Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'Leam Richardson isn't beyond question, but in this man we all trust'
Wigan Athletic fans have their say on events over the last week.
Quiz time: Approximately how many times did I shout the words “Clean him out” in the build up to Oxford’s goal on Tuesday night?
In some ways, that fantastic goal was the best thing that could have happened to us, as we jolted into gear and started to take the game to Oxford, whilst they proceeded to resort to 75 minutes of play acting and gamesmanship. But it is still frustrating that we let it happen in the first place.
I can’t be the only one slightly worrying whether there is a major wobble on the way, or as with Tuesday night, we are perhaps not getting the rub of the green, when we should be killing off a team.
A draw against Oxford is not a disaster but that was exactly the sort of game, where we’d steal the three points late on a few weeks back. We can only get away with not doing that for so long, before the advantage we still have will quickly erode away.
With a tough February fixture list coming up, those on the field need to summon up some further strength, or there has to be changes in the line-up, with a host of players in the squad raring to get their chance to shine.
I’ve not been overly concerned about us a) always conceding and b) only winning by one goal, because these games have been a mix of those where we have either deserved to win by more, or we have been finely balanced and the quality of our individuals has shone through in the end.
Cheltenham saw no goals scored at either end, and I am minded to give them credit for that by giving us a tough afternoon (and hoping they do the same to our promotion rivals).
Oxford came here on the crest of a goal scoring wave but, apart from that admittedly fine piece of pass and move up the field that led to their goal, they didn’t create an awful lot, but then neither did we.
This is League One and there are some rules and cliches that managers like to blurt out pre-match which are absolutely true. You can’t be complacent. Any team in this division will give you a difficult game. And on their day, any team is a match for anyone.
We need to respect our opponents, no matter where they are in the table, but there is no need to fear them because, over the course of the season, we have accumulated more points per game than any of them. If we get back to something like our best, then that will continue to be the case.
So, no squeaky bum time here, let us just see how the matches play out and enjoy every single minute, if it isn’t too traumatic. We have that bond between players and fans at every game, especially away from home. We are on the same side and we can do this.
They won’t be dwelling on the bad results, and neither should we. Look forward to a challenging period and do our best to come through it. I know there are some disagreements about certain players in the starting XI but by accident (injury) or design, this is going to be a changing team most weeks, as new players bed in.
If we should happen to lose a game in February, which is quite probable, then we have the players to come in and freshen things up. The togetherness at this football club is what we have over everyone else.
That will be loud and proud on display this weekend at Stoke, make no mistake about that. Let us use it as our platform to cheer them home, regardless of the result. PS The answer was five.
Caddy from the 5
Three points off the top of the table with two games in hand, two points clear of third place with three games in hand on everyone below, unbeaten in 20 games, heading to Stoke on Saturday in the fourth round of the FA Cup, semi-final tie at home in the Pizza Cup with a trip to Wembley at stake...and what are some (not all) Wigan fans doing?
Yep, you guessed it, MOANING! What a club. Never change, eh?!
After two draws in a week you’d think we were in Barnsley’s position in the league – which they’ll probably appeal, and ask someone else to pay for it...but I digress.
We’re now entering a shocking month of fixture congestion that will, for me, shape the season. If we can get into March still there or thereabouts, we’ll go up, no doubt about it I say.
And that’s not being arrogant, it’s being realistic!
We’ve more than enough quality in the side to finish in the top two at least, but can we peak every three or four days, as Leam says we’ve got to do, now? Probably not and defeats may happen, but we’ll give it a damn good go despite the efforts of the EFL to try and derail us...
We’ve not been at our best for a few games now, but the second half versus a very good Oxford side showed me enough.
The way the lads came out after a dismal first half and dominated was great to see.
Putting Power back in the middle where he should be, and Darikwa at right back, defo upped our game and we looked way more confident.
Leam shouldn’t be above criticism about team selections. Do I agree with some? No – but I’m not picking the team, and neither are the baying mob on Twitter.
Go back to the beginning of this piece and look how we’re doing, that’ll tell you all you need to know. Lad’s ‘doin areet’ and, with our new additions, we’re in a very strong place to begin the run-in. Saturday sees 4,000-plus Wiganers heading to Stoke for the FA Cup game and, irrespective of what team we put out, I’m sure we’ll have a great day and hopefully the scenes from when Rodellega scored there will be replicated.
The lads will need the fans more than ever this month, and it’s our job to help them through games.
Now’s not the time to start sniping and bitching. Leave that to the Mackems! Let’s just do it as we always do, our own way.
Right I’m off getting my FA Cup cut-out covered in tin foil and a crate of ‘Bow ready for Saturday –”Wemberlee Wemberlee” etc, you know the drill...
Have I missed something? Are we on a losing run after two draws that stretch the unbeaten run to 20 games?
You would think so by some of the social media reaction. Didn’t see the Cheltenham game, but against Oxford we looked leggy and off the pace until Leam changed the formation. A great goal from Oxford point of view started with Max caught on his heels, and disappointing no one took a cynical yellow to be fair.
We look to have recruited well in the window, let’s hope these lad’s hit the ground running.
Coming off a run of seven consecutive wins, the first underwhelming result of 2022 was always going to feel like a punch to the gut.
Couple last weekend’s draw at Cheltenham with a midweek draw against Oxford at the DW, and it’s only natural there’d be some concern within our fanbase.
Some have even gone as far to indicate we need to be given a ‘standing eight count’ before we can continue on with the season.
Not only did we end our victory streak last weekend, but it also marked the first Saturday that we failed to win a league match since the opening day of the season at Sunderland. Latics are also no longer the only team in England’s top four divisions to have scored in every league match this season.
Coincidentally, we kept a clean sheet in a league match for the first time since October.
The Cheltenham performance left much to be desired, but I wouldn’t describe it as poor. It was very much in line with our other league performances during January, where we played ‘down’ to the level of our competition for significant portions of each match.
The first half hour of the Oxford match seemed like a direct continuation of the Cheltenham performance in that it lacked rhythm and we often looked second best.
After Oxford scored what will likely be their team goal of the season, Leam quickly moved some players around and adjusted our team shape.
Latics responded with an immediate Callum Lang equaliser, followed by an hour of dominant play that produced everything but the winning goal. For the first time all season, across all competitions, we failed to produce a win from two consecutive matches.
Very few fans still cared that we just hit the 20-game unbeaten mark. It was collectively decided that no single accomplishment outweighed Tuesday evening’s failure.
We’ve seen key players like Will Keane and Tom Pearce pick up injuries over the past few matches.
We also have several new additions from January who still need to be integrated into the squad. It’s less than ideal to have such uncertainty within key position groups as we approach a relentless fixture list for the rest of February.
This weekend’s trip to Stoke should hopefully give some key players a rest before the league gauntlet resumes next week. When the fourth-round cup tie was announced weeks ago, I envisioned an exhilarating run leading to Wembley as vividly as anyone else could.
Now as we approach the fixture, I’m more inclined for us to put out a “B” team and rest most of our regular starters for a trip to Hillsborough next Tuesday.
With over 4,000 supporters traveling to Staffordshire on Saturday, there’s little doubt that whatever side we put out will receive the full backing of a massive away support.
Am I disappointed with our last two results?
Yes. Am I worried about our prospects for the rest of the season? A little bit.
Do I have faith that Leam Richardson will put us in the best position to win every remaining match? Absolutely.
Win or lose tomorrow, we still maintain a strong position within the league table and should remain positive about our prospects going forward.
Every player who takes the pitch deserves nothing but support – even on their worst day. We have a minimum of 22 matches left this season and it may take a few more before we are consistently playing our best football.
The club has already given us an incredible amount of joy so far this season. We owe it to everyone involved to ‘let Latics gel’, again.
A small setback is not going to stop us from achieving amazing things in 2022.
What a month January was! After having missed most of December because of postponements due to Covid, Latics powered their way through January with five wins and a draw!
Surely Leam Richardson must be the League One manager of the month?
After a feast of five successive wins, the Latics faithful have been served much humbler fare with two consecutive draws.
We have to be pragmatic and realistic, Latics cannot win every game.
And they were bound to drop points at some stage of the season, as will the other teams in the chasing group.
As it stands, Latics are 20 games unbeaten, and are second in League, with two games in hand on Rotherham.
Next up is a fourth-round tie at Stoke in the FA Cup. The bet 365 stadium, has never been an easy ground for Latics to get a result in the past.
But Latics are in form, with their tails up and with this group of players, anything is possible right now.
They are also only 90 minutes away from Wembley for a place in the final of the Papa John’s Trophy.
This particular competition was, earlier in the season, seen as an inconvenience by adding unwanted extra fixtures, and perceived as something of a Mickey Mouse Cup that most clubs probably did not take seriously.
But now with the glittering prize of an appearance at Wembley and the chance of silverware in the trophy cabinet, Latics continued progress has taken on a greater importance, for the fans, the club and also the players.
I don’t know how many of Latics players have ever played at Wembley but, from a personal point of view, this may be the only chance that some of them will ever have of walking on the hallowed turf, and they would not want to miss out, having got this far and being so close now.
But first of all, Sutton United stand in way of Latics and Wembley.
They may be a League Two side, but they are within touching distance of an automatic promotion slot.
They won 2-0 at Carlisle last Saturday, so travelling long distances appear not to be a problem for them.
They will be no pushover. Remember last November in the FA Cup against Solihull Moors?
It took a replay and extra time to see off the National League side from the West Midlands.
There are very few easy games this season, even from the lower leagues.
I would expect Leam Richardson to field his strongest possible team for this match.
Yes, the young guns, and those who cannot always command a first-team place, have served the club well in the previous rounds.
But now it is down to serious business.
Sutton United (for the same reasons) will also badly want to win this semi-final tie.
Above everything else, top priority has to be gaining promotion to the Championship.
Preferably as champions, if not, then runners up. I (like many others) would see only reaching the play-offs, as an anti-climax and a bitter disappointment.
Latics have shown that a feature of their games this season, is they never know when they are beaten, they keep going for 90 minutes.
Look at the number of times where they have had to come back from behind are score those late goals.
They evidently don’t lack heart or spirit! If I had to carp about some of the performances, though, it may seem unjustifiably churlish. There have been a number of soft goals given away and they should be putting opposition teams to the sword.
The Gillingham game was a prime example of this. But as long they can keep grinding out results, the fans won’t mind, and nor will I.
The players are on form and Leam Richardson has shown himself a shrewd tactical operator.
He may not always get the starting XI right, but has an uncanny knack with his substitutions.
He knows when to make changes, which players to take off and which ones to bring on.
During the January transfer window, he has added experienced players to keep the squad up to strength, to deal with the heavy workload that still lies ahead.
Everything so far this season has gone better than could have been expected, especially when remembering where the club was this time last year.
A balance of experienced players, combined with promising youngsters, bodes well for the club.
It is as if the planets are lined up the right position for Latics and I have an instinctive feeling, this will be our year! Let us all hope that this will continue to the end of the season.
I’ll start off this week by welcoming Glen Rea and Jamie McGrath to the Latics and wishing Jordan Jones the best of luck with his time at St Mirren.
For whatever reason, it hasn’t seemed to fall into place for JJ so far at Wigan, and hopefully his loan move to the Highlands will give him the game time he feels he needs.
With Jones the only outgoing of the January window, managing to tie down a couple of loose ends and bring in a lot of highly-rated talent, I think it’s been a hugely successful transfer period.
Purchasing Shinnie and McGrath for less than 10 per cent of the Dan Burn sell-on is really quite fabulous.
Something something, buying the league, something... I’m just gunna come out and say it; we’re winning League One.
Again. We all know our performances on the pitch over the last several weeks haven’t been our best, but it’s been said time and again that the mark of a really successful team is being able to win games when the performances don’t necessarily match the scoreline.
And as Leam always says: ‘If you can’t find a way to win the game, you have to make sure you don’t lose’.
Whether that actually has anything to do with Dr Tobin’s half-time Bovril remains to be seen.
Currently sitting second in the table, 20 games unbeaten in all competitions, three points behind top and still with games in hand to play really is not a bad starting place for a difficult month of fixtures.
So I think we can be forgiven for not entirely being ‘at the races’ (I know, it’s a horrible pun, I’m sorry) at Cheltenham last weekend.
It’s very easy to get caught up with points dropped and less than impressive performances, but I trust Leam Richardson to continue doing his best with the squad and the fixtures, and I wholeheartedly believe we will be well into the automatic promotion places come May.
That said, it made a nice change to hear some really high praise come from Karl Robinson this week after we made hard work of a point against his very good Oxford side on Tuesday.
However ,I would like to place on record that, as much as we appreciate the praise, we all know nobody is truly ‘the best team in the league’ until Mr Evatt has publicly spoken.
Final word from me this week is a nod of appreciation to the gaffer for recognising something was amiss against Oxford, trusting his own judgement, and making the change that allowed Max Power to provide the ‘buffet ball’ from midfield to Callum Lang for an excellently worked goal, earning us the point.
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Callum Lang to score and be booked in the same game. Seriously, the lad never ever does one without the other!
Always look on the bright side of life, as Eric Idle and Monty Python once sang, and frankly that’s a line that a lot of Latics fans need right now.
A draw against Oxford wasn’t the worst result on Tuesday.
Coming off the back of a disappointing draw at Cheltenham probably didn’t help, but some of the reaction on and off line post-match was difficult to square with our position in the table.
There’s a video doing the rounds of abuse dished out towards Tendayi Darwika after Oxford scored their wonder goal on Tuesday.
Considering he was playing out of position, and not even at fault for the goal, it’s a galling watch.
I wonder whether the lad shouting the abuse would be as brave to say that to Tendayi’s face.
We’re talking about the captain of a team unbeaten since October, one of the saviours of the side last season who helped to keep us up, and someone who always gives his all to the badge. The abuse in that video is so out of proportion it’s laughable.
Looking at the next few weeks on paper, Cheltenham and Oxford were arguably the more winnable of those matches, but two draws to extend our unbeaten run to 20 matches and nearly four months does not constitute a crisis.
A blip? Perhaps, but not a crisis. I was as frustrated as anyone on Tuesday.
The start we made to the match was slow and lethargic but, following a change in shape after Oxford’s goal, it was one of our better performances in recent weeks. Latics could and should have had all three points, if it wasn’t for a mixture of the woodwork and outstanding goalkeeping.
Karl Robinson – not shy of an outlandish claim or two in his time – declared we were the best team in the league and his side were lucky to get a point.
I suppose in some ways he’s correct.
Oxford are one of the better footballing sides in the division, so it was surprising to see them resort to spoiling tactics as early as the midway point of the first half.
Yes, it’s a game we could and should have won, as against Cheltenham.
But there’s another 23 sides who would swap places with us right now,.
The next few weeks are going to be as tough as they come.
We’re going to be tested more than any other period this season.
If the fixture congestion wasn’t bad enough, the fact we’re facing the top six throughout that congestion means there’s going to have to be squad rotation.
There’s simply no other way of getting through the fixture backlog.
With Jamie McGrath, Glenn Rea and the already arrived Josh Magennnis ready, the squad is looking as strong as it has done.
We’re gonna need every body over the next few weeks.
Get behind them and show your appreciation. They deserve it.
So it’s official. We’ve drawn two games, one against an excellent footballing side, and the season is over for us.
Or so people on social media will have you believe.
The level of outrage at us not winning every game is just beyond parody.
We’ve not lost for 20 games either, by the way, but that gets ignored by these world class football pundits. Lads, we’re still top two with games in hand.
Even if we lost them all, we’d still be top two, so calm your britches.
Six months ago, we were all talking about the hope for mid-table and some stability.
Now, because we haven’t won the league by Valentine’s Day, we’re doomed and people are hurling abuse at players on Twitter, actually tagging them into tweets.
I only hope the players concerned know that it is a shouty minority, and most people are actually quite happy with the way things are going.
Could we do with a bit more strength in a couple of places? Definitely! But should we be screaming at players playing out of position? No, absolutely not, so grow up.
Good to see we’re taking 4,000 fans to Stoke on Saturday, as much for the income we get from FA Cup ticket sales as anything else.
It’s not certain whether Leam Richardson will see the cup as a priority, given we need to play twice a week from now until about 2025 to catch up our games in hand.
It’ll be difficult for him, though, to know we’ll have so many fans there, and then choose to play the reserves and/or kids anyway.
Speaking of income, it looks like some of the players we’ve sold (pre-admin) or given away (during admin) are moving on from their current clubs at a significant profit, which means kickbacks for us.
Like it or not, we’ve always been a selling club and that won’t change any time soon.
Yes, the circumstances have been slightly different over the last couple of years, but the principle doesn’t change.
The really big one, of course, will be if Gelhardt moves on from Leeds to an actual big club.
Given his rapid rise to the top, with rave reviews from fans and pundits alike, the sell-on clause value should be pretty sizeable.
So, don’t panic about how this season is going.
Frankly, it couldn’t be much better.
Second in a league we should have been just looking to survive in, one game away from a Freight Rover final, and still in the FA Cup. I’m not sure we could have asked for any more.