2016: A Year In Review - by Yanic Wildschut

Yanic Wildschut
Yanic Wildschut

The year started with me having a meeting with Gary Caldwell, just before I signed on a permanent basis from Middlesbrough.

He told me he wanted us to be the champions of League One, that we had the team to do it, but we just needed to start picking up results.

He thought I could be a big part of it, and that was the reason I signed – because I believed we could go up, and that I could play a big part in it.

Football is about prizes, and all you want to do as a player is win things.

I told him straight-away: ‘Okay, yes, I’m coming’.

I knew the players here were good enough to get top spot, although you never really know what’s going to happen in football.

Thankfully it worked out, we deservedly went up as champions, and it fully vindicated my decision to join Wigan.

There was a very big game in the first week of the New Year, just before I signed, against Gillingham.

I was back in Middlesbrough, watching the game on Sky, and when we went 2-0 down, I was like: ‘Oooh...they need a little bit of Yanic here!’

Then Will scored, Max’s shot went in, and Morgs won it at the end with his header.

If you’re going to win titles, you win games like that.

Then came the green light to complete my move and it was a no-brainer.

There was another big game just after I signed that proved very important, and that was the one at Walsall in February.

The day before, the manager told me I wouldn’t be starting, but that I would go on as sub and win the game.

Of course I was a bit sad, because I want to play in all the games – especially the big ones.

But I did come on as a sub, and I did end up scoring the winner in the last minute.

Looking back now, I don’t think I enjoyed the moment as much as I should have.

You see pictures of all the supporters running on to the pitch from behind the goal, and I was on the side of it.

But that game proved to be so important, because we went above Walsall into the automatic promotion places.

From that moment, we knew what we had to do to stay there – and we did.

We clinched promotion at Blackpool in April, and what a special day that was.

Again I was on the bench – I don’t know what the gaffer was trying to do to me!

For all the big games, I wanted to play, but it seemed like I was on the bench as an impact player.

In this game, I managed to get on in the first half, because we weren’t playing so well.

We were lucky we hadn’t conceded, but in the second half I managed to score twice, and we knew the job was done.

The supporters were there in numbers, it was nice weather...a perfect day all round.

It was great for the lads, because most us had never been promoted before – myself included.

To do so with this club, everyone was over-joyed, and we created some memories that will last forever.

I remember the manager gave us off until Thursday, and we only had a couple of days to prepare for the Barnsley game.

A few of the boys were very ‘tired’ on the day, shall we say, Barnsley played really well, but we were already in party mode.

It was great to have all of our families involved in the celebrations on the pitch after the game, and getting the medal in my hand was pretty special to take into the summer.

Heading into this season, I thought we started very strongly on the opening day at Bristol City.

We just couldn’t hold on for the whole game, and it was an early sign that the Championship was going to be a lot tougher than League One.

Whereas last season we’d have been able to hold on to a one-goal lead, we found out it wasn’t going to be so easy.

The Blackburn game the following week was all right, but over the weeks we started to concede sloppy goals from set-pieces, and that makes it hard to win games.

We were playing quite well, but we were losing too many games by just one goal. That’s football, though – last year it went for us. This year, it’s not been like that.

Obviously that led to the gaffer leaving, and it was a real shame to see him go.

We’d had a couple of meetings before he got sacked, and we knew if we couldn’t break the cycle then eventually it was going to happen.

We just didn’t expect it to have been that soon – we thought maybe he would have built up a bit more credit for what happened last season.

On a personal note, I had a really good connection with the gaffer, and I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity he gave me here at Wigan. It was tough to take, but that’s football.

It’s happened to me three times now, the manager being sacked, and the atmosphere around the club over the next few days is just horrible.

Everyone is down, because you got along well with the old manager, but the new gaffer comes in, everyone starts on zero, and you move on.

The new manager spoke to me right at the beginning, he told me he’d seen me play, he knew what I could do, and that I could play in multiple positions, depending on the game.

I’ve played up front in a few games so far – some good, some not so good – but I’ve been back on the wing in recent games, and I feel that’s my best position.

Obviously I’ll play wherever the manager needs me, as long as I’m in the team, that’s the main thing.

It’s been a lot harder for us physically since the new manager has come in.

But you can see we’re finally starting to play the way he wants us to in parts of games, and we just need to add a little bit of defensive quality – from all over the pitch – as well as our game management.

If we can improve in those areas, I’m sure we can start climbing the table.

Even a couple of wins would give us a little bit of momentum, and there are plenty of things to play for in the second half of the season.

Overall, I would say 2016 has been the best year of my career so far.

I got my move to Wigan, I became a champion...and I also became a dad for the first time.

There’ve been a lot of highs, as well as one or two lows in recent weeks, but I feel I’m playing better and better, and starting to add goals to my game, which is important.

I just hope I can keep that up, and help the club pick up enough points in 2017 for us to achieve our goals.

Also I have to mention one Wigan fan in particular, Sean Kennedy, who contributed a lot to the highs of the year.

It’s amazing what a few songs in the stands can do – some of them went all over the world – and I’m so happy we have supporters like him.

I’ve been at clubs where the supporters weren’t anywhere near as good as the Wigan fans, and the bond between the team and the fans here is something really special.

They are always here for us, and it’s time now we have them something back.

Have a great New Year,