Talking football: The king is dead. Long live the king

Well, what a week.

Thursday, 16th March 2017, 2:35 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:52 am
Graham Barrow

It’s certainly never dull at Wigan Athletic.The king is dead. Long live the king.

Graham Barrow is certainly saying the right things about getting Latics playing attacking football, scoring goals and entertaining the fans.

And for their part, the players are making the right noises about respecting and believing in Barrow, and wanting to turn things around.

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The proof of the pudding, of course, will come on Saturday afternoon, when Aston Villa visit the DW for one of the most important games in recent years.

Lose, and the five-point gap to safety could be widened to eight, with a full international break to stew over the situation ahead of the last eight games.

Win, and the gap could be trimmed to just two points, with Barrow then having the luxury of a fortnight to fine tune things ahead of the run-in.

With parachute payments disappearing this summer, the financial landscape will change forever.

Those fans seemingly looking forward to a potential return to League One – ‘we had a great time last year’ – will be in for a rude awakening.

If Latics were to suffer the drop, there would be no seven-figure signings, such as Will Grigg and Yanic Wildschut, who did so much to underpin last season’s title-winning campaign.

Latics would no longer be ‘former Premier League side/2013 FA Cup winners’ in terms of attraction.

They would be just another small-ish club with small-ish crowds competing against bigger outfits.

Which is why Latics have to remain among the Championship elite for as long as possible.

The only chance they have of doing that is of winning football matches. Something that has proved so elusive over the past four months.

Chairman David Sharpe has made the brave – but correct – decision to dispense with the services of Warren Joyce, a man he genuinely felt could lead Latics into a new era where so much will depend on developing loan players and utilising contacts for shrewd loan deals.

The players must now show the same bravery in getting behind interim boss Barrow – and finally giving the long-suffering fans something to cheer about.

There was double disappointment in the closing stages of last weekend’s defeat to Bristol City.

Not only did the visitors force through a late winner, but Latics skipper Stephen Warnock limped off the field with a lacerated leg.

As anyone who’s seen Latics at all this season will attest, it must have taken something pretty bad to force Warnock to quit the action.

He’s spilt more blood and required more running repairs than probably any other man in the Football League but, up to Saturday, he’d played every single minute of every single game this term.

Not bad for a 35-year-old.

It’s largely been a season of disappointment so far, but the consistent quality of Warnock has been one of the bright spots.

And if Latics are to have any hope of avoiding the drop, they need their captain fantastic back on the field as quickly as possible.

I spent an hugely-enjoyable Sunday evening down at Ashton Town FC, where a Kevin Davies Select XI was taking on the GB Deaf team in a fundraiser to help Team GB fly over to the Deaflympics.

Firstly, it’s obviously an absolute scandal that the trip is not being funded by UK Sport.

Secondly, what a wonderful sight it was to see such a great spectacle put on by Ashton Town, and especially their chairman Mark Hayes, in aid of a fabulous cause.

Thirdly, I’ve yet to see a worse challenge this season than that performed by media personality George Riley on an unsuspecting opponent - under the watchful eye of Latics legend Emmerson Boyce - that didn’t even warrant a yellow card from the official!

In fairness, as George was the first to point, he got there as soon as he could...

Twitter can often be a wonderful source of information, entertainment, debate and argument.

It can also be a fun way to waste five minutes.

Such as when one user posed the question earlier this week: “Pick a 5-a-side team of players sharing your name”.

After much deliberation, I’d happily send the following out against any side. Unbeatable!

Paul Robinson, Paul Scharner, Paul Pogba, Paul Gascoigne, Paul Scholes.

Can anyone beat that?