Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'But we do need to start picking up some kind of results, otherwise the past month of turmoil was absolutely pointless...'
Our panel of Latics experts run the rule over Kolo Toure’s first home game in charge, and assess the likelihoods of a positive points return over the festive period...
Is it OK to be positive after a defeat? I suppose for now it is, and in truth I wasn’t expecting anything from the Sheffield United game. I guess I’m not expecting anything from 'Boro or Sunderland either, given our woeful record against Sunderland in recent times and 'Boro being a far better team than last time we played them. And they walloped us then. But we do need to start picking up some kind of results, otherwise the past month of turmoil was absolutely pointless. In terms of Monday night, I think Sheffield United looked a very similar side to us last season, in that they were strong, got the ball forward quickly and pressed the opposition hard for long spells and pinned us back. Heckingbottom has clearly got them playing the same way he got our friends at Barnsley playing when he generated their surge up the table a few years back. But regardless of that, they also have better players than us, which appears to be the problem in nearly all of our games this season. It also appears the word coming from the club is that we will be sticking with the players we have got, and I am kind of half OK with that. I think these players were good enough to stay in this division anyway. There’s no evidence the losing run that cost Leam Richardson to lose his job was terminal. I believe we may well have stayed up without the managerial change, yet here we are. The plug was unceremoniously pulled, and we’ve got to hope Kolo Toure can get a better tune out of them. It seems that tune will be to get on the ball more and play a more expansive style, and I like that. There’s a school of thought that it doesn’t matter how you play, so long as you win, and I am cool with that, too. However, no football fan goes to the game to watch their opponents dominate the game, just for their own team to do nothing for 89 minutes and poach a late winner against the run of play every week. I mean it’s nice every once in a while but, when that doesn’t work, it really is truly awful and there’s nothing to fall back on. So we’re back to being brave on the ball and implementing philosophies and all that gubbins. As ever, the main problem with this is we don’t have time to learn on the job. The bottom of the Championship isn’t the time or place to start playing neat and tidy possession football. It takes months, if not years, to truly build that understanding between players, and we don’t have that time, and I’m not sure we have the players either. If we’re replacing some of those players, then fine, let’s see what January brings. But that doesn’t seem to be the party line coming out of the club. I’m fine if we go down or stay up, knowing there is limited funds available, and they are relying mainly on the squad that got us there. It also leans further towards the philosophy. If it is a longer term thing, then it will be a lot easier to implement in a lower division against weaker opponents we can impose ourselves on. But again, that isn’t in the official script, is it? The aim is to remain a Championship club, and that is something of a tall ask, given where we are. I’m not going to sign off in a grumpy mood, though. I do like what we are trying to do. I like the fact Toure wasn’t afraid to hook players who weren’t performing (though it might be awkward if there aren’t sufficient alternatives, or they are injured). I really like the look and sound of the two coaches, Kevin Betsy and Ashvir Johal. Young ambitious coaches with fresh ideas is the next best thing (and cheaper) than young, ambitious, fresh players, though we will need a few of those in January as well if we are to climb the table. As ever, that table is so tight and the points threshold is going to be ridiculously high this year, too. However, the plus side to this is if we can string together two or three results on the bounce at any point in the next couple of months, then everything will look a whole lot healthier. I don’t know about you, but when we always say that, just for once, we could do with a nice quiet season in mid-table, well I really mean it. It’s not good for any of us, going through this every year. We have a man in charge who is very direct, ambitious and determined to succeed so let us hope the leap forward can come sooner rather than later. And this being Wigan Athletic, I wouldn’t go booking any holidays in May yet, in case the play-offs await us…
Caddy from the 5:
'Kolo Toure's Wigan Athletic' - as they must now be referred to, copyright Sky Sports - came up just short against high-flying Sheffield United, but I saw plenty of positives to convince me we'll defo win the league this season and the Champions League within three years. Providing we stop playing the ball out from the goalkeeper at every single opportunity and giving the fans heart attacks! I was getting flashbacks of the Martinez days, but with players who aren't as good, sorry! After a first half that saw us all at sea, I thought Kolo dragging the three lads off was needed - a trait that wouldn't have happened under Leam - and our fortunes picked up. One of the worst refereeing decisions you'll ever see - not awarding a penalty for a wonderful catch at deep point - should've given us a foot hold back in the game. No way would Keane miss! But another refereeing howler saw us finally get the goal we deserved, when we were slightly offside by about five yards! 'You win some, you lose some', I believe is the commentators' go-to explanation for that one. The introduction of Cousins, Nyambe and Aasgard definitely brought a more solid shape, and I thought Aasgaard stood out like a Bolton fan at a posh Christmas party. Surely he's got to get a run in the side now, he brings us so much more creativity than we've seen this season, and with Kolo seemingly not afraid to wield the axe - and with a few quid in January - I fully expect a meteoric rise up the table (or managerless and down by February, it is Wigan, sorry 'Kolo Toure's Wigan Athletic', after all...)! The festive period sees us play north east giants 'Boro and then Sunderland, a healthy following is heading up to north Yorkshire to see one of the eight wonders of the world - the Transporter Bridge - and bringing back the three points rather than Scurvy is all we ask... Straight after that sees the Geordies from the Stadium of Light remind us they think they're the only team ever to fill our away end, and that they beat us three times in the league in the season we won the said league, and they scraped onto the play-offs. We've got to all get behind 'Kolo Toure's Wig...' sorry, I'm bored of that already...the Tics...and let's hope Santa brings us all plenty of points for Christmas. Have a great festive season 'Tics fans, and may you all drink yourself into oblivion and fall out with your families - the true meaning of baby Jesus' birth. Right, I'm off carol singing for some 'Bow tokens, all together now: 'Oh what fun it is to see Wigan win away!!!!' Happy Christmas and a great New Year to everyone (bar Bolton and Wigan RL fans) xx
I think Talal and Mal let down Leam in the summer on the recruitment into the squad. Halfway through the season, we are seeing a group of players who have probably hit the glass ceiling at this level. If we don't invest in the squad in January, Kolo is going to have the same problems Leam had, and that doesn't fill me with confidence for between now and May. So it's over to you Talal and Mal, to see what they can wheel and deal in January. Stay safe and Merry Christmas.
The first home match of the Kolo Toure era didn’t deliver a pre-Christmas miracle, but it did give Latics fans a full stocking’s worth of talking points. Sheffield United showed their quality from the onset on Monday night and could’ve easily scored three goals within the first 20 minutes. By half-time, Latics had settled into the match better and the prospect of snagging a result was not out of the question. However, a poor giveaway in our defensive half punished us just 11 minutes after the restart. Facing a 2-0 deficit against an automatic promotion contender, the match could’ve easily spiralled out of control. I started having flashbacks from the Burnley match in late August, where we suffered our worst home loss of the season under similar circumstances. What transpired over the final half hour changed the narrative of the match considerably. A host of positive substitutions were made and we immediately started to take control. Moments after we were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty, we responded with a well-deserved goal. We pushed hard for an equaliser over the final minutes of the match, but it wasn’t meant to be. The full-time whistle marked one of the few times this season where the realisation of a losing result did not feel like a punch to the gut. While Kolo continues to learn more about the individual players in the squad and the collective dynamic they’ve created, it’s apparent he will also fight tooth and nail for the best result possible. On the topic of results, the league table tells us we’ve had 23 of them so far, which puts us firmly at the halfway mark of the season. With 24 points on the board, we find ourselves in a very familiar position with respect to our last two Championship campaigns. At this same point in the season four years ago, we had earned 25 points. Three years ago, at this same point in time, we had 19 points. The obvious difference between those three Championship teams is that our current one has undergone a mid-season managerial change. There is no guarantee our playing form will naturally progress as we enter the new year. Yet, we could also evolve like none of our recent Championship teams have and achieve safety at a much earlier date than we have during prior seasons. There is still lots of football to be played. Our Boxing Day opponents, Middlesbrough, are eight matches removed from dissecting us limb by limb at the DW to the tune of a 4-1 defeat in October. We have not won away since October 1, and will surely not be favorites to steal a result in the north east on Monday. However, under Kolo, we look like a team ready to turn a corner - for the better. It may happen at Middlesbrough. It may happen at a later date. There are plenty of reasons to stay optimistic. I wish a Happy Christmas to all readers of the column who will be celebrating. May a Latics victory on Monday wrap up a cheerful weekend for us all.
Despite the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, there are some positives to take from Monday night’s performance. However, as you’d expect from a side placed second in the Championship table, the Blades put us to the sword and took advantage of the sloppy errors we made. For their first goal, the lack of marking from Latics was painful to watch. When you’re playing a side as high up in the league as they are, you simply cannot afford to fall asleep at set-pieces. As for their second goal, I can’t have been the only one in the ground who predicted the visitors would score yet again as soon as Latics gave the ball away that deep into our own half. Billy Sharp just doesn’t miss those opportunities. There are also signs of the transition period we’re in as it’s clear Kolo Toure is trying to get us to play football out from the back, and there were some occasions where we didn’t look remarkably comfortable doing so. Toure seemed to be very good with his substitutions, and Leam Richardson’s hesitancy to make changes was one of the few criticisms I had of him. But ultimately, we dominated possession and, if we can play like that against a side who could well get automatic promotion and only lose by a narrow margin, and we can play like that against most other sides in the league, we should be able to pick up some positive results. But producing that kind of performance game in, game out is the toughest thing to do in the second tier. If Latics can iron out the silly errors, and retain the same positive approach play, we have every chance of having a very successful festive period. Let’s hope we can have a positive January transfer window too.
I'm not really sure of what we should think; of Kolo's appointment. Will we fly? Will we sink? Cos th' internet fans are all in a tizz, as some think he's ace, but then some think he's (not 'the') biz. He's a wild card for sure, no, he's not a safe bet; but he just might turn out to be one o' t' best yet. Cos sit back and think, just why should he come here? For the fans. For the pies? For the money? For the Pier? Then again, he's a novice, no record, a virgin; so why would some think he’ll have us roarin' and surgin'. He might have us flounderin', just like yon mon, Joyce; and have all the Tics fans proclaim with one voice: "that's bloody rubbish Wiggin, ah'm comin' no moo-er", ah, never has a prophecy ever been truer. And what about t’ comms, how rubbish were they? Some fans were on tenterhooks, all night and day. They’d heard that on twitter it were all done and dusted, then some beggar else said the deal was all busted. Cos they add 2 + 2 to arrive at a number...more fluid than Rachel from Steps’ Strictly Rumba. They make up their own truth, whether for or against; and that way, there’s allus one side who’s incensed. Now, just two games in, some minds are made up; some think we’re going down, (though some think we’ll stay up). The players who won t’ league are now all classed as poor; (so say t’ usual suspects who are “gooin’ no mooer”). But Kolo looks up for it, he was bouncing around, up and down on that touchline, and making a sound. He wears his emotions right there on his sleeve, It’s his way of encouraging us all to 'Believe'. Of course many won’t, and instead they’ll just rue, that it’s not proper football if it’s not 4-4-2. But you’ll never please everyone, no not all the time, though sometimes in Wigan, to try seems a crime. So Kolo owd lad, we all wish you good luck, but if we’re not safe by Easter, you can go and get…lost.
Can defeats ever be positive? In the modern world of football and instant gratification, I'm not sure it can. But there were certainly a lot of positives to take from Kolo Toure's first home game in charge. The defending for both goals was disappointing, but this is to be expected with a new style of play currently being implemented. What was heartening was the reaction in the second half. Latics pressed and pressed Sheffield United, and were the side at the end who looked most likely to score. Sadly the damage had been done in the first half and early on in the second. Then it was always going to be a mountain to climb, against a side packed full of Premier League talent, who look like they're heading straight back up. Kolo spoke post-match about being braver on the ball and, even though he wants the lads to be braver, you can see there's been a change in attitude already in the short time he's been here. We had the most possession in the game and matched Sheffield United for attempts. Of course, many will say that doesn't matter unless you put the ball in the back of the net, but that will come with time. It was heartening to see us run at defenders with the ball. I'm more confident we'll turn this around now, but Kolo needs to be given time, and those players who for them this new style is completely alien need backing more than anything. It was also heartening to see Roberto Martinez, Graham Barrow and Kevin Reeves in attendance on Monday. There was a picture doing the rounds of Bobby in the Wigan branch of Curry's at the weekend. Despite what you may think of the man as a football manager, he's clearly made Wigan his home, and there's not many managers who would be watching second tier Wigan Athletic days after they've managed in the World Cup. I bet he was heartened by some of the football on show from Latics in that second half (if not the defending). It's going to be a rocky road over the next few weeks, but Middlesbrough represents a golden opportunity on Boxing Day to get something. That something being three points, for the first time since the Auf Pet lads sold the Transporter bridge to an American tribe (ask your dads) from under the nose of the Smoggies. Have a good Christmas and let's hope for three points from the big man on Boxing Day.