This weekend’s trip down to Ipswich is shaping up to be a pivotal clash for Paul Cook and Wigan Athletic.
Not only does it signal the beginning of the festive period – always a crucial part of the campaign – it’s also a golden opportunity to pick up three points.
There’s no way of sugar-coating this...Ipswich Town have stunk out the Championship this term.
Just one game short of the halfway mark in the Championship schedule, they’ve won ONE game – courtesy of a late goal at Swansea in October.
After pushing Mick McCarthy out of the door at the end of last term, it was all supposed to be about attacking football played on a bed of roses leading to a promotion push this time.
But there’s an age-old saying some Town fans should have been wise to: ‘Careful what you wish for’.
Because after longing for a club without McCarthy, they now find themselves careering towards League One with only Paul Lambert – a former Norwich hero – to save them.
And Latics can’t afford to show them any mercy.
As we know, traditionally there’s no-one out-of-form clubs/strikers look forward to playing more than Latics.
We only have to go back a couple of months to the trip to rock-bottom Preston, who couldn’t buy a win up to that point.
A 4-0 thumping and Alex Neil’s men haven’t looked back, currently looking down in the table on a Latics side who were lying third only a fortnight before they hit a Deepdale road-block.
To be fair, Preston were in a false position, and were always going to climb.
That is not the case with Ipswich, who saw most of their goal threat disappear over the summer when Martin Waghorn joined Derby and Latics bought Joe Garner.
They are there for the taking and, if Latics can reach the performance levels of last weekend – when their 10 men matched Derby for the duration – the visitors should be seeing it as a fabulous chance to return to winning ways.
Yes, Latics are still missing key players, but there’s still enough quality in that side to get the job done this weekend.
Ipswich’s need, desperation, for a win should ensure a few spaces being left at the back, which hopefully can be exploited by Josh Windass, Will Grigg and maybe even Callum McManaman.
And what a nice platform that would be to take into Christmas week.
Finally some good news on the injury front, with Gavin Massey hopefully back in the first-team fold this weekend at Ipswich.
Let’s not forget Massey’s last full game for Latics was the 3-0 away win at Stoke, when he scored a brilliant goal in arguably the best team performance of the season.
Since then, Paul Cook’s squad has been decimated by injuries, which have contributed to the slip down the league table.
The return of Massey – and the likes of Nick Powell and Michael Jacobs after Christmas – will be music to the ears of the Latics manager.
And will also be as good as any additions during the January transfer window, as they won’t need time to bed in.
It’s already clear the Latics Academy will form a central part of the club in the post-Whelan family landscape.
And what a bright future it looks with the youngsters going from strength to strength.
The Under-18s – who are 10 points clear at the top of their league – won 2-1 at Wolves in midweek to advance to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Already the likes of Joe Gelhardt and Jenson Weir are making headlines on the international stage, and there’s plenty more on the production line.
The wonderful work being done behind the scenes by Gregor Rioch, Mike Hurn and co is giving the club a solid platform on which to build.
For far too long, local talent has been cherry-picked by other clubs down the road who offered better facilities, coaching and opportunities.
Now that’s no longer the case, and hopefully this is the start of something special.
Great to see Latics legend Paul Jewell back in the game once again.
He’s the new director of football at League Two outfit Swindon Town.
For one reason or another it’s never quite clicked for him since leaving Latics in the summer of 2007.
But his contribution to the Latics story will never be forgotten, and maybe we’ll see him back at the DW one day.
Many congrats to Chris McCann, who helped Atlanta United win the MLS title only two years since the expansion club was formed.
I’m amazed why more players don’t go over to America and give it a go – and not just at the back end of their careers.
Speaking to McCann last week ahead of the final, it’s obvious how much he and his young family are loving the lifestyle.
And with over 75,000 watching the final, it’s obvious the game over there – and playing standard – is on the up and up.
I see Latics have been linked with a January loan move for Bournemouth striker Jermain Defoe.
The same Jermain Defoe who is apparently on wages of around £130,000 A WEEK in the Premier League.
Either IEC are about to send a *very* strong statement about their future investment in Latics.
Or someone’s totally misunderstood Paul Cook’s reply after asking if he needs a new striker: “Yeah, defo...”
Many of you will have noticed the Latics players wearing special t-shirts before the Derby game, with ‘Get Well Soon, Alfie’ on the front.
It was to show support for the family of Latics Under-18s coach Peter Murphy, whose little boy has recently been diagnosed with cancer.
Few clubs show as much support for causes like this than Latics, and fingers crossed little Alfie will soon be out of hospital and back at home with his family.