Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'He’s the next £25m player that will help to balance the books...he could be the one to to unlock defences and give us that bit of creativity we sometimes lack...'
Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts run the rule over an unbeaten start to the campaign...which could have returned even more points...and the emergence of Thelo Aasgaard as a star of the now – not the future – ahead of Saturday’s trip to Birmingham...
Three games, lower mid-table (ish), unbeaten, and with a game in hand that could put us seventh if we played today and won it. I know, it’s an 'if', but my point stands. I’m not sure any of us would have walked away from that if it were offered in July. Massive positives have been not conceding a load of goals, despite a back four lacking a bit of pace, and us growing into games. That fact alone will serve us well as time passes. Ryan Nyambe looked more than solid, and very confident when he came on, which is always good to see with any new player. What it means for team selection will remain to be seen, as he is a natural right-back who can play centre-half, and we have a club captain already well established at right-back. The only doubt I have about Nyambe is the fact people keep telling us he’s 24. It all looks a bit like 'the 26-year-old Hendry Thomas' all over again. The real highlight on Saturday, though, was seeing Thelo Aasgaard get some proper playing time, and he did exactly what we all knew he would. Comfortable on the ball, quick, great feet and more. He’s the next £25m player that will help to balance the books. Like it or not, we’re a selling club, and always will be. In the Premier League, we had a history of getting good players cheaply, making them better, and selling for a huge profit. Think Victor Moses, Antonio Valencia, Wilson Palacios etc. It’s a result of being a small club who need more than crowds and TV money to survive. So far, I haven’t seen anything that frightens me too much about the quality of the teams in this division. We have a bit of work to do to get everyone up to the obviously increased tempo, and having a lot less time on the ball, but I still think we’ll be okay.
Caddy from the 5:
A rare midweek off for the unbeaten 'Tics this week due to Coventry's pitch looking harder than Joe McFarlane and more barren than Bolton's trophy cabinet this century, so it's recharge the batteries and move on to Saturday's trip to Birmingham time. More than 1,500 fans are making the journey to St Andrews by any way possible, seeing as there's no trains on yet again, and that's a great effort I say. Of course, we'll be ridiculed by certain sites and fans as usual, but guess what, we don't care, we thrive off your bitterness! Back to last Saturday, and it wasn't a vintage game or performance (putting it mildly), but we hung in there and vastly improved in the second half to eek out a draw against a half-decent Bristol City side. I heard a few murmurings against the players and Leam during the first half and, of course, everyone's entitled to an opinion. But just remember lads, this is a massive step up, and we've got to find our feet in this division. We're doing okay and it's definitely not a time to panic. Personally, I'd like to see more of Aasgaard, because he could be the one to to unlock defences and give us that bit of creativity we sometimes lack. I'm not having a pop at anyone here, but we can all see - and I'm 100 per cent sure Leam can see - this lad is special, and you can't wrap him up in cotton forever. Unleash the beast, Leam! Right, I'm off sorting a chilled trailer out to take fans on Saturday, they might be freezing but at least their 'Bow will be cold!
We’re two weeks into the new season and we’ve already had our first match postponement. It’s not because of contagious sneezers and coughers in the playing squad, but rather due to an unplayable pitch. After having the privilege of being able to walk on a near immaculate playing surface at the DW before last Saturday’s match, I struggled to understand how clubs in this division could allow their own pitch to get in such a state of disarray so early in the season. After putting on my pie-shaped detective hat and doing more research, I learned that the situation in Coventry (where our midweek match was to be played) is quite complex. Some have argued that the postponement came at an ideal time for Latics given the various injury problems within our semi-thin squad. I do know that the issues surrounding the CBS Arena far exceed those in Wigan right now - even though Tuesday’s cancellation was quite inconvenient. Another downside is that our fanbase will have to wait a few extra days to see Latics get their first win of the season. Our next opponents, Birmingham, were predicted by many to struggle this season, but have already taken five points off two of last season's Championship play-off sides (Huddersfield and Luton) and a recent Premier League side in Watford. Nonetheless, coming off an inspired effort against Bristol City, the expectation should be victory for Latics and the nearly 2,000 travelling fans on Saturday. As for last weekend’s Bristol City match, it served as a phenomenal introduction to Latics football at the DW for me and my dad. I’ve seen every major sports league in the USA live and in-person. I’ve attended NCAA football games with crowds of over 100,000. Yet, the hysteria in ES2 and feeling of pure bliss that followed Will Keane’s 67th-minute equaliser was a sporting experience that belongs in a class of its own. As I flew back to New York last Sunday night, I wasn’t disappointed that I only got to see one Latics goal that week, or that I didn’t get to partake in a three-point party. I was still overjoyed by the kindness and generosity of the people I met and the magical energy that permeated the town of Wigan because of the 'Tics. I’m more eager than ever to share the passion of Latics with my friends, families, and acquaintances in the States. The season is young and we’re already facing an array of challenges. Key players have suffered injuries, matches need to be rescheduled, and our summer recruitment project is still a work in progress. We’ve also yet to win a match in all competitions. But after watching the second half of that Bristol City match, I know very well our club is trending in the right direction. It may be years before I make it back across the pond again, and that’s okay. My one week as a Wiganer will hold me over for a long time.
Another week has gone by as Latics begin to get used to life in the Championship. The defeat at Fleetwood was, in my opinion, no real loss. We were never going to win the EFL Cup, and the last thing Latics need is a run of extra cup fixtures and a repeat of playing catch up in the event of postponements and rearranged games. All of which sap the energy of the players - energy which will be better spent focusing on the Championship, which has to be the top priority this season. Even though Latics did the double last season against a Fleetwood side, who only managed to win eight league games all season, this cup tie was always going to be a totally different affair. Leam Richardson wisely rested the rump of the team that played at Norwich, in order to give the other squad members a run out to gain match practice and to build up their fitness levels. The decision to rest so many players, given the fact the squad is still a bit light on numbers, proved to be justified when Latics faced a tough game against Bristol City, in what were the hottest conditions I have ever experienced watching a game at the DW. I can't begin to imagine how difficult it was for the players. Latics did themselves no favours by gifting them an early soft goal by poor marking. Watching it in real time, the whole thing was like watching in slow motion. They cannot afford, especially in this division, giving away goals in this manner. For all that Latics struggled in the sweltering heat to make any real impression in the first half, you can't fault their commitment and endeavour as they huffed and puffed against a side who indulged themselves in shameful play-acting and gamesmanship. I have never seen so many players go down like they have been shot, as they roll around on the pitch feigning injury! I am not one for criticising the officials, they have a hard enough job as it is. But I feel that on this occasion, they were conned too easily. Credit to Latics for raising their game in the second half. The key to it was the substitutions, in particular Theo Aasgaard, who injected pace, energy and purpose into the team. The Will Keane equaliser came as no surprise and was thoroughly deserved. From thereon I really believed Latics would go on to win the game but, alas, they could not nick that elusive late winner. I considered this to be two points dropped rather than a point gained. Bristol City looked ragged and were there for the taking. I don't think Latics will win too many games with a two-goal or more margin this season. I reckon it will be by 1-0 or 2-1, which is why we need to put teams to the sword and turn one point into three, if we are to prevail in this division. However, a solid enough start that up to now has shown we will be able to compete and hold our own. We are still short on numbers, although the signing of Ashley Fletcher will help to bolster the ranks. Next up is a trip down the M6 to Birmingham...but no reason why Latics get something there!
Another draw, what might it cost? We could have won, but we might have lost. They took t’ first half, we took t’ second, the longer we played, a winner just beckoned. But it wasn’t to be, it finished all square, but that win ‘ll come soon, if we hope, if we dare. Ne’er mind about that though, on to summat more solemn. What about all the favouritism in this here column? It just isn’t on, no I really can’t speak, that some folk get printed each and every damn week. Well it just isn’t right, that some folk miss out, just because they’re not in wi’ the mon wi’ the clout. Whaddya mean “no-one misses”? Are you trying to teach us that every submission, that’s EVERY one features? Well clobber me sideways, I mean, whodathowt? That some folk on twitter know t’ square root of nowt!
Three games, three points. The frustrating thing is it could and probably should have been even more. In each game so far, we've arguably had the better of the play, even against the supposed favourites for the league we had chances to win it. But to be unbeaten, three weeks into the season is no mean feat either. It shows a resilience among this side that's so important at this level. I had to laugh at Nigel Pearson's histrionics at the end of last week's match. Similar to Dean Smith the previous week down at Norwich, to paraphrase Corporal Jones: 'they don't like it up em', and it shows that little Wigan continue to rattle the so-called big boys in this division. The arrival of Ashley Fletcher is an interesting one, a striker who's proven at this level and has moved for big money in recent years. If we can get him firing he could be an astute signing. It's back on the road on Saturday, with all roads leading down the M6 to Birmingham. Birmingham seem to have escaped the comedy clutches of Laurence Bassini and made a decent start to the season, it's going to need us to be at our best to get anything but these lads are more than capable. With more than 1,500 heading down to a sold-out away end, during the midst of a national train strike, it makes a mockery of the net nerds and their 'poor support' nonsense. Wiganers will give their all to this club, and those lads on the pitch are doing their best to repay that support.