Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'If we let our previous owners, the EFL or the greed of football in general take over, blur reality and split the fanbase of our club, then the last strand of its soul will vanish too...whether it survives or not...'
I fell out of love with football some time ago. Not even sure I ever was in love with it to be honest – I’ve always described myself as a Wigan Athletic fan rather than a football fan. But any small affection I had left for the game has been demolished this year as the ugly side of the ‘beautiful game’ reared its head more prominently than ever. What has happened to our club is incomprehensible and unforgivable. A mixture of negligence, immorality and incompetence has left us on the brink of existence. It’s put fantastic, dedicated people out of work and has stripped so much of the soul away from a football club that prides itself in the good of its people. One of the most ugly things out of this whole sorry mess – a mess even bigger than Wigan Athletic – is the malicious and opportunistic way some of the country’s more prominent clubs sought to capitalise and gain from the demise and struggles of so many others. The pandemic has hit the whole football league hard and ‘Project Big Picture’ or whatever it was called should shame English football forever. To provide financial support, these bigger clubs wanted power and control. Survival would come at a price. I’ve never, ever liked Manchester United or Liverpool, and my many friends from Wigan who choose to support those teams many miles away say it’s because I’m bitter. Too right. They’ve indirectly put clubs into financial ruin for years. They can’t help that by having such a big fanbase, and I accept many of my friends simply follow who their parents and grandparents did, as did we. So if the price they have to pay is a bit of bitterness when their teams get 6-1 or 7-2 drubbings on Sky, then so be it. They are more outraged by VAR decisions than they are of the behaviour of their own clubs. They’ll never endure the torment Wigan fans have endured the last few months and, in the unlikely event they do, it won’t be as painful for the majority, because their relationship with their club is built on heat maps and formations, rather than community and pride.
I’ve avoided a lot of the recent developments for Wigan Athletic. Social media is somewhat of a cesspit with allegations of agendas and collusion. I will be sceptical and cautious about anyone who takes over this club. It’s natural. The fact of the matter is we don’t know the motives of any prospective new over . No doubt when they come to the fore they’ll say all the right things, but I’m afraid I will take that with a pinch of salt until they prove themselves. Personally, I don’t believe the Council, the rugby club or even this newspaper – as some would suggest – are involved in some form of anti-Wigan Athletic collusion. I see why Ian Lenagan has become public enemy number one recently, but I also don’t think he’s a Maurice Lindsay, who seemed happy for Wigan Athletic to die. I think he wanted to protect the stadium and - while I’d prefer it to stay in Latics hands - I understand that. This delay isn’t helping Wigan Athletic now though – and this should be the priority - and, NDAs or no NDAs, the lack of clarity is what is really frustrating to say the least. Time is not on Latics’ side so anything that prolongs this purgatory will stir feelings even more. I may get harangued for thinking all of the above, but that brings me to my wider point. I think we are getting waylaid. Some of the vitriol being thrown at other Latics supporters seeing things slightly differently is totally unnecessary. It’s right we are sceptical of whoever comes in – be it buyers or vultures (possibly they’re one and the same) – but if we let our previous owners, the EFL or the greed of football in general take over, blur reality and split the fanbase of our club, then the last strand of its soul will vanish too...whether it survives or not.
Caddy from the 5:
150 (ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY) days (I think) we’ve been in administration, and still the story rumbles along with about as much urgency as a Mexican village on a Bank Holiday Monday while our football club is dying. That’s not an exaggeration, this club is dying, and some – be it Begbies,the EFL,the Spaniards or Wigan Council – have some serious questions that need answering when it’s all over...well, hopefully all over. On this week’s episode, it’s Wigan Council who it seems are the stumbling block. Yes, Laticss’ great friends for a year in 2013. Now I don’t know if any of this is true, but allegedly our tenants are putting pressure on the Council to make sure they come out of this deal smelling of roses rent-wise with the Spaniards. And let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time the WIGAN council have bent over backwards to help their beloved rugby team. I’m bitter, you say? Take a look next door to the DW at the Robin Park Arena – a facility gifted to them, paid for by us taxpayers. Looks lovely now we’ve all paid for it. Pity the Council can’t find the cash now to help its town’s football team out, isn’t it? The whole sorry story is beyond tiresome now. Joe Garner is the latest to leave this week from the playing staff, and rumours are rife about Kal Naismith and Lee Evans’ reasons for not playing. Now the kids are trying their heart out and I’ll never turn on them ,but they need help – because we are sliding fast to League Two. The whole club needs help,the Spaniards say they are ready to go on both sides – the playing and in the background – which beggars the question WHY AND WHAT is the hold up? Back to the Council... sorry, allegedly. It’s groundhog day every week writing this, and I don’t see the reason. If the Spaniards bid isn’t what the EFL want, move on! Let’s have a look if Tony Frampton can produce what he’s saying, it really is that simple. How long does it take to go through the bid? If it’s all in place, what’s holding it up *cough...the council...cough*? Right, I’m off to tear my council tax bill up in protest and buy some #’Bow with the money...
So the wait on a decision from the EFL goes on, and now we have Lisa Nandy muddying the waters demanding exclusively be lifted. Just let the process finish before getting other bidders involved! Joe Garner’s off to India, and you can’t blame him for getting something more secure than Latics at the moment. On the pitch, let’s face it Oxford could and should have been out of sight by half-time at the weekend, but Bristol Rovers in midweek was a lot better performance. Let’s not get carried away, everyone at the club is doing their best in trying circumstances. All we can hope for is the end of administration is just around the corner, and we can start the process of rebuilding.
I really do hope I am writing this prematurely and a solution is found to the current situation regarding the stagnation of progress around the sale of the club. If not by this weekend, then by next weekend at the latest. My big fear is the time issue, and and are we now running out of time. It has certainly hit me this past few days. The current squad, although seemingly not good enough judging on results so far, is better than no squad at all. With what is on the horizon contract-wise, we could be in a very sticky situation come February 1. The bombshell that dropped on the July 1 this year has turned into a living nightmare. We are witnessing the slow death of our club, and it is torturous. Sitting adrift at the bottom of the League One table, just two league wins all season with one draw, and on a run of 12 without a win in all competitions paints a desperate picture of where we are at. The squad, which was threadbare to start with, has been decimated by injuries, we are facing uncertain times and, unless there are dramatic changes to the squad, having some quality in depth and a little bit of good fortune, we are heading into League Two. Where do those changes come from?
If we continue with this ridiculous stalemate, they won’t come at all, in fact I can see it becoming worse. Of the current squad, three players – Will Keane, Dan Gardner, Viv Solomon-Otabor – are on short-term deals that end in January. A further four – Tom James, Darnell Johnson, Curtis Tilt, Matty Palmer – are on loan deals also end in January. Add to that Gavin Massey, Jamie Jones, both Evans’, Kal Naismith, Emeka Obi, Tom Pearce,Alex Perry and Chris Merrie being in the final six months of their contracts, it is a seriously worrying scenario we are facing. With Joe Garner following Danny Fox and Anthony Pilkington to India, any bid for the likes of Evans, Naismith and Massey would surely also be accepted to keep some income flow. Starting a new season with such a dramatic turn over of playing staff would have us immediately on the back foot. If we are starting that season in League Two, God help us as to where we end up. You may argue the squad needs overhauling and I would not disagree. But with no money and the club on its backside in administration, that simply isn’t going to happen. All very much hypothetical, of course, but the potential for more heartache shouldn’t be lost on any of us. The EFL must make a decision, and make it soon – or this could become a reality. If the Spanish bid is good, then pass it, and let’s get some stability into the club before it is too late. If not, then move on and do that quickly...because time is running out.
Over 300 million Americans will celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday this week and, if they’re anything like me, they will take a few too many bites of turkey, sip a few too many fall ales, and spend a few too many hours on the couch watching (American) football. While partaking in our annual tradition of overconsumption, I also hope to spend some time reflecting upon areas of gratitude in my life. Latics football has played a major role in my identity and livelihood for the past year. Across the pond, I’ve spent a fair amount of money purchasing match passes, patronising the local pub that hosts Latics watch parties, and updating my wardrobe with new shipments from the club shop – all of this from before the pandemic. Since we’ve entered administration, the in-person watch parties have ceased to exist, the match passes have become more expensive, and many of us have gained more enjoyment from watching the progress of our club fundraiser than from watching the progress of the team on the pitch. I have no qualms about the money I’ve spent supporting Latics, as I am very fortunate to have the disposable income that allows me to experience the club as closely as I do. The time I have invested in following Latics over this past year represents a far greater commitment.
Many of us have spent so many hours analysing social media posts, news articles, and video interviews over the past six months that we could easily be halfway through a doctoral dissertation if we wrote down our findings from the club’s happenings in a single space. We’ve argued, we’ve joked, we’ve lamented our situation and have cast wishes followed by doubts about the future of our club. We’ve cried for help in every corner of the globe where Latics fans step foot. In the midst of it all, the essential question still arises: ‘What am I thankful for as a Latics fan?’ The United States is a sports-obsessed country. Many of us hold lifelong allegiances to multiple franchises across multiple professional sports leagues. If you played amateur (American) football at the secondary school level in the state of Ohio, where I grew up, it was a regular feat to play in front of crowds that exceeded 5,000 people by the time were 15 years old. However, there is nothing that could describe the enamorment that occurred when I discovered Wigan Athletic over a decade ago. Through four relegations, two promotions, and the greatest cup run I could ever imagine, there is no sporting experience I would trade for my journey as a Latics fan. Even without owners, without our team captain, without a win in 12 matches, and without security of any kind, I can still appreciate the past, while being infuriated with the present, and dejected about the future. This past year has provided the ultimate heart test for fans and, through it all, I am thankful for the ability to love a club as much as I love Wigan Athletic.
In midweek, a draw, a clean sheet and a point earned in my opinion. Those ‘young’ lads are getting on with what they are being paid to do. Not great being bottom, but we are were we are. Well done boys. Now on to the takeover...or lack of it. What exactly is holding it up when all information has been handed in so to speak? If it was a ‘no no’, then surely it would have been rejected by now? When you go for an interview and you are not suitable, you are informed straight away. I know this is very different but it’s surely the same idea...you don’t fit the criteria, you don’t get the job! Are there third parties interfering with decisions? If so, please understand we (Wigan Athletic Football Club) are on our last legs, and we want people who are willing to help not hinder. The problem is we’ll never know IF whoever takes over is here for the short or long term. All I know is we need help NOW, otherwise there will be nothing left to help. There’s been too much misery this year, can we please have some good news? This saga has been going on far too long. We are a great little club with lots of history. If I had the money, I’d be knocking on the door myself!
Light at the end of the tunnel or more pain on the way? You could ask the question of Wigan Athletic both on and off the pitch at the moment. After another week of little information on the takeover front, the administrators confirmed late last Friday they had granted another extension to the exclusivity period. We were told significant progress had been made with Wigan Council on the stadium lease, and all paperwork requested by the EFL had now been submitted. So it seems our future is now in the hands of the EFL, yet no update on our situation has been forthcoming from the EFL, and indeed there’s no real prospect of one coming this week. I share the frustration of those angry at the EFL for not yet rubber-stamping the Spaniards. But we quite rightly criticised the EFL among others for not doing due diligence on the last lot earlier in the year. If that means them going through this potential deal with a fine-tooth comb, so be it. Back on the pitch, and Saturday truly showed what those who have killed our club have done. A youthful Latics side were completely dominated by Oxford, whose manager Karl Robinson said his side could have been six or seven ahead at half-time. He’s right, but I wonder if Karl realised what kind of side we’ve become during his gloating. The pain felt quite raw on Saturday, and our young lads are doing more than anyone can ask of them. But without help from more senior players, it simply isn’t enough. In any normal season, you may blood two or three youngsters maximum. This season, we’ve blooded a whole team. They’re talented footballers and all will have bright futures in the professional game. What we’re missing is a bit of guile, and a bit of extra nous that inevitably comes with experience.
As disappointing as Saturday was, Tuesday’s match with struggling Bristol produced a performance we could all be proud of. It wasn’t a win, and without further signings in the near future it won’t be enough to stop us dropping into the bottom tier. But it was a match to make us proud again. A dozen academy graduates were included in our 18-man squad, and that battling point will do them a world of good. But on the other side it’s now a startling 12 matches without a win. When you consider in that time we’ve lost Danny Fox, Nathan Cameron, Kal Naismith, Lee Evans, Gary Roberts and Viv Solomon-Otobar for one reason or another, you can see exactly why we’re in the position we are. Added to that list now is Joe Garner, who has left the club by mutual consent to join Robbie Fowler’s East Bengal in India. Frankly, no-one can blame him at all considering the state we’re in. But we’re now left without our leading scorer - indeed, until Solomon-Otobar is fit again, we’ve no senior forwards in the squad. It never rains, but it pours. Well in Wigan, we’ve been in monsoon season for the last five months now. No match this weekend, so all eyes once again for the umpteenth time are on the EFL and Begbies Traynor. Is it too much to hope this living nightmare will be over soon? Probably...
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