12th Man: Seaside delights

Saturday was as satisfying an away day as they come, a first visit to Brighton for myself and a first visit to the Amex for the vast majority of Wigan fans that made the long journey down to the South Coast.

Credit at this point should go to Brighton, the Amex is a mightily impressive new stadium and the set-up there is amongst the best I have experienced in both the Premier League and Championship. From the real ale and gourmet pies to the free travel from the city centre to the stadium the whole experience was faultless.

On a bitterly cold day Uwe Rosler’s side ground out a hard fought win despite having only two attempts on target and being outplayed for long periods of time. As I said last week this side is made of stern stuff and copes well with adversity and with their third game in seven days the Latics had just enough left to get over the line. To get three wins in one weekand make it four wins in a row shows just how much the side have progressed since Uwe Rosler took over.

Uwe now has a full seven days to work with his no doubt tired squad and hopefully those who have played so much football in recent weeks will have the chance to get some much needed rest as well as time on the training ground.

Although Latics were under the cosh for much of the game on Saturday the backline once again was extremely strong,Emmerson Boyce put in yet another ageless performance andis thriving in that familiar full back position for Uwe as he did for Roberto.

Considering he is now 34 it’s a great achievement for Laticslongest serving outfield player, whilst Jean Beausejour was impressive again providing both defensive and attacking support. Leon Barnett showed once again why he has only been absent for two games all season such is his reliability and Ivan Ramis was a rock throughout adding both class and strength to the backline.

The fixture list for the coming weeks looks as daunting as any we have faced in recent times but this side don’t seem to fear anybody at the moment, if we can keep this sort of form up who knows where we could finish this season.


12th Man: Do it for Ben

Ben Watson

Another decent week for Uwe Rosler’s every improving Wigan Athletic side was sadly tempered by the extent of Ben Watson’s leg break against Barnsley. The week had started promisingly with progress through to the FA Cup quarter finals for only the third time in our history after an assured performance in Cardiff and a comfortable victory over Barnsley on Tuesday which gave us our first league double of the season.

The shine was taken off those achievements when the club announced on Wednesday that Ben Watson had suffered a double leg break to the leg he broke last season at Anfield. As awful as this is for Ben the club move on and as Uwe mentioned when the news was confirmed the team now have the added incentive of achieving all of their aims this season “for Ben”. If there is any positivity to come out of this it will be that added incentive going forward.

The performance in Cardiff showed the sort of strength in depth we have at the moment, Uwe’s rotation policy has been clearly documented and it worked well this past week with players such as Calum McManaman, Roger Espinoza, Ivan Ramis and Jordi Gomez playing a big part in the victory over the Premier League club and then the likes of Josh McEachran, James McArthur, James McLean and Leon Barnett coming back in on Tuesday and securing a comfortable win.

The win over Cardiff was a fantastic achievement, Cardiff are in a similar position to the one we found ourselves in last season and we know how important the FA Cup can be for improving form. To get a result against a strong Cardiff side showed once again how well we are progressing under Uwe Rosler but also showed that we are taking our cup defence seriously.

The draw didn’t do us any favours and is quite possibly the most difficult draw we could have been handed, a victory over Manchester City at the Etihad will be a harder task than the FA Cup final victory last season. Manchester City have moved on to a different level since that game and we’ve lost a number of experienced Premier League players.

There is a chance of course, it may be minute but there is a chance. Uwe will be fired up about going back to the club he is most synonymous with and it will be a chance for him to show what he can do on the big stage as will a number of our players. With May 11th 2013 fresh in their minds and the thoughts of Manchester City elsewhere with Barcelona to come three days later we may just may have a chance.

This squad thrives best in the face of adversity and that’s what it is doing, let’s keep up the pressure and keep this form up.

Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 21st February 2014

12th Man: The future is looking bright

Uwe Rosler

Two defeats from eleven games, it doesn’t sound a bad record does it? But for many it didn’t feel that way on Saturday afternoon after the defeat to Huddersfield Town. As we are quickly learning, the Championship doesn’t care about the form guide. In both the Doncaster and Huddersfield games we were facing sides that were in wretched form, struggling for both goals and performances – both clubs were victorious over us.

Turning the form guide upside down in the process, come Tuesday night and we did the same ourselves. After the abandoned game in December Sheffield Wednesday had gone on a run of form under new manager Stuart Gray that included eleven games without defeat that saw them rise from the relegation zone to mid-table security.

There had been disappointment that the original game had been called off when it had, Latics were well on top in that game when the atrocious conditions meant that the game couldn’t continue. To be able to resume that good form and get three goals from three separate strikers (depending whether you believe Waghorn or Maynard) shows that we are indeed going in the right direction under Uwe Rosler.

Speaking of Uwe Rosler, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the recent fanzine and website meeting with the man himself and along with Jonathan Jackson they outlined their vision for the future of Wigan Athletic. Everything was discussed from the training ground and academy to Uwe’s philosophy on youth development and his reasons for squad rotation. It was a fascinating two hours and left me in no doubt that the future for our club is bright.

We as supporters have to appreciate that results like the one at Doncaster and the one at Huddersfield are going to happen from time to time. The manager has only been in the job eight weeks, but the progress made in that time in terms of performances and more importantly results is clear for all to see. If we keep up this form of an average of 1.9 points per game for the rest of the season we should comfortably reach the play-offs, that’s a position all of us would have taken in December.

Looking ahead to the future we’re about to enter another key run of games, with the latest FA Cup adventure on Saturday and then a number of important league games in a short space of time which could again define our season. What would you give for a Wembley appearance in the cup or the league again this season? Both are currently within our reach, let’s grab the opportunity with both hands.

Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 14th February 2014