Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'At the risk of upsetting people, I think Rotherham are a better team than us...but I don’t think they have a better team than us...'
Let’s talk about Friday then. At the risk of upsetting people, I think Rotherham are a better team than us. I suppose looking at it independently, their results against other teams and stuff like goal difference, goals conceded seems to support this. But I am talking more about the team rather than their results. The fact is they should be a better team than us, because they have been together longer. They weren’t thrown together at the start of the season like we were. See what I mean? They are a better team than us, but I don’t think they have a better team than us. Because we have the better players, and probably the better squad of players. Sorry if I seem to be talking in riddles here. I guess what I am saying is that we just haven’t always reached our full potential, certainly not in every game and maybe not ever during this season bar one game in particular. I’m not allowed to mention that game because I’ll get called ‘obsessed’, ‘rent free’,’ wearing Trotters pyjamas’ by a group of fans who seem so wound up about our football club that they hang on every word every one of our fans says. The fact we haven’t reached our potential is great news, however, as I firmly believe we have another gear we can get into. Sure, Rotherham are having a brilliant season but can they get better? I’d argue not. Can we get better? Absolutely, and the next three games would be an ideal time to do so. In fact, it will probably be the key factor in determining much of where both of the current top two finish this season. This isn’t me complaining and saying that we should be doing better, more an observation that these players are still getting used to the systems, formations and combinations we play. There is going to be plenty of fatigue knocking about but then there are also lots of new players and squad players who are champing at the bit to get a run out. I do think the actual football that we play can improve too, but I am not hung up about the style of play.
There’s no point pretending you’re some kind of mini-Barcelona then going to somewhere like Burton and getting three put past you. Yes, I am on about that lot again. Seems the club who brought the footballing world Sam Allardyce, Gary Megson, Phil Parkinson and Kevin ‘the elbows’ Davies is claiming they invented passing football now. Quelle surprise. I think the Crewe game is a case in point. Did we play scintillating football throughout? No. Did we run up a cricket score against hapless opposition? No. Did we score more goals than they did and collect three points? Yes! And that really is all that matters in that game and every other remaining game this season. The fact we turfed Blackburn out of the FA Cup shows we are capable of doing that to anyone in this division. To return to my opening gambit, I think as it stands, it is still marginally ‘advantage Rotherham’ right now. Based on the numbers, they are in a slightly more compelling and convincing position. The maths suggest we’d need to win our two games in hand 7-0 to overturn them at the top. And they’ve conceded nine less goals than us, despite playing two games more. Nevertheless, the season is only two thirds of the way through yet and it is what we do in our remaining 17 games which is more important. We only need to pick up a point more than Rotherham and then maintain the same results, if we can win our two games in hand, and it is possible to fulfil the first part of this equation on Friday night. I’ve focussed too much on Rotherham, though. The alternative way to look at Friday’s game is simply that winning puts more distance between us and third place. I’ve seen the whole “win the league versus settle for second” debate on social media. My position still remains from my Royal Rumble style analogy from a while back. Let’s just make sure that we are one of the last two still standing in the ring firstly, as promotion is the primary goal. Then, should the opportunity to throw the remaining opponent out of the ring, let’s grab them with both hands and send them packing. They’re going to take some shifting, a big bunch of lads like that but if anyone can do it, Wigan Athletic can.
Caddy from the 5
I’ll start with sending condolences to Mr Al Jasmi, Talal and all their family after the passing of Muhammad Al Jasmi...from all at Wigan Athletic, God bless. As we prepare for our third game in six days against top of the table (for now) Rotherham, after two wins at home that saw us open a five-point gap to third place, with still three games in hand, you’d think all is well with the ‘Tics supporters... Well with some apparently not, and as Mr Myers would say ‘We’re doomed’! Are we playing scintillating football? No. Are we winning games? Yes! ‘But we’re lucky!’ I’ve heard this week. LUCKY?! We’ve lost one game since Bolton last won a trophy in colour – obviously not counting the ‘best team in the division’, one that a team 17 points behind us having played three games more has sat at the side of the ‘drew with Bayern Munich’ one – but I digress... The punishing schedule is undoubtedly taking its toll on bodies and performances, but the lads are still grinding out win after win, proving they’ve the fight in them to take us up, which I’ve absolutely no doubt they will do. The ultimate aim this season is promotion. And no-one will care how it’s achieved, or remember we only beat Crewe 2-0 on a cold Tuesday night in February, if we’re dancing all over Shrewsbury at the end of April, while sticking two fingers up to the EFL, and him who owned us last. This season couldn’t have gone any better so far for me, look at the away days we’re having! There’s a massive crop of young fans coming through who are all Latics daft, another sell-out of 2,000 going over to Rotherham on Friday shows this. The buzz around town is back and with potentially over 20,000 on against the perennial bottle-jobs Sunderland next week, so it’s all looking rosy at the DW. There’s no need for the negativity. Of course we all moan if things aren’t going great, but take a look...THEY ARE! And it’s up to us supporters to get the lads over the line and back into a Championship we never deserved to leave. A final thought on Max Power, the lad is just getting better with every game and epitomises everything about this club. He lives and breathes it, and it isn’t going unnoticed in the stands. Right I’m off to 1997 to get an outfit and a crate of ‘Bow for Friday so I can blend in with the locals in Rotherham. Altogether now: ‘and now you’re gonna believe us... the Blues are going up!’
Have we all stopped panicking yet? Probably not, but anyway. Two wins in three days against a very useful Charlton team and a woeful Crewe side sets us in good stead for a difficult run of matches in a very short period. Even if we lose all three games, it’s not a disaster. It’s not ideal, granted, but we can’t, nor won’t, win every game. Had we not won the last two, it might have been a different story, but we did. Against Rotherham, Wycombe and Sunderland I’ll probably be happy with a win, a loss and a draw in any order. It would be lovely if we start with a win on Friday, but I reckon Rotherham are probably favourites to go up anyway, so it’s better we put even more distance between us and the ones trying to catch us. There was a stat on Twitter, earlier in the week, indicating that winning 10 out our remaining 18 games would likely be enough to go up automatically, as the teams below us would need to win almost all of their games to pass us. After Crewe, it’s now nine out of 17, which is barely more than 50 per cent. Frankly, any team wanting to get promoted who can’t manage to win half their games probably wouldn’t expect to go up anyway. That puts in perspective the incredible position we’re in. It’s been easy this season to forget just what a great job Leam Richardson and his team do. Last season, when every point won was a minor miracle, everybody acknowledged the impossible had actually become reality. This season, he has been a victim of his own success. Wiganers being what they are means every point lost is now regarded as abject failure. Should we not go up as champions, let alone just go up at all, there are some who would see it as not good enough. That’s where we are with football now, it seems. Finally, none of us know Abdulrahman Al Jasmi personally, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a son, and especially one so young, but I’m sure we all feel deeply for the loss to him, the chairman and their families. It puts everything I’ve said above into very real perspective. Yes, football is an important part of all our lives, but it’s not a matter of life or death. It’s a sideshow to the things that really matter, and no more. We have a lot of reasons, at Latics, to pull together and show the world we’re not just an insignificant, small, northern town, with an insignificant, small, northern football club. That we see our owners as part of “us” is no small part of that, and long may it continue. One in, all in.
What a difference a week makes. After losing at Sheffield Wednesday, some of the Latics faithful had their itchy fingers anxiously hovering the panic button. Fast forward seven days, everything is looking rosy in the garden, with two consecutive (albeit laboured) wins against Charlton and lowly Crewe. Latics’ season is once again back on track. These wins were important for two reasons. Firstly, to stay in touch with Rotherham, not to let them disappear over the horizon and out of sight. Secondly, to put some distance between ourselves and the chasing pack, who are still snapping at our heels. Next up is Latics’ biggest game of the season, a trip to the New York Stadium to face high-flying Rotherham. The Millers are on a roll – six consecutive wins, without conceding a goal! On this form, it would appear no other team in League One can stop them. So, it will have to be up to Latics to knock the Millers off their perch. Victory at Rotherham would narrow their lead and keep Latics in touching distance. If we don’t, then the task of trying to overtake Rotherham, will get that much harder. There are still plenty of games left and anything can happen between now and April 30. While we are all naturally pleased and relieved at the last two results, I still have reservations. In both of these games Latics started slowly and it was not until the second half, before they began to hit their straps. At the end of the day, it is not necessarily the performance that matters, but results. And on that score Latics are still grinding out wins like linked sausages. After Rotherham, Latics face two more tough games against promotion-chasing rivals Wycombe and Sunderland. Once again, the character and mettle of Latics will be put to the test. But why should Latics be afraid of any team in League One? They have the players and quality to prevail, although there are still games in hand that have yet to be played. One more thing and, looking further ahead, if Latics should prevail against Sutton United in the Papa John’s Trophy, the final is due to be played on Sunday, April 3. Latics are scheduled to play home games against Bolton on Saturday, April 2 and Accrington on Tuesday, April 5. Something has to give here? Most likely it will be the Bolton game that will have to be rescheduled, meaning another extra game to be squeezed in. April 30 will be the last day of the EFL League One season, all the matches will start at the same time, and I for one don’t see the EFL for one moment extending the season just to accommodate Latics’ already overburdened fixture list. Does anyone else?
I could feel the energy of the crowd through my phone screen and speakers as I watched with anticipation from thousands of miles away in New York City. Four minutes of stoppage time were just announced and Latics continued to push hard for a goal. The ball remained in our opponent’s defensive third and we continued to mount heavy pressure. A breakthrough was destined to happen soon. Then, the full time whistle blew and a scoreline that was quite unfamiliar to our fanbase displayed before our eyes. Wigan Athletic 2 Crewe Alexandra 0. Latics had won their first league match by a multi-goal margin since October. What exactly does that represent? It’s possible that there’s very little to take away from that result. Crewe could likely play two divisions below us next season and possessed the quality of a League Two side for large portions of Tuesday’s match. Yet, Latics still accomplished some notable feats. We kept our second clean sheet in the league since October and scored twice from open play. When you include Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Charlton, our last four goals have all come from different scorers. That should hopefully be a sign that our attacking players are finding their form and confidence as a group. This recent morale boost could not have come at a better time as we approach a genuine six-pointer this Friday against top-of-the-league Rotherham. The Millers are far and away the in-form side of the division. They’ve won seven straight matches across all competitions. They’ve also scored more and have conceded less than any other team in League One. Their success shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. If Rotherham have done anything consistently over the past decade, it has been getting promoted from this division. They’ve achieved promotion during their last three seasons in League One despite never going up as champions. The last time Rotherham conceded a goal was in a 1-0 defeat at Fleetwood just over a month ago, when ex-Latic Anthony Pilkington poked in a 95th-minute winner from short range off a set piece. Do you remember another time when Rotherham lost 1-0 away from a 95th minute goal that came from a set piece? Of course! Will Keane’s late winner delivered Latics their first league victory of the season in mid-August. Regardless of whether we win, lose, or draw at the New York Stadium, we will still come out of the weekend second in the league table. A win could very well change our trajectory towards a league title, but any other result will not divert our path away from automatic promotion. We’ve already beaten several top sides in this division on their home pitch, and there’s no reason why our expectations should change for Rotherham. Even with one of our most important matches of the season approaching, now is as good of a time as ever to take a step back and count our blessings. Our proud owner, Abdulrahman Al Jasmi, recently suffered a tremendous personal loss. The best thing that the club and our fans can do to support Al Jasmi and his family at this time is employ the full spirit of Wigan Athletic to the best of our ability. There are few things more powerful than seeing the great people of this club rally together during times of need. Let’s continue to be the best versions of ourselves. Rest in peace, Muhammad Al Jasmi.
I’m just going to come out and say it, straight off the bat, the standard of officiating in the EFL is diabolical. It really is. After last week’s penalty circus at Sheffield I was sort of hoping we had seen it all for this season, but as usual I was wrong. We welcomed the visit of Charlton on Saturday and, although the result thankfully went in our favour, with goals from Will Keane and Stephen Humphrys, the decisions from the officials made it very hard work. I counted a total of four (FOUR) blatant penalty shouts throughout the game, three of which were missed completely by Tom Nield, on top of the most bizarre behaviour I have ever seen from a fourth official, who spent several minutes of the first half playing peek-a-boo with Curtis Tilt as he attempted to take a throw-in. However, it was nice to take all three points from the game and see a potential end to the rough patch we seem to have been going through in recent games. Tuesday’s visit from bottom of the league Crewe also ended in a Latics win, putting us now six points behind first-place Rotherham, with three games still in hand on the leaders, who we play on Friday. Special mention to James McClean, who once again found himself subject to some unpleasant chants from Alexandra’s traveling supporters, which naturally put him in a perfect position to fire home the second of our goals and celebrated with an open-armed gesture to the away fans. Isn’t it lovely to watch him making friends? The top end of the table really is starting to get exciting and, with the ‘Believe’ bus ticking over and ready to go on tour, the remaining months of this campaign are set to be very interesting as we start to tick off some of those games in hand. I want to end this week by sending condolences to Talal Al Hammad and to Mr Al Jasmi after the terrible news that his son, Muhammad had passed away last week at the age of 21. I hope both men know that all of Wigan is with them, we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers over the coming weeks. There will forever be an empty seat at the DW that should have been taken by Muhammad Al Jasmi. May he Rest in Peace.
Well two wins to kick off the week. Performances could have been better, but who cares at this stage of the season? Just get the wins on the board. Now comes the big game on Friday at Rotherham. After watching bits of their game against Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, what we really need to be careful of is giving away cheap free-kicks in our own half and corners. They are a good set-piece team, which doesn’t mean they can’t score from general play, but let’s go there and give it our best. One moan, though – and let’s be honest, I’ve not done one for a while – can Callum Lang and Will Keane stop pulling at players when challenging them? Yes, it looks nothing, but the modern footballer doesn’t need an excuse to go down. Lastly my deepest sympathy to Tal and everyone in Bahrain...21 is no age. R.I.P. Muhammad Al Jasmi. Stay Safe all.
We had a blip, as all teams do, but since, we’ve won two games,
A central three, or flat back four, it doesn’t change the aims,
To try and score more goals than them, and take away three points,
To send the fans home happy (even if style disappoints).
This team can play, it tries to pass, but isn’t scared to hoof,
To be fair, it’s quite successful, look at t’ table, there’s your proof,
Sometimes, down t’ wings, sometimes through t’ middle, sometimes it’s over t’ top,
Sometimes though, cos we’re not Citeh, well, the moaning doesn’t stop.
I sit and have a brew and stare at t’ table in disbelief,
Five points clear o’ third, from three games less, yet some still beef,
We didn’t play quite pretty enough, is I think their biggest whinge,
You have to laugh, or else, you’d cry, or possibly, just cringe.
I’m honestly not sure what it would take to please some fans,
To match their lofty expectations, and deliver on their plans,
Promotion isn’t good enough, we must do it with finesse,
With a classy midfield pivot, and of course, high upfield press.
I’m happy me, we’re doing well, far better than expected,
I even like our style of play, whichever team’s selected,
You see, I don’t play Fifa, and I haven’t got a grudge,
Against some players (for who knows why?) on which they will not budge.
So on we go, to Rovrum, unlike the Everley Pregnant Brothers (youtube ‘em),
For yet another win? Well, there’s a chance, just like all t’ others,
But even if we draw or lose, then it won’t be th’ end o’ t’ world,
No matter how much abuse is yelled, or how many insults hurled.
Eee, in’t it grand, the way the world just seems to right itself,
The way it reaches back to pluck the old stuff off the shelf,
The moaners shushed during Admin, at least, their whinging was less formal,
But now, it’s back to “no holds barred”, it seems we’re getting back to normal!
Get 20% off our sports subscription package and stay up to date with all the latest Wigan Athletic news with a year’s subscription to WiganToday for less than 9p a day. Use promo code TRANSFER20