Talking football: Latics have to arrest the slump - before it's too late

I probably wasn't the only Wigan Athletic supporter who spend an unhealthy amount of time on Tuesday night keeping an an eye '“ and ear '“ on how Blackburn Rovers and Bristol City were getting on.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:46 am
Ryan Tunnicliffe and Omar Bogle

Fortunately, I managed to combine a bit of training for the upcoming Wigan half-marathon – don’t ask – with local radio commentary on Rovers-Derby.

At least as Blackburn’s winner went in I was doing something positive, on an otherwise negative night in the rain.

It was, of course, all utterly pointless. No amount of wishing ill on other teams is going to make a blind bit of difference.

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It didn’t two years ago, as we discovered to our dismay there weren’t three worse teams in the Championship than Latics.

Hopefully this season there will be – but the only way Latics can ensure safety is to take the bull by the horns and become masters of their own destiny.

Only 12 matches – a quarter of the campaign – remain for Warren Joyce’s men to stand up and be counted.

It looked as though they were on the right track just after the turn of the year, when back-to-back league wins over Burton and Brentford lifted them out of the bottom three.

But the FA Cup trip to Manchester United, rather than give everyone a lift, looks to have a detrimental effect.

That pesky FA Cup, getting in the way once again...

Latics have won only once in seven matches since then – and that courtesy of Jake Buxton’s last-gasp winner at Wolves.

And while the defence still looks relatively solid – three clean sheets in the last four matches – a worrying lack of cutting edge in the final third is hampering attempts to secure the wins needed to stay up.

Mitigating factors have been put forward for that – some fair, some straw-clutching – but the time for talking is over.

It’s now time for action.

With Latics travelling to Blackburn, as Burton entertain Bristol City, this weekend could well be decisive.

By hook or by crook, Latics need to arrest the slump and restore some positivity – before it’s too late.

No player had won possession in the final third more times in the Championship this season than Will Grigg (27, pictured) heading into last weekend’s games.

Certainly one in the eye for those fans who have questioned his work-rate in recent months.

Aston Villa have just reported losses of £81million. £81million!

A very sobering reminder of the kind of budgets Wigan Athletic are fighting against just to keep their heads above water.

It looks very much like Wayne Rooney will be leaving Manchester United at the end of the season after 13 years at Old Trafford.

And while the bigger prizes are still to be handed out, it was fitting to see him pick up the EFL Cup as United skipper at the weekend.

Despite not getting on to the field, Rooney’s reaction to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s winning goal – punching the air as he stood on the touchline waiting to come on – said everything about his commitment to the cause, and his continuing desire to be a winner.

Very little should surprise us about football any more, but Claudio Ranieri’s sacking at Leicester still caused most of us to stop and shake our heads.

Just nine months after overseeing the most unlikely triumph in sporting history, Ranieri was out on his ear.

“Ranieri being sacked by Leicester City is a bit like the 5000 kicking off at Jesus because there was no pudding,” reckoned @jonocabron, brilliantly, on Twitter.

Most onlookers predictably pointed fingers at the players for not giving everything for their manager.

It was a mood which was only exacerbated after Leicester’s convincing 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Monday night –

especially when stats revealed the team had collectively covered almost 10km more than their previous game.

“I’ve never seen a football game before when two teams should come off the pitch hanging their heads in shame,” observed Sky pundit Jamie Carragher.

Which brought about the following childish, but very funny, tweet from Leicester defender Danny Simpson.

“I respect your opinion, and as a defender I look up to you and what you’ve achieved. However, I won the league, you haven’t.”