The 12th Man column: 'It seems blue seat plan has ruffled some feathers...'

Our 12th Man columnists give their thoughts on another busy week for Wigan Athletic...

The DW Stadium has had a rebrand
The DW Stadium has had a rebrand

Martin Tarbuck:

As this is my seasonal debut on the ol’ 12th Man, I have a bit to say. There are three elements on my mind.

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Firstly, let’s talk about the squad we are building. I can’t help but find myself raising an eyebrow or two at our dealings. Let’s take James McClean for instance.

On his day, he is a brilliant player and an absolute trojan in terms of workrate. I have no issue with his political views, as he generally leaves it off the field. I just can’t help thinking that we should be signing 22-year-olds not 32-year-olds. Indeed, there isn’t a lot of resale value in many of the signings we’ve made. They are nearly all closer to 30 than 20.

This seems a bit strange based compared to the usual Wigan Athletic approach but that is where my gentle criticism ends, as I generally trust the management to get on with the job of building a squad to be competitive and ultimately, take us out of this division (the right way!).

It may be that there was a strategy put in place this summer to recruit older, proven heads to give us the experience required to launch a promotion campaign. With the added benefit of them passing on their knowledge to the younger players, who have served us so well during the last eighteen months.

It definitely feels like we are attempting to get out of League One sooner rather than later, and the squad that Leam is pulling together, certainly seems capable of that.

Secondly, onto more aesthetic matters and the reinvigoration of the place where we kick a ball about.

I’ve had my say on social media about this and received both praise and criticism from the usual, expected sources. Contrary to popular belief, I have no idea what goes behind the scenes but I can understand the logic behind the re-branding that is going on based on the people involved. It seems Talal has ruffled a few feathers by talking about wanting unity in the town and then replacing red seats with blue in the same sentence.

Firstly, the stadium is desperately in need of a refresh. Secondly, there has been a continual move by the rugby club to distance themselves from the DW Stadium, ever since Wigan Council gave them a newly refurbished Robin Park next door (seats now all painted red and entire building rebranded). Thirdly, I think the new owners want to try and create a more positive environment and atmosphere for existing and new potential football fans in the town and surrounding areas. Matchday experience is what the kids call it, I believe. This is for the kids as well in my opinion.

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Now, whereas our brilliant new chairman has done an exceptional job integrating himself into the Wigan community during his short time here, we must not forget that we also have the vastly-experienced Mal Brannigan in charge and the enigma that is Tom Markham, who literally has a PhD in football on the board. These are people who have been there and done it, so to suggest that any behaviour is of a rash nature simply isn’t the case.

There are tens of thousands of kids in and around the Wigan area who wear the shirts of Premier League teams, and increasingly top European sides.

They align themselves to football teams they will rarely, if ever be able to physically watch in the flesh. Of course, League One football is a tough sell versus top flight football but Wigan Athletic can offer them something that these club can’t: accessibility and affordability. It won’t be easy but we are starting to see the seeds being planted here of something big. Whisper it quietly here, but I hear a similar thing is happening up the road in Bolton. Locals who perhaps supported Man Utd or City are reconnecting with their resurgent local club. Urgh, did I really use the words Bolton and resurgent in the same sentence?

I believe that after the Super League debacle and the continued hyper-inflation in the Premier League that football is starting to come full circle again. People are starting to look within their community again, and they are finally opening their eyes to the fact that these false gods that they worship in far off cities, simply do not care about them and give very little value back. Why not be part of something that is closer to home?

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We are in prime position to capitalise on this. It won’t happen overnight but it starts by creating the right environment. I genuinely don’t think turning all the seats blue will create harmony in the town.

But, on the flip side, very few rugby fans actively support Wigan Athletic anyway. You can’t lose support you never had, so the club are quite rightly targeting their efforts elsewhere, and like an American soul singer I have just anonymised for copyright reasons, they believe that children are our future.

The artwork currently appearing around the ground is an exceptional effort into turning what has been a very bland and decaying stadium (for both clubs) into something that should be the pride and joy of our town. I look forward to the next phase of the promotional campaign.

Finally, just a word on the Mudhutter fanzine. I was very nervous about resuming this after 18 months out but my arm was twisted by my fellow editor, Migs. The response we had was phenomenal with close to 200 copies being posted out and far more being sold at the game on Saturday and in the shops and pubs of Wigan. Furthermore, the number of people coming up to us and thanking us for what we do, was both humbling and slightly bewildering. We just do what we have always done, you see. It may have been a general feeling of missing a small part of fan culture the past 18 months.

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It may be the fact that we can cast a critical, independent eye on the club when needed. It may be that myself and Migs were, one of the few voices who constantly highlighted how dodgy IEC and Choi were from the start. Not that we have the reach or consensus across the fanbase to stop them, and even if we did, well could we or anyone stop them?

I’d like to think as a fanbase we have all learnt a lot from the past year or so, and can work together to prevent it happening again but a quick glance at the #wafc timeline on Twitter suggests it’s business as usual, with stratospheric levels of bickering!! For me, I am trying (not always succeeding) to take a backwards step now as I’ve served my time. I just want to focus on watching my team as often as I can and continuing to produce the fanzine. There’s a million and one things I’d like to get my teeth into, things I’d like to see happen at this great club of ours, but admin took a toll on lots of us and, as I have said, the new people seem to know what they are doing. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride!

Caddy from the 5:

A pleasing week on and off the pitch for Wigan Athletic fans this week, a very lucky win v Rotherham where we didn’t play well at all and a draw v Wycombe where we dominated the game and missed so many chances that even Josh Windass would’ve scored maybe one of ‘em!

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Four points from the two games is probably a fair haul and sets us up for a tricky tie at Charlton on Saturday.

You can see the lads are starting to gel and we’ve got the makings of a very decent side in my eyes, a little top heavy at the moment but I’ve every faith in Leam and Talal’s quotes and pen on Twitter to address where we need to strengthen!

After Charlton sees the old enemy from Horwich visit Wigan and see the 21st Century, nip and see the FA Cup whilst you’re here lads and see it in full colour because you’re only used to seeing it in black and white.

Their fans on Twitter – yes I believe they’ve got smart phones and computers in Horwich nowadays – seem super excited for a game against us and are going to fill our ground for us. Cheers lads but I’d concentrate on filling your own first to help pay the £4 million you need for the end of next month to survive, my forecast is another five past them, same as last time they trotted over the hill in their horse and carts.

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The Rotherham game saw our new Lord and saviour Talal take his well deserved ovation from the adoring Wigan fans on the pitch he paid for and he definitely seems bitten by the Latics bug already!

He certainly went out of his way to integrate with the people of our town and embraced it, even visiting Kitt Green and getting out safely!

I hope this is a long and fruitful relationship and the Bahraini lads get their dream of Premier league football again...

This week also saw the club announcing and making changes to the ground, the installing off all blue seats being put in certainly lit the fuse on social media, coupled with the #believe motif and the murals being put up around the reception it’s fair to say the rugby lot aren’t happy.

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Well it’s simple, Lenagan, the council and the money men of Wigan had their chance to buy the ground last year but unfortunately for them the football club had to come with it but they never, they chose to sit on their free seats and let the Bahraini lads put their money where their mouth was so don’t start complaining now.

Mr Al Jasmi owns the ground now and he can do what he pleases with it and as tenants the rugby can just whistle if they don’t like it. Go ask the council for a free stadium– oh hang on, they’ve already done that and been given one.

I also saw Talal saying the two clubs should unite together, well I’m sorry but it’s not going to happen, many have tried and failed before, there’s to big a wedge between both clubs for it to heal, that’s a simple fact.

We tolerate each other because we have to,it’s not that big a town to stay out of each other’s way and I can’t see it ever changing, it’s a pity really because the rugby are a very successful, thriving little club but they’ve chosen the backyard of Talal’s dream to do it in..

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Right I’m off painting all the red lights in town blue and having a bow. UP THE TICS!

Deb Chapman:

The feel good factor continues at Wigan Athletic.

A great win against Rotherham, point against top of the league Wycombe (should have be three) and the resigning of James McLean, what’s not to like about being a Latics fan.

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I’m loving the BELIEVE sign and the huge posters at the front of the stadium, not to mention blue and white seats! The stadium as always felt like ours to me but even more so now.

Don’t think we can love Talal anymore than we already do, ‘actions certainly do speak louder than words’. Long may this love affair continue!

Up the Tics. Believe.

Matt Auffrey:

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Four competitive matches. Four different goal scorers. Four exciting finishes. If you had “win a penalty shootout”, “score a stoppage time winner”, and “concede a stoppage time equaliser” all on the same line of your Latics bingo card, then consider yourself ahead of the competition at this point in the season. After a disjointed performance in our opening match at Sunderland, Latics have steadily improved their quality of play over the last two league matches against Rotherham and Wycombe.

Regardless of how exhilarating Saturday’s win was or how disappointing Tuesday’s draw was, taking four points from two recently relegated Championship sides at this point in the season is a considerable feat.

Even with three different starting line-ups through three league matches that have featured 16 different players, Leam Richardson’s team has been able to raise its game with every passing minute on the pitch.

Our three-match unbeaten streak in all competitions has been just one of many areas where the club continues to make positive progress. Talal Al Hammad’s formal introduction to the fans at the DW Stadium featured no shortage of love and appreciation between the two parties. The match start could’ve easily been delayed another 10 hours on top of the 10 minutes from Saturday to allow every Latics fan present to give Talal a proper greeting. Our chairman’s lap of honour was a surreal moment to watch – even from behind my computer screen over 3,000 miles away. He has become every bit the hero that we could only fantasize about during this time last year. Scoring a last minute winner in front of a crowd exceeding 10,000 fans was the least that our wonderful club could do to thank Talal for his commitment and efforts so far.

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The return of James McClean only serves as further evidence that the club is trending in the right direction. Just 13 months ago, McClean wrapped up a Championship season where he contributed seven goals and seven assists to a Stoke side that finished comfortably midtable.

Not a single player remains from the 14-15 squad where McClean last displayed his talents for Latics. He has no prominent connections to Leam Richardson or the coaching staff, but here he is, back at the DW Stadium.

It is uncertain what role he will play in the squad, but there is no doubt that he has the ability to still contribute on the pitch. He has been welcomed back with open arms by our fanbase and I personally can’t wait to see him back in Latics colors after a six-year hiatus.

As much as there is to celebrate, a tough trip to southeast London awaits Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

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After just missing the play-offs on goal difference last season, Charlton haven’t gotten off to a flying start this season, as they still seek their first win in all competitions.

It’s been nearly four years since we’ve won our last match at The Valley, so a challenge lies ahead of Latics regardless of the Addicks’ recent form.

If Wigan can channel the same spirit that they displayed a week ago, I’m confident in our chances of securing another positive result. Our club has not achieved the many goals set out for us by Phoenix 2021 yet, but it is safe to say we are “back” and ready to wreak havoc. The only thing that would’ve made last Saturday even better was if the jubilant events occurred in a stadium full of blue and white seats. One can only dream, right?

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Plan to make DW Stadium seats blue and white
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Sean Livesey:

Four points from the first three games, not a bad return considering we ended last season with five contracted players.

Not bad either considering everything our club had to go through last season to even get to this point of starting the season.

This seems to be forgotten by everyone else in League One at the moment.

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The likes of Ian Evatt and surprisingly Paul Warne seem to think we should have carried on with our hotchpotch mix of youth players and free agents that miraculously managed to stay up last season.

Building a competitive squad? Nah that’s for the birds. Not for Wigan Athletic. The aforementioned former Latics striker Paul Warne described us as the Harlem Globetrotters after the last minute win over Rotherham on Saturday afternoon.

If a load of free signings with one fee paid among that number makes us the Harlem Globetrotters then I’m Wilt Chamberlain (look it up kids). The pure disdain that our business has been met with reminds me of our Premier League promotion season and more recently the League One title winning seasons.

But this time there’s no millions from Dave Whelan and no Premier League parachute payments. This time it’s income generated by the club and supported by investment from Phoenix 21.

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I’m amazed at how quickly the new owners and management team have gone about their work. They’re well on their way to completely rebuilding a football club that was on its knees.

There’s a long way to go but there hasn’t been a buzz around the football club like this for a long, long time.

From stadium improvements to the playing squad, everything so far has been impressive.

I felt a mixture of emotions last Saturday, primarily relief. Relief that we were back but also pride. Pride in what we all did and pride in how we will rebuild our football club. But also pride in Mr Al Jasmi and Talal Al Hammad. They’ve seen something in Wigan Athletic.

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They’ve seen something in this small football club, they’ve seen something in this small yet passionate (and daft) fan base and believe (we’ll be hearing a lot of that over the next few weeks) we can once again be a force again. It’s important to keep our expectations in check but so far so good.