Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'He is desperately trying to blame anyone but himself for losing millions on his Latics gamble. Either way, he – like his simpleton stooge – is simply an irrelevance...'
Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts reflect on a perfect week on the field...and fingers crossed some fantastic news on the way off it...
So, here we are, in the corridor of uncertainty, whereby a takeover is ongoing, but we can’t really relax until it’s done. And with us being Wigan Athletic, we definitely can’t relax until it is done. There has been too much turmoil already over these past nine months to take anything for granted. The same goes for matters on the pitch. Suddenly, we have started to perform and get results. The opposition are hitting the bar and post, while we are creating chances, scoring goals and winning games. We have finally pulled out of the relegation zone through sheer guts, endeavour and – who would have thought it – playing with a settled team. The only problem there is that, due to a quirk of the fixtures, we have no game this weekend, so may well end up back there. So again, there is no room for complacency but with any luck, all the momentum will be upwards from now on. I have so many thoughts and ideas of what I want to see in the post-takeover world and I will share them in due course. The overwhelming mood is one of excitement and intrigue. It seems the incoming team are professional with bags of experience and knowledge of running football clubs. Then we have the owner himself, of which we know very little, but if he can get bitten by the beautiful bug that is Wigan Athletic in the same way the rest of us have, then the future could indeed be a bright one. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not expecting billions of pounds being pumped in to mount a relentless charge back up the Premier League, and neither should you. To be out of the rotten mess that is administration is enough to make me jump for joy first of all. To actually be able to turn down bids or, if not, actually sell our players for (true) market value will be even better. Nevertheless, I suppose the same questions arise as we asked last time: What do they want with us? What is their plan? However, knowing there is an experienced CEO coming in provides a little more assurance. Even though I was quite fond of the last one. If that doesn’t get him messaging me with lavish praise for the third week in a row for this column, then nothing will...
The truth is, we don’t know what their intentions are, but the signs point to perhaps modest investment, a bit of innovation, maybe an analytical model on the pitch, and leaving no stone unturned in attempts to maximise what we can achieve off it. We’ve always been a forward-thinking club that embraces fan involvement, and at the forefront of social media or adopting new methods. We are never going to be the biggest club in the world, so we need to think outside the box, and it is my hope this is what we see from the new owners. I need to stop now, though, because I’m getting excited again. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter whether they have a two, five or even 10-year plan for us. To get out of administration, and never find ourselves in this position again, is by far the best result we can have this year, so everything crossed this completes in the next week. Meanwhile, it seems Stanley Choi has finally stuck his head above the parapet to give his side of the story. Despite taking more than 12 months to buy the club, it appears he was completely oblivious throughout the due diligence that football clubs lose money. Not only that, when he took over the club, he actually increased the wage bill year on year by another 66 per cent from £11.7m to £19.4m during his time in charge, and then had the audacity to complain about the football club losing £1m a month! Half of it was his own fault! Except, it’s not his fault. Just like everyone else who has absolved themselves of any blame throughout this whole process. It must be all the fans’ fault. Yet again. PS Sorry for the typo...of course we ARE the biggest club in the world!
Well, we’re out of the bottom four. Staying up, while still a million miles away from being certain, now doesn’t seem quite such an outlandish proposition. It’s amazing what a little positivity around the club can bring. After months of uncertainty for players, staff and fans alike, it does look like the end of the Choi-inspired nightmare might actually be in sight. Any concerns I had about the Bahraini team being connected to people in power in Bahrain – and all associated human rights abuses – have been confirmed to be unfounded. I’m assured, as Lisa Nandy has been, they have no links to the Bahrain royal family or political rulers. So that’s that, I hope. It may be coincidence the news about the takeover being in the final stretch happened to coincide with two outstanding wins against teams much higher up the table, but it might just be the players we have can actually see a future for not just the club, but also themselves. Either way, the past week has brought back some of the good feeling we had a year ago. Our old pal Choi is back in the news, having come out with a load of nonsense about David Sharpe having his pants down over Choi’s purchase of the club. As a professional gambler, even if something underhand did occur – which I’m pretty sure it didn’t – if he got mugged for £22million, then he deserves to lose every penny and more. Sharpe and Dave Whelan could have claimed Latics were making a billion pounds of profit every year, and a six-year-old could have looked at the books and seen it wasn’t true. Choi has recently bought big in Air Asia, and it is probably the case that the Hong Kong stock market and any investors are questioning his judgement. He is desperately trying to blame anyone but himself for losing millions on his Latics gamble. Either way, he – like his simpleton stooge Au Yeung – is simply an irrelevance. They have no claim to the club or any of its assets any longer, so we should just all ignore him and move on. Back to on field matters, we gave Whelan the keys to the town for what he did for Latics, but let’s not underestimate what Gregor Rich and Leam Richardson have achieved this season. What they’ve managed to do with kids and – without wanting to sound unkind – journeymen is remarkable. It might not come quite up to winning the FA Cup, but it’s a close second. This Latics team, whether we stay up or not, should always be remembered as something special. With the club in an absolute mess, nobody ever gave up on it. And, should we stay up, this team could well go down in history as the team that saved an entire football club. It would have been easy just to take the money until we folded, but none of them have. We may lack some quality in certain areas, but this team is proof a club is about more than just its players being able to play keepy-uppy. We will all be Wigan ‘til we die.
Caddy from the 5:
‘Bahraini men, hallelujah...’ is being hummed and sung all over Wigan this week thanks to – hopefully – the takeover all being done bar the shouting. The shouting being mainly from Asia, more of that in a minute, and Sean Kennedy’s latest record to storm the hit parade (ask yer dad)... After hearing nothing from Stanley Choi for 12 months since he nearly succeeded in killing our club (and yes I blame him, because Au Yeung never in my eyes even existed, just a way for Choi to get rid of ‘his gamble’ and save face) up he pops with an interview...just as we’re being bought (again, hopefully), blaming everyone bar himself for what happened. David Sharpe feels his forked tongue quite unbelievably, and I do hope the latter sets him straight on record. What does this low-life grub actually want to do to us? He’s put 75 staff on the dole, obliterated a team that was going somewhere this season, destroyed a youth academy that ANY Premier League team would be shaking to have, and had its fans on pins for the past nine months...for what? The timing of his interview is disgusting. Move on Stan, lad. Go lose every penny you’ve got elsewhere and rot in hell for all any Latics fan cares. You’ll only ever be remembered as the man who nearly killed us – and not by the few, as you’re suggesting, but by every single fan, player and staff member who’ve ever had the misfortune to even hear your name. Goodbye and good riddance. Right, on a more positive note, on the pitch the team, management and new club guru Dr Tobin really are pulling rabbits out the hat to try and keep us up, aren’t they? It’s great to see, and I know it’s already been said a thousand times, but this year’s lads are akin to last year’s heroes. What a fight they’re putting up in such dire circumstances. A well-deserved week off for them all after the win at Plymouth, and I hope they enjoy every minute of it. It’s gonna go down to the wire, but hopefully (again) the takeover is nearing the end, and Begbies can take their suitcases of cash back to wherever they come from. And, like Choi, let their name never be muttered inside the DW ever again. Because this club WILL survive, it’s in our DNA, just ‘let Latics gel’. Right I’m off practising my darts against a photo of Choi with a ‘Bow in hand. One more time...“BAHRAINI MEN,HALLELUJAH...’
Sunlight. Fresh air. Signs of life. Wigan Athletic coming out of the relegation zone has resembled what one might feel when they arise from an extended underground hibernation, which has lasted just over four months in our case. Even if we still remain submerged from the neck down, we have finally gotten a glimpse of what League One survival could feel like and more importantly, our beloved Latics have received a tangible reward after months of many hard fought battles. There is no downplaying how massive of an achievement two wins on the bounce is for this group. Our team has seen tremendous personnel changes over the course of this season, let alone over the past three months. Only two players from our most recent starting XI against Plymouth – Tendayi Darikwa and Callum Lang – also started our first match of 2021, a 3-3 draw at Rochdale in mid-January. Jamie Jones, who did not feature in that Rochdale fixture due to Covid protocol, has had as topsy turvy of a season as any player. Yet he was monumental in ensuring our past two victories remained clean sheets by providing a myriad of saves and displaying confident decision-making. Gavin Massey and Lee Evans are two veterans who were on the ‘outside’ with most of the fanbase for the better part of this new year. They faced prolonged absences from the playing squad due to nagging injuries, and it was assumed by some neither player wanted to see the pitch again given the current state of affairs. All of those assumptions were put to bed on Tuesday evening when the pair shared the pitch together for the first time since late October (which was coincidentally against Plymouth) and both put in spirited performances worthy of ‘Man of the Match’ consideration. As a result, there should be no doubt now every player in the squad is here because they want to be here and are united in their goal – of keeping us in League One. We’ve seen encouraging 90-minute efforts from the Latics for some time. Just now we are starting to reap the benefits of our labour. What has changed over the past two games? It has probably been the combination of a lot of little things: continuity within the squad, an influx of quality in key positions, and a heavy dose of luck - something that has been absent for the better part of our season. Top all of that off with a strong sense of belief, and what you have is a team that is going to be a problem for every side it faces for the next two months. At the core of our phenomenal streak of fortune has been the news of our impending Bahraini takeover. The champagne corks haven’t been popped, but the bottles are sitting on ice. We haven’t pressed ‘play’ on the celebratory music yet, but the speakers have been turned on. We have not jumped out of our seats in joy, but we are stretching as if we are Olympic athletes. Cue the corner flag. There is a long overdue party that needs to happen now.
Well, two wins on the bounce and a takeover near completion – albeit not getting too excited until Begbies have left the building. Well done to the team, Leam and Gregor – brilliant stuff to get out the bottom four. Just need the press conference to confirm the takeover now, then it’s happy day’s. That was until we woke yesterday to see the utter rubbish Choi has come out with in his interview in the Far East. ‘Only a tiny minority of Wigan fans’ had issues with him. I’d like to invite him to take a walk round the streets of Wigan, when restrictions permit - without any security - to test that theory. Anyway, he’s in the past, let’s look to a more stable future at Wigan Athletic. Up The ‘Tics. Stay Safe.
Get your masks on and all aboard the ‘Believe’ bus - socially distanced of course! It’s been a dark winter for our club, in fact it’s been a dark nine months. On the pitch, the grass is starting to grow and we’re beginning to show there’s enough in this squad to survive. It goes without saying, but Leam Richardson and his close-knit team are working wonders and fully deserve all the plaudits. There’s a lot of positivity on social media among fans, the player-bashing seems to have subsided, and we’re seeing some consistency on the pitch. There’s some tough games to come, but also some very winnable ones. It’s going to be tight, but it can’t be said we aren’t giving it a fight. The positive vibes on the takeover front rumble on, so fingers crossed things take their course and it’s rubber-stamped very soon. I write this on a day when a certain Mr Choi has raised his head and taken part in an interview in the Far East. The contents will be elsewhere in this paper, but for him to say a ‘small group of Wigan fans’ have criticised him is laughable. There may not be many of us, but I’d place a high stake on the fact that 100 per cent of our supporters have a few bones to pick with him. Anyway, the bus is fuelled, so let’s see where it stops. Hopefully in League One with new owners, fans back in the ground and a positive future.
I and many other 12th Man contributors were last week bemoaning the takeover delay and our on-pitch problems, and it really felt like we were at the lowest point in the whole sorry affair of the last nine months. Then, within 48 hours, everything changed! I don’t want to say too much about the takeover, or get too excited, as the last seven days have shown things can change very quickly in football. On the pitch, though, much improved and hopefully the lads keep going. I’d rather not comment on our former owner’s comments as, if I write what I really feel, there’s no way this would get printed. Instead, I’ll use this to thank the members of staff who are at the club. The people who have kept things as sane as possible over the last eight months, who have worked to ensure things tick over as smooth as can be. I know this is a huge cliche, but a football club isn’t just about players and coaches. There’s many people who love the club, who’ve seen friends and colleagues leave their roles over the last nine months, and who’ve probably felt like giving up and walking away. I know any future owner will have fresh ideas and may bring their own people in, but I hope every person who has represented the club at any level over the last nine months understands how grateful we all are. And I hope we can celebrate these people properly at some point. This next two months actually has the potential to be quite special in its own way. Sure, there won’t be a trophy come May. But if there’s a club with a cracking core of young, hungry players – Callum Lang, Thelo Aasgaard, Adam Long, Chris Merrie et al, who are all so important and integral to any rebuild - staff who love the club, a caring board of directors and a sensible owner ready to make a right go of League One promotion, then I’d take that. The alternatives were, and still are, a scary prospect. At times League Two football, and using our Under-18s as a first team for the foreseeable, has felt inevitable. But now there’s a very real chance that not only do we stay in this division, but we can also start planning for a bright future, and it feels really good to be able to write that. Fingers crossed, these next seven days are as positive as the last seven.
Overall, a positive week for Wigan Athletic, including two amazing performances which have given us a real chance of surviving, which looked to be an impossible task at the start of the season. The lads have shown passion and the fight for the club, and they deserve so much credit – as do all the staff. Leam and Gregor have been superb, and I would love to see them carry on the reigns into the new era. And let’s not forget the Doc, who has made me smile and laugh for the past few weeks as he has become more vocal on Twitter, and confirmed he is the tactician of the staff ;) Now the big story this week off the pitch has been the Bahrain bid looking to nearly be completed. But, in even bigger news, are all Latics fans being conned by a Twitter account that goes by the name of ‘Talal Al Hammad’ (the chairman behind the Bahrain bid)? Do I think it is real? Absolutely not! But there is so much evidence pointing to the fact he could be real, such as other prospective board members following the account. I just didn’t expect a new fresh Latics cap in the sunshine of Bahrain to be on my Twitter feed this week! I have messaged Talal privately and he confirmed he is real, but part of me still thinks it is a Latics fan loving life as the new chairman. We’ll see. I don’t even want to mention the article by ‘Stanley Choi’, which came out yesterday in a Chinese newspaper. It goes onto tar pretty much everyone at the club, and I can’t believe he genuinely thinks only a small minority of Wigan fans dislike him. Give it a read, but prepare to be extremely frustrated by it. As tough as administration has been, there have been positives - the togetherness from the fans has grown stronger, and this needs to carry onto the new era. I can’t wait to start the new chapter.
Wiganers make the best moaners. No matter what the situation, a Wiganer will always find summat to moan about. We had John Sheridan as manager, we moaned, he was gone. The team was struggling and playing poorly, we moaned, they’ve improved. The admins couldn’t find a buyer, we moaned, they went back to (and dusted off) one they’d previously discarded. We’re all (nearly) as happy as pigs in muck. But, we’re still a bit cheesed off. We still need a target (or two) about whom we can have a reet good whinge. So, who’s not done ‘emselves any favours? Who hasn’t done every little thing that’s been asked of them? Who do we reckon we could have done a way way better job than? You’ll be amazed to hear some folk think the answer to these questions – and the new recipients of our (Champions League-standard) moaning – is the Supporters Club. Yep the Supporters Club. The ones who helped the club finish last season. The ones who helped raise over three quarters of a million pound in total. The ones who’ve been working tirelessly to make sure we didn’t end up another Bury, or Macclesfield. I know. You can’t make it up, can you? So, on behalf of those of us who aren’t blessed (or is it afflicted?) with the moaning talent, can I offer a big thank you to the Supporters Club, and all connected with them, for the (largely) thankless work they’ve done to make sure we have a club to follow. Generally though, your reward will undoubtedly be to be told ‘aye, but they could o’ kept us out of t’ dark a bit more’...!
What a difference a week makes. Last week was tough for the ‘Tics faithful. In a year where the kicks have kept on coming, last week felt one of the worst weeks through this whole period. A dispiriting defeat to Charlton followed by negative sounds of a takeover falling through once again. Then came Saturday, and the sun broke through the clouds both figuratively and literally. Before kick-off, news leaked out about a deal for the sale of the club finally being agreed between administrators and the Bahraini consortium who have been long term suitors over the last few months. What followed felt like one of the most complete performances of the season, as Latics finally got it right at both ends of the pitch. The returning Will Grigg was marshalled by a superb defensive performance, and Latics’ forward line were as clinical as we’ve seen this season. It was more than three points, though. With the hopeful news of the takeover, it felt like a symbolic day on Saturday. A first win at home since December, and a maiden step hopefully on the road to our recovery. Sunday saw some more flesh on the bones of the takeover, with the first names emerging thanks to a holding company appearing on Companies House. The names are interesting, that’s for sure, and there seems to be a lot of football experience there. It’s very difficult to comment on the motives of our prospective owners. We know so little but, with time running out and our very future at threat, we need to hope they have our best interests at heart. To cap off a near-perfect week, Latics travelled down to Plymouth and returned with all three points thanks to goals from Viv Solomon-Otobar and Curtis Tilt. Jamie Jones put in one of the performances of the season, behind a defence that held firm under concerted pressure. It feels like a corner has been turned on and off the pitch, but we’re not done yet. Thanks to Sunderland appearing in the EFL Trophy final at Wembley, we have a weekend off ahead of a crucial game at Wimbledon on Tuesday. Confidence is high now, but we need to harness that and ensure our club stays in League One.
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