Talking football: Roller-coaster two years for Wigan Athletic - with answers needed on and off the pitch

March 30, 2021: 19:32 hours. (1932...geddit?)

Not something I'll forget in a hurry.

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Wigan Athletic boss opens up on fans' summit - and owner's face-to-face meet.

The statement dropped.

It's been another eventful few days at Wigan AthleticIt's been another eventful few days at Wigan Athletic
It's been another eventful few days at Wigan Athletic

"The club is delighted to announce that Phoenix 2021 Limited has today become the new owner of Wigan Athletic Football Club. Phoenix 2021 Limited has now completed all of the technical information required and received confirmation that all matters associated with membership of the EFL have been concluded."

That left me excusing myself from my middle son's 10th birthday party meal, to write up one of the biggest moments in the club's history.

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The looks of disdain from family members will remain with me for some time.

We digress.

"What a club." Indeed.

Two years have passed, and it's fair to say it hasn't been dull.

Great Escape - check.

Complete squad revamp - check.

Manager literally saving the life of centre-forward at the training ground - check.

Manager getting South Stand at the DW Stadium named after him - check.

League One title - check.

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In the summer of 2022, Phoenix 2021 Limited was going as swimmingly as one of Jerry 'the Saint' St Clair's 'Free and Easy nights' at Brian Potter's Phoenix Club.

We, again, digress.

Since then, it's fair to say it's been a bit of a struggle.

A fantastic start to the Championship campaign soon petered out, resulting in Leam Richardson losing his job, Kolo Toure not lasting long as his successor, and Shaun Maloney inheriting a 'challenging' task in January.

An improvement on the field followed, not necessarily matched by results, against the backdrop of continued carnage off the field.

But even by Latics standards, the events of last Friday were quite something.

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First up was word that the first-team squad had collectively decided, quite rightly, not to train until their wages - already two weeks late - were paid.

Then came Steven Caulker's LinkedIn post accusing the owners of 'lies' that were 'affecting the mental health' of the players.

Next was a strongly-worded statement from the players highlighting the 'disrespect' being shown to them by the owners.

Finally we received confirmation that the players had finally been paid.

Cause for celebration? No.

But a positive step forward? Of course.

That wasn't all, though. Not by a long shot.

Next was the departure of Mal Brannigan as chief executive.

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Given the wording of the statement, it was a decision taken by the club rather than the individual.

Was Brannigan the only one to blame for the current situation? Probably not.

But less than 12 months after being named League One, Brannigan paid the price for financial results that were far in excess of what had been projected.

So where does that leave us?

Well the owners have a LOT of bridges to build if they are to regain the trust of their playing staff, let alone the club's supporters.

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Chairman Talal Al Hammad has been over this week - meeting fans' representatives in midweek - and that's a huge first step in doing so.

Another massive step towards getting everyone back onside would be paying the next batch of wages - which are due on Friday week - early.

In terms of actions speaking louder than words, that would represent a huge gesture of goodwill to a staff that has experienced a hugely uncertain, and worrying, last few months.

On the pitch, there's the small matter of Saturday's visit of struggling QPR, which falls very much into the 'must win' category.

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Fingers crossed Al Hammad's visit this week has provided off the field answers, leaving Maloney and his men to do their business on the field.

Eight points adrift with eight games to go looks a tall order.

But they don't call this time of the season 'Wigan time' for nothing.