Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man

Our panel of Latics experts assess the fighting draw at Hull and this weekend's visit of high-flying Charlton...as well as the arrival onto the scene of a certain Joe Gelhardt...
Charlie MulgrewCharlie Mulgrew
Charlie Mulgrew

Craig Wigan: “Reminds me of a young Wayne Rooney”...“That’s class, is he really only 17?”...“He’s turned and put it in the net before any of their defenders or keeper has even had time to move, wow!” These are all quotes from my friends outside Wigan who’d never heard of Joe Geldhardt until I showed them the video of his first senior goal. What a moment for the young lad, and that bit of skill and raw talent we needed to earn us a precious point away from home. But in general I thought the performance on Saturday was a lot lot better. We were on the front foot where possible, and showed less long ball or defensive football that clearly hasn’t worked for this team. My only disappointing thoughts were in the final minutes, when we looked most likely to push for a winner, we brought off Michael Jacobs for Kal Naismith. It just sent the message of ‘hold on to what we’ve got’, when I think the message should’ve been ‘go and get a third’. But I’m starting to question whether the previous lack of attacking attitude has actually come from the management, or is it just from the players themselves. Young players in a tough league, who are shying away from playing the expansive football they know they can when a big away crowd pipe up, or top opposition simply make them feel like they can’t do it in the game. So on to Charlton, a team flying high until last week, but definitely there for the taking. It’s a game that reeks of goals and incident and, if we play to our best, we can definitely pick up a much-needed win – especially with their main man out injured too. With Stoke and Huddersfield occupying the bottom two spots at the moment, it’s a chance to climb away from the relegation zone and really start our season. But for now, when we really needed a lift as a football club, one of our own has brought that good feeling back to the club, and hopefully it carries onto Saturday and beyond. If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.

Caddy from the 5: The dust has settled on the Hull game, and we’re all left wondering whether it is a good point away from home or two points dropped, against what I can only see as a side that’s going to be in the relegation dogfight come April. I’m always on the ‘points away’ side so, considering we don’t get many, I’ll take it. Plusses for the Tics were Antonee Robinson, who I thought was man of the match, Joe Williams and, of course, Joe Geldhardt. More on the latter later.... On the other hand, I think Nathan Byrne is having a torrid season and needs a rest to sort himself out. He’s just not got going at all, we know there’s a player in there, but he needs to find it. The centre-halves were yet again found wanting, but that’s going over old ground. Maybe Danny Fox with Charlie Mulgrew might be worth a go, but that’s Paul Cook’s shout. Because no matter what we all might think, he does know more than us!

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While I’m on about the fans, if you were one of them who were shouting for Jamie Jones while David Marshall was playing, you seriously need to take a look at yourselves. Absolute clowns you are...and funny how you weren’t chanting for Jamie later in the game, when Marshall made two cracking saves. How you think that’ll do the goalkeeper any favours, I’ll never know. How about getting behind him? Of course you have a right to moan – I’m best at moaning, believe me! But not while he’s playing. Fair play to him for ignoring you all at half-time, and coming out to make those saves in the second half, which you all seem to have forgotten.

Now on to Geldhardt...brilliant goal, defo got a future ahead of him, and the likes of Liverpool are reportedly sniffing about already. BUT ( here it comes) I hear the similarities with Callum McManaman being trotted out. Let’s not forget Cal is now at Luton, trying to get his career back on track...a lad who has lost his way, for some reason that only he’ll know. I think we should all stay grounded about Joe, for now, and when he scores the winning hat-trick in the World Cup final, following his £100m move to Liverpool, THEN we can all say “told you, didn’t I”? I see the tickets for Sheffield Wednesday away are out, and it’s £33 for adults – scandalous. Surely it’s time for the Championship to cap the away tickets like the Premier League does...how can it be dearer to watch Wigan away than Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, etc? Charlton at home on Saturday and they’re flying, so it’s obviously a win for the Tics.

A final one here – not Tics related – but it doesn’t matter. Fernando Ricksen lost his battle with Motor Neurone Disease this week, aged just 43. The Rangers legend was raising awareness for his disease until the end, a warrior on and off the pitch, sleep tight captain and God bless. Sometimes football IS just 22 lads kicking a ball about, and other things DO matter. Right, I’m off to raise a glass of ‘Bow to Fernando. UP THE TICS!

Mike Goodman: How good was it to see Joe Gelhardt grab his first goal at Hull, and what a goal it was! It was such an instinctive finish and something we very much needed to help prevent a fourth straight away defeat. I said a couple of weeks ago that it may have been worth starting Gelhardt at Hull, and whilst that didn’t happen, the impact he made when he came on has done himself no harm in staking a claim to make his full league debut against Charlton at the weekend. I know some may feel that we shouldn’t be relying on him too much at such a young age, but he seems so unfazed when he does play that surely it’s worth a go to help us try to get our second win of the season. It feels like we’re starting to say each week that every game is a big game. Charlton are no exception given the start they’ve made but it’s definitely a winnable tie, despite us being without a win in seven games in all competitions. We seem to be making fast starts in matches at the moment, but then seem to fade as the half goes on. If we can make another fast start on Saturday, grab an early goal to help build confidence and get a much-needed win, come 5pm on Saturday it would be brilliant to look at the table to see we’ve moved further away from the bottom and also say we’re three games unbeaten. We’re yet to score first at the DW so far this season and if we do manage to get the opening goal it would give everyone in the ground a massive lift and hopefully spur us on to a big three points.

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Sean Livesey: It’s a return to home comforts again for Latics this weekend. It was another under-par performance from Cook’s men at Hull last week but we did get a point and Joe Gelhardt announced himself in the best possible fashion. A point away from home isn’t to be sniffed at in the Championship but in the mire we’re currently in it isn’t enough, if we had a couple more wins on the board a point would have been seen as a decent result but as it is it definitely feels like two points dropped rather than one gained. Charlton have made a fantastic start to the season, their return to the Championship has seen them join early pace setters Leeds at the top of the division. In contrast to our own form it’s us who look like the newly promoted side and Charlton the seasoned Championship pros.

So we’ve had two weeks of unchanged sides but could Cook be tempted to shuffle his pack? We’ve yet to see anything from Dujon Sterling who arrived with such fanfare in the summer and with Nathan Byrne struggling in recent weeks could the time be to bring in the Chelsea man who featured in a midweek win over Charlton’s Under-23s side. Bright Enobakhare seems to have disappeared from view following his appearance against Middlesbrough last month. Two players there who I imagine won’t be far away from the first team picture and who could add a bit of pace and purpose to the side. Lewis Macleod is another who impressed earlier in the season but has fallen out of favour recently. There’s definitely options for the manager to switch things up if he decides to, equally apart from those players mentioned there will be a clamour for Gelhardt to start following his point-saving goal last week.

Wins need to come sooner rather than later for Cook and his side, we’ve steadied the ship in recent weeks but if we’re going to start moving up that table we really need to string some wins together. It’s not going to be easy against Charlton but with Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday to follow soon after it’s not going to get any easier either. As the manager is fond of saying it’s an unforgiving league but we really need to start making it work for us. A win against Charlton would give us a great platform to build on ahead of two consecutive away matches at the end of the month. Let’s hope the lads can take that chance. They’ve spoken about being patient and knowing that things are about to click, which is positive but equally frustrating as the football has shown anything but that. It’s a long season though and if we can get some wins you never know where momentum will take you – it’s getting the wins that will be the difficult part. Over to Paul Cook for that one.