The 12th Man column: 'This is darkest period in Wigan Athletic's history...'
We recorded a podcast immediately following the home defeat to Hull City, in retrospect it was wrong to do so, personally I made comments which I now feel guilty about.
We should’ve given ourselves time to reflect not only on the game, but also the situation, which is getting more difficult to bear each passing day.
Criticising players and tactics was an emotionally driven response to suffering a third 5-0 thumping, at home, in the space of three months.
In normal circumstances it would be right to do so, right to question where the club was heading, but these are far from normal circumstances and we know exactly where we are heading and we know exactly who is to blame, more importantly, we know who isn’t to blame.
Following the podcast being published I read, via Paul Kendrick’s Twitter feed, comments made by Leam Richardson in his post match briefing. He said: “You can’t underestimate the enormity of the situation: no owner, no chairman, no CEO, no sporting director, no head of recruitment, no manager, no first-team coach, no goalkeeping coach... show me another man who can live with that, and I’ll shake his hand...”
It made me ashamed of what I’d said.
Richardson’s statement wasn’t something that I didn’t know, the gravity of the conditions in which he, Gregor Rioch and Frankie Bunn are trying to work is well known to me.
But I was caught in the emotion of losing a football match which, hand on heart, I thought we’d lose anyway before the game started.
We are a club that has been ripped to shreds, there is no infrastructure, no support network within the club for the people who have stood by us and are still there. Players have come in, into a mess, left a stable clubs behind to come to a club that, if it isn’t sold within the next five months won’t be a Football League club come next season.
Their livelihoods and futures are at stake. And yet, I gave them grief.
Another night of not much sleep for myself, and I’m sure many of our supporters, this is truly the darkest period in the life of Wigan Athletic and the affect that it is having on a great many in the fan base should not be underestimated.
The administrators’ weekly statement is due out today, I’d urge them to find some positivity to put in that statement, something more than ‘Its with the EFL’.
At this moment Begbies Traynor are the custodians of the club and they need to consider the largest stakeholders in Wigan Athletic, the supporters, the effect that the uncertainty and lack of information is having on us.
Give us something to grasp, Gerald Krasner and Paul Stanley may say that legally they are not obliged to, but I’d argue, especially in these times, morally they are.
The darkest hour comes just before dawn, the light and warmth of a new dawn for Wigan Athletic feels a long way off, it is difficult not to lose heart, I’m finding it extremely so at the moment, but how can we expect others to carry the fight forward if we are ready to throw in the towel ourselves.
Well, it is character building if nothing else. Hear me out here, but just as every football club has their days in the sun, we’ve also got to accept our periods in the doldrums. Whether we deserved for it to happen in such a disastrous, malicious is a point for discussion, most Wigan Athletic fans will feel not. Indeed most right thinking football fans feel our sense of grievance. You’d have to have a particularly large axe to grind to not be able to, which probably explains why Bolton and Barnsley fans feel we do deserve it.
Let’s assume we do deserve a reset. Let us sit back and give our opponents credit, reassured that karma ultimately serves everyone in the long term. Lincoln were out of the league for a few years, and deserve their success. Blackpool, our recent 5-0 wallopers have also been through ownership turmoil in recent years. Rochdale, well they’ve achieved very little in their footballing life but just like us, they have a loyal passionate fanbase, who choose to support their local side over the Manchester giants, and who deserve the joy of watching their club turn over those who have enjoyed better fortunes over the years.
As for Hull City, well, whereas finances have not been their primary issue, their whole character and tradition was nearly ripped up over the ludicrous Hull City Tigers debacle. Imagine thinking that you have to add ridiculous nicknames on to the name of your sports club in order to make yourselves more credible?
Let us hand it to them, for a mere seven months ago, it was us humiliating them and when I say “us” I mean that fantastic team we had, not the unrecognisable bunch that takes to the field now. Fair play to the lad who got a hat-trick too, not that I think the defence or ‘keeper offered much resistance. In another world, a swift boot up the back side, early doors, from a midfield enforcer, let’s call him Mammy Sorsy, and there would have been nothing of the sort.
Yet throughout the team we are lacking in every sense. There’s two ways it goes now: down or up. For me, I can only see worse days ahead in the short term at least.
What happens in the longer term is still out of our hands. I don’t see us picking up any more points this month against two teams at the top and one with a new manager in charge. March looks a little ropey too but of course, the single result we can get this season will be off the pitch, not on it.
The players we have are the players we’ve got and for them, again, things will go two ways. I think many fans hoped we got to January and added some experience to the squad and now we have that experience, we are wishing that we had a load of kids playing again.
Are the January recruits just journeymen, looking for a bit of first team football to keep fit? Or will they slowly use that experience to get to know each other and forge a more cohesive unit that stops leaking goals, start to create more chances and brings on the younger players. At the moment, it feels very much like the former but we have to pin our hopes on the latter. For hope is all we have left.
Of course, if we get new owners in, I would fully expect our current crop to up their game, as there would hopefully be contracts on offer. Whether we stay up or go down, we can start planning our longer term future, and decide which of the squad we want to include in Wigan Athletic FC: The Reboot edition.
Like many others, I am fighting the urge to restrain my anger at the various parties who have brought us to our knees and trying to provide a more rationale, balanced view. Perhaps we are due a reset? What would have happened if Dave Whelan had not sold the club, but instead made us sustainable? Which is what we all want right? Imagine if he’d sold off all the talent and pocketed the money, slashed £9m off the wage bill and, with a lower quality squad, let us drop back to the 4th tier, where he picked us up from? The fans would have gone ballistic at it, but maybe that was what was needed. Maybe we needed to be told that: “Young David’s got his pocket money, and that’s all he’s getting.”
He couldn’t pump money in forever, nobody should have expected him to. Nevertheless, the two years’ that followed were disastrous. We were sold to the wrong people, a few of us asked questions from day one but no action was ever taken, we were doing OK on the pitch and the bills were being paid.
Even so, there was no way at all for IEC to do what they did, you will never convince me otherwise. £30m of talent flogged for a fraction of the price by Begbies, and probably another £30m sat on the Academy production line. There was a route to sustainability right there. But why would they want to do that? What did they care about Wigan Athletic FC? They didn’t, only we do, and we are still here.
The computer has crashed and all attempts to reboot are failing. I would say we are running on safe mode, but we are far from safe yet. We are currently (still) at the mercy of administrators and someone who wants to (but doesn’t have to) buy us.
They can walk away at any time. Kept waiting by the EFL, who innocuously waved through the architects of our downfall last time and have resorted to celebrating our defeats in hastily deleted tweets.
We are at their mercy, there is nothing we can do. If League Two awaits, then so be it. It didn’t have to be this way but even so, I am missing my football club, and not just physically. One day, be it this year or next, we will be able to walk through the turnstiles and reclaim it again. The players, or even the stadium, don’t make a football club, it is the fans that make a football club. One day we will have our football club back. In the meantime, we’re just going to have to get used to getting gubbed every week. In the words of Owen F.Coyle, we just have to take our medicine. And I’m certainly feeling a bit sick now after mentioning his name.
It is nearly eight months on from the dreaded day our
beloved club was plunged into chaos and we are still no certain on the future direction of Wigan Athletic.
Reporters from all over the country rushing to stand in front of Dave Whelan’s statue to tell the world how a club who won the FA Cup just a few years back was dramatically placed into administration.
After another on field drubbing I tried to cheer myself up by thinking about more enjoyable times I have spent at Springfield Park, JJB (DW) and many an away day with my son and fellow Latics fans – but alas the current situation quickly came back into mind.
Our supporters have been through a terrible few months with more mood swings ever imaginable; experiencing the on goings with just close family or friends as the chance of a collective gathering of support taken away due to the pandemic.
For over seven months now Wigan fans have been kept in the dark fuelled with false dawns, promises and hopes only to be repeatedly let down.
The patience of all Latics fans is now at a severe testing point as we await (yet again) for news from the EFL on the proposed new owners that continues to drag on and on.
On the field we are a shadow of our former self, what a difference a few months have made with anyone who could run or string a pass together being sold to the (lowest bidder) in an attempt to save our club.
What is so sad is to see is how some opposition managers, players and some fans – accompanied with the EFL communications team – taking great joy in battering a club going through extremely hard times.
For me, this isn’t the real Wigan Athletic getting beat, it’s only in name alone.
Unfortunately, what has happened at our club could (and probably will) happen to other clubs in the very near future, I just hope they will not be forgotten in the way Wigan Athletic has been in just a few months.
As our song says, Latics you are my sunshine I just hope for future generations that no-one takes that sunshine away.
Groundhog day, weeks, months, I’ve lost count really, so we are told Begbies expect to hear from the EFL early March now I won’t hold my breath on that point.
So we throw away a lead at Oxford and an abject performance against Hull where only Merrie stood out from the starting 11.
It’s becoming laughable now that each half decent shot on target or any shot on target is ending up in the back of the net.
Perhaps Jamie Jones needs taking out the firing line for a bit plus the back four/changing game to game can’t help matters but we should be better than this.
Do you remember the good ol’ days when the worst adversity that Latics had to face was a half-time stadium evacuation? Last Sunday’s floodlight fire at Oxford did not jeopardize the safety of any individuals at the Kassan Stadium, but it may have lit the embers that could put Wigan’s League One survival bid in real danger. After Callum Lang delivered another excellent goal, the tyres on the “Believe Bus” caught a few punctures, and the ensuing result was Wigan conceding seven unanswered goals over the next three halves of play.
The 5-0 defeat has become an electrical outlet of sorts. Latics have stuck the metal fork inside the socket three times now, and each subsequent shock has lasted longer than the one before. Wednesday’s loss to Hull City inflicted quite a bit of pain on our fan base, which is something to say considering how numb many of us have become to losing over the past six months. With all the frustration that permeated Latics social media after the match, a growing sense of doubt is what resonated strongest within myself.
There are growing questions about our squad and if we have the right group of players to achieve safety. There are concerns that for as long as we are in administration, our coaches will not be able to guide the team successfully due to a lack of support in multiple departments. Lastly, there is fear that with every negative result, Wigan will become less and less attractive to prospective buyers at the current asking price of £3m pounds.
Our saving grace has been that our relegation rivals have refused to create separation from us at the bottom of the table even though we have lost five of our last six matches. It’s as if they know we are wounded, and they feel obligated to let us stay in the pack – at least until the final sprint of the season. Our first two 5-0 defeats produced mixed results in the subsequent matches – an encouraging 1-1 draw at Fleetwood and a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Swindon. If we let our Hull hangover linger for too long tomorrow, league leaders Lincoln won’t wait long to make us pay.
On the pitch we need organization, leadership, and a collective fight that even goes beyond the great efforts that the players have made recently. We’ve fallen down plenty of times so far this season. It’s time to grab a hold of each other and pull ourselves up together.
The blows keep raining down, like a boxer curled up on the floor of the ring with the referee stood over for the count.
It really is a case of how much more can Wigan Athletic take? How much more can this club, this fanbase, this beleaguered coaching staff take?
If December had seen positive signs of progress, some wins and some hard earned draws January and February have been anything but progressive. Part of that can be put down to the upheaval in the playing squad.
Partnerships that had taken months to build were broken up as some players returned to their parent clubs, others were released and others suffered with injury.
Let us not forget that we’re currently without Kyle Joseph, Lee Evans, Tom Pearce and Adam Long due to injury.
But what we saw on Wednesday evening was a team absolutely shorn of confidence. For the first 25 minutes we were by far the better side, Hull hadn’t got going and if we had taken our chances we would have been ahead but once again Latics conceded and there was only one result. Every time Hull attacked it looked like they would score, the only surprise was that it was only 2-0 at half-time.
In a week where Latics would have been hoping to build on the win at Northampton they’ve instead lost both matches and conceded seven goals in a week in the process. Jamie Jones has endured a torrid time since the turn of the year. He’s clearly low on confidence and I’m still surprised we didn’t look at bringing in another keeper during January when there was space in the squad.
Jones is clearly a fantastic bloke and has contributed to the Latics story over the last four years but for his sake, as much as ours I really sense he needs taking out of the firing line.
Latics keepers have gone through bad spells before and benefitted from some time on the sidelines, Jones himself deputised for both Christian Walton and David Marshall. If it was anyone other than Owen Evans on the bench I imagine it would have happened already. Nonetheless despite his youth Evans deserves his chance and Jones deserves a break from having to face the undoubted criticism that will come his way each time Latics concede this season.
Leam Richardson sounded like a man ready to give up after Wednesday’s defeat and frankly I couldn’t blame him if he did. A man thrust in to a position he never asked for and responsibility he never wanted, all thanks to decisions made that none of the footballing staff had control over. It’s the most despondent I’ve heard him throughout this and I don’t know if it’s down to recent performances or if it’s just the constant enormity of the situation getting to him.
Of course it isn’t over yet, we’ve been in far worse league positions and got out of it but the longer this goes on and the heavier the defeats are we’re going to run out of time. It’s amazing that we’re still in the fight for staying up but the last few weeks have been damaging, let’s make no mistake about it.
It was eight years ago on Wednesday that we travelled to Huddersfield for the FA Cup fifth round and comprehensively out classed Huddersfield Town. This Saturday we face a Lincoln side who weren’t even a league side when we went on that FA Cup run. It tells you everything about our downfall that Lincoln are favourites on Saturday and not us. We somehow need to start getting points from somewhere, it looks an impossible situation but whilst there’s a chance we have to hope.
The side that we have now has enough experience to know what is required, if we can somehow cut out the ridiculous amount of individual mistakes there is a chance but that chance is diminishing with each and every week.
A club systematically stripped of everything that was key to it and with no clear update on when a new ownership structure will be able to save us (if at all) it would have broken other clubs but as my mate Neil Myers succinctly put the other week, the night is darkest before the dawn. We will rise again. Even if we have to return to where Dave Whelan found us before we do.
Keep the faith ladies and gentlemen. They’ve not killed us off yet.