Our panel of 12th Men run the rule over another historic week in the history of Wigan Athletic

Let's hang on to what we've got'¦

Friday, 27th April 2018, 6:04 pm
Updated Friday, 27th April 2018, 6:06 pm
Latics players and fans celebrate at Fleetwood

That could be the sentiment of Latics fans as we approach the last two games of the season. Having done so well during the run-in, there is some disappointment and frustration following the under-par performance and the failure to claim all three points at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday.

But that would be unfair.

The way we have played, and indeed seemed to coast through some games this season, might suggest Latics should have easily retained their three-point advantage at the top of the table.

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Was it just a case of Wigan taking their foot off the Gas?

There are no easy games in professional football. There really aren’t.

Even games that are won by several goals require hard work, before and during matches, from everyone involved. By all accounts the conditions were poor, we know the players must be tiring after a long season and an extended run of playing two games per week.

We also know games against teams with nothing to play for can be particularly difficult.

However that point, resulting from Ryan Colclough’s late equaliser could well be crucial in the title race.

It at least keeps alive the possibility the title could be won this weekend in the final home game of the season.

We will never know how much of a factor in the under par performance the come-down from the weekend high was.

I did not expect us to finalise promoted last weekend, but Shrewsbury, who have battled hard all season and have generally been a credit it themselves and the league, have fallen away in pretty dramatic fashion.

The photos and videos coming out of the Fleetwood game were fantastic. It wasn’t just the four-goal win, it wasn’t just the fact Dan Burn and Chey Dunkley went toe-to-toe in their goalscoring battle, nor was it Burn’s goal which was so well-worked, let alone finished.

It was the fact the players just seemed to be having so much fun.

I wrote recently about the fun they seem to have off the pitch, but it is just as refreshing and positive to see them bring that into the games with them.

But there has been pressure on them to get promotion.

Especially after being towards the top all season.

It is quite clear. while they like to have fun, they actually take their work seriously.

There will likely be some financial rewards for them in promotion. but there is also professional pride.

They will have been feeling some pressure and that pressure can build at the end of the season.

It could be that the sudden release after achieving their primary objective on Saturday has resulted in some mental tiredness.

Plus it is possible, in some cases, the lacklustre performance might be explained by the videos coming out of the pubs and clubs of Wigan.

In these last two games of the season, I would ideally like two wins (to take us to exactly 100 points), Will Grigg to get to 20 league goals, two clean sheets and Blackburn to lose at least one more game.

That would be ideal, but in truth we have achieved promotion and the pursuit of the title is on.

That may not seem important, but it will be valued by the club, judging by the fact that they still display a League One winners’ trophy in the reception of the DW.

It has been a long season – 44 league games and a long tough cup run are behind the players.

The lure of the off-season and some time on the beach is before them.

While it would be nice to get the title won this weekend, that is less likely now because of the draw on Tuesday.

The squad, and especially those who have played the vast majority of games this season, need to show the same level of heart and grit as did the wonderful people who walked to Fleetwood last week to raise awareness and money for the Joseph’s Goal charity and research into the NKH genetic condition.

They deserve our thanks and support for showing the absolute best of the Wigan Athletic family.

I was not able to take part but would have loved to.

Such were the photos, videos and stories coming from the walk, if the event was able to be staged next year, numbers might have to be limited due to demand.

STUART GLOVER

If Carlsberg did promotion eh? What a day Saturday was, what a weekend it was.

You felt something special was in the offing on Friday morning, as over 100 walkers including the chairman, the chief executive and young Joseph Kendrick himself gathered at the Wigan Athletic training centre to begin the long walk to Fleetwood.

As the hours passed, the social media updates were a joy to behold, and then the running totals came pouring in...£15,000, £25,000 to a current total of £33,000 and still rising.

An idea organised by fellow 12th man columnist and Mudhutter editor Martin Tarbuck quickly snowballed into one of the famous Latics fundraising initiatives.

Many of us may have travelled to Fleetwood expecting victory, but certainly not promotion.

Shrewsbury were facing already-relegated Bury and, unless they dropped points, promotion would have to wait for another week – even if we managed to win.

Apart from a 20-minute spell in the first half, Latics showed complete dominance against the Cod Army.

It was as complete a performance as you could have wished for although, with Shrewsbury leading at half-time, it felt like it would just be another good result on the way to promotion.

I’m not convinced anyone would have thought we would have sealed promotion as the half-time whistle blew on Saturday.

As Chey Dunkley sealed the win with yet another goal and the fourth of the game, news trickled through that Bury had drawn level at Shrewsbury.

Still you expected a Shrewsbury goal would be forthcoming, and the fact it never came triggered scenes of wild celebrations in the away end and on the pitch as we sealed promotion with three games to spare.

Like Gary Caldwell’s side two years earlier, promotion came on a glorious day on the Fylde coast.

After a long week at work, me and Mrs Livesey decided to take the little one to Blackpool for the weekend ahead of the match.

Arriving on the prom we met the aforementioned Joseph’s Goal walkers and, although building sandcastles on the beach isn’t my usual pre-match routine, it certainly added to the atmosphere.

A quick taxi ride up the coast and the away end was buzzing in glorious sunshine, a fantastic atmosphere that was simply cranked up a notch when promotion was confirmed. It was wonderful to see Paul Cook celebrate alongside David Sharpe and Dave Whelan.

Whatever happens with the mooted takeover, I think Sharpe deserves credit for the way he has taken over from his grandad.

Alongside Jonathan Jackson they have re-connected with the fans and on the whole made watching Latics an enjoyable experience again.

I’ll forgive him for the horror show that was Warren Joyce now we’ve been promoted.

There was a fair bit of criticism of the lads after only taking a point from Bristol, following post-match celebrations on Saturday.

I was a bit surprised at the amount of criticism the lads faced, and wonder if they hadn’t gone out but still only taken a point from the Bristol Rovers game, whether it would have been seen as a decent point.

I can understand why there was that criticism, but equally Saturday created memories that will last a lifetime. Not having a beer on Saturday night was no guarantee of a victory on Tuesday.

Especially in those conditions and with the amount of games the lads have had to play in a short space of time. Promotion sealed with three games to go, 100 points still a realistic target and the title within our grasp.

From my point of view, and again it’s only my point of view the lads earned the opportunity to go out and enjoy themselves on Saturday.

Paul Cook is big on team spirit, we saw that with the team-bonding trip to Spain in the summer.

Many then said Cook was unprofessional for letting his lads drink at the start of pre-season but they’ve re-paid him in spades.

If a beer or two among team-mates can foster the kind of team spirit we’ve seen this season, that’s fine by me.

It’s certainly better than treating your players like you’re a PE teacher as Joyce conducted his business.

So as we say farewell to League One once again, and close out a fantastically successful season at the DW against Wimbledon, there’s time to thank Paul Cook, his staff and his players and hope our return to the Championship can mirror the last time a Scouser called Paul managed us in the Championship.

Rather than an Oldhamer called Warren.

SEAN LIVESEY

It’s easy, sometimes, to become cynical as a football fan.

Clubs and players are increasingly separated from the fanbase, ticket prices are getting higher and higher, everything is about selling something to the football tourists.

Except it isn’t. Not at Wigan Athletic, anyway.

The club are as approachable as it’s possible to be, the players were out celebrating with fans after winning promotion, ticket prices are just about as cheap as can be, and our football tourism industry runs to four daft Germans turning up at Fleetwood.

Latics, in short, are about as far from modern football as can be in this day and age.

And yet, for some, that isn’t enough. Or it’s too much.

I admit to being confused about it.

A decent draw, at a decent team, in very indecent conditions is being lamented on social media like we’ve been relegated instead of promoted.

People, who two days ago were happily retweeting Will Grigg conducting his own song or David Sharpe living it up a little, were now screaming that Paul Cook didn’t know what he was doing.

Celebrations, they said, should have been on hold until after Doncaster.

These, of course, are the same people who will have a breakdown when season ticket prices are announced, even if they haven’t gone up.

Latics fans are by no means unique in this.

Lots of clubs have lots of fans who think football is all about the statistics they see on Football Manager.

They don’t realise it’s far deeper than that.

We always used to see first-team players round Wigan every Saturday night.

Those days may have gone, but is it such a big deal for young men who have just achieved a year-long dream to be happy about it? I don’t think so.

What is a big deal, though, is the Walk4Joseph that took place last week.

Walking from the training ground to Fleetwood over two days – a distance of 32 miles – around 100 hardy Latics fans fought through heat and blisters the size of hard-boiled eggs to raise more than £33,000 for Joseph’s Goal.

Old acquaintances were strengthened, new ones forged and plenty of laughs were had along the way.

Last weekend I was as proud to call myself a Wiganer, as I’ve ever been.

PAUL MIDDLETON

It was a case of déjà vu as Latics wrapped up promotion for the second time in three years away on the Fylde coast with a 4-0 victory.

Similarly to that great day at Bloomfield Road, Wigan got off to a pretty slow start and it took a while for the League One table toppers to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.

However, once midfield maestro Max Power opened the scoring, there were no doubts this would be the day.

Latics scoring two in quick succession, as they did in the second half, has been a constant theme all the way throughout this season.

Look no further than this last month when we have put MK Dons, Rochdale and Fleetwood to the sword with short shrift.

The same occurred again when League One’s answer to Nesta and Maldini, Dunkley and Burn, popped up with another goal each and sent the 1,100 Wiganers crazy.

If truth be told, it could’ve been more, but it looked as if Wigan were saving themselves forBristol on Tuesday.

How wrong could you be?

After a night of shouting at taxi drivers and crowd surfing in Revs, I suppose a point away at Bristol can be classed as a good result.

Attention now turns to Saturday and the visit of AFC Wimbledon.

The league can be mathematically wrapped up with a Latics win and a Blackburn loss, and it would be all-but won with a victory for Wigan and a draw for Rovers away at The Valley.

On paper, and the way Latics have brushed aside struggling teams at home, it should be a straight-forward win.

It goes without saying Lyle Taylor is the one to watch for the Wombles after he has scored 14 goals this term and provides a threat in behind.

JACK UNSWORTH

It’s been a great team effort this season. Many players have made significant contributions to the cause: Christian Walton, Chey Dunkley, Michael Jacobs, and Max Power have been impressive.

But five players have really stood out for me.

My top five players of the season in reverse order are:

5. Will Grigg – Hampered by injury in the close season, the prolific striker didn’t get a full pre-season and struggled to hit early form. However, when he regained his sharpness he proved he is the most reliable marksman in League One. The Northern Ireland international has scored an incredible 67 goals in his last five seasons. He is on 25 for this season and who would bet against him breaking the 30 mark? He has now achieved a remarkable quadruple by making it four promotions in the last five seasons to the Championship. His magnificent finish to knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup will go down as one of the most iconic goals in recent FA Cup history.

4. Nick Powell – The talented midfielder is Latics most creative player and most of their best moves revolve around this fragile genius.

Powell has it all – left foot, right foot, tackling, shooting and heading, just a complete footballer .

His 15 goals so far this season would surely have been many more if he hadn’t been plagued by injury.

Currently valued at around £10m, Powell showed his commitment to the Latics cause by turning down a very lucrative move to Brighton in the transfer window.

3. Nathan Byrne – Questions were asked about the full-back at the start of the season but the former Spurs youth player has shown great improvement under Paul Cook, and has been an almost ever-present in the team. Byrne has a tremendous engine with great pace, he gets forward and contributes to many of Latics’ best attacks, but he has also been a resolute and reliable defender. Recently selected as the only Latics player in the EFL Football Manager Team of the Season, which shows the impression he has made.

2. Sam Morsy – The club captain and what a consistent performer he has been throughout the campaign. The tough-tackling midfielder has led by example and made an outstanding contribution to a fantastic season. He has not only protected the defence but has been the instigator of Latics set-up play from midfield. The Eqyptian international will be hoping to break into the World Cup team, but Latics’ fans will be a little fearful that he doesn’t do too well, or he could attract serious interest from Premier League clubs.

1. Dan Burn – The towering rock at the centre of the defence he has been Latics’ most consistent performer this season. The winner of the Player of the Season in the Championship, he would be my choice for the award this time around as well. Burn has been an almost ever-present making so many important defensive blocks, tackles and headers and contributing six goals to the cause. With his central defensive partner Dunkley he has played a key role in Latics’ amazing rearguard record.

This superb defensive record has been the foundation of what should prove to be a title-winning season.

IAN ASPINALL