Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'I was an entitled, spoiled little brat who reacted badly to the sort of performance that every football fan should endure multiple times in order to deserve the much more sporadic highs...'

Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts look forward to the visit of Bolton Wanderers – the first of a nine-game sequence that will make or break their campaign...

Martin Tarbuck:

It seems the main topic on social media this week is the decision from Shrewsbury to only afford us 1,600 tickets for the last game of the season. Which is what they usually do to be fair, so I’m not sure why anyone should expect them to bend over backwards for us. I love discussions like this, both on a meaningful level, and of course when they descend into mindless slanging matches. It’s what we do, it’s in our DNA. I can definitely see both sides of the argument, having been on both sides of the fence over the years. I tend to think having a points based ticketing system is like time travel. If it exists in the future, it would exist already. You see this kind of thing is meant to promote and reward loyalty, but the main issue as I see it is that by starting a scheme tomorrow, it actually discards all previous loyalty. It doesn’t care whether you’ve attended one away game in the past or 10,000. All the previous loyalty you have built up goes straight in the bin, and we all start on zero. Dare I say a lot of fans have built up a lot of loyalty during much leaner times, when we were a lot harder to watch, and actually that deserves even more kudos than going to an away game when we’re top of the league. A secondary argument consists of advocating greater preference to people who attend midweek away games on the other side of the country. I think you’ve got to counter this by saying we probably do have a few hundred fans now in London and across the south of England who turn up regularly to these games, mainly exiled Wiganers, and for them it is closer than a home game. So not such a big sacrifice, although this support really does us proud when we are faced with a long haul game. Others work weekends and perhaps have more of an opportunity to attend a midweek game than they could a Saturday match. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of others who are pulling out the stops at great expense and booking two days off work, but it’s plainly not black and white. You’ve also got to look at the financial element of it all. I will readily admit I have expensive tastes these days, but a London away can cost in the region of a few hundred quid (I pray the wife isn’t reading...). But how much of that goes to Wigan Athletic? Well, none of it. I should say to counter this that the club and the players have been blown away by the numbers and ferocity of the away support this year, and there is a real rapport between the two. What percentage of goals do we reckon have been scored at the away fans’ end at away games, must be over 70 per cent? Our away support is tremendously important, and I don’t envy the job the club has trying to balance the needs of the real regular every match away fans when there is a tight allocation on offer. The financial benefit to Latics is nil, but the vocal support is arguably priceless. However, the club gets its financial support from home games and season tickets, so I completely understand why that is the primary qualifier for gaining away tickets.

I suppose the debate follows whether there should be a points accumulation system based on how many games you go to, on top of that. I have argued quite strongly in favour of this in the past and, quelle surprise, it was back in the day when I had the time, money and opportunity to travel to every away game. Stretching not too far back further, it used to be all you needed to actually attend an away game was a few pound notes and such things as match tickets and/or financial records of such transactions were a rarity. How do we reward THAT loyalty? As an aside, it's true I once wrote a letter to Kenny Swain, enclosing two train tickets following an abject 3-1 drubbing away at Colchester, asking for my money back. He wrote me a lovely (hand-written) letter back, thanking me for your support and promising things would get better soon. They didn’t and nor did I get my money back. But I didn’t deserve too either, I was an entitled, spoiled little brat who reacted badly to the sort of performance that every football fan should endure multiple times in order to deserve the much more sporadic highs. Personally now, since the wife, children, mortgage and well, life came along, I don’t attend as many aways as I used to, maybe one in three, six to 10 a season and mainly the local ones with a couple of biggies thrown in. I guess right now I am probably on the cusp of where that 1,600 threshold line is drawn. In all honesty, I could get all preachy here and say that for quite a few of my 37 years supporting us, I went to nearly every away game. But I also appreciate is the support we get both now and in the future that is most important. That is a fact of life, and is usually the argument I throw back when someone else is throwing that kind of strop. It is a complicated beast working this one out. You’ve probably got a few hundred fans who have done nearly all the aways this year (and absolutely deserve a Shrewsbury ticket). Beyond that you’ve probably got a few thousand fans who have done quite a few and all would like to go. And in category three, you’ve probably got many older fans who have in the past done hundreds if not thousands of away games, but probably not so many in the last year or two, due to age and commitments. I see myself in the middle group but probably veering towards the third in the next few years, and I’m cool with that.

The Latics players celebrate the Carabao Cup victory over Bolton at the start of the seasonThe Latics players celebrate the Carabao Cup victory over Bolton at the start of the season
The Latics players celebrate the Carabao Cup victory over Bolton at the start of the season
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The bottom line is I will probably try and get a ticket for this game, not fully knowing whether I am in the first 1,600 fans who deserve it or not. But if I don’t get one, I won’t be crying about it on social media, because I am not the future of the club. I will play a part in the future of the club, but less so than I did in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to actively support the club for at least another 37 years, but I don’t see myself travelling to Ipswich on a Tuesday night in the year 2059 at 86 years of age. Unless they’ve invented time travel which, as I’ve already covered, they haven’t. And if they have, then I’ll be going to May 11, 2013 every day regardless. The future of the club is all the daft lads and lasses who are going more and more, year on year and learning to love this football club more each day and I salute them, and I hope somehow everyone who deserves a ticket can get one. Knowing quite a few of the 'never miss a game' brigade, who aren’t on social media, they generally never miss out anyway through sheer determination, and long may that continue. Of course, a points system could guarantee this to be the case, but I am left with the logical words of ex-CEO Jonathan Jackson ringing in my ears when I last approached him on the subject: 'Why would we want to spend loads of time and effort setting up a system we might only need once a season'. And of course, if and when we do get to the Championship, with bigger grounds, larger allocations and (gulp) higher prices, we may not need it at all. That is kind of 'case closed' for me on the matter. Oh yes, and we’re back in league action on Saturday. I hope we can carry on where we left off before the international break and secure a win. That’s all you’re getting from me, I will leave the mouthing off to them men and their manager as usual.

Read More
Wigan Athletic manager's 'little bit extra' motivation to beat Bolton Wanderers

Paul Middleton:

By the time you read this, it’ll have been a year, almost to the day, since we squeezed out from under the twin towered nightmares of administration and administrators. It’s also a year that has gone much, much quicker than the one before it. From near death, to a chance of being five points clear at the top of League One by Tuesday, let nobody say we’re not all on an often terrifying, but always exhilarating, rollercoaster ride. For much of the last 15 years, or so, the connection between fans and club has been nothing short of exceptional. Even during the years of the Chinese wasteland, there were still people at the club fighting for us, and with us, to keep that connection going. None of us knew what to expect when a previously unknown Bahrain-based group came in at the very end of the administration process, even though they had some impressive UK credentials in the team. Certainly none of us knew just how quickly the new owners would ‘get’ what it’s like to be a Wigan Athletic fan. Sometimes, like now, it’s easy being a Latics fan, and sometimes it isn’t. Through everything, though, knowing we have owners who care about the club is a real source of comfort and confidence in at least the near future. Are we genuinely a Premier League club? I have to say no. But are we a bona fide mid-table Championship club, with the occasional decent cup run in us? Absolutely we are. Whether that will be enough for Abdulrahman Al-Jasmi, Talal and Mal Brannigan will be realised in due course, but I hope so. The Championship is not the money maker the PL is, it’s actually more of a money pit, but clubs like us have proved it’s possible to be profitable, and even get promoted. Only time will tell. Back in the here and now, it’s Bolton on Saturday. Beat them and we go top. Beat them well, and we still only go top but it will be sweeter still. All week, their fans will be telling anyone who will listen that United are their rivals, not little Wigan. And everyone else will point at them and laugh. Another club, like Sunderland, who think they are too big for League One, and too big for the likes of us. The pair of them have certainly proved themselves too big to fit in the Championship for years, so there may be something in it. Plymouth can only get 92 points, MK Dons can only get 97, and Rotherham are stumbling just at the wrong time for them and the right time for everyone else. If we win on Saturday, and again on Tuesday, we’ll have 85 points and seven games left. Win three out of the seven and we should be as good as up. It would take MK Dons winning every single game they have left to prevent it and, as useful as they have looked, I’m not sure they’re useful enough. So that rollercoaster I mentioned, not only do we get to ride it all the way, but it looks like we get to enjoy it until they make us all get off.


Hopefully the Irish lads who've been away representing both the north and south come back in one piece to team up with the rest of the squad after the warm weather training. Now let's get straight into the best team in the league from kick-off and give them another humiliation going into the last month of the season. The games are coming thick and fast, so let's keep the ball rolling, stand behind the team and reach our goal. Stay safe.

Caddy from the 5:

All roads lead to the DW on Saturday, as our friends from Horwich visit for a derby they don't care about but can't stop banging on about. It should be a feisty affair with the self-confessed 'best team in the league', sitting 11th on the ladder, 21 points behind - and having played two games more the - the second best team in the league, who are point off the top with two games in hand. See, I just look at league tables, it's usually an indicator of where you're actually at. They should try it sometime. The final push for the title starts on Saturday for the Latics against a mid-table side that are mathematically safe from relegation so they've nothing to play for bar local pride - none of which they had in the reverse fixture at Horwich. Hopefully a nice, well-earned two-week break for us and the sunshine in Dubai for training - closely monitored and cost totted up by Barnsley - will have the pride of Lancashire champing at the bit again to see us over the line and back to the Championship, where we'll come up against some decent local opposition. I've no idea why the police have made the game a 12.30pm kick-off, that's just nonsensical to me. Having 4,000 away fans trudging round the bright lights of Wigan, open mouthed at motor-driven transport and pubs without snugs and tap rooms at 2.30pm, with shoppers still everywhere, could be too much for them. Heaven help us if they stay until dark and see we've street lighting... In all seriousness, it should be a cracking game, a real 'Lancashire hotpot', I believe the papers call it (I'll take that -Ed), and here's hoping for some blood and thunder and an emphatic Latics win to silence the Horwich masses. Let's all get behind the lads on Saturday and roar them on to the win because, whatever they think, this is the one we were all looking for when the fixtures came out. If you can get your backsides down there, do it and UP THE 'TICS!

Matt Auffrey:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

If Latics fans were only given three words to describe the theme for this Saturday’s match, I’m sure they could get pretty creative. My personal submission would be quite simple, and even borderline cliche: ‘Back to business’. Will the thrilling energy of a local derby permeate the DW Stadium this weekend? Yes. Could we go top of the table with a win on Saturday? Yes. Could we also secure the ultimate bragging rights over our rivals by beating them for a third time this season? Absolutely. Did I mention this could possibly be the last time that we play Bolton in a competitive match for an unforeseeable amount of time? There’s many reasons to create a mountain of hype for this match. Yet, all I ask at the full-time whistle is we finish the match with 11 men on the pitch, everyone in good health, and another three points on the board. Our away day at Horwich last October produced what for many of us is still the ‘result of the season’. The goals, the player celebrations, the crowd limbs, the Bolton fan reactions... everything about our 4-0 win was as close to perfection as possible. If the lads can replicate such a dominant and exuberant performance, we could easily finish the day as the happiest fanbase in the country. However, one should remember just three days after last October’s triumphant victory, we put in one of our most flat performances of the season as MK Dons beat us convincingly at the DW. I’d surely take six points with limited fireworks from our next two home matches rather than a commanding win over Bolton and dropping points against Accrington Stanley during the midweek. Consistent performances have been a hallmark of this squad. Prior to the international break, we put in five very solid shifts across the month of March that saw us go unbeaten in the league. If we bring the same energy and composure against Bolton, there’s no doubt in my mind we will emerge victorious. Do you know what’s better than Dubai in March? It’s obviously anywhere the promotion-chasing 'Tics are playing during the month of April. Let this just be one stepping stone on our way to much bigger and better achievements.

Emma Peters:

A year. One whole year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. That's how long Phoenix 2021 Limited have officially been in charge of this football club. What a whirlwind it has been. What a journey! There has been an air of success and an undertone of excited confidence surrounding the club since day one of Talal and Mr Al Jasmi coming into Wigan Athletic, but I don't think anyone ever expected in their wildest dreams we'd be in the position we are now. With the derby clash with Manchester United's main rivals Bolton Wanderers peeping over the horizon, and the chance to leapfrog Rotherham (who play their Pizza Cup final on Sunday) at the top of the league table, lunchtime on Saturday promises to be interesting, if nothing else. Wigan came out on top in the reverse fixture back in October with a 4-0 victory as well as a couple of pyros, the odd missile on the pitch and plenty of 'out'housery from the usual suspects, namely James McClean and Max Power. The lads look to be in good spirits and well rested after their trip to Southport in the sun last week and, with the Irish trio back from international duty, it would seem the squad is ready to put in a winning performance in front of the Latics faithful and 4000 travelling supporters. I would like to think we'll see another successful result from the 'Tics, but whatever the scoreline is, enjoy the day and be safe. Some club, this. Some team. Anyway, 'Bolton get battered...'

Tony Moon:

"So, them lot down t’ road think they’re top of t’ league ‘cos they would have been up there, had they had all their players fit for every game … and had they won all those games too of course. Meanwhile, the red and white element of the perennially deluded up in the north east think that they should be top, purely based on their attendances … or, alternatively, if only home form was taken into account. It’s so far beyond 'naive' that it’s waving 'sadly mistaken' in the rear view mirror. It’s quite simply 'making up your own reality'. I’ve no doubt the fans of both teams (had circumstances been different) could have been millionaires by the time they were 25, married the lady (or man) of their choice, and in every walk of their (made-up) lives, just like Marlon Brando, they could have been a contender … if only they were allowed to make up their own rules as they went along. Ah well, stuff happens. As the old saying goes, 'if my auntie had dangly bits, she’d have been my uncle'. As it happens, Sunderland have no better than an outside chance of making the play-offs, whereas the best t’ other lot can come up with is that at least they’re safe from relegation. But let’s remember, it’s their final on Saturday. If they win, they’ll be crowing (just like Sunderland did) about how they told us all they were the best … but should we lose,we’ll still be just a point off top spot, still with a game in hand. I know who I’d rather be … for a million and one reasons.

Sean Livesey:

So here we are again, the business end of the season. The run in, the final furlong, the finishing line in sight – it’s hard to think the season has just four weeks left to run. After the awful circumstances in which we spent last season locked out of a stadium we didn’t know whether we would ever step foot in again, this season has been a real tonic for the soul. If you can ignore the hot takes and hysterics after the handful of bad results we’ve had this season, it’s been an unbelievable return for Latics. A return for supporters post-pandemic, but also a return for the club. Rescued by a group of individuals that just seem to get us and, as a result, have given the club a real shot in the arm. There’s a lot to reflect on, and hopefully a lot to congratulate people with, but the time for that isn’t just yet. There’s an incredible nine games to fit into April, thanks in part to the refusal of Accrington to play in January when they originally postponed their match against us. Add in to that progress in the FA Cup and another postponement due to the international break, and it makes for a month absolutely crammed full. All of that begins this Saturday with the visit of everyone’s favourite ‘best team in the league’. Our friends in Horwich have picked up in recent weeks, thanks in no small part to a December and January devoid of any football (mainly because they called them all off because of Covid), allowing them to get players fit and new signings bedded in. The play-offs are probably beyond them now, unless you listen to their manager who, on hearing the play-offs were ‘impossible’, replied that it spelled ‘I’m possible’ so y’know {insert David Brent image here}. Obviously with nothing to play for, and Bolton fans stating the rivalry between the two clubs is all in the heads of Wiganers, there won’t be any away fans making the short journey to Robin Park on Saturday, and there’ll definitely be no need for the police to move the game to an early kick-off...will there? If my maths is correct, I think Saturday is the 60th match between the two clubs and, despite this, every Bolton fan to a man on the internet says it’s a fixture they’re not interested in. Some fella even said Everton was a bigger derby for them. Ask Evertonians and Manchester United fans where they think Bolton rank on their list of club rivalries, and I’ll imagine you’ll get a very different response. Indifference to us is absolutely fine, we’re used to it. When your last meaningful success was in the 1950s, it makes sense to hark back to those times. But most of those coming out with such statements are the same age as me - not the age of my Grandad who, God rest his soul, did see the glory days of Bolton. Despite all this, you know that if they manage to beat us on Saturday, we’ll never hear the end of it, despite ‘not caring’. Saturday is the start of an intense period that will define this season. What a perfect match to start that run off with.