Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man (b) - ‘We know, from all too regular experience, this division is a massive amount of fun. Let’s just enjoy it and build for the future...’

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Our panel of Latics experts assess a decent start to the campaign...ahead of Saturday’s home league opener against Northampton – when the DW Stadium will be ‘turned blue’ for the afternoon...

Paul Middleton:

I’ll be honest, I struggle to stay interested in football during the summer, unless it’s a World Cup or Euros year. While everyone else is screaming about us not signing anyone, I’m generally doing other things and avoiding any mention of Latics, or football generally. This summer was different, of course, with everything that happened under the previous owners. But that was more about the survival of the club than actual footballing matters. But here we are, and I’m getting excited again with how things will turn out this year. Promotion? Not with an eight-point deficit and a transfer embargo to start with. Play-offs? Outside chance, but don’t put your mortgage on it. Relegation? No chance. So does that mean we get a normal, boring season for once? Probably not, knowing us. In case you need an example, nobody gave us a chance of beating Derby on Saturday, but we’re suddenly only minus five points. So everyone’s thrilled right? Well. Not really. Failing to beat Wrexham with an average starting age of about 15 has some people baying for blood. Mostly Shaun Maloney’s, but the players aren’t immune from the stick either. We’ve always been something of an enigma, as a club, and that extends to the fanbase. It’s genuinely incredible how we manage to have both the best and worst fans all at the same time. It'd be nice to have a good cup run of some sort but, let’s face facts, it’s not really important now, is it? The parallels to being in administration after the Chinese moved out are marked. No money to speak of, no paying money for players, relying on loans and Academy players, and so on. But, as ever, people have short memories. A month ago, everyone was grateful to just have a club to support. Now, people are moaning because we haven’t won the league and at least one cup in August. Come on lads (and lasses), chins up and look at all the positives we have. We have a great manager who is committed, and who has great plans. We have players who want to play for us, and some who are actually very good indeed. We have an owner who will pay the bills, which I know shouldn’t need to be said, but we do. And we have a great season in League One to look forward to. We know, from all too regular experience, this division is a massive amount of fun. Let’s just enjoy it and build for the future. After all, it’s a future we weren’t even sure we’d have a few weeks ago.

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Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man (Part 1) - ‘Saturday...the homecoming we thought we...
Saturday's visit of Northampton will see Latics open another home campaign of league footballSaturday's visit of Northampton will see Latics open another home campaign of league football
Saturday's visit of Northampton will see Latics open another home campaign of league football

Alan Rogers:

Well, Tuesday was a strange day. Started off with so much hope and ended a bit flat. I have a very small share in a racehorse that was due to run for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. A young two year old, never run before...we had no idea what to expect, but we were very hopeful. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well - finished stone last, beaten a very long way. I was quite philosophical about the result; the main thing was the horse was fine. It simply hadn’t been his day and he has a lot to learn. But I was astonished when I logged onto the private social media page for the racing group to read the reaction. The vast majority were exactly like me, disappointed but perfectly happy to draw a line under the effort and move on. But some members of the owners group were infuriated. 'Change the trainer!' 'Change the jockey!' 'I want my money back!' Astonishing reaction from people who, only that morning, had seemed to be fairly sensible. Admittedly, it was only a very small percentage who reacted this way, but it made me realise I obviously didn’t know them all that well. I also realised it wasn’t only the Latics who attracted a minority of extreme pessimists; it must be spread across all sport, across all society perhaps. A bit of a sobering thought really. There will always be a few grumblers in all walks of life, but maybe things have deteriorated so badly across society that we have become conditioned to only pick out the negatives in most things we see? Perhaps it’s reading the inane ramblings of former Big Brother contestants that are slowly turning us this way? Anyway, I thought about it for a while and decided to wait until after the game against Wrexham to see if my theory held any water. Surely, after Saturday’s great performance, the feel-good factor would still be in play? As soon as I saw the team, I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a stroll in the park. Don’t get me wrong, I approved of the selection - the league has to be our main concern this season so we need to protect the squad. And to be honest, our team of young players - most of whom are still getting to know each other - managed a draw against a lively home team who are definitely on the up, in several areas. OK, the penalties were a disappointment, but hopefully we can move on and try to pick the positives out of the game. Except some people didn’t want to move on. There were some strange comments on social media as usual. Now I will be the first to admit we are never all going to agree when it comes to opinions. One official definition of the word opinion is: 'A view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge'. Fair enough, I can’t prove your opinion is garbage, and that mine is perfectly correct! But when you stray into the area of fact, then that’s a different matter. Somebody wrote last night we 'couldn’t keep hold of the ball' as part of a rambling complaint. I think they were referring to the second half and, when I looked, I think we had over 65 per cent possession in the second half. Now we may not have done a lot with it, but we definitely had hold of the ball! Perhaps some people have decided to adopt the 'Donald Trump' approach for the new season - completely ignore the facts. He’s still adamant he won the election... And so on to Saturday. The rebirth, the rebrand, the brave new world. I applaud everyone’s attempts to make this a special day, and I really hope it goes well. I’m confident if we put our best team out, and with the crowd behind them, the team can continue to build on the Derby game. I really hope so, because we need to get some positive vibes into the bank, because unfortunately the merchants of doom are undoubtedly waiting in the wings. And I’m really worried if they start abusing our new owner and manager...well they may simply turn their backs and walk away. And the same applies to the players, some of them still very young and perhaps impressionable. I really hope the boo boys don’t pick on them this season. In fact, I wonder who this season’s villain will be? Because no matter how well they play, some poor sod is going to get some stick from some numpties! Maybe I’ll report back next week with my early candidate for 'Numpties' Villain of the Season'? Then again, perhaps not. Stupidity should be pitied, not encouraged. And with that cheery message, good luck to everyone for Saturday, get behind the team and be happy!

Sean Livesey:

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Saturday – ‘we’re winning the lot’. Tuesday – ‘Bloody rubbish Wigan, tha won’t see me again’. I’m paraphrasing of course but there was this reaction and more on the old hashtag in that 76-hour period between that amazing opening-day win at Derby and the disappointing penalties defeat to Wrexham. We truly are a Jekyll and Hyde fanbase. One moment delighted to still have a club and supporting the lads no matter what, then deriding all and sundry because they’ve lost in the EFL Cup on penalties. It’s the curse of the modern-day football fan, of course. There’s no context any more and everything is black and white. Good or bad. Of course, football is far more nuanced and complicated than that and, yes, Latics aren’t the only club to suffer this paradox. But it doesn’t half make for some entertaining internet time. As for the Wrexham match, I wasn’t there, being the part timer I am these days (I’ll never forget the '99 double header though, when we beat them twice - in the Northern Area Final of the Auto Windscreen Shield on our way to Wembley, and then again a couple of weeks later in the league, as Ray Mathias’ side marched in to the play-offs. I suspect Shaun Maloney won’t be too fussed with our departure from the competition. The Milk/Coca-Cola/Worthington/Carling/Carabao/whatever they’re calling it this season has never been top in Latics minds. Apart from that one season in 2005/06 when we reached the final. It’s not got the gravitas of the FA Cup and frankly, with our threadbare squad progression and extra games to contend with, is something we could do without. Yes, Latics weren’t anywhere near their best on Tuesday, but neither were Wrexham, despite what Sky would have you believe about their 'fairytale'. The 'fairytale' of a budget that far exceeds ours, meaning on the eve of the season they can take our captain for a quarter of a million pounds, and one would imagine a serious payrise. More on James McClean, who never gave anything less than 100 per cent for us. He was one of the few to come out of last season with any credit, and it’s an undoubted blow to lose him in the way we did. But on the flip side, we’ve made a profit on a player who’s 34 years of age, got what one would think was the highest wage off the books, and all in a position we’re well stocked in. Plus McClean has gained more security than we could offer him. Someone said they hoped the new approach to running us didn’t come back to bite us on the backside. Well, I can promise them that the previous approach we saw to running us, in 2021-23, was far more likely to bite us on the backside than this approach ever will. So if we leave the recriminations of McClean’s departure and the defeat to Hollywood FC behind us, it’s been a successful week. To go to the league favourites and earn a win like they did, all while playing the sort of football Maloney had promised we would, was so impressive. It gives me hope we can compete this season and indeed get ourselves to safety, which is the first target this season. Next up in our quest to reach positive points is Northampton. If we can get a positive result on Saturday, we’ll really be motoring. So let’s 'turn it blue and white' and help Shaun and the lads get us back to where we’re meant to be.

Tony Moon:

We won, so we’re great, but we lost, so we’re not. It sometimes seems Tics fans are losing the plot. Some blame the tactics, while some have no reason, and some blame the poor preparation, pre-season. But Sat’day will see if we’re playing wi' full tanks, or struggling for fitness, and shooting wi’ blanks. The squad’s quite threadbare say the sages, oh aye, disregarding the fact that we’re skint and can’t buy. Overlooking the stuff that’s been said and been printed, they can’t get beyond that the owner is minted. They’ve got a Sugar Daddy, to give ‘em their dream, so why isn’t he chucking his money at t’ team? The minus eight points? Ah, don’t give it a thought, cos before th’ end of August, we’ll be back to nought. And that’s when the season can really begin (either that, or we go for two months baht a win). Y’ see, the team’s like the fans, there’s just no halfway house, it’s all muck or nettles, it’s glee or it’s grouse. So don’t expect us to finish mid table, cos t’ Tics are gooin up, and they’re ready and able … unless of course we should lose our next game, cos in that case, the boo boys'll be lookin’ to blame...anyone! It dun’t matter whoever it is, but most likely Maloney, cos he’s always been businesslike in his approach to the role. He’s a dead easy target, a right open goal. So good luck to Shaun, and to keep us all happy, just do what you’re doing, and stick wi’ t’ tippy tappy.