Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'If Wigan Athletic hasn’t given you what you want over these past few decades, then I think that, in my humble opinion, you might just be a touch over-demanding...'

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Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts use the international break to take stock after the opening block of fixtures, and reflect on the progress made so far...

Martin Tarbuck:

Millwall away, January 2001. We’re getting battered, and it’s freezing cold. At half-time, we retire to the concourse and sink a few pints, and many stay there as the second half commences. We’re 2-0 down, which becomes 3-0, and we’re done for today bar a Neil 'Bomber' Roberts consolation. The bar closes and, with 70 minutes on the clock, we go back up to face our punishment. The Millwall fans to our left (and right) are goading us mercilessly, like they ever need an excuse to act up. But then the mood in the away end changes. The chief protagonist is a chap by the name of Barry Bannan. Yes, we’ll call him Barry Bannan, it’s not his actual name but it may well rhyme with Barry Bannan and he’s still as daft a Latics lad as you’ll meet to this very day. And, at that very moment, 'Let’s Hang On' was born….. It was the ultimate act of defiance. I mean, my memory or description of the above probably isn’t perfect, or accurate but I’m fairly certain we weren’t 'hanging on' on this particular day. We were getting walloped and not even looking like coming back from it. So what did we do? We sang 'Let’s Hang On' louder and louder, drowning out the Cockney sneers. They hated us, then and now but they had no answer to this. Weren’t we supposed to go home quietly? Yet here we were, crooning along to an obscure '60s Frankie Valli song, over and over again and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Reminds me of another time at Wycombe where a chap called, er, Saul Sheepsdale was at the front of the away end, serenading them with Billy Joel’s ‘Uptown Girl’, with the away end emphatically joining in the chorus. All well and good until Roy Carroll in the nets turned around, laughing at it, then let a goal in whilst distracted! So what’s my point? Football was more fun back then. It still can be fun, and still is for some of us. I don’t travel the country week in, week out boozing myself daft any more but I know plenty that do, and I still have my moments. But back then, we were a club on the rise following the move to the then-JJB Stadium. We had an incredibly tight-knit support, we had to be as footballing matters were, shall we say, often settled on the car park, rather than on a twitter hashtag. Not sure the car park at Bristol Rovers constituted fun, mind you, but I guess what I’m saying is that we stuck together because we had to. The physical act of going to the match to watch your team has now dwarfed into the minutiae with the advent of 24/7 wall to wall football coverage, where tactics, formations and speculation are all done to death, and I’m not sure the world is a better place for it. Social media seems to be full of unhappy people, people who think they know better and aren’t getting what they want out of their football club. Of course, this is wider than Wigan Athletic, and indeed much wider than football but if Wigan Athletic hasn’t given you what you want over these past few decades, then I think that, in my humble opinion, you might just be a touch over-demanding. There’s been a commonly held view amongst Latics fans that we’d all love just one season of mid-table mediocrity, and what with us sitting in 12th currently, maybe 2022/23 could just be that elusive year? Imagine a year where you win one, draw one, lose one. You probably win some you shouldn’t, but then you’re probably going to lose some you shouldn’t too. And that’s the bit that makes people irate. The credit in the bank deposited over previous games, and indeed previous seasons, can get wiped out in a stroke when we fail to live up to some of our fans' expectations, when they have an off day, there needs to be an outpouring of anger, and it really shouldn’t be like that. So let us put the Reading performance behind us. They are third in the table you know, though I’ve no idea how. It looked like two average teams, separated by a quality set-piece. We know we can do better, and if Reading are a top three side (currently) then we have nothing to fear. But then they’ve not got there by accident, and they’ve got some very handy players. I guess what I’m saying is that this is the wild, wacky world of the Championship. One week we’re brilliant, the next week we’re terrible, and so are our opponents. You don’t always get what you deserve either, good and bad. So, can’t we just enjoy it for a while and save the wrath and the vitriol for those who deserve it. Referees and them men up the road usually. Incidentally, speaking of 'Let’s Hang On'. It’s coming up to its 20th anniversary now. I am contemplating doing a re-mastered version. It will no doubt be a source of embarrassment, as I reflect on the 20-something version of myself, indeed I probably said stuff that will probably get me ‘cancelled’ these days but that will be half the fun, looking at how the game (and world!) has changed and where all the players and characters are now. I just need to find a copy of it now, either digitally or in print. Yes, the name is Hartley...it’s JR Hartley….

Matt Auffrey:

The Latics fans enjoy the recent victory at LutonThe Latics fans enjoy the recent victory at Luton
The Latics fans enjoy the recent victory at Luton

For a club that is reacclimating to this division after several seasons away, our final match before the international break provided a strong degree of familiarity. Reading have been a Championship club since they were relegated from the Premier League alongside Latics in 2013. We have faced off against them over 10 times in this division during the last decade. Their squad features many notable players who were plying their trade at this level when Latics were last in the second tier in 2020. Even Paul Ince’s last managerial job prior to Reading came when his Blackpool side and Wigan were both Championship clubs during the 2013/14 season. Yet, the most familiar component of last weekend’s match was the result. Another home fixture; another missed opportunity for victory. Home may be where the heart is, but it’s also nowhere near three points at the moment. Our inability to break down our opponents and manage a single shot on target, yet alone a goal was at the centre of our issues. After an even first-half display, we were thoroughly outplayed in the second half. Reading’s lone free kick goal came out of a foul on the edge of the box that should’ve never produced a whistle. Visions of Kebano’s free-kick goal for Fulham in the summer of 2020 flashed before my eyes. Maybe conceding such a goal was the punishment we deserved for being so negative against opponents that hardly possessed the quality of promotion contenders. Saturday’s performance was disappointing and the result was equally dejecting. Yet, when you survey our entire body of work from the first nine matches, our outlook becomes more promising. Our table position of 12th still remains nothing to scoff at. We possess a game in hand on every team above us but one. I also have more confidence in our ability to turn around our bad home form right now than I did in our ability to sort out our dreadful away results from late 2018 to early 2020. There should be little expectation that the starting XI we saw last weekend will become our ‘best’ XI from this point forward. There are still many moving pieces regarding our personnel. Leam and his staff will have plenty of time to analyze the successes and shortcomings of the squad during the break and put us in a better position to win come October. In the meantime, as we all shift our attention from club to country for the next handful of days, let us keep that fire from the first two months of the season alive and burning. We have only seen small glimpses so far of how good this squad can become. There's plenty of reason to believe that our best football is ahead of us.


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Double misery for me last Saturday with Lancashire losing the cricket - but a great day out nonetheless - and Latics losing. Will leave others to comment on the game, but if you said to me only two defeats going into the international break, I would have snatched your hand off in July. We are doing fine at the moment and, if we can have the same form heading into the World Cup, with one or two home wins, that will see us in a good place for the rest of the season. I see on social media that people are complaining about the atmosphere at the DW, but the crowds are what we get. ES2 makes all the noise, and I don't see this as a problem. It's the age-old question of how to create a better atmosphere, and I have no answer - and I really don't care when I'm there. Anyway that's enough from the 'cricket-loving clown', enjoy the break everyone.

Emma Peters:

Congratulations to Curtis Tilt and James McClean (aha!) on their international call ups for Jamaica and the Republic of Ireland respectively. First international break of the campaign, 12th place in the Championship table and a game in hand. Steady start to the season or riding our luck? We go into a fortnight without league football off the back of a 1-0 home loss to Reading which has led to questions about our home form being asked, again. There was a time not too long ago when playing at home gave us confidence in a win with the away games being a bit of an issue. So far this season, it’s been the complete opposite. Give us any team in this league away from home and I’m fairly certain we could get something from the game, but the reverse fixture on home soil is touch and go, not helped of course by some of the slightly questionable refereeing decisions. I’ve said it time and again, but the standard of EFL officiating is diabolical. It’s becoming more and more frequent that the fellas in charge of the game rock up like they’ve just won a raffle to be involved. If it wasn’t so annoying it would be borderline funny. Special mention to the McClean family who (once again) found themselves the subject of some less than pleasant comments over the last week. I am bored to tears of hearing about all the things James won’t do. We get it, right? He doesn’t wear a poppy. Ok. He doesn’t sing the national anthem. Ok. And?! In the couple of games immediately following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, he observed the minutes’ silence before kick off with dignity, head bowed, respectfully silent. And he was still in the wrong. Why? The man takes a ridiculous amount of dogs' abuse from the stands at almost every single game up and down the country and he takes it in his stride. He gets on with his job, doesn’t let it affect how he plays and just goes about his business. The man is entitled to his views. The FA and the EFL declare themselves to be inclusive organisations, encouraging clubs and their supporters to report incidents of racism, homophobia and sexism. So why is sectarianism okay? It’s about time the EFL took action against this blatant harassment. Sending threatening messages to his children and pregnant wife is not okay. Do something.

Ed Bazeley:

After the highs of a midweek victory away from home, Saturday's defeat to Reading came as a setback of sorts. By pessimistic members (there are a few) of the Wigan Athletic fanbase, it may be referred to as somewhat of a reality check but I think it's time fans took inspiration from Leam Richardson and the squad by adopting their qualities of level headedness. Because with Latics being sat precisely in the middle of the Championship table, it's as easy to look up as it is to look down. Meanwhile, the reality is we should probably be doing neither. Our season is finely in the balance and, as a newly-promoted side, that's okay. I do think we need to address our home form before it becomes a theme, or even a mental barrier, for the squad as time goes on. At the moment, though, I think it's just been an oddity and nothing deeper than that. It would be irrational to express deep concern with our home form if we weren't equally ecstatic with our away results. The 'home' table puts us second from bottom in the Championship, whereas the 'away' table sees us third. This shows inconsistency but, in a way, from my point of view as a fan, inconsistency isn't that bad. It's a quality of a midtable side and that's exactly what we want to be. This season ought to be one of mere consolidation - nothing too ugly nor anything spectacular. (Please can Wigan Athletic FC not add to all of our worries come April/May for once?!) One thing on Saturday I did find slightly concerning was a lack of creativity, but I think this may only be a temporary worry, as the most aesthetically pleasing football Latics played last season was while Jordan Cousins was on the pitch. Once he's fit, we should see more drive from midfield, which is something only being provided by Graeme Shinnie at the moment. I have a lot of respect for the combative style of Max Power and Tom Naylor, but often in the Championship you need midfielders who bring a little more to the table than that, and Cousins should be the answer. It will also help our attacking threat once Charlie Wyke is more regularly fulfilling 75-90 minutes, as he's someone the ball really sticks to thanks to his exemplary hold-up play. So there's plenty to look forward to and, even without some of our main assets, we're doing a little more than keeping our heads above water. How we do in our next two home games could be as important as it is interesting. We don't know what shape Cardiff will be in following the controversial sacking of Steve Morison, and anything can happen in a Lancashire derby versus Blackburn. It certainly suits us that our first two matches after the international break are away from home.

Tony Moon:

I’n’t it a shame, we lost a game, and now our days are numbered. Well, so say some, talking through their b*m, but with whose views we’re lumbered. There is no cure for playing poor, but that dun’t stop em saying. “Not good enough and too much hoof”, Oh aye, they’d get em playing. It seems to me (you might agree) that some of our fans play FIFA. So they know best, but put to the test, they’d be as good as Queen Latifah. But that dun’t stop ‘em, talking through their bottom, and sharing all their knowledge. With CSEs and GCEs, (some even went to college !). It’s has t’ be said that in their head, they know just what to do. Where Leam’s wrong, they’d be on song, and playing 4-4-2. And overall, they’d overhaul the basis of the team. It only takes a loss you see to start a fading dream. The one in t’ top half? Don’t make me laugh, so far we’re doing grand. But moaners will be moaners (and they sit in every stand). Don’t get me wrong, Reading was pong, but have let’s have some proportion. Yes, it’s sad, that game was bad, but let’s have no distortion. We’re in t’ top half, wi’ a game in hand, and the wheels are on the track. But watch out Leam, you’d best beware of t’ fans knives in your back. And so it goes, but no-one knows, why fans just suddenly turn. Have they got meaner?, Cos, t’ grass ain’t greener, when will they ever learn? Nah, I don’t think so either…

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Sean Livesey:Saturday was disappointing, there's no other way of looking at it. After the Lord Mayor's show and all that - but no shots on target doesn't tell the tale of the match. An inch either side of the post for both Josh Magennis (who headed just wide) and Will Keane who headed against the post and we would be looking at a win. Not to mention Callum Lang's miss when put clean through by the aforementioned Keane. Many said it was the worst performance of the season to date, which is a debatable viewpoint I suppose, but that's a game that we never looked in danger of losing until that free kick was awarded. Listening to Paul Ince post-match, you'd have thought we had been given a tiki taka lesson by prime-Guardiola Barcelona circa 2009. Not the game spoiling, time-wasting tactics that Reading actually showed up with. Away from home, Leam and co have got things spot on, but there's definitely room for improvement at home. More belief is needed that we can actually take these teams on and beat them, as we do away from home. There's two matches now against both West Brom and Reading that have brought one point when in fact we could have quite easily earned six points with a bit more belief in ourselves and our attacking abilities. As we reach the first international break of the season, it's important to reflect on what has been a very good start to the season so far, and the focus has to be turning that dominance at home into wins when we return against Cardiff. I'm sure the management and the players not away with their countries will be fully focussed on that over the next two weeks.