Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man

Christian Walton returned to the Latics team against Bolton
Christian Walton returned to the Latics team against Bolton

Our panel of Latics experts are positively salivating about this weekend’s visit of Brentford, after the final international break of the campaign...knowing three points could push Paul Cook’s men to the brink of safety...

Kieran Makin: We’ve all now had the international break to reflect on what was an extremely important win for the club for more reasons than one.

In my heart of hearts, I knew the game had the makings of a classic. It was the derby and we were both fighting for our lives, we still are, but the fact it was a relegation six-pointer and we won it was not what impressed me the most.

I went into the game fully expecting us to whimper to a narrow defeat, I’m not going to lie, but what I was so pleased about was the reaction from the players. It was an awful week prior to the Bolton match - losing the Reading game in the manner that we did was criminal and the Blackburn result... I think the less said about that one the better.

All the chances we’ve had throughout the season to pull clear of danger previously had been blown, yet after the three points against Bolton it felt like a whole new season. Sticking five past our nearest and dearest, despite what had happened before that fixture, has got the fans and players believing again. Isn’t that just typical Wigan Athletic?

And, it may have taken until March, but Paul Cook finally seems to have his best starting 11 at his disposal - better late than never I suppose!

We must take confidence from the Bolton performance and the fans need to carry the tremendous derby atmosphere into this Saturday’s game at home to Brentford. The Bees are a decent side but they are very beatable.

Those who understand the financial ins and outs of our football club and have perspective on where Wigan Athletic has come from in a very short space of time will know how important just staying in the Championship will be this season, especially with parachute payments over.

Martin Holden: There is always a huge sigh and a slumping of shoulders in our house when we realise that it’s International week and there is no Saturday football. It always seems like the national team is getting in the way of our battle in the league and it has always irked me.

I still watch the internationals, and the current England team is probably the best I have ever seen in terms of quality, skill and delivering results, but it’s not the Latics is it?

But it is worth noting that some of our younger players are doing really well at this level. Reece James clearly is one for the future and having him training for a short time with the full squad shows how highly thought of he is now.

Enjoy these last few games with him in the team, because there is little chance of a return next year I would think. We have Gelhardt and Weir (yes two lads) in the England U17s and that is just mind blowing when you think about it.

Brilliant stuff.

We survived the sighs and the shrugs and now look forward to getting back to it with the visit of Brentford to the DW this weekend. My biggest memory of Brentford has to be the Freight Rover Trophy final back in 1985 – a lovely sunny day out at Wembley and a great victory and we won a Freight Rover mini-bus too. That’s how mental football was back then! Chris Kamara was in the Brentford side with his massive perm and I noticed the other day when looking back at the programme from the final that the Bees had a striker that day called Gary Roberts … surely not!

We need to keep the momentum going from the Bolton match, we need to be fast out of the traps and above all we need to take our chances. I constantly go on about this, we are creating them, but we NEED to take them. We have players who can score throughout that forward line and possibly we have a striker who is high on confidence at the moment in Joe Garner, so come on and get right into them from the off.

Birmingham City join battle now after their nine-point deduction and they have a really tough run of fixtures in the next few games off the back of a dreadful set of results. It could be very interesting for them now, and of course for us. With Rotherham at Derby and Millwall at Leeds then a win for us at the weekend would be fantastic and with the games reducing, it puts us in a good position to have a real solid chance of staying up.

Of course, we need to take those chances and we need to get the result, but the fans are buoyant, the team and motivated and the manager seems happy with it all.

Oh, and the sun looks like it might shine too. Please don’t take that sunshine away.

Sean Livesey: Eight left to go – how are your nerves? That win over Bolton certainly gave us a bit of breathing space but if we don’t follow it up with a positive result against Brentford it puts us right back in the mire again.

The aforementioned Bees have had a mixed bag of a season, under Dean Smith Brentford were flying high at the top of the table with four wins and two draws from their first seven games. Smith’s departure for Aston Villa coincided with a dramatic loss of form and a drop down the table.

Brentford have recovered in recent weeks with their only defeats coming against promotion chasing Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion.

How do Latics approach the game against Brentford? Put simply Paul Cook’s side need to carry on where they left off against Bolton. The display against the Wanderers was exactly how Latics need to approach every game over the next few weeks. Attacking with purpose but more importantly being clinical in front of goal. The forward four of Gavin Massey, Nick Powell, Michael Jacobs and Joe Garner were excellent against Bolton and if they start again hopefully we can carry on in the same sort of vein we did against Bolton.

Brentford are of course a far more difficult prospect than Bolton were but Latics can take heart from an easing of the injury crisis that they’ve faced over the last few months and once again being at home. The difference in our performances both home and away is startling and if Latics can manage to get some sort of result against Brentford on Saturday it will leave us in a decent position to fight in the final month of the season.

With three tough matches against promotion chasing Bristol City and Norwich City sandwiched in between a clash with Hull City it’s imperative we get something out of Saturday’s match. I’ll be interested to see the difference in Paul Cook’s media conference on Friday morning, ahead of the Bolton game it looked like the gaffer was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Hopefully that win against our local rivals has lifted both he and the squad.

This season was never going to be easy, indeed it’s been tougher than many expected but a couple more wins could well see us over the line.

For a Wigan side that has been relegated twice in our last two Championship seasons, survival - however it comes - will be an excellent achievement. Let’s carry the lads over the line.

Stuart Glover: Another week without a Latics game. Another boring weekend when we had to make our own entertainment.

Mind you, referring to Latics this season as “entertainment” is perhaps more than a little generous.

I made my own entertainment by going to London. I saw two musicals, including Hamilton, and tried to avoid being mistaken as being part of the anti-Brexit protest!

But football is back tomorrow. Coming off the back of that fabulous win over Horwich, we face Brentford in another massive game. I said last week that I think two more wins may well be enough to survive, and this game presents a huge opportunity, arguably our second best chance left to grab three points.

If we can dig this one out, then we may be as little as a dodgy penalty or an own goal away from securing our place in the Championship again next season. And who wouldn’t want another year of this sort of fun?

Brentford must be considered a winnable game. It is at home, which at least gives us a chance, and their form is up and down. They beat us comfortably away (who doesn’t) but this weekend we must dig in deep, give it our all, leave nothing on the pitch and use any other clichés that we can think of to go at them. Desire to win must be greater than fear of losing.

The rewards are clear and they are within reach. Wins for us and Derby, and we will be six points clear of the drop zone with seven games to play by 5pm. That is a healthy position and one which is worth fighting for.

We then have a whole week to prepare for our crucial run of six games in 21 days, which pretty much makes up the rest of the season.

Thanks to game scheduling and television rescheduling, this is likely to be my last game of the season (it is the end of March!) so it would be nice to go out on a win and potentially on a decisive note in the relegation battle – though knowing Wigan Athletic, nothing is straightforward and so nothing will be resolved this weekend.