Talking football: Tide sweeping good ship Latics to promotion

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

What a difference a year makes!

Exactly 12 months ago, Wigan Athletic were hurtling uncontrollably towards the Championship trap door.

Back-to-back Easter defeats to Middlesbrough and Derby led to the departure of Malky Mackay after a disastrous spell in charge.

The appointment of Gary Caldwell - a year ago next week - was far too late to prevent Latics dropping into League One. But 12 months on - and a huge sea-change both on and off the pitch - the tide is sweeping the good ship Latics just as quickly in the opposite direction.

Back-to-back Easter victories have lifted Caldwell’s charges to within a point of the summit.

With an unbeaten run now stretching to 18 matches, they are coming on strong as everyone around them is showing signs of faltering.

With a trip to long-time leaders Burton - who have won three, drawn three and lost three of their last nine matches - to come on April 19, for the first time Latics have their fate in the own hands.

In the space of three days over Easter, they demonstrated why they are standing on the brink of promotion back to the second tier.

At Swindon on Good Friday, they swept aside an in-form Town side with effortless ease, with goals right out of the top drawer.

Against Rochdale on Easter Monday, they struggled to find the same rhythm, but nevertheless dug deep and found a reason to win thanks to one of the scruffiest goals of the entire Football League campaign.

Being able to get the job done both when playing well and playing below par is, as any cliche-loving pundit will tell you, the hallmark of any successful team.

Still ‘a million miles away from where we want to be as a football club’, according to the manager.

But a massive, massive, step in the right direction.

As if things weren’t already going swimmingly for Wigan Michael Jacobs is on the verge of a first-team return.

Latics haven’t exactly struggled since the 24-year-old damaged a calf at Crewe on January 23.

In fact, they haven’t lost a single game.

But there isn’t a squad in League One - and probably most in the Championship - that wouldn’t be improved by the addition of a player of Jacobs’ quality.

He was arguably the pick of the Latics side in the first half of the campaign.

And the sight of him adding competition to a creative roster that already includes Yanic Wildschut, Haris Vuckic, Ryan Colclough should send a shiver down the spine of League One defenders up and down the country.

Millwall’s 2-0 victory over Burton made for particularly enjoyable viewing on Monday night - for more than one reason.

While not quite in the ‘Max Power’ class, Millwall’s ‘Ed Upson’ is up there with very best footballing names.

Speaking of which, I can’t have been the only journalist whose eyes lit up at the DW on Monday, and the presence on the Rochdale bench of ‘Joe Bunney’.

An open goal for headline writers at Easter...but sadly the man himself didn’t produce much to the tale.

The footballing world has been paying respects to the great Johan Cruyff, who sadly died last week at the age of 68.

As ever, there is always a Wigan link to any story, with the creator of ‘Total Football’ once attending a Latics Development Squad game to watch his grandson, Joshua Angoy Cruyff.

I remember that day well.

Or at least the day after, when I belatedly found out about his visit. While one of the finest footballers of all time was stood pitchside at Robin Park, I’d been beavering away in the office.

Half a mile from greatness.

Compiling the amateur football round-ups at Wigan Today Towers can sometimes be a time-consuming, and thankless, task.

But every now and then comes along a gem that makes it all worthwhile...

“The Vets suffered their first loss of the season, 2-0 to Teenage Mutant Ninja Skrtels.”