The 12th Man column: 'Off-field worries gone... on-field worries rage on'

Our 12th Man columnists look at the run-in...

Friday, 9th April 2021, 4:16 pm
Wigan Athletic have seven games to try and avoid relegation

Matthew Auffrey:

In celebration of the recent takeover, the Wigan Athletic NYC Fan Club held its first official get-together in over a year last Friday afternoon at Banter Bar in Brooklyn.

Over a couple pints, our small group discussed the past, present, and future of Latics football in great detail, and casually paid attention to the Swansea-Birmingham match playing in the background.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While watching the rather humdrum match, we took a moment to focus on Birmingham City and compare their last decade of football to Wigan Athletic’s.

The Blues are in their 10th consecutive season of Championship football where they have finished in an average position of 16th between the 12/13 and 19/20 seasons.

Latics have seen higher peaks over the past 10 seasons (two extra years in the Premier League, the 2013 FA Cup final victory, and multiple other FA Cup runs) but have also experienced lower valleys (multiple relegations and most recently, nine months in administration).

If you prefer the thrills of being a Wigan Athletic fan, then buckle your seat belt and prepare for one of our wildest rides yet.

It’s hard to imagine that exactly one month from today, our 20/21 season will officially be done.

This past season has exhausted us, aged us, and has tested us in more ways than we would’ve ever asked.

We are all surely due for a trip to the chiropractor to have our necks examined after spending so much time looking up the league table from the bottom.

Our playing form has recently taken a dip at one of the least optimal times. We’ve taken just two points from our past five matches and sit in 23rd position with seven cup finals to go on the season.

That sentence alone could have many outside observers thinking that we are in a great amount of trouble as we try to navigate League One survival.

We have the second worst form of any League One team over the past five games. Lucky for Latics, Saturday’s opponents, Doncaster Rovers have been the only side to produce poorer results recently. They are winless in their last seven matches with only two draws.

For the fifth straight match, we will go up against a side that is still very much in the play-off hunt.

Doncaster will look at Wigan’s playing form, specifically the fact that we’ve gone nearly four matches without scoring a goal, and see a team that is ripe for the taking.

If Latics are going to claw their way out of the relegation places, then securing three points tomorrow is essential to that mission.

Our defence has finally started to settle down after many tumultuous stretches, and the midfield pairing of Lee Evans and Funso Ojo helped Latics control the middle of the pitch for large portions of Monday’s match against Portsmouth.

Can Leam Richardson make the necessary adjustments with our attacking players to produce the breakthrough necessary to win matches again?

Whether they come from set pieces, fast paced counter attacks, steady build-ups, or by some miracle, we are awarded a penalty, we will take our goals in any way possible.

If the Doncaster defence even wants to do us a favor and send one into their own net, there would be no better place and time than this Saturday at the Keepmoat Stadium to do so.

Despite all our recent troubles, we are still just two points adrift of safety and maintain the ability to jump out of the relegation zone at the full time whistle on Saturday.

Latics still have as much to play for as any other match this season.

As Wigan Athletic fans, we live for the challenges that are presented ahead.

Let’s support the lads with gusto from home, away, and far away to boost the club in these coming weeks.

George Chilvers:

It’s getting to the sharp pointy end of the season (well, hopefully pointy) and we are still in the mix.

Bad thing that we are down there, good thing that we are still in with a chance of surviving.

A disappointing weekend to be added to the array of disappointing weekends, but only in us failing to get any points out of the game. Other games are still going our way, so we live to fight another day.

More positive stuff from the new owners and CEO, which continues to give us hope. No matter where we are next season we will still be in existence.

That seemed a distant hope just a few months back.

In other news, Man City post a £126 million loss and no-one bats an eyelid.

And people wonder what has gone wrong with football.

Tony Moon:

Wigan Latics - Our Pretty Woman

Wigan Latics, my one and only team

Wigan Latics, yes you are supreme

Wigan Latics,

You are my sunshine, and my rain

Can’t wait to see you play again

(Morsyyyy!)

Wigan Latics, we’ve been through thick and thin

Wigan Latics, you put me in a spin

Wigan Latics,

You are my sunshine, and my dark clouds

Can’t wait to see DW “crowds”!

Wigan Latics, yeah yeah yeah

Wigan Latics, home and away

Wigan Latics say you’ll stay with me

Stanley Choi can go to hell

Take Au Yeung Wai Kay as well

We’re all Bahrainis now, I think we agree

But Dave Whelan, thanks for all you’ve done

But not your alleged casual racism, that’s best long go-o-one

Wigan Latics, when we won the cup

It was the best day, with Bob and all the line-up

Wigan Latics, You are my sunshine he-e-ey

Okay

I won’t forget that day in May

When we beat City in the rain

And then we did it all again …

At th’ Etihad, away

And then when Will Grigg had his day

We sang and danced the night away

Oh, oh, Wigan Latics.

Sean Livesey:

How great a feeling is it not to spend every day wondering whether or not your football club will survive?

The pain of the last nine months won’t disappear in a hurry but the relief of the last week has been palatable.

As the worries about our future off the pitch subside the worries of our future on the pitch rage on.

It’s not been a good week for Wigan Athletic if we’re being honest.

As we’ve tightened up at the back since the heavy defeat to Accrington last month we seem to have lost our goal scoring touch at the other end of the pitch.

Two performances against Gillingham and Portsmouth were Latics have been far the better side (especially against Gillingham) but failing to come away with a point or a goal in that period.

Mercifully results elsewhere have meant that Latics are still within a chance of avoiding back to back relegations, but results need to turn and goals need to return immediately. That task could now be much harder after the loss of Callum Lang on Monday afternoon thanks to a ridiculous challenge.

The Portsmouth player suffered a fractured cheekbone for his troubles but it took Lang out of the game and left an already struggling front line without their most likely outlet.

Worse than losing him from Monday’s game could be the potential two games out due to concussion (if indeed Lang has suffered from concussion) that will mean we’re left with Jamie Proctor and Joe Dodoo as our only recognised strikers.

Speaking of that challenge on Lang it’s been really disappointing if not terribly predictable to see the amount of decisions go against Wigan Athletic in recent weeks. Both against Gillingham and Portsmouth there were challenges that would have seen penalties awarded to Leam Richardson’s side that went completely against us.

These decisions can change the outcome of seasons and unless we start getting the rub of the green it’s going to lead to an outcome we don’t want.

Next up its Doncaster, a side with play-off aspirations but equally without a win in the last five games.

If we’re to get out of this it’s the games against Doncaster, Crewe and Burton where we need to be targeting full points. Anything from the other four games is a bonus.

We’re on to the home stretch now and we’re still in with a chance.

We’d have all taken that back in November but we need a Wigan Athletic style revival in the next few weeks to secure that survival. Take note of the 2007,2011,2012 and 2019 vintages lads.

Aside from the matters on the pitch the revolution of our club thanks to the impressive Phoenix 2021 group continues apace.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a supporters chat with new Chief Executive Mal Brannigan earlier this week. The fact that the new group don’t want to be invisible and want to actively engage with supporters can only be a good thing.

We had clear lines of communication in the past via Jonathan Jackson and it looks like Mal will continue in that spirit. A lot of things were discussed, many of those in the press already but I came away feeling thankful and hopeful that brighter days are indeed around the corner.