Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - "I don’t think the Bahraini lads are expecting a long stay in League One...so I think we’ll have the trophy by December..."
Our panel of 12th Men return after a summer of rest and recuperation and have their sights firmly set on a new dawn at Wigan Athletic - where the Phoenix is rising!
Caddy from the 5:
On the eve of what will be my 40th season, since my uncle took me watching the mighty ‘Tics for the first time –shock horror, we lost – I’ve not felt this excited to get back to watching football since probably the first season in the Premiership. The last 14 months have been awful for all of us associated with Wigan Athletic past and present, what with Covid, Stanley Choi, administration,Begbies and the various fruit loops and people a lot closer to home who wanted to buy us, darkening the name of our great club. And at times it really did feel like we weren’t gonna come out the other side... Step forward Mr Al Jasmi and the fan’s favourite, Talal,the Bahraini supergroup who under the Phoenix 2021 Limited banner saw just how massive we are, and have bought into the whole ethos of our club from the word go. Since they bought us they’ve put their money,and more importantly their trust, in the club, and up to now you really cannot fault anything they’ve done. They’ve got the stability back, brought in some very decent directors, given Leam and his team carte blanche with some tremendous signings, and pinned down the Academy lads that so deserve another shot this season. With season tickets brilliantly priced, we’re told the numbers sold are the best for years, and hopefully people who haven’t got one for whatever reason will get down whenever they can to thank the new owners for saving our club. The stadium has had a clean and the whole club seems revitalised, it’s a new broom sweeping through and I’m all for it. Saturday sees 2,000 ‘Tics heading for Sunderland, yet again promotion favourites, in a clash made more spicy with Wyke, Power and Jones heading back up to the Geordie suburb. They’ll be guaranteed a great reception from our fans and the usual boos from the home fans, who don’t seem to do much else nowadays.
A more underperforming club you’ll struggle to find anywhere outside Everton. As for predictions for this season, I don’t think the Bahraini lads are expecting a long stay in League One , so I think we’ll have the trophy by December on our way to a record 500-point tally, with Bolton being relegated with another record of 0 points. Ok, I’m being a bit over confident of us getting 500 points, the rest is right though. Get your money on Humphreys winning the golden boot and Aasgaard winning the Ballon D’or, both are gonna be some players for us I reckon... A final thought for all the ‘Tics fans not with us for this season to see hopefully the rebirth of our great club: You’re gone, but you’re not forgotten....
The summer of 2021 was not supposed to work out the way it did for Wigan Athletic. Latics were not supposed to sign Charlton’s first choice keeper, Portsmouth’s captain, or a 31-goal talisman from Sunderland all on a free. They were not supposed to pay a fee for prized striker Steven Humphrys from Rochdale, or skilled winger Jordan Jones from Rangers. The new signings were not supposed to gel quickly with the current squad and lead Latics on a triumphant preseason run that featured two wins over Championship clubs. From the CEO of Portsmouth FC to the manager of Bolton, nearly every person with some connection to League One has taken notice of what’s been going on at the DW Stadium, and has voiced their opinion on our activity. Our club’s statement of intent this of-season has not just ruffled feathers, but has plucked the bird down to its raw skin. While our League One rivals might have envisioned a different short-term (and long-term) plan for Latics, there remains little doubt that Phoenix 2021 Limited has their focus set on promotion for the 21-22 season. It’s been nearly impossible for fans like myself to not take on that same optimism and ambition. Even with a playing squad that is several pieces away from completion, there is already undeniable talent, experience, and leadership present that will surely elevate Latics into the top third of the league table, if not higher, by season’s end. We were able to obtain a new perspective and respect for League One during the trials and tribulations of last season. We took note of the differences that allowed some teams to become promotion contenders while other teams constantly hovered around the relegation zone. We know what a League One title-winning squad looks like, and so far we have checked many of those boxes in our pursuit of a third such title in seven seasons. Our opening match against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light will provide a large measuring stick for Latics against a club of great stature and equally great aspirations. With three players from last season’s Sunderland squad now on our books, the anticipation for the match has surpassed ‘Opening Day’ status and is approaching ‘derby-like’ levels of excitement. The scenarios that could be played out in one’s head working in favor of Latics are endless. Will Keane and Callum Lang combine for an early opening goal, Jordan Jones and Charlie Wyke combine for another one, and with the score knotted at two goals-a-piece, who other than Max Power is better suited to deliver a 90th minute match-winner for Latics in front of 2,000 roaring fans in the away end. Win, lose, or draw, our fate for this upcoming season will not be determined by Saturday’s result. Our opening match against Ipswich Town last season produced some of the most dire football that many of us have ever witnessed from a Latics side. Seven months later, Latics would go on to produce a spectacular run of four straight victories with their backs against the wall while on the brink of relegation. We are as well aware as any fanbase how drastically a team’s fortune can change over the course of a season. I have a very good feeling that on Saturday we will also witness how dramatically a team’s quality of play can improve over a few summer months. Bring on the new season!
What a few months it’s been. Loads of signings and still in need of more.
Winning pre-season friendlies (means nothing!) but more importantly for me, being able to get back to the DW Stadium, seeing people we haven’t seen for such a long time! Looking forward to the season, starting Saturday at Sunderland. Not sure what we are expecting for the season, but if the players we’ve brought in ‘get it’ and show us what they are made of then I think we might surprise a few (always positive thinking)! Up the Tics!
What a difference a year makes, a year ago this week we were facing up to the most uncertain of futures. The fourth of August has been an eventful date in the history of Wigan Athletic in recent seasons. It was the opening day of the season in both 2018 and 2019, with strong wins over both Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday taking place on those dates. It’s also in the memory for much darker reasons as August 4, 2020 also marked the day we were ‘officially’ relegated from the Championship. Of course the damage was done months earlier thanks to that disastrous period, but all of that is now thankfully in the past, and I can’t remember there being such anticipation for the start of a new season. Administration is well in the past, supporters are finally allowed back in to stadiums after over 18 months away, and we are thriving under new ownership. It could have been oh so different, and this weekend at Sunderland should be a reward to those that fought, fought to keep the club alive. From all the former players, officials, managers and anyone with an emotional connection to the club, who donated to pay the salaries of the players or donated to ensure we had a future. A tribute to those who worked so hard to facilitate a sale – chief amongst them the supporters club and in particular Caroline Molyneux – as well as that a tribute to those of us who fought and lobbied to ensure our football club wouldn’t die. We only have to look up the road to Bury to see a story not dissimilar to ours that didn’t end as well, for many points over the last 12 months I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t see my beloved football club again. Thankfully those fears didn’t come to fruition. So what kind of Latics will be taking to the pitch against Sunderland? Well, a hell of a lot stronger than any of us may have dared to imagine at the end of last season. It was a remarkable achievement to remain in League One but, with only five senior pros contracted at the end of the season, it was going to be an uphill battle to recruit a team that could compete. What Leam Richardson and Phoenix 2021 Limited have achieved so far is excellent, proven League One talent alongside promising young signings from the Championship and the basis of a really exciting side with lots of attacking talent. Where we’re looking light is in defence, and I’m sure reinforcements are being sought. Despite the excitement that needs to be tempered, this is a completely new Latics. As well as new players on the pitch, there’s new faces in the dug-out with ex-England star James Beattie and former Leicester boss Rob Kelly. The whole club feels reinvigorated again, and one has to hope the nightmare of both Covid and administration is firmly behind us now. There are going to be bumps along the way for this side and, although you know it’s going to happen, the last thing they and Leam will need is unfound criticism. As the famous saying goes: ‘Let em gel’ and who knows where we could be in another year’s time and what we could achieve together.
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