Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'Football, it’s dead simple, despite the attempts of others to make it complicated in a vain attempt to buff up their own ego'...
Our panel of Latics experts run the rule over another eventful week at the DW...a league draw, a cup defeat, incomings, boiling opposition bodily fluids...and a New Yorker making his first trip over to Wigan…!
You have to be a spectacularly petty individual to watch the timeline on Tuesday night of the team we played on Saturday in order to prove a point. Yes, I am that man and yes I pounced with aplomb. Just before half-time, Max Arrons was introduced to the field of play to replace Sam McCallum. Yes, the same Max Arrons who apparently was brutally savaged with a leg breaking challenge on Saturday. Risen from the dead to glide down the wing once more. No sign of Tom Naylor in the Latics team on Tuesday night either. One can only presume he has been locked away in a maximum security prison for a long time for committing the heinous crime of winning the ball fairly. This is it: Football 2022. It’s nothing to do with the football, it’s all about the narrative. The manager points to a tackle in the box to deflect away from the fact his expensively assembled team couldn’t beat little old Wigan. The players use their large social media followings to spin opinion their way and highlight freeze-framed images, where the player definitely doesn’t dive, but mainly because it’s a freeze frame which doesn’t show him moving. Whip up a sense of injustice, rather than accept it for what it was - a tackle where the ball was won and caught the player on his ickle shin seconds later (because the player was attempting to kick thin air, or if you prefer, kick Tom Naylor). Even former players such as 'Disco' Darren Huckerby piled in, claiming Wigan were “very average”. Well, thanks for that highly intelligent insight Darren, you make it sound like the teams were two divisions apart just a few months ago! Look, I love my football and I like to watch good football, but I also accept teams with better (more expensive) players can play better football and, as we once more become a smaller fish in a bigger pond, then we have to adapt and learn to win in other ways. We have to draw on other strengths to match our opponents. We’re not going to play Norwich off the park at Carrow Road, so we have to defend a lot more and probably hit a few more long balls just to give the defence a breather. We have still played some excellent stuff in parts in both our two league games but, as I say, we’re now having to do a bit more of what teams tried to do to us last season - defend for grim life and counter. Play the football in little isolated patches, when the opposition are attempting to regroup. We’ve shown so far we are not lacking in spirit, strength and fitness, and these are three qualities where we can always match the opponents. I think that is all we can ask for now, and I speak as a fully graduated disciple from the Roberto Martinez school of phenomenal possession-based football. There was a certain manager last season - I forget his name - who claimed his team would be brilliant in the Championship, whereas the teams who were at the top of the table at the time would struggle, the inference being their (our) football was agricultural and he was playing some kind of next level fantasy football that was far superior. Not sure what happened to that fella or his team, and he didn’t even name the teams he was referring to. But it was evident who the top two teams in the division were last year, as they were the ones who got promoted and accumulated the most points. How? By playing football and winning matches. The truth is the football world has moved on. Unless you can afford the best players, you have to be flexible and adapt your game, depending on the strength and style of the opposition. If you don’t, you will come a cropper. The only person who this doesn’t apply to is Pep Guardiola. Because Manchester City have got the best players, they can generally play the way they want to, safe in the knowledge that they will win regardless. I loved Roberto, and it is fascinating to see mini-pop managers lower down the leagues, imitating his Cruyff-influenced possession based philosophy and claiming it as their own but, as I say, football has moved on in the last 10 years. You simply don’t get time to implement that style of play and, of course, when you are facing stronger teams, they will be better at attacking and find it easier to penetrate your defence, what with all that passing about the back you do. There has to be a transition, very often even within a game, from playing different ways, depending on the scoreline and tactically, how the game is being managed. I remember last time out in the Championship, especially during that awful away run, fans used to moan we’d sit back when we went ahead and get punished for it. The more accurate view was Latics scoring a goal had probably caused a shift in emphasis for the home team, towards a more attack-based period of play, and therefore we had no choice but to sit back and manage wave after wave of attack. In short, this is what happened at Norwich. They attacked and they attacked. We got a break away goal, they attacked some more. We managed the situation, stood firm, made some great tackles while they rolled around the floor like screaming babies. And all was well with the world. I’d love to have seen us play more football, but then Norwich away is not the time or place. For me, I want evolution not revolution. There’s a blueprint if we look at teams like Luton and dare I say Preston, who have slowly crept up the division by playing decent football, yet also prepared to mix it up and probably have to defend for their lives at times. The ultimate game-plan is to win the game, and if you can’t win, try and make sure you don’t lose. Football, it’s dead simple, despite the attempts of others to make it complicated in a vain attempt to buff up their own ego. Another 44 games like the first two will see us right, I reckon.
Caddy from the 5:
Still unbeaten in the league, out of the Milk Cup that no one is bothered about anyway, boiling the snide Geordies bodily fluid with the Nathan Broadhead signing, Norwich - famous for beating Bayern Munich last century, not drawing with them like some - fans still moaning about a great tackle not being a penalty and threatening legal action, and now, Preston fans walking round like they're Gangsta...yes, it's been a great start to the season for the world's littlest big club. AND WE'VE ONLY BEEN GOING TWO WEEKS! Welcome back to the wonderful world of Wigan Athletic. The Championship has begun with us, as usual, ruffling the feathers of the so-called big clubs with consummate ease. Sunderland being the early pace setters for the usual 'We get 50,000 on every week, you're tin pot' Cup while we just take more of their players off them. Yes, I know Broadhead is an Everton player before the pedants start, and as if by magic the 'He's not good enough, wouldn't have got a game for us anyway' brigade are all over Twitter. Remember, though, lads...we can see what you were saying last season! Talal has got his pen out twice now (not a euphemism) and both seem solid business to add to our squad. I really do think our team spirit will carry us this season, you can see it already carrying on from last season. And the two new lads (plus hopefully a rejuvenated Charlie Wyke) have hopefully seen and felt this with Leam and the lads, and that will spur them and us on. We're only two games into the season so thinking how many points we'll win the league by, may perhaps seem a bit far-fetched. But remember we were 16/1 last season and look how that went, so the 100/1 you can get now is literally buying money, get on it! Bristol City are next up for the 'Tics, and the hard games just keep on coming after that. It definitely is a step up this season quality wise, but early signs are positive and let's keep it that way. So If you can,get down to the DW this week, let's get the first three points of the season on the board, because one thing is for sure, and as the song goes, we're little Wigan etc, etc! The season ahead won't be boring, it never is!! Right, I'm off building a second bridge over the canal before Eddie Hearn starts eyeing up talent on it week in week out. Unlimited 'Bow is the fee and I'll bill the Council (but say it's for the rugby, they'd pay for it then)! UP THE TICS!
Greetings from hot and sunny Wigan! It’s not always like this, you say? Don’t tell me that! I plan on going back to New York next week and telling the yanks that Wigan is the second coming of Los Angeles! Nonetheless, my first few days in town have been a surreal experience. The club has gone above and beyond to accommodate my dad and I, and every Wiganer we’ve met so far has been beyond kind and hospitable. As for the football, I took in my first competitive Latics match on Tuesday evening at Fleetwood. I had my fingers crossed we’d put out our strongest starting 11 possible, Roberto Martinez would make a cameo in the away end, and Latics would go on to win 6-0. Leam Richardson clearly had a different vision for this competition. Nonetheless, getting to watch the lads in-person alongside a thousand away supporters was a treat. Several of the young lads - Thelo, Hughes, Carragher, and Adeeko - really impressed me. I left Highbury satisfied with the performance, even if the result left something to be desired. After getting to meet Gregor Rioch earlier on Tuesday and receiving a tour of the Academy, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan who is more gung ho about our long term future than me. My first match at the DW will be this Saturday and there has been quite a mixed reaction… for how we’ll survive 90 minutes in ES2. Thankfully, we’ve been told we’ll likely still leave the stadium in one piece. Coming off the backs of an outstanding result at Norwich, the optimism and enthusiasm should be sky high for Bristol City. There are absolutely no walkovers in this division but Saturday will mark one of the few league matches that we undoubtedly should expect to win. The prospective debut of Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead makes this weekend’s fixture all the more alluring. Before he has even played a minute on the pitch, he seems to have checked every box necessary for the calibre of player we need to improve this squad. No matter the result, my time in Wigan will have been incredibly special. Thanks to every single one of you that has done their bit to welcome me and my dad over this past week. Flying back to New York will be a bittersweet affair on Sunday. My heart will be with this club and with this town for the rest of my life. Cheers.
Social media was full of the words 'tough watch' at the weekend. Well guess what, there's going to be a lot of 'tough watch' games this season. Teams who on paper have better quality players than us are going to have a lot more of the ball than us and be deep into our half. Now saying all that, we broke the golden rule of football against Dean Smith's teams...you are supposed to play open football! Not dig in, defend well and be resilient and take the goal when you get the chance. One thing I've noticed in the first two games is how narrow the midfield is to try and stop us being played through, giving opposition full-backs space to run into. But when you have a player like James McClean with his work rate to get back and cover, we can play that way. I saw the League Cup tie more of a pre-season game than anything serious, with players getting minutes in their legs and youngsters getting a run out at first-team level. Finally welcome on-board Nathan Broadhead, and hopefully a few more to follow. Stay safe.
The Canaries they chirruped, and tweeted and whined, and all cos Little Wigan drove 'em out of their mind. They really didn’t like it, it raised all their hackles, when we had the temerity to make some strong tackles. But Naylor’s was fine there was now wrong at all, you can quite clearly see that he got boot to ball. And then the Norwich forward, for all of his sins, decided to kick Naylor’s studs with his shins! What a daft thing to do then jump up in the air, and despite all the whinging we really don’t care. Cos the 'Tics are unbeaten, two draws out of two, but the same can’t be said in the cup (Caribao). Cod Army victorious over our second string, but some bright points came from it, Charlie Hughes is a king. But the league’s the main goal, with the FA Cup next, and the Caribao Cup?, well it just makes us vexed. Any road we’re out, so it’s on to t’ next game, a chance for a win against Bristol at hame (Scottish pronunciation!)? And t’ Mudhutter’s on sale, what a fine publication, mandatory reading across this great nation. (Well, in Wigan at least...).
I have spent an entire season attempting to sneak the phrase "Meatball Head" into this column, to no avail, but I'm hoping this week may just be the turning point, given that there have been several new contenders for that title! Anyway...there's something quietly confident and a little bit electric about this side that has returned from the summer break. Last season was littered with comments about how the team we'd cobbled together wouldn't be able to play consistently for too long and how we'd be lucky to stay in the league. Then we won the league. Now we're hearing every few days that we are still a league one side, we don't have enough depth, quality, money, fans, trophies or whatever else to compete at championship level. But Saturday came around and, in true Wigan overachieving style, we rocked up to what is essentially a Premier League standard ground with a mostly Premier League standard squad, nicked a point and managed to thoroughly boil the bodily fluids of anyone and everyone associated with Norwich City Football Club as if it was a God-given right. Very ******* Wigan of us. Was it a penalty? Was it a red card? Was it as clean as a whistle? If you'd have offered a point at Carrow Road on Friday night I'd have taken it and ran every single day of the week. Latics kicked off their away campaign with an early trip to Norwich on Saturday backed by some 700-plus strong army of travelling 'Tics; not bad going for an early kick off 250 miles away that's being shown on TV. Bravo to you if you made that trip! Despite several close chances from the home side, Latics took the lead before the break when James McClean (Aha! - and yes, I will make that reference every week) neatly tucked away his shot. Norwich came back and equalised in the 62nd minute thanks to Max Aarons (contender number one) and everything seemed to get a little heated from there. The Canaries right back, dubbed "a poor man's Reece James" (not my words) looked to be coming for goal again and up stepped Tom Naylor for the Latics to clear the ball in a fantastic defensive effort. Now, on first viewing admittedly I thought Nayls had been lucky not to gift the home side a penalty for the collision that followed his challenge, but after further viewing it appears Aarons fires his shin into the studs of Naylor after the ball is cleared. I'll be honest, Naylor could have taken Aarons' leg off at the knee and I'd still say it was a reasonable challenge, purely due to the comments from the Norwich gaffer Dean Smith (contender number 2) as he described the challenge as 'horrific' and 'dangerous' and midfielder Todd Cantwell (contender number 3) who took to Twitter after the game to back his team mate in a claim that the defender's leg could have been broken. However, Uncle Dave (Whelan) would describe the challenge as being "as clean as a whistle" and that's entirely good enough for me. No foul. After the weekend's tittle tattle with Norwich was just dying down, we go and announce the arrival of Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead who obviously spent last year playing an instrumental part of Sunderland's promotion to the Championship - finally. Now, broadly speaking, and not at all directed at anyone in particular of course, following Nathan's announcement there may or may not have been comments made by the manager of that particular Championship club (contender number 4) that when asked specifically about Broadhead, that there may or may not have been some small concerns relating to attitude or mentality. However, as he was only speaking broadly and not about just any one player, that remains to be seen. Although I feel there'll definitely be a point to prove when Nathan comes to don his Wigan shirt. Broadly speaking. Tuesday night, Fleetwood Town, energy drink cup, team full of kids, lost 1-0, probably for the best, focus on the league etc etc, nothing to speak about there. Broadly or otherwise. Bring on Bristol City and the return of ex-Latics men Joe Williams and Kal Naismith. See you at Church on Saturday!
It's been some week for Wigan Athletic - another point on the board from a tough away match at Norwich along with the signing of one of League One's top stars last season, Nathan Broadhead. Looking back at Norwich and, apart from the first quarter of the match, we were more than worth a point, and on another day could have had all three. The way we've started the season along with some movement in the transfer market puts some of the more apocalyptic pre-season predictions in to context. All of the players signed last season we're done so with the Championship in mind. It just so happens we got there earlier than anyone would have imagined. It's fair to say this team were seriously underestimated over the summer. In the clamour for new signings, people have dismissed those who got us there in the first place. They deserve their chance and so far they're grabbing those chances with both hands. The Broadhead move is a wise one, he proved just what he could do last season up in the North East with their millions of supporters, so it's going to be good to see what he can do closer to home. The club have spoken about taking their time and getting lads in with the right attitude, it's a close-knit dressing room and you don't want anyone to disrupt that. If you ever want to get a defeat out of your system early, I imagine Tuesday's match with Fleetwood was the way to do it. Impressive performances from the lads breaking through from the Academy including Baba Adeeko, Charlie Hughes and James Carragher underline the work being done by Gregor Rioch and Co at Stadium Way. Add in a 5-0 win in the Under-23 league over Watford and it shows just how well the club is doing. With more reinforcements to come and the burgeoning academy once again delivering things definitely look up at the Dave Whelan Stadium. Here's to Bristol on Saturday and with any luck some more points on the board.