PART 2: Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - ‘Sometimes, change works best for all parties, and this is one of those times...’

One of our 12th Man panel wasn't enamoured by what he witnessed from the Stevenage bench at the DW last weekOne of our 12th Man panel wasn't enamoured by what he witnessed from the Stevenage bench at the DW last week
One of our 12th Man panel wasn't enamoured by what he witnessed from the Stevenage bench at the DW last week
Our panel of Latics experts run the rule over the end of an unbeaten run, the departure of a fan favourite, and a look to the future through a rebranded supporters’ initiative...

Alan Rogers:

A lot to talk about this week - as usual! First of all, Callum Lang. I’m going to leave it to others more eloquent than me to write about Callum, but I just want to thank him for everything he’s done for us and I’d also like to wish him all the best for the future. Next up, one or two people had a meltdown early in the week because, although the club arranged a meeting to talk about the FansFund, apparently that wasn’t enough for them, and once again they lashed out at the Supporters Club and anyone else they could think of. I’m not going to rehash this rubbish again...just grow up. I would like to try to stick to on-field matters this week, namely the game last Saturday. It was bound to happen, I suppose. After not playing well and winning two games, it was inevitable we would play better in the next game but lose. And when I say play better, we still didn't play well, but on Saturday we received a lesson in the dark arts - and I hope Shaun Maloney and the team learned something. Having said that, it doesn't look as if they learned anything from our previous encounter with Stevenage. The elephant in the room is, of course, Mr Steve Evans. He arrived into the stadium and plonked himself into a seat. Then we waited. Because we knew Evans has created an alter-ego that basically allows him to get away with virtually anything. Over the years, he has perfected the art of behaviour that unsettles and intimidates the officials. And so it proved on Saturday. He didn't really move until we had the penalty, and then it began. Up clambered Mr Evans and started bellowing, barracking, bawling and braying at the fourth official, who immediately looked shell shocked! Do these officials never get briefed before the game? Because this behaviour seemed to come as a complete shock to the poor man. After a few minutes, Mr Evans wheezed to a halt and turned to shuffle back to his seat. As soon as he turned, the sneer disappeared from his face and was replaced by a sly grin! He knew exactly what he was doing, and he was enjoying himself. And as he sat down, his assistant tag teamed himself into the action, taking over from his bumptious boss. And that set the scene for the remainder of the afternoon. Every week there are reports of his antics, and this week was no different. No matter how trivial the alleged offence, Evans or one of his sidekicks would harangue the fourth official until finally he called the referee across. That was a waste of time, no action was taken, and the referee ran away with his tail between his legs. We began to fear the worst - the man in the middle seemed to be giving Stevenage the benefit of the doubt more often than not - and so it was to prove. In the final moments of the first half, Wigan had the ball in the net and we were all on our feet. But the referee quickly ruled the goal out, apparently for a push. Now I've watched the 'goal' several times since and, although I'm obviously biased, I really couldn't see anything wrong. I'm sure 3-1 at half-time would have made a massive difference to the outcome of the game. Anyway, as soon as the second half started, we were off again! Snarling, shouting, screaming, sneering...a constant barrage of intimidation. And so many times there were three of them in the technical area, we lost count, and the fourth official wasn’t interested.

Now I don’t really care how many people stand in that area, I’ve always thought it was a bit of a strange rule, but it is a rule and it should apply to all. The really annoying thing about all this is that those within earshot of the dugouts are constantly distracted by these antics and miss half of the game! And that's where we were really schooled. Charlie Hughes has had a stellar season so far, but he and his colleagues in defence were bullied and dominated time and time again. It was a pity Charlie Goode couldn't play, because his experience against this kind of '70s throwback football would have been invaluable. It was another valuable lesson all around for an inexperienced manager and a younger team. We need to be more streetwise both on and off the pitch. I would have loved to see how Paul Cook would have dealt with Evans! An all-round nasty afternoon ruined by weak officials and bullying behaviour, but we need to learn to play against all types of opposition. Finally, I often wonder if anyone actually reads the contributions various people offer up each week, but it was great to read widespread approval of a great article last week by Mudhutter. I was also thrilled to discover someone also actually read my ramblings and compared me to an important part of a gentleman's anatomy! That's one for the scrapbook! Onwards and upwards!

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PART 1: Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'Let us get this season over, and there w...

Matt Auffrey:

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Within the past week, we’ve said goodbye to our five-match unbeaten streak in the league, and more notably, one of the most prominent players from the year 2021 and onwards. Callum Lang’s move to Portsmouth on a permanent transfer represents one of the more bittersweet departures of the past several years. Langy’s contributions on the pitch were a beacon of hope for a club experiencing dark times while stuck in administration. During the following season, he blossomed into one of League One’s best attacking players while playing a pivotal role in our title run. The past 18 months have seen the goals dry up as he struggled to find his form in a team going through constant change. Yet, his effort never dipped for a moment, regardless of whether he was playing in his natural position or not. He could have been starting or coming off the bench. We could have been up by two goals or down by three. The Academy graduate always wore the shirt with pride and gave nothing short of 100 per cent. The documented pursuit of Lang by some of the division’s most ambitious teams only proves he is still considered a valuable asset by prime automatic promotion contenders. There is no question in my mind Callum would’ve eventually established himself again, as a prolific option within a thriving Latics attacking line-up. Sometimes, change works best for all parties, and this is one of those times where there is much to be gained by Lang, by our club, and by the club down south. The fact Lang scored less than 20 minutes into his Pompey debut against Oxford on Wednesday night may be considered ironic or the ‘most Latics occurrence’ possible. Many of us were just happy to see a great lad deservingly enjoy his football again. On a final note, my only personal interaction with Callum happened over a two minute spell in August 2022, when we got to meet pitchside before the Bristol City home match. He was truly flabbergasted to learn he was the most popular player of our New York City fan contingent. He was just as much of a joy to meet in-person as he was to watch on a pub television screen 3,000 miles away. Yet, the show must go on and the fixtures don’t get any easier with a date against the division’s hottest team, Peterborough, on the cards this weekend. A key player has departed, but the passion, commitment, and spirit he displayed is alive and well within many of the young players in our squad. There may never be another Callum Lang to come out of our academy, and that’s perfectly fine. An inspiring group of lads currently hold the torch and I know there are much bigger things to come for this club. We’ll be all right.

George Chilvers:

They say bullies lose out in the end. They are the ones who don't really enjoy themselves. They will get their comeuppance. That is as untrue on the football pitch as it ever was in the playground at school. As Steve Evans' Stevenage showed on Saturday. Of course, it's no surprise an Evans team plays like that. He really doesn’t appear to be a likeable, jolly, character, and his team follows suit. I remember back in the early 70s, Southampton played a similar style, and Bill Shankly called them an 'alehouse team'. The problem is we let ourselves be bullied by them. We dropped back and, instead of attacking them like we did in the first five minutes, we let them get the upper hand. It's a learning curve I know. Hopefully Charlie Hughes will have learned a lot. It also wasn't really the game to bring Jason Kerr back in. But it's very easy to criticise, and we have to move on. Moving on leads of course to Callum Lang. It's always a wrench when a player we've nurtured over the years decides his future lies elsewhere but, again, I can't go around wailing and gnashing teeth. It happens in football. The Callum Lang of a season or so back was unstoppable but, and I have to be honest, he has lost a bit of his mojo recently. Where once he could run at defences, and instil panic, he hasn't been doing that when he gets a game. It would have been nice if he could have regained that confidence with us, but it's not to be. Whether the lost mojo is somehow related to the fact he doesn't fit into our style, in which case a change of scene will be to his benefit, or whether there is something he himself needs to conquer, is a question for the future. We all wish him well. He stuck with us through the darkest of days, and we owe him respect and good wishes as a new door opens for him. But move on we all must.

Sean Livesey:

Another casualty, another Academy casualty, of the ridiculous excesses put in place by our former owners, be that IEC or Phoenix 21? Perhaps. This time in the form of Callum Lang. It isn't as direct as those experienced previously, but it's still part of the same family of sad tales. There's two trains of thought on this. No.1: Lang put in a transfer request due to the club being unable or unwilling to offer a new deal on the same terms as he had received under Phoenix 21, which was accepted by the club as a way to reduce a wage bill still among the highest in the division. No.2: Lang and the club decided to part amicably after a frustrating season that saw him struggle for goals and form. I tend to sit a bit between both trains of thought. There's no doubt Lang has had a fantastic career here. But sadly over the last 18 months, that form had dipped so dramatically for one reason or another that a change seemed a logical solution. That could be down to not being suited to Shaun Maloney's style of play, perhaps it was due to a change in position, but even playing in his favoured position last season he struggled. That's no slight on Lang, as many struggled last season. It's just the nature of football. The club and player seemed to have handled the matter well, and I've no doubt Lang will go on to have a successful spell with Pompey, which was outlined by his goal on his debut earlier this week. It's not often you get supporters being so complimentary to a departing player and, in return, that departing player stating his emotion on leaving his club as has happened with Lang. I think that shows how he was thought of with us. Maloney speaks about Callum's character, and I don't think we can underestimate the toll that last season took on these players. Lads like Lang playing when they weren't being paid or knowing when they would get paid. It can't have been easy, and for that he'll always have a place in the hearts of Wiganers, but arguably more so for his goals on the way to League One survival in 2021, and then promotion the following season. But we move on, and this is the ideal time for the next generation of youngsters to step up, be that Chris Sze or Josh Stones. Away from the departure lounge, someone I am glad to see the back of is Steve Evans. If ever a side were in the model of the man, it was Stevenage. We fell right into Evans' trap on Saturday, and I hope they manage to make it up in the play-offs so we never have to face them again. More refereeing ridiculousness, with fouls ignored for our opponents as Evans and his assistant shouted and balled at the officials from the first minute to the final whistle, and perfectly legitimate goals for us chalked off. So is the way in this League One campaign. We're not going to get any help from the officials, so we'll have to do it ourselves.