Shaun MacDonald: Stranger things have happened in football
Shaun MacDonald insists Wigan Athletic have to throw to caution to the wind and '˜go for it' in the last eight games of the campaign, to have any hope of avoiding relegation.
The 28-year-old is back with his Wigan colleagues after returning from international duty with Wales, who secured a battling point in their massive World Cup qualifier against Ireland last weekend.
There’ll be no respite for MacDonald, who is looking forward to another pressure-cooker situation at Championship pace-setters Newcastle on Saturday.
And with Latics seven points adrift of safety, MacDonald says there’s only one way Graham Barrow’s men will be approaching the game.
“As Graham’s said, I think we’re better of just going for it in every game, trying to score goals and trying to win,” MacDonald told the Wigan Post.
“A point here and there won’t be good enough in the final standings.
“To pick up the points we need to stay up, we have to win a lot of games – starting on Saturday.
“We’ve got an honest bunch of lads here and we’ll never give up the fight until it’s mathematically impossible.
“Stranger things have happened in football – especially in this league.
“Back-to-back wins can suddenly get you right back in it.
“In the short-term, though, we can only concentrate on Newcastle and on what we have to do to go there and get a result.
“There’s probably more pressure on them, fighting at the top for a place in the Premier League.
“Their fans will obviously want and expect them to win, which creates its own pressure.
“We’ll be going to cause an upset, and Graham will have us ready to try and do that.”
While his colleagues were enjoying a few days off last week, MacDonald was trying to help keep Wales on track for next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
But he is adamant there’ll be no let-up in focus or drive as he does his bit to keep Latics in the Championship.
“It’s difficult sometimes to keep shifting your mindset from club to country and then back again,” he acknowledged.
“But I’m back in Wigan now, this is my job, and all of my focus is on helping us put in a big performance at Newcastle.
“It’s a big game, but they’ve all been big games this season.
“I just think the lads have to go out there and express themselves as best they can.
“Most people will have already written us off before kick-off, thinking we can’t go there and get a result.
“We have to rise to the occasion and hopefully surprise those doubters.
“The stadium will be packed, but these are the the occasions you have to try and enjoy.
“If we can, we have to try and put that occasion to one side and just focus on the performance and the result.
“We’re desperate to try and move up the table, because there’s a little gap starting to open up and it’s vital we close it as quickly as possible.”
He also refutes any suggestion of burn-out as the season comes to an exciting climax for both club and country.
“I’ll obviously take the football rather than days off if it means being called up to play for my country,” MacDonald recognised.
“It was a good week in all – a tough week’s training and then a tense game at the end of it.
“We knew it was going to be a very tough game in Ireland, going there third in the group, in a hostile environment in front of their fans.
“It was a real battle, and I think both sides knew it would be.
“I think that showed in the game, with some tough tackles going in from both sides.
“If you look at the chances, one goal would always have been enough to win it, and we had a couple near the end to nick it.
“When you’ve got players like Gareth Bale in the side, it only takes a split second for a goal to come out of nowhere.
“Unfortunately the shot he had near the end flew just wide of the post, and it wasn’t to be.
“But in the end a goalless draw was probably a fair point in the end.
“Having gone down to 10 men for the last 25 minutes, I think a draw was probably a good result and could prove to be an important point at the end.
“We’ve got another very tough game now coming up, with Serbia away from home.”
The major talking point from the game was the serious injury suffered by Ireland captain Seamus Coleman, after a mistimed challenge from Wales left-back Neil Taylor.
“Unfortunately Seamus came away with a very bad injury and obviously all our best wishes are with him at the moment,” sympathised MacDonald.
“It’s a tough game at times. As players you go into tackles not wanting to hurt anybody, and Tayls was absolutely distraught after the game.
“He’s usually one of the lads who’s loud in the dressing room, you can hear him wherever he is.
“But you didn’t hear a word out of him, he was so upset.
“Looking back it’s obviously a bad tackle, but at the time I think he was just going in hard and fair.
“Unfortunately Seamus was the one who came off second best, and you could see Tayls’ instant reaction, which was one of shock.
“No-one wants to cause a problem for another player’s career, or cause long-term injuries.
“But football is a game of split seconds where things can happen – whether it’s a goal, a shot or a good tackle or a bad tackle.
“He’s probably been a bit harshly criticised, but I’m sure he’s tough enough to be able to cope with it and realise that things like this can happen.”