Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - '...a never-ending stream of utterly terrible takes from uneducated football fans from South Shields to the South Coast...'
Our 12th Man panel reflect on Latics going top of League One - and wonder why there's still so much scorn being thrown around the lower leagues...
Imagine being a fan of a big club and spending all your days going around slagging off smaller clubs? I couldn’t do that. The irony is that it’s classic “small man” syndrome (and it is usually men) who behave like that. It seems Sunderland fans have gone to town, yet again, about our poor support on Tuesday night. Imagine being so uncomfortable in your own skin that you have to go around telling other fans of smaller, but perfectly formed, clubs how massive that you are? It comes down to one thing and one thing only: jealousy. They cannot stand the fact that little ole’ Wigan Athletic can match them on the pitch, so they look to mock us over our size instead, in the hope it mocks their own inadequacies on the field. Of course, Sunderland beat us fair and square on Tuesday, but still their fans preferred to take to social media to mock our support, every bit as celebrate their success. They even laughed at the “empty” disabled section in their end, being as easily confused as they are. The crowd on Tuesday night was 6,511 including 1,674 from Sunderland. Therefore, there were 18,622 empty seats.
But do you know what else? Sunderland’s last home game the crowd was 29,830, their capacity is 49,000, therefore they actually had 19,170 empty seats. That’s right, they had more empty seats for a league game than we did for a low priority cup game. The only game when they had less than 18,622 empty seats was on the opening game of the season, which was watched by a crowd of 31,549 fans. On this day, it was bolstered by over 2,000 away fans. Those away fans coming from Wigan, and this being 326 more than could be bothered travelling the other way from Sunderland the other night, if we’re being particularly picky. So, if we’re doing the “ignore the variables, let’s deal with the facts”, well, there you have it. Your thousands of moronic fans can shout all you like at your support, and also claim we are “jealous”, just like fans of that lot up the road were doing a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t hold up I’m afraid.
I took a recent straw poll of Latics fans and asked them whether they would prefer to a) have won a major trophy in the last 40 years; or b) have more fans than other teams, so they could spend their days and nights belittling the fans of those other teams on the internet. And the results, unsurprisingly came back 99 per cent in favour of Option A. There’s always one, hey! It would seem the big clubs prefer Option B, or maybe it is more because Option A doesn’t exist for them, that they have no choice but to mouth off about how massive they are. There is a very diverse mix of clubs in this division but I guarantee our fans wouldn’t dream of patronising those clubs who do have smaller gates than us. What gives 30,000 Sunderland fans the right to look down their noses at 2,000 Accrington or Fleetwood fans? Every football fan is equal, in fact you could argue those who follow a smaller, local team over a dominant force in their area, are even more of an ardent supporter, as they do not take the easy option that many of their fellow townsfolk do. Having said that, they probably don’t give those fans stick, like they do to us, because Accrington and Fleetwood haven’t had a recent past that Sunderland fans are envious of. Don’t get me wrong, they have in many ways achieved a hell of a lot more, with a lot less resources (and fans), to stand on a level playing field with them in League One. The fact their clubs (like ours) haven’t seen an exponential increase in support as they have moved up through the divisions is also endearing. It shows their support is made up of true, loyal supporters and fans aren’t just jumping on the bandwagon. I remember back to last season and us getting thumped 5-0 by Rochdale, with a certain Stephen Humphrys highly prominent in proceedings. It was a tough watch, under very trying circumstances but we had to take it. Ditto getting knocked out of the FA Cup by Chorley. Of course, I could moan about the position we were in but football is cyclical. And it probably meant the world to their fans. It was only a shame they weren’t there to witness it. Of course, at that point, we could have all paid their fan sites and twitter accounts a visit and reminded them they were smaller clubs than us and sneered the “you’ve got no fans” retort like that appalling Cockney fella. But that would have been utterly small time and pathetic. Some days, you’ve got to let other clubs' fans have their day, and be happy for them. Be gracious and don’t rub their noses in when you beat them, and don’t ridicule their fanbase whether you win or lose. And maybe don’t spend the whole game singing ridiculous songs making allegations about their former centre forward. Honestly, who would want a fanbase that size, when so many of them seem to revel in such utterly moronic behaviour? It does seen as though the scene is set, and if we are to continue our early season form at the top of the table, we are going to have to put up with this nonsense all year again. Buying the league on the field, having no fans off it, taking an obsessive interest as to whether our centre forward has scored or not. And a never-ending stream of utterly terrible takes from uneducated football fans from South Shields to the South Coast. Give me an Accrington, a Burton Albion, a Cheltenham Town or an AFC Wimbledon every time over the self-professed massive clubs in this division. Those clubs, like ours, might not have as many fans but having the ability to be comfortable in their own skin and the corresponding absence of a continual, superiority complex more than makes up for it.
Wigan Athletic: top of the league. The words look just as good on paper as they sound coming out of your mouth. Even if the designation means nothing until we complete 39 more league fixtures over the next seven odd months, it still represents an opportunity to express appreciation for how far our club has progressed since the summer of 2020. Last Saturday’s 4-1 victory at Accrington gave us a glimpse of the team we’d hoped we’d become within the next few months – one that was dominant in possession, creative in the final third, and capable of finishing scoring chances with confidence. If Charlie Wyke’s two second-half goals didn’t put the rest of League One on high alert, I can only assume it’s because some individuals didn’t get the message from their carrier pigeon yet. In addition, the turnout from the Latics faithful in the stands was just as inspiring as the performance on the pitch. There won’t be many more away days where blue and white shirts make up over half of the attendees in the ground, but the sight was an absolute joy to witness on my television screen from abroad. Unlike the exuberant events of last weekend, Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Sunderland proved Latics are not quite ready to have their cake (or pie rather) and eat it too. We put out a competitive team on paper, but collectively did not have the form or finesse to beat a strong side on our home pitch. If Sunderland end up being the only League One foe that we lose to this year, I have a feeling that’ll still mark a successful season for Latics. As dire as things may have seemed when the full-time whistle blew and we were officially eliminated from our first cup competition of the season, the situation may be a tad more grim down the road at Pride Park Stadium. Regardless of how the events that led to Derby entering administration may compare or contrast with those of Latics, it is an unfortunate situation nonetheless, and one that will have adverse effects on many people. We can only hope our club’s recent triumphs, as small as they may be, can provide a glimmer of hope for Derby fans and show it is possible to come out of administration with one’s head held high in anticipation of a more stable and prosperous future. As our attention turns back to the league campaign, another noteworthy player reunion is on the cards at the DW this Saturday. Ex-starlet Kyle Joseph makes his return to Wigan as a member of the Cheltenham squad while on loan from Swansea. There is still much to lament about his departure from Latics after a glorious rise through the academy that culminated with him producing some shining performances for our first team last season. The young man made a decision for his career that we have to respect. And I personally will wish him well in every match that doesn’t see him line up on the opposite end of the pitch from Latics. Cheltenham are starting to find their form in League One after last season’s promotion as League Two champions. But there is no reason why Latics should not beat them decisively as we hope to make it five consecutive league wins on the bounce. The target on our back now is as big as it has been since our 2017/18 League One title campaign. But that’s no excuse for a let-up in form. It’s time to bring some joy back to the DW with another three-point party.
Well if you say you remember Accrington away you are either telling porkies or you was doing it wrong. An away-day as it should be – packed trains, cheap drink flowing. Now at this point Latics usually throw a spanner in the works on top awaydays by getting thumped – a couple of recent visits to Preston spring to mind – but not this time. The football flowed as smoothly as any of the pints from the beer pumps before and after the game. It was really good to see Wyke get off the mark, as his work rate in games have been outstanding and deserved them goals. On Tuesday night, Sunderland were the better team from first to last whistle, and in truth it could have been more. In the great scheme of things, however, it wasn’t that important – apart from player’s getting game time they are not getting in league games. Stay safe.
There was a young manager called Leam,
Who built an incredible te-am,
Playing in front of no cheers,
And no beers and no tears,
That’ll change, now we’re all back to see ‘em!
Cos in the league, we’re doing alright,
Still on top, even after Tuesday night,
But that neet, we slipped up,
So we’re out of the cup
Goin’ out wi’ not much of a fight!
And deary me, the mood has now changed,
Twitter comments all angry and pained,
“I’m not payin’ fer t’ see that”,
“Waste o’ money, it were crap”,
Wiggin misery, it’s deeply ingrained!
What exactly were they expecting,
While the players are all still connecting?
I like a good moan,
And I’m not on my own,
But the coaches and team need protecting (from that nonsense !)
Admittedly, yes, we were poor (with an “ooo”),
And for chances, I’ve rarely seen fewer,
But I heard one daft nutter,
“That’s it, I’m not comin’ no moo-ore”!
So, the toys are now all out o’ t’ cot,
And “Richardson’s gotta stop t’ rot”,
So beware our new owners,
Cos our fans are all moaners,
It’s been t’ same, ever since t’ year dot!
There are away days and there are classic away days, and Saturday’s trip over to East Lancashire definitely falls in to the latter category. After 18 months without live football and a nine-month period where our club’s very existence was at threat, it’s an amazing feeling to be back in grounds again. Saturday was my first away day since Leeds back in 2020 and the excitement levels were off the scales. Let’s have a look at on the pitch matters before we speak about the day itself. It was probably the most complete performance we’ve seen this season. Despite conceding, Latics were in complete control throughout. Will Keane can’t get enough plaudits for me, his performances since he recovered from his bout of covid earlier in the year have been fantastic, and he’s started this season like a player re-born. Throw in to the mix Charlie Wyke getting off the mark in the best possible fashion, and it was as comprehensive win as one could imagine. With 2,500 Wiganers heading over to Accrington it made for...let’s call it a ‘jovial’ atmosphere – and brilliant to see after so long away. Despite the differences in circumstances, this has the feel of those two League One seasons under Gary Caldwell and then Paul Cook. For Chesterfield in 2015, see Accrington in 2021.
Sunderland was a slight blip on an otherwise positive few weeks. It was a great opportunity to reach the next round, but our reserves losing to Sunderland’s reserves won’t define our season. A win over Cheltenham on Saturday will be far more important in the shake-up. As a good friend of mine mentioned on Tuesday, it’s one thing expecting Stephen Humphries to come in to the side with Callum Lang and James McClean alongside him, quite another when it’s another completely changed side – his time will come eventually. Meanwhile can Latics keep this form up across a whole season? Who knows but I’m looking forward to finding out.
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