new man at the helm? I guess only time will tell.

MARTIN HOLDEN

Well the season is up and running and it hasn’t taken long, as usual, for the ‘meltdown’ (copyright: Latics fans since 1932) to begin. Four weeks ago – after signing Lowe, Moore, Marshall, Mulgrew, Robinson, Williams et al –we were all booking train tickets to Tottenham’s new stadium for next season with the Championship trophy tucked away in the cabinet.

An opening-day win, and more importantly a decent performance over Cardiff, had fans evening dreaming of winning the Prem within two years...a jape, I hasten to add.

Step forward four weeks, and defeats to Preston, Stoke, Leeds and Middlesbrough means we’re as good as relegated, Cook has to go, and Naismith has been blamed for Brexit, the flooding at ASDA and Sports Direct closing in Wigan. The Preston game was terrible, make no mistake – 7-0 on aggregate across two years with 7,000 fans for both games is unacceptable.

For some unknown reason, we didn’t seem interested AGAIN, and were beaten fairly and squarely by a team that wanted it more.

Stoke, 10 changes and a time for the fringe players to make a case...oops, that didn’t go well!

But is anyone really bothered, to be fair? Who actually takes this cup seriously until the quarter-final?

Maybe Newcastle and Leeds should – they could see some silverware in colour maybe... ahhh Leeds, a game ruined by a referee (copyright: Latics since 1932).

The sending-off was the only thing he got right all day – a more dire and abject performance you’ll find hard to beat all season. We were up against a Leeds side who brought 5,000 fans, the first team to ever sell out the away end they’d have you believe.

They are a strong side and it’ll be great to see them go close again before finally ‘doing a Leeds’ at the end of the season,as normal.

I actually thought we played well, considering the 10 men and a ref that should be doing South Lancs Division Four games.

Middlesbrough, oh dear, now this was a hard one to take.

We were like the Cardiff game for the first 20 minutes, taking it to them and playing some decent stuff until, guess what? Our inability to defend any kind of cross rears its head again (and again, and again). Surely it’s time to give Mulgrew a go, for all three of them who were there on Tuesday night (the centre-backs, not the fans...ANOTHER JAPE!) he can’t be any worse.

I’m still firmly in the ‘Keep Cook’ camp and, after only four games, why you wouldn’t be is beyond me.

I think Moore and Lowe will be decent when they gel, and Morsy was back to his best against Boro I thought.

Yes, I know we can’t defend for toffee at the moment, but we’re FOUR GAMES IN! Chill out, get a ‘Bow’ at half-time and we’ll be fine.

Whether Melvin and his gang have the patience is another story.

Fair play, they’ve put their hands in their pockets and backed Cook, now it’s time for him to repay them.

Our fans love a moan, and Twitter after any defeat is gold...many fans have had too many ‘Bow’, I think!

I said it last season and I’ll say it again: We won’t go down and I doubt we’ll win the league – just enjoy the ride it could be a lot worse.

Just look eight miles away in Horwich. I’ll drink to that!

STUART CADMAN

In my last column I started by saying ‘don’t panic’ and after our fourth consecutive loss without scoring, the message is still the same... right? If you’re realistic then yes, but many aren’t.

I personally stand by this even if we lose a difficult trip to a resurgent QPR on Saturday, somewhere we’ve never fared well anyway. I believe this period is simply a hump we need to get over in this tough league and doing anything too hastily will be detrimental to our overall success this season. I already look ahead to Barnsley & Charlton in our next two home games as real ‘must wins’ though, even the most understanding Latics fans will be panicking if we’re not on at least 9 points by the end of September.

CRAIG WIGAN

We’re three games in, and the panic has already started for some. Such as it is to be a football fan in Wigan. Yes, it’s been a patchy start, but we’ve played some decent sides in our first four games, so nobody should be unduly worried.

But, just to mildly contradict what I’ve just said, I’m still puzzled by Paul Cook’s substitutions. It was a real bugbear last season, and I see no reason to change my opinion on the topic so far this season. The substitutions Cook does make seem to be just for the sake of it, without any tangible tactical changes. We have a pretty big squad now, after all the summer activity, but still seem to go almost like for like with the subs. When things on-field need changing, that particular tactic just doesn’t work.

But, anyway, if everybody could stop getting in a tizz over not having won the league before the end of August, I’d appreciate it.

We have a lot of new players, and it will take time for everyone to get into the rhythm of things. I will finish with a quick comment about the trouble in the West Stand on Saturday. The club need to take some responsibility for what happened. If they will insist on selling corporate tickets to away fans – and I understand why they do – they need to make sure that measures are in place to avoid the events of last week. This, after all, was Leeds. The potential for unrest should have been obvious to everyone. By all means take the money, but at least do it responsibly.

PAUL MIDDLETON

Hello darkness my old friend – new season new me? Not a chance as Wigan Athletic manage to start the new season much like they performed the most part last season. As Roberto would say let’s look at the positives - against Leeds we were very much in the game for long periods and if it wasn’t for a needless sending off we could well have got a point against the league favourites.

Against Middlesbrough for the first 25 minutes Latics set off like the proverbial express train. Then Boro got themselves ahead and there was only one way that game was going to go.

Of course it shouldn’t have been like this, not after spending over 10 million pounds this summer and not after the way we performed so well against Cardiff at the start of the month.

It shows more than ever that financial muscle isn’t the be all and end all in football. It isn’t a quick fix and Latics are still very much a work in progress. Add injuries to that list – Josh Windass, Joe Garner, Josh Geldhart, and now Kieffer Moore – and it’s clear we’re struggling.

In the three matches since Cardiff at home, the same errors from last season have come back. But I’m not worrying yet, it’s August after all.

SEAN LIVESEY