Our 18th man columnists reflect on the Magic Weekend at Anfield... and give their thoughts on Wigan's performance...
How did you rate Anfield as a Magic Weekend venue?
Robert Kenyon: Anfield is a great stadium but I think it’s more suited to one-off games rather than the Magic Weekend. There’s nothing around Anfield, the Fan Zone wasn’t anything special and it’s not easy to get to from the city centre. At least we gave it a go, but we shouldn’t go back there for Magic Weekend. Plus, I really struggled with room for my legs in the seats, they were really cramped.
Jeanette Lusher: Personally I had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Forward planning meant that I had organised a minibus for our group and this overcame the difficulties with regards parking at the ground. My group also purchased seats in the main stand as the leg room is much better than in the other stands. I felt that the stadium staff went the extra mile in assisting supporters and certainly joined in the fun and banter. The cost of food and drink at the stadium seemed very reasonable and certainly there were many other outlets in close proximity that provided alternative options.
The atmosphere and noise volume in the stadium was in my opinion very impressive. Certainly Cardiff, Edinburgh and Newcastle have an advantage in that they afford the opportunity to enjoy the city centre but Anfield, for me, certainly ranks alongside Manchester United and Manchester City.
Sean Lawless: I think Anfield surprised me as a venue for Magic Weekend. I think my expectations had been lowered leading up to the weekend, but ultimately it was better than I could have expected. However, I would still prefer the weekend to move back to Newcastle, as no venue so far has come close in terms of carnival atmosphere.
Darren Wrudd: The ground on TV looked good, but I watched the whole weekend on Sky TV from the comfort of my armchair. The venue though is certainly a sight to see. We were lucky enough to go to a corporate box for a match last year and the facilities were out of this world. The ground full of baying scousers was a real experience but, as it was the first football game I have ever watched, I was not sure what to expect really. When I asked one of the young chaps did he play, he smiled and said, ‘Yes in goal’. ‘Oh, who for?’
Another smile and ‘Liverpool’ was the answer. Still not sure who he was but really enjoyed the day and the stadium was most impressive.
Jon Lyon: I chose not to attend due to the location. For me, Liverpool, and Manchester, are too close to home for what should be seen as a promotional event. The closeness to home prevents the feel of an “away” weekend and also the chance to spread the word of our fabulous sport. There seems to be no plan in place to make the most of holding the event in Liverpool, and I’m not sure of the future benefits for our sport.
That said, I’ve been to Anfield many a time and it is a spectacular stadium. I’m certain everyone who did attend would have enjoyed the ground and the games on show. My personal preference though would be to travel further afield back to Newcastle, or maybe to Edinburgh or Dublin, for a few years at a time with a plan to help develop clubs in the area afterwards.
Were you encouraged or frustrated with Wigan’s performance?
Robert Kenyon: On the day frustrated, when I watched it back sober I was a little bit more encouraged. We still seem to be playing as individuals and not as a team, we don’t seem to have organisation as a few times we got to the last tackle and sometimes fourth where we just hoofed the ball. Our defence and physicality has improved which is good to see, we just need to improve our attack and most importantly our go forward from our pack as without that our backs don’t stand a chance.
Jeanette Lusher: It goes without saying that we are very much a patched up team at present through injuries. The delight of playing our best 17 has never materialised this season hence the lack of consistency. It hasn’t helped the cause in that we regularly pick up serious injuries in play bringing the stress of extra minutes and reduced substitutions.
Warrington along with Saints are the team to beat so for a large part of the game I was encouraged. It pleased me that the lads heads never went down and they battled on throughout the 80 minutes.
There is, however, a need for more patience and composure as well as full concentration. The lapses in concentration as with Blake Austin’s try are very frustrating. Our forwards need to get on top and then our backs can do the business. Hopefully the enforced break this weekend will give the team a chance to get over the knocks and to be refreshed for the run-in to secure that precious top five spot.
Sean Lawless: Wigan hung in the game for 60 minutes, Adrian Lam suggested Wigan were the best team for 60 minutes, but we really failed to challenge Warrington. Warrington strolled through the performance were as you felt Wigan gave nearly everything they had and were not got enough. The attacking play we saw in the home game against Catalans earlier the year looks to be a flash in the pan as the attack has been nothing short of horrendous.
Darren Wrudd: A little of both really. The down side for me is that we are letting in some cheap tries through simple errors which could be ironed out if we had the same squad for two weeks running, handling errors uncharacteristic of our lads are a pain too. But I thought Adrian Lam would have begun to change the George effect by now.
We still don’t have a half to drive the team around the park and George, who has some magical moments, just does not do enough to organise our attack. Rather he waits to do his thing on the back of it, but that is not what we desperately need at the moment. That said, our effort and commitment cannot be questioned and the heart on show from our squad as a whole is really encouraging. We should get some bodies back soon and hopefully it won’t be too late to put an assault on the top five.
Jon Lyon: Every game seems to be a mixture of both at the moment, testament to the fact we can’t seem to put in an 80-minute performance. We battled hard, and probably had the best of the first half.
There were elements of luck to several Warrington tries, as well as some poor tackling and tough refereeing decisions, but ultimately we just weren’t good enough, yet again.
We have been unfortunate in the amount of players we have lost through injury during games this year, which has left our bench on many occasions two or three players short to rotate.
Whatever the personnel issues, our biggest problem is with our attack. There seems to be no plan, no creativity, a lack of support for the man with the ball.
Our one option seems to be to throw the ball to Williams or Gildart and hope they create something out of nothing, and if not then kick, kick, kick.
Imagine you’re in Adrian Lam’s shoes this week, what’s your plan for the players with a weekend with no game?
Robert Kenyon: Team bonding, go away to a hotel in the middle of nowhere and do some team bonding, have a good drink together, a few training sessions and rediscover their mojo. Like I’ve said previously the team look disjointed, they’re all trying but look like 13 strangers on the pitch when they play.
Jeanette Lusher: I would give the team a short break before getting them in for really tough training sessions. There is a need to get these battered bodies back to maximum output and to restore a freshness in their play. The lads are doing it tough with all the away games they are having to deal with, but success during this period is vital to move us up the table. The return for these efforts will be the benefit of seven home matches as we approach the end of the season. Ruthlessness and determination along with self-belief and confidence will get us into the top five. Our destiny is in our own hands and solid defence will bring the rewards.
Sean Lawless: If I was Adrian Lam I would be getting a friendly game arranged for this weekend and using it as a pre-season week again. Wigan need time to formulate consistent partnerships across the field in which so long as they don’t pick up injuries they keep to. I would get a friendly arranged ASAP even if it was against the under 19’s, get some form into players and see whether we can kickstart the season.
Darren Wrudd: After a round of physio and rehab to start the week, I would give the lads some family time. Let them re charge and reset and come back fresh at the beginning of next week. We all know what a boost it can be to get a couple of extra days off, and for me a chance to relax away from the pressure would work wonders. Fresh legs with a few rested bumps and bruises and then a week concentrating on skills, not impact to ramp up for the next encounter.
Jon Lyon: First and foremost, rest any player with any kind of niggle. Two weeks before our next game is a great opportunity to allow the players some breathing space so they can come back with no excuses of tiredness.
I would then, into the second week, have the backs in to work on some attacking plays. We can’t continue to hope to score only off Williams’ attacking bombs and grubbers. We have plenty pace across the backline, let’s use it, have more dummy and inside runners and create more space for our centres and wingers.
Wigan are four points from the top five and we’re already more than halfway through the season. How do you see it panning out?
Robert Kenyon: As we are in transition I see us plodding on through the season finishing mid-table and missing out on the play-offs. We are running at 60 per cent and, unless something major changes, we won’t finish in the play-offs. Having a full squad back, winning our next three games could be the catalyst. I’m pinning my hopes on Sammut producing the goods and Hardaker getting his match fitness back, then we might finish in the play-offs.
Jeanette Lusher: It ain’t over until the fat lady sings and surely we are deserving of a run of good luck! It’s imperative we get players back from injury and also that we get them match fit. The bonus of turning out the same 17 on a regular basis cannot be underestimated! In glimpses we have seen what the team can produce in both attack and defence so consistency is a major factor. The next month is so crucial to seeing us climb the table and the lads are an honest bunch and know just what is needed. It’s good the team can concentrate solely on the league and should therefore be fully focused on the task. We are at the business end and without doubt success is certainly achievable.
Sean Lawless: The next three games for Wigan are crucial, drop any points and the season is over. Win the games, get some confidence building into the third game with St Helens and see how the gap between then two teams looks at that point. Wigan have proved they can peak at the right time and build a case for the Grand Final, but that evidence needs to start next week as it is now getting to closer to D-Day.
Darren Wrudd: Reality must begin to bite at some point and we are only a few losses away from missing out all together on the play-offs, not to mention the clubs snapping at our heels.
I feel we are capable of hitting fifth spot, but it would take a leap of faith to suggest we could go any further this year. I expect sixth place is where we will end up and even that could be a stretch.
But never write off the champions, we are Wigan after all, we can do anything can’t we.
Jon Lyon: Until the last two weeks I’ve not even considered us not making the top five, and we still aren’t far away, but there just seems to be no sign of any significant consistent improvement With injuries continuing to beset the team, I am finally coming round to hoping rather than being certain we will make the play-offs. Liam Farrell’s return can’t come soon enough.