Talking football: Shaun Maloney's heartfelt message to the Wigan Athletic faithful

Shaun Maloney's message to the Wigan Athletic fanbase could not have been more clear: We need you!
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Both for Saturday's massive six-pointer against Huddersfield Town, and for the whole relegation run-in.

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It's family territory for Maloney and Latics, who had an annual battle against the odds during the Premier League years.

Shaun Maloney wants a big effort from the Latics fans for his first home game in charge this weekendShaun Maloney wants a big effort from the Latics fans for his first home game in charge this weekend
Shaun Maloney wants a big effort from the Latics fans for his first home game in charge this weekend
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As Maloney points out, the Latics fans became their team's 12th Man in the second half of the campaign, with the introduction of pre-game 'Meet and Greets' underlining the unwavering support.

That will be revisited this weekend for the visit of the Terriers - a clash Jack Whatmough reckons is the biggest during his time here.

The mood among the fanbase is already a world away from that of a fortnight ago.

Whereas all seemed lost, now it seems anything is possible.

Under a manager who's been there, done it and has scored the vital goals - with a fanbase who have just as important a part to play.

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As opening nights go, that was about as encouraging as it gets to welcome in the Maloney era.

A first clean sheet in three months - since the return fixture against Blackburn, funnily enough - and a point on the board to stop the rot.

But more importantly than that, it was the whole vibe of the performance that planted such huge reasons for optimism.

Almost 3,000 Wiganers behind their team from first minute to last, giving the new manager their unequivocal seal of approval, and cheering every last player off the pitch.

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It may only be the first step of many that need making between now and May.

But there was definitely an overwhelming feeling that a huge corner has been turned, and the future appears a lot brighter than it did.

Maloney acknowledged his first job would be to improve Latics in both boxes.

That certainly appeared to be the case in the defensive end, as Latics dug really deep in the second half to stem a concerted effort from the play-off chasing hosts.

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There still needs to be tweaks at the opposite end, with the Blackburn goalkeeper nowhere near as busy as Ben Amos, but it's baby steps at the moment.

All three of Latics' new signings - Martin Kelly, Omar Rekik and Danel Sinani - showed up well on debut.

Sod's law two of them had to be helped from the field, with Kelly already lost for the rest of the campaign.

But with several senior players not even making the bench at Ewood Park, all of a sudden the squad looks as strong as it has at any point for some considerable time.

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Great to see Tom Pearce and Charlie Wyke marking their returns from long-term injury with cameos off the bench.

Pearce could be the solution to the long-standing issue at left-back, while Wyke is a welcome addition to a side that has struggled for goals this term.

Not so long ago, fans would have been looking at Saturday's game against Huddersfield with trepidation, working out the possible logistics of a damaging defeat to a direct rival.

All of a sudden, however, the renewed burst of energy and enthusiasm generated by Maloney's arrival have us looking at the ramifications of a home win - and the eroding of the gap to safety.