Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'In all likelihood, we all end up as grumpy old men and women in the West Stand one day. It’s all part of evolution and life’s rich tapestry. I’m embracing it already...'
I don’t intend to look back too much, other than to say as good as we were on Saturday, we were as bad on Wednesday. This is all part of the topsy turvy world of the Championship, and we still sit in a healthy position above most of our expectations. That is the blueprint. I don’t get carried away when we win, and I don’t throw a strop when we lose. I find this to be a much more balanced approach than refusing to give the manager credit when we win and losing my mind when we lose, followed by a period of excessive gloating. Regardless of where your expectations lie for this season, I think we can all agree on one thing, which is we need to sort the home form out. Of course, it really doesn’t matter where we win football matches as long as we win enough over a season, as they are all three points for a win. However, the season-ticket holders are the bread and butter support which we so desperately need to grow over time to ensure our football club is sustainable. It’s frustrating that whenever we seem to pick up new support, there’s a similar drop off elsewhere. Yet we are dealing with a limited pool of potential support in Wigan, and money isn’t exactly sloshing around in people’s bank accounts, to watch a football club whose home fans are yet to walk away at full time with a big grin on their faces this season. I’ll leave the formation and tactics to other experts, aside from saying there’s clearly a lot of rotation going on, a lot of managing fitness and injuries in certain positions. I would be very happy with four points out of six from the next two home games, but even three points would be pleasant.
Now we’ve lost our away unbeaten record, we need to get off the mark at the fortress DW otherwise we will start to tumble down the table. I jest at the fortress description because, as we know, it is anything but. It is Dave Whelan’s legacy to the people of Wigan and is way too big for either sports club. Interesting stuff online recently seemed to point the finger at the West Stand or 'other parts of the ground' for not creating the same atmosphere as ES2. Now, let me state here and now, ES2 are fantastic: the noise they make is absolutely essential and it undoubtedly gees the players up along with other sections of the ground, to a lesser degree. Every ground has a certain block which is the bedrock of generating noise at home games and ES2 is no different. I also think every ground suffers similar problems to what we do, in that not all sections of the stadium are similarly vociferous. Of course, the away end is usually loud for two reasons. Firstly because all the fans are in the same stand and, secondly, travelling supporters are generally more dedicated, passionate and often slightly giddy and intoxicated. I’m not telling you anything new here, am I? However, I feel duty obliged to defend the honour of the West Stand, where I sit. I am a man in my late forties. I was singing in the away ends and under the Popular side at Springfield Park 30 years ago. There are blokes in the West Stand who are in their 70’s and 80’s, who have been there and done it, in many cases with a bloodline going back to the Cheshire League. There’s also families with very young children, two or three years old, for whom it is a battle to actually keep them and their limited attention physically at the football match. From eight months to 80 years old, they have all come through that turnstile to watch Wigan Athletic. Not every football fan is going to spend the game bouncing up and down, gesticulating to away fans and singing constantly for 90 minutes. Some are too young or too old and perhaps enjoy watching their football at a more leisurely pace. It doesn’t make them any less of a fan than anyone else and we are hardly in a position to turn away anyone within our current support. We all support our football club in different ways and we are a broad church. We have to be. We all started somewhere, and it probably didn’t start in ES2 in many cases, and probably won’t end there. Sorry to break the news to you, but if you are fortunate enough to live to a long age, then in all likelihood, we all end up as grumpy old men and women in the West Stand one day. It’s all part of evolution and life’s rich tapestry. I’m embracing it already. Of course, it is a shame not more people join in the singing and there aren’t more people in the ground, but we work with what we’ve got together, and quit the finger pointing, on and off the field. Nevertheless, giving us something to shout about at home over the next week will certainly help to ease these growing pains currently being encountered by Wigan Athletic in 2022.
Well what can you say about the last week two games as different as chalk and cheese? Rotherham, a really dominant performance and well-deserved win, Hull, despite taking the lead, we never got to terms with the game and Hull deserved their win. Attacking wise, we looked disjointed at Hull resorting to long-ball tactics. Now onto Cardiff, and hopefully we can kick the home winless run into the touch and get three points on the board. In other news, I've secured tickets for all five days of the Ashes Test at Old Trafford, so you have a happy 'cricket clown'. Stay safe.
Fresh from the first international break of this campaign, we were on the road twice in a week. First up, Rotherham. Leam Richardson’s men arrived at the New York Stadium with an unbeaten away record under their belts and, backed by 1,700 travelling Tics who had the honour of seeing Charlie Wyke’s first professional start in 11 months, what a start it was. Chaz led the line as if he’d never been away from it, complimenting Keano perfectly, bringing last year’s away-day character into this season as the attacking duo linked up to put us in front. We were treated to some very attractive performances on the field throughout the rest of the game, with Nathan Broadhead, Thelo Aasgaard, Graeme Shinnie and Ryan Nyambe all appearing to be in the mood to showcase their abilities. Honourable mention to that man James McClean (aha!) who seems to have spent the week analysing last season’s Geordie loan man Kell Watts’ defensive performances, springing into action and seeing off the home side's only real attacking threat with a superb goalline clearance to keep the game in our favour. Approaching the final five minutes of the 90 and we’re still leading, we seemed to be content to see the game out and take the 1-0 win. That is, until Tom Naylor said his bit. A Jimmy Mac corner into the box was met by a strong head from Nayls to put the game to bed. Another away victory recorded, and a lovely day out all in all. Wednesday rolls around and we’re on the road again, this time to Hull to face a manager-less side that had recorded five league losses in a row, failing to score a single goal since August. So, naturally we underperformed, threw away a 1-0 lead and lost. How very Wigan Athletic of us. Will Keane popped up as standard to put us in front early on again, and it all went downhill from there. Personally, I don’t like Macca in defence. I’d much prefer him out wide with an actual left back behind him. Despite the bits of criticism he’s received from the first few games, we missed Callum Lang, who’s set to spend some time on the sidelines with an ankle injury. I’m not keen about Josh Mags being up front on his own either, but I also recognise I’m not the manager of the team and so I’ll support whoever is on the pitch one way or another. We know what set up works for us, keep the ball on the grass, play it out from the back, get it out wide and let the wingers run at the defence, balls into the box for the strikers, and the goals will come. So I’m not sure why we seem to have these games where we forget all that and just hoof the ball as far up the pitch as humanly possible, miss out the entirety of the midfield, wait for the forwards to chase it, and then spend the game questioning why it isn’t working. As we all know, football is up and down and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of becoming reactionary and emotional after a game, especially when we lose, and nobody does reactionary and emotional like Wigan Athletic. We win and we’re the best club in the world. We lose and everyone goes to pieces - but still the best club in the world. I don’t agree with individual players being named and blasted on social media after a below-par performance but, as a fan, when you’re spending an awful lot of time and money to follow your club up and down the country, you are entitled to express your frustration. Everyone's opinions will differ and you are allowed to disagree with someone else’s, that’s how opinions work. What you’re not entitled to do is take to the internet calling people childish names and having a personal dig at appearances, intelligence, job roles and family life whenever they dare to be slightly critical. We know we almost lost our club, but we didn’t. That’s gone now, so I can’t get on board with that minority that seem to think we can’t criticise a loss because we were in administration two years ago. We’re all well aware of the job Leam Richardson is doing and how vastly underrated he is for it. We know the character and the passion in the players both on and off the pitch. But a loss is still a loss and it hurts. Let people have their opinions. Disagree if you will. But allow them. I’ll finish this week by wishing Latics fan and grassroots referee Dave ‘Bradders’ Bradley a speedy recovery after suffering some horrible injuries over the weekend. Get well soon!
We lost a game, that’s it, no more; we lost a game, cos they scored more. To listen to some, we’re gone, we’re down; but they’re very likely the thoughts of a clown. You have to laugh when you read what they think; on selection, and tactics, and how they all stink. The manager’s hopeless, he dun’t have a clue; we’d be top of the table wi’ somebody new! And the players, they’re rubbish, they’re not good enough; (although sat in mid table, that just all sounds guff). They think they know better, when they have their say; aye, they think they know better, when they know sweet effay...
Following an impressive victory at Rotherham on Saturday, the buoyant feeling that Wigan Latics can hold their own in the Championship was back. But fast-forward a few days, and a loss against manager-less Hull saw our unbeaten away record come to an end. Hull had five consecutive losses before playing Leam Richardson’s side, and you wouldn’t have been a fool for thinking Latics could win on the road yet again. After all, we still sit first in the ‘away table.’ However, in the ‘home table’ we sit rock-bottom, and in the table which actually matters, Latics find themselves in exactly mid-table. For neutral on-lookers, that may seem aesthetically pleasing, and just one of those Championship anomalies that make you rub your hands with glee at how fantastically odd the second tier of English football can be. But for Latics, it exemplifies how important these next two home games are, starting on Saturday against Cardiff, before the small matter of a local derby against Blackburn the following Tuesday. There’s reason for Wigan fans to remain optimistic as, even in the loss against Hull, Will Keane still kept his goal tally ticking, which could be vital for us moving forwards. You’d also expect Charlie Wyke to start at least one of the upcoming matches at the DW, and he looked back to his grafting and clinical best at Rotherham. I think the general consensus among Latics fans is the Rotherham match saw Keane produce his best performance of the season, and that’s probably due to the fact he was alongside Wyke. We do definitely need to pick up points again following the Hull defeat, as some sides who are below us are more than likely to overtake us over the course of a long season. The bottom line is...it’s time for a home win!