Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'The Believe Bus doing 80mph downhill to safety... Am I going overboard? Yes - and why not...?!'
Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts dare to dream of a third victory on the bounce which (whisper it very quietly) COULD go a long towards securing League One safety...
What a difference a few weeks make. Not so long ago we weren’t even entirely sure we’d still have a club come May. Then, once the immediate spectre of liquidation was removed, the lift it has given everybody has been enormous. In an ideal world, footballers should just play at their highest level every game, but it doesn’t work like that at the best of times, never mind with the threat of unemployment in less than a month looming large. I don’t care who you are, if you had all the stuff going on at Latics going on in your own job, you would struggle to perform at anywhere near full tilt. But one look at the League One table tells you all you need to know about the miracles that have been performed this year. Yes, we’re only just outside the relegation places, yes there are still five games to go, yes we could still go down with just a couple of bad results. But most importantly of all, no, we haven’t surrendered to what should have been the inevitable. When you thought you couldn’t love this club any more, it goes and comes through for us in even the most difficult of circumstances. We’ve got players performing at their best, we’ve got confidence running high, and we’ve got clubs who thought we were nailed-on relegation certainties running scared. Oh, and we’ve got our new chairman tweeting ‘I’m from Wigan, me’. Life doesn’t get much better than that for Latics fans. I have no idea if we’ll stay up or not, but I do know that only one of our last five games is against a team in the top half. If I were a betting man, I’d say we’ve got better than half a chance. With luck, it’ll all be settled before we come to play Hull in the next to last game. Although, knowing Latics, we’ll probably put eight past them again. But if we’re really going to pull off the greatest of great escapes, beating Hull to confirm League One next season would put two lovely bookends on the administration saga. Whatever happens, though, assuming we’re back in stadiums come by August, it will be a return so joyous that we will talk about it for years.
Caddy from the 5:
Two wins in four days saw the mighty ‘Tics catapult out of the relegation zone this week and had the Believe Bus doing 80mph downhill to League One safety. With Leam in the driving seat, the lads in the back have ‘got the tunes blarin’ and shouting ‘Up The ‘Tics' at all the Barnsley and Bolton fans passing. Oh, and not forgetting Sunderland carthorse Luke O’Nien. Thanks for the team talk lad, bet he’s popular on Wearside this week! Am I going overboard? Yes I am. And why not?! This has been the worst season in our history and we - as a whole club, on and off the pitch - have got something to aim at, which we’d never have thought possible at the beginning of the season - staying up. It’s in our own hands and I’ve absolutely no doubt we will do it. And what an achievement that will be - surely up there with winning the FA Cup and getting Strongbow in the stadium! Going back to Leam, I’d like to thank Swindon Town for taking Darren Sheridan off our hands. He was appointed by clowns and belongs in the circus with them. He’s up there with the Joyce, Coyle and Mackays of the club’s history - and not in the good way. Them taking him, though, saw Leam somewhat pushed into the manager’s job, and he had to learn very quickly. It can’t be just a matter of stepping up from coach, there’s obviously more to it, and he had to do it in the worst possible situation. I really do think getting rid of Sheridan started the upturn in not just our form but in the club’s whole demeanour. Some of the negativity, I feel, Sheridan brought. He was never wanted by the fans, but beggars can’t be choosers, and the lambasting of the young players publicly being his worst crime was gone. Leam brought half a smile back to the training ground and then, coupled with the takeover, the boost the players must have had, I think, turned the tables in our favour. Leam’s not perfect, and has done things wrong in my eyes - Lang out wide and not through the middle being the obvious one. But he’s got his reasons, and he’s the manager not us, so let him do what he wants. There’s five more games left, and two wins will be enough I’d say. Let’s just get them ASAP and avoid the last-game scenario which brings Sheridan back with his relegation-threatened Swindon. Of course, it’ll happen, because we’re Wigan, and it’s what we do. Nothing is ever straightforward. But let’s just have a quiet end to the season, eh? Everyone you speak to is buzzing for next season, hopefully fans back in the ground, Talal in the East Stand with all the lads singing away, then off to King Street! Smiles back on faces and, more importantly, some stability back to our club. By heck, we need it. Right, I’m off with a ‘Bow telling Talal about Blackpool away in the cup when Flynny scored - he’ll love it!
If the Football League were a secondary school, what type of student would Wigan Athletic be? Some may call them a procrastinator. Others would say they take longer to grasp new concepts and their work steadily improves over the course of the school year as a result. Regardless of what your best comparison may be, there should be no argument they have saved their best results for late in the season over the past several years. In 2018, we went unbeaten over 11 of our last 12 matches as we won the League One title. In 2019, we went unbeaten over eight of our last nine matches as we secured Championship safety late in the campaign. Lastly, no-one will forget the events of last season, which saw Latics go unbeaten across 14 of their final 15 matches in their heroic quest for Championship survival - while in administration. What makes anyone think this will be the season where Latics buck that trend? The team that took the pitch in Doncaster last Saturday wasted no time in making a statement about how they plan to finish this season. Joe Dodoo and Thelo Aasgaard opened the scoring with two well-taken strikes and then Viv Solomon-Otabor slotted home in the 33rd minute to deliver what will likely be the ‘team goal’ of the season. The onslaught of goals was quite the pleasant surprise after we’d only scored two goals over their prior five-and-a-half matches. What made everything ‘click’ so suddenly? Was it the personnel on the pitch? The opponent? New tactics employed by Leam Richardson? Or did Latics finally just gel after a long awaited seven-month stretch? All of those items, plus a few others, could’ve contributed to the 4-1 victory. But Tuesday’s match against Sunderland proved the Doncaster performance was no fluke. For only the second time this season, Latics came back from a losing position to win a match. They did so against a Sunderland side that is not only one of the most talented in League One, but one that had been playing remarkably well since Latics last beat them in early December. We played a very noteworthy role in the second season of the ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’’ Netflix series, which highlighted the infamous Will Grigg transfer. Losing twice in the same season to a former Premier League foe who’d been in the relegation zone for both matches would surely make for a compelling storyline if season three was being filmed right now. Not only did Latics defeat Sunderland 2-1, but they did so decisively. We were much closer to pulling away and winning by a larger margin than Sunderland were to stealing a point. As a result of our last two victories, Latics are now out of the relegation zone, again, and are in control of their own destiny with five matches remaining. The gas pedal should remain firmly down as Crewe visit the DW Stadium tomorrow. Our 3-0 defeat at the Alexandra Stadium in early October still stands as one of our poorest performances of the season - even among the three 5-0 losses we suffered at home. Crewe are now just one week removed from a humbling 6-0 home defeat to Oxford, while our confidence should be at a season-high as we are presented the chance to win three consecutive matches for the first time this season on Saturday. Based on the season Crewe have had so far, it’s hard to identify what type of student they would be at our newly founded Football League school. If they are arrogant like their classmate Sunderland, then they will likely be in for a rude awakening come kick-off. Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien learned a tough lesson about how poor pre-match word choice could lead to a bad result for his team. As for Wigan, coming out the gate humble, hungry, and ready to build on Tuesday’s momentum should present ‘no problem at all’.
I have always bitten my nails. I really wish I didn’t but it’s something in my (mumble, mumble) number of years on earth I have always done. And I rather feel the next few weeks are going to test my fingers to the limit. Being a Latics fan, of course, I should be used to it. But every year - every single year - it’s tense. Not so many weeks ago it looked as though we were dead certs to go down, and the tension would be avoided. We would just by now have been resigned to our fate. But this is Latics. Never give up. In our DNA. And so on. I had a mild spat on Twitter the other day with a bloke who had bet on ‘dead cert’ Sunderland to beat ‘dead and buried’ Wigan. He just couldn’t see why his bet failed. Tuesday’s performance was everything the early-season performances weren’t. Not for lack of effort earlier, I hasten to add. But just the act not getting together, heads going down if we conceded, and not being able to see games out if we were ahead. What’s changed? Who knows? We have, of course, transferred the huge management skill of John Sheridan to one of our relegation rivals. That must have helped. But we seem now to have built a group of players who are starting to know each other, to be in the positions where they should be to take that pass, to make that run, to take that shot. The defence is looking solid, and the critics of Jamie Jones have thankfully been shut up. Leam and Gregor are heading for sainthoods if they pull this off. Is it maybe the security the new ownership has given? Is there already an influential influx behind the scenes that is boosting morale? Is it just the positive boost that a few good results and good performances bring? Who knows? But let’s keep it going. My fingers can take the hammering. They have years of experience. It’s the hope that kills you.
What a difference a week or two makes! The feel-good factor is back after two excellent wins. Still lots to do but, with a positive attitude and a bit of luck, Latics are gelling. Definitely business end of season, and I don’t want to jump the gun, but positive results are going a long way to our next goal of staying in this division. Can we do it? I’d like to say yes, and we’ll continue our run of back-to-back wins with more of the same. Reminiscent of last season, but this would be a lot sweeter. There’s lots being said about our manager, and whether he’ll stay or will he go? At the end of the day, the decision will be his. But I’d like to think he’ll give it a lot of thought. New owners on board, and our chairman and directors seem to have the right idea of how to manage the football club going forward. Surely Leam would want to be involved in that? Let’s hope so. Up The ‘Tics!
The Next Chapter:
There’s tears on the Wear tonight me owd mucker, they just can’t believe that the win was all pukka,
A walk-over, cake walk, ‘no problem at all’, they thought they’d won t’game before kicking a ball,
The Stadium of Light has the switch turned to off,as a mark of respect for their dead hopes (cough cough),
So, did they think that the Tics wouldn’t fight? Would just meekly roll over, and have an off night?
They’ve got our lads wrong if that’s just what they thought, they’ll think different now after being outfought,
And outplayed and out-muscled and out-wanted too,a superb performance from the Tics boys in blue,
Our January imports are starting to flourish, along with the kids we’ve successfully nourished,
This team, like the club is a Phoenix from t’ flames, with a bright shiny future beyond t’next five games,
Cos the Chairman’s from Wigan, well, that’s what he said, in his tweet from Bahrain (is he puddled in th’head ?!)
So now we’re all sorted, all fixed and ship-shape, it’s time for t’next chapter in the Tics’ great escape,
So bring on the Alex, the Shrews and the Brewers, then next up is Hull (will the title be you-urs?)
We finish with Swindon, now isn’t that fit, cos their manager left us when we were in......t’mire,
But it was good riddance, no sorrow, no tears, he was possibly t’worst we’ve had down the years,
So come on Talal, get your backside to Wigan, and join the celebration, it’ll be a reet big ‘un!
We were a week late I suppose but Wigan Athletic’s Easter resurrection is firmly ON. Forget the fact we lost both games over the Easter weekend, it’s still the Easter holidays for some kids so that definitely counts. What a turnaround it’s been. Apart from the Accrington match, we have been the better side in virtually every game for the last six weeks. Results haven’t always followed those performances, but Leam Richardson’s side have firmly turned that on its head over the last week with two utterly ruthless performances. Central to that turnaround has been the form of Will Keane, who over the last few weeks had looked a shadow of the player we saw last year. After a nasty bout of Covid, Will had clearly struggled. But against both Doncaster and Sunderland he was head and shoulders above the opposition. There is a similarity between Keane and the much-missed Nick Powell. And it’s not just that they look similar, or played for Manchester United at the same time, but their style of play. Keane is enjoying one of the most prolific periods of his career this season and, at the age of 28, could well be coming in to his prime. If his goals and all round play can help to fire us to the most unlikely survival, he deserves a long-term contract. As do the rest of lads that have joined us on short-term deals. There have been so many standout performances in recent weeks, it’s been difficult to single people out. Though Keane has been a big part of our upturn in fortunes, the same could be said for Joe Dodoo, who has looked so impressive and managed a goal and three assists in his last two appearances. Or perhaps Viv Solomon-Otobar, who has been playing with an injury for the last month, yet has been such a big part of our attacking approach in recent weeks, himself chipping in with assists and goals. Or maybe Callum Lang, who returned from that suspected concussion against Portsmouth to score the winner against Sunderland on Tuesday. Then at the other end of the pitch, we’ve Lee Evans who, along with the ever-improving Funso Ojo, has ran our engine room. Or perhaps Curtis Tilt and his partnership with George Johnston, which has given the defence such a solid look. Everywhere you look on the pitch there are heroes running through brick walls for us and, although it’s tempting to think we’ve achieved our aim, we’ve still a way to go. As Leam commented after that amazing win on Tuesday night, we haven’t achieved anything yet. It’s imperative we follow that up, as we’ve failed to win three league games in a row this season. If we could do that against a Crewe side in 'indifferent' form, it would be such a huge boost to our survival chances. We’re not there yet, but the last week has given the survival bid a real boost. How amazing would it be if we crowned the takeover with the most ‘Wigan’ of survival bids?
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