Wigan Athletic: Talking football: Venting at the wrong people
It’s written in the constitution... alongside the enjoyment of pies and Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, and dislike of Bolton and/or St Helens.
Rather than being viewed as a negative, it’s actually regarded as an endearing quality, a source of local pride.
“Wiganers are quite unique, in their own way, I’ve always found,” Latics legend Graham Barrow once famously reflected.
“Wigan people will tell you to your face how they feel.
“If you’ve had a good game, a bad game, an indifferent game, they’ll tell you – and then they’ll have a drink with you.”
There’s certainly been plenty to moan about over the last seven and a half months.
Off the pitch mostly but now, increasingly, on the field.
And while it’s another reassuring step towards normality that we’re now seeing fans venting at the team and the players – as opposed to administrators and governing bodies – it’s all beginning to get out of hand.
With entirely the wrong people in the firing line, bearing the brunt of a situation that is absolutely not of their doing.
Social media is a cesspit at the best of times, with Premier League players regularly being the target for sickening abuse, and now even referees being sent death threats, for making honest mistakes in their workplace.
It’s been particularly unpleasant in the aftermath of Latics’ last two fixtures – the admittedly disappointing defeats against relegation rivals Swindon and Wimbledon.
Let’s get one thing straight: no-one would try to pretend either performance was anywhere near acceptable, with Latics very much second best for the collective 180 minutes... apart from maybe half an hour in the middle of the Wimbledon game, when they showed glimpses of a side coming together.
Sadly, even that wasn’t enough to ensure a point on the board, with the reaction of some – and it’s important to note it’s some, not all – heading straight for the extreme.
Personally, I have no issue with anyone voicing whatever opinion they choose, as long as it’s expressed fairly, rationally and it’s relatively clean (depending on the platform).
“Player X isn’t good enough’, ‘Player Y should be dropped’, ‘Player Z keeps making mistakes’... none of them nice to read, but all fair comment if that’s what’s happened on the pitch.
But too much of what was aired at the weekend was misplaced, and over the line – ‘the players are not trying’, ‘the players don’t care’, ‘the players have no heart’.
Pretty much as bad as it gets in terms of attacking a player’s professional pride.
Club doctor Jonathan Tobin certainly thought so, tweeting on Sunday: “The determination, sweat, tears and effort made by everyone to get WAFC here – where we still have a club and still have a real chance of avoiding relegation – has been huge. It has been HARD. Those people suggesting the players lack heart have absolutely no idea. At all.”
Former skipper Sam Morsy – known for never leaving a drop of anything out there in the middle – immediately replied: “Bang on.”
And he was. Of all the sticks to beat the current team with, not caring is pretty much the last on the list.
These players have all chosen to be here – most of them signing during the last month, or re-signing following previous short-term deals.
Most had offers to go elsewhere and, even with everything going on, chose to come here.
There’s also the youngsters who have provided the backbone all season – each of them possessing the Latics DNA, via a solid grounding from the Academy.
Most of these lads contributed to the ‘Save the Club’ fund last summer from their own pockets.
Which leads us nicely to Jamie Jones, who went above and beyond by auctioning his League One title-winning medal to raise thousands of pounds in a heartwarming act of generosity.
The medal was rightly given back to him by the raffle winner, but how many other players at any level of the game would voluntarily give up something so precious?
One who ‘doesn’t care about the club’?
By the way, that’s not to say he should be above any criticism from now on.
And he absolutely won’t be happy with his role in both of the deciding goals in the last two matches.
But being club captain, and the most experienced player in the side, he certainly doesn’t need ‘fans’ messaging him directly on social media to tell him exactly what they think of him.
I’m guessing not many would express such views to his face if they met him in the street, so why is it okay on social media?
It’s only 16 months since some Latics fans were chanting the name of Jones during a Championship fixture at Hull... to express their displeasure at David Marshall, who was in goal at the time and going through his own tricky spell.
Marshall, of course, came through that period and, by the end of the season, was literally the first name on the team sheet, and vital in the upturn in fortunes in the second half of the season.
Just as Paul Cook stuck by Marshall last year, Leam Richardson was adamant after Saturday’s game that Jones was ‘big enough’ to come through his current difficult spell.
“Goalkeepers will always come under the spotlight because they’re the last line of defence,” said Richardson.
“They can make one or two mistakes over a year, but that’s football. Jamie’s an experienced goalkeeper, and he’ll be fine.”
It can’t help the situation by having a different back four in front of him pretty much every single week, with no opportunity to develop anything resembling a steadfast unit.
Hopefully, now January is out of the way and the squad is now finalised, we’ll start to see greater continuity, more understanding, and key partnerships being developed through the spine.
As last year proved, the only way out of a mess – and let’s not forget, the situation was far bleaker 12 months ago, in terms of the league table – is by sticking together and developing a siege mentality.
Not by bringing the house down from within with internal fighting, finger pointing, and worse.
Wiganers are better than that... aren’t we?
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