Talking football: Perfect response to first ‘crisis’

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

Crisis? What crisis!

Such is the expectation surrounding Wigan Athletic this term that a narrow 1-0 defeat in a dour game at Shrewsbury a week last Saturday resulted in serious questions being asked in some quarters of Paul Cook and his men for the first time.

Well the response over the last week has been emphatic to say the least.

Three wins, three clean sheets, seven goals, nine points later, Latics are up to second place in the League One table.

They’ve also shown in the space of the last week both sides of their credentials for promotion.

At Charlton last Tuesday, and against Bristol Rovers at the weekend, they romped to 3-0 victories that flattered the losers, rather than the victors, such was the quality of the play.

Against Northampton on Tuesday night – and without Nick Powell for the first time in the league this term – they found the going significantly tougher.

The early goal didn’t come, they had to wear down a determined Cobblers outfit and, after taking the lead just before the hour mark, they had to dig in during the last quarter, and prove their defensive mettle.

It helps, of course, when you have a player like Michael Jacobs who’s capable of lashing the ball home from 30 yards – a goal fit to win any game at any level.

But credit also to the guys at the back – and in particular stand-in goalkeeper Jamie Jones – for providing the safe platform for one moment of magic to win a game.

Fair play to early leaders, Shrewsbury, who have proved their win over Latics wasn’t a fluke by blazing a trail at the top of the table.

But with injuries, suspensions and the winter ahead, I know who my money would be on to still be up there heading into spring and the run-in.

The major downside of the midweek win over Northampton was Sam Morsy’s fifth yellow card of the campaign, which rules him out of Saturday’s tough trip to third-placed Peterborough.

As ever, though, Paul Cook had a quip in response to an obvious post-match question.

“I don’t think it’s a negative Sam Morsy was booked,” replied Cook.

“I think it’s a positive he’s not been sent off so far!”

A trademark laugh accompanied the comment, but privately the Latics boss would clearly prefer to his captain and on-field general in the side every week.

But the way Morsy plays – his ‘unique selling point’ – means he is going to spend most of the time walking a disciplinary tightrope.

As Cook says, take away Morsy’s bite, and you reduce his effectiveness.

But his contribution over the course of a campaign will far outweight the odd suspension-related absence.

It was great to hear Max Power receiving a far more positive reaction off the bench in midweek than he got at the weekend.

Paul Cook was careful not to criticise those who booed the player on to the field against Bristol Rovers, but asked them to draw a line under the events of the summer – and the player’s request to speak to any interested Championship clubs – for the good of all concerned.

Most supporters appeared to accept that plea against Northampton, and it’s up to Power now to make it up to the fans on the field.

With Sam Morsy suspended for Saturday’s trip to Peterborough, there could well be an unexpectedly early opportunity for redemption. And one the player will be desperate to take advantage of.

September 19, 2013: Wigan Athletic faced Zulte Waregem in Bruges in their first ever European fixture.

September 19, 2017: Wigan Athletic edge past struggling Northampton Town in

League One.

What a club. What a journey. And we wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world.

“For a big team to win trophies, it means the Premier League or the Champions League. Wigan won the FA Cup. Where is Wigan now? League One.”

Most of us would have understood the general sentiment behind Spurs boss’ Mauricio Pochettino’s comments about his priorities.

But bringing up Latics – and in such a disrespectful manner – didn’t strengthen his argument.

“Manchester United won the FA Cup (16 months ago). Where is Louis van Gaal now?” would have been a far more relavant point, given their similar goals.

Making reference to a day every single Latics fan will cherish forever – and wouldn’t dream of swapping for another year of Premier League struggle – made absolutely no sense at all.

The DW Stadium crowd rose as one in midweek to show appreciation and much love for one of their heroes.

No, not Michael Jacobs for his wonder-goal, but shortly after when Dan Burn (pictured), brought the ball out of defence like Franz Beckenbauer, before playing an inch-perfect one-two with Gary Roberts and advancing into the Cobblers box.

Sadly, with the goal at his mercy, the big man completely fluffed his lines, and his sliced shot ended up going out for a throw-in.

But the crowd were quick to show last year’s runaway player of the year the esteem in which he’s held.

Goodness knows what they’ll do when he manages to find the net!