Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'This new feeling of normalcy could not be more appreciated. The fear of losing everything has been replaced with the thrill of having everything to gain...'

Our panel of Latics experts can once again look forward to the future with the fixtures out and the players back for pre-season training at Christopher Park...
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Matt Auffrey:

It’s been just over a week since we have awakened from the nightmare that has consumed our club for the past several months, and this new feeling of normalcy could not be more appreciated. The fear of losing everything has been replaced with the thrill of having everything to gain. We now have a full slate of league fixtures to analyse and add to our personal calendars. Starting the season with a trip to Pride Park Stadium, and playing in front of 30,000 spectators at promotion favourites Derby, will mark a challenging reintroduction back into League One. However, it should provide an atmosphere that is well worthy of ushering in a new and exciting era of Latics football - one that emphasises stability and sustainability without sacrificing success. As daunting as the month of August is shaping up to be (with additional away trips to Carlisle and Bolton along with home matches against Northampton and Barnsley on the cards), it’s important to remember the season is indeed long, and the first month will only make up just 11 per cent of our total league fixtures. Starting the season on minus 8 points will make it a monumental task to try and eclipse 90-plus points for the third time in four League One campaigns. However, the prospect of Shaun Maloney and Gregor Rioch having their first pre-season and full transfer window together is a great reason for optimism. This summer’s window will assuredly be a busy one as Latics continue to slash their wage bill and mould the squad to Maloney’s liking. We’ve already said goodbye to a player who featured 86 times for Latics in Tom Naylor, and have also moved on from Anthony Scully, who barely featured for 86 minutes in blue and white. With the players returning for the start of pre-season on Thursday, we will continue to get a better idea about which contracted players will be a part of this season’s plans and who will likely depart soon. However, we can’t look forward without continuing to recognise those who played a major role in ensuring that Latics had any future at all beyond the month of June. Lisa Nandy and Caroline Molyneux from the Supporters Club recently appeared on the ‘Progress with Unity’ podcast to tell the heroic tale of the crucial roles they played in Mike Danson’s recent takeover of the club. The hour-long episode is an absolute must-listen as some of the details divulged are too unbelievable to imagine without hearing the first-person accounts themselves. After finishing the podcast, I came away more grateful than ever for every person who worked to keep this club on its feet over the past few months and pushed for a successful takeover to occur at the 11th hour. The club is in an infinitely better position than it was just two weeks ago. Let the 23/24 preparations continue. It's time to enjoy what we have so desperately awaited for a very long time.

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Wigan Athletic boss sets his sights on double capture.
Ben Amos, Charlie Wyke and Chris Sze hit the bikes on day one of pre-season trainingBen Amos, Charlie Wyke and Chris Sze hit the bikes on day one of pre-season training
Ben Amos, Charlie Wyke and Chris Sze hit the bikes on day one of pre-season training

Alan Rogers:

I wasn’t going to contribute this week...how can we possibly top the last few weeks? But as the dust settles from last week’s amazing news, and our celebratory hangovers start to become a distant memory, I guess there is a question we still need to ask: Do we simply draw a line under the last few months and concentrate solely on the future? Or do we need to ask further questions. Mainly to ensure this never happens again? I’m usually of the opinion 'forgive and forget', but maybe that simply papers over the cracks here. I do think we should concentrate on the future but, before we do that, we need to acknowledge a big debt of thanks we owe to a lot of people. Lisa Nandy, the Supporters Club, the editor of this page, and one or two others came in for some unbelievable abuse over the last few months. But in reality, most of those people played a big part in saving our club. And that’s the bit I think we need to examine and learn from before we move on. The last few weeks/months highlighted a big problem that’s not just related to football – more of that in a minute – so let’s look at the background to what I’m talking about. When we went into administration, it was a huge shock. But then came an amazing display of unity. Our fanbase came together to show the outside world we wouldn’t take this lying down. We rallied together to start an amazing campaign that should never be forgotten. People from outside the club joined in and the rest is history. This time was different. Hopefully we will still have a happy ending, but this time our fanbase became fractured and hostile. Making a very worrying time even more horrible. The common denominator in the last few months – apart from human nature – has been social media. I worked in IT all my life and, I'll be honest with you, I hate social media. I’ve never used Facebook, and only reluctantly joined Twitter because I was writing my first book at the time and my publisher made me. Over the years, I have had countless arguments with people about the benefits and drawbacks to the various platforms, and I grudgingly agree they can be useful in the right circumstances. They are a tool - and any tool used in the right way is a benefit. A hammer, for example, can be used to build things. But it could also be used to cause an amazing amount of damage. Anyway, social media is here to stay, so I should stop bleating like a Luddite and talk about why I’m wandering – somewhat fancifully - down this path. In my opinion, the main cause of trouble, particularly on Twitter, was the amount of people hiding behind false names. Some were obviously outsiders who seemed intent on causing trouble. But there were also a lot of so-called Latics 'fans' who made some outrageous and often abusive comments – simply because they could hide behind a mask. As I said at the beginning, this type of problem isn’t just confined to football. It affects people from all walks of life. But perhaps, for once, football could lead the way forward with a solution to the problem. You don’t need to present any credentials in order to use Twitter – no form of authentication. I’ve often wondered why the Premier League or the EFL haven’t come forward with their own solution. It would be relatively easy to produce a 'Twitter style' app that could be owned and promoted by the PL/EFL. If they joined forces and only put out club updates on that platform, and stopped using Twitter, the fans would have to join that platform in order to receive official updates. But to join the new platform, you would have to be fully authenticated. I’ve just totally simplified a very difficult problem with a fairly complicated solution! But Twitter is never going to change so, if we want to stop the cowards and bullies threatening people, we have to try something new. Twitter’s revenue stream is advertising, so the more clicks, the better it is for Elon. If he forces people to start authenticating, he will lose literally millions of users across the world who mask their true identities. Usually, the football authorities take every opportunity to squeeze more money out of the game, so why not investigate the possibility of owning their own social media platform? Make it free to use, and safe for kids. Unfortunately it will have to contain advertising to make it cost effective, but that would be a small price to pay to make the bots and trolls go away. away. Of course, they won’t actually be going away but, if they are on separate platforms, then we can starve them of the attention-seeking oxygen they need to survive. I’m trying to think of someone who could lead such a project. Perhaps a football club owner from Wigan who made his fortune in the world of data analytics?

Will Hayes:

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I think we can all agree the past two weeks have probably been the most challenging and difficult Wigan Athletic have faced in their entire history. The outrageous fortune of slings and arrows for a club that has endured more than enough problems - more than arguably any other club in the country. There was the threat of more EFL sanctions, 'Pop Mon', and HMRC with a winding up order that would have finally seen the end of Latics. Then finally at the 59th minute of the 11th hour, along comes a new meteor on the horizon. Mike Danson, who truly is the saviour of the club! Up until two weeks ago, I had never heard of Danson. But he truly is 'Manna from Heaven'. A Wiganer through and through, and someone who will truly care about the club and the fans, in the same way Dave Whelan did. I reckon we can all rest easy now, and face the new season with a confidence and optimism that was unthinkable at the beginning of this month. I thought it was a bit rich of Rick Parry to bask and wallow in the takeover, while lavishing praise on those who had helped to make it possible. Okay, so he and the EFL approved and allowed the takeover to go through. But when you look back at how the EFL have punished Latics in the past, and the loyal fans for financial misdemeanours, by the previous and most recent owners, I sometimes wonder which side they are on. What possible discernible function did imposing point deductions really serve? It is the club who get punished for the sins of the previous owners. Point deductions will only make life harder for Latics, even more so if they struggle to get results. Have the fans also not been punished enough? 'Rubbing their noses in it', is a phrase that comes to mind. With all that behind us now, we have to look forward and not think about what might have been. We are truly fortunate to have Danson, even more so when you look at what has happened to other North West clubs, who have withered on the vine. So as for the 2023/2024 season, a period of calm stability is much-needed and won't do the club any harm. I don't expect Danson will be flashing his cheque book. For now, just keep the ship on an even keel. Shaun Maloney needs to be backed to the hilt, in the same way Whelan did for Paul Jewell and Roberto Martinez. He also needs to be given time to rebuild the team. The Academy must play a part in restoring the fortunes. Signing an experienced player or two to strengthen the squad, where necessary, could play an important role as to where Latics will finish the season, given the handicap of an eight-point deduction. We are still here and still standing. So come on you loyal supporters, this is our opportunity to get behind Latics, and roar them back on to better times!