12th Man: From the sublime to not so sublime

Callum Mcmanaman and Martyn WaghornFrom the sublime to the not so sublime is a good way to sum up the last week in the life of Wigan Athletic. The performance against Reading on Good Friday put to bed any worries about a post Wembley hangover and really enforced our credentials as play-off candidates.

Uwe Rosler described it as the perfect performance and he wasn’t far wrong, it was as good as the performance against Arsenal but in a different way rather than the containment job that was required to take Arsenal to penalties the week before.

The attacking verve of the side was sublime and it really could have been 5 or 6 rather than the 3 goal haul we got. Expectations were high of us spoiling Burnley’s promotion party and it wasn’t to be. A lot was made of the changes that Uwe made for the Burnley game and of course it’s a valid argument. Why change a winning team that had won so comprehensively a couple of days before against Reading? It was probably down to that game against Reading being only a couple of days ago that those changes were made.

After a season that has so far taken in 57 games in all competitions and a number of serious injuries to key players I can completely understand Uwe’s want to change things around. Less down to fatigue but more to protect key players from injuries, some of the outstanding performers on Friday were either playing their first games after injury or were still coming back after long injury lay-offs.

Players like Shaun Maloney, Roger Espinoza and even Callum McManaman aren’t fit but could be so key to the rest of our season. To have any of those players injured now would be a massive blow.

I think Uwe knows the play-offs are within grasp and it’s a case of protecting what we have and if that means resting certain players for a couple of games so be it. The manager has made his rotation policy clear before and it’s never going to be the most popular policy. But if you had said to any of us in December we would finish the season with an FA Cup semi-final appearance and a place in the play-offs in our grasp we all would have taken that.

It’s time for us to get ready for Blackpool, a team fighting for their lives who will make it difficult on Saturday but a win and a place in the play-offs is within our grasp. Get those three points and Uwe can change and rotate the side as much as he pleases. We’ve four weeks left and they could be the biggest four weeks of the season, let’s get behind the lads.

12th Man: Make us proud

Fairytales aren’t real are they?

 Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney
Fairy tales are for romantics, those people without a grasp on the gritty and grim reality of modern life well not exactly. We have been living a fairy tale for the last twelve months thanks to the FA Cup.
It’s hard to think ahead to Saturday’s game against Arsenal without making comparisons to last season, the FA Cup journey didn’t finish when the final had finished last season. It didn’t finish when we were relegated from the Premier League, it continued. It continued as we embarked on our first ever European campaign and it seems like the side picked up where they left off as they swept aside MK Dons, Crystal Palace, Cardiff and Manchester City on route to Wembley.
Make no bounds about it, beating Manchester City in the FA Cup final is this clubs greatest achievement, some of the biggest clubs in the land have never won the FA Cup. Wigan Athletic have. Saturday will be difficult, Arsenal despite the troubles they’re having this season are a fantastic side.
Latics will have to be at their very best to have a chance of reaching the final and many will be writing off our chances before a ball is kicked on Saturday, like they did throughout last season’s competition. To reach Wembley and an FA Cup semi-final in consecutive seasons is unbelievable for any club, let alone a club of our size who is currently in the second tier of English football.
As unbelievable as it is we have earned the right and it’s important that those players who played in last season’s final show their mettle and realise they are on an equal stage to Arsenal.
The memories will come flooding back on Saturday afternoon, the memories of Shaun Maloney and Callum Mcmanaman against Millwall and those memories of Ben Watson in the final. If the players can harness that and the spirit that we’ve shown in the FA Cup over the last twelve months who knows what could happen.
Uwe was right, we can’t lose on Saturday. We are massive underdogs, bigger than we were last season and we go to Wembley with odds completely against us. Beat Arsrenal and it will be another fantastic giant killing, lose and we’ve defended our trophy with dignity.
Fairy tales aren’t meant to be real but we’ve been living a fairy tale for a year now, I don’t want it to end just yet.
Make us proud Latics.

12th Man: Exciting times

Two points from the last three games could be seen as a dramatic loss of form, but anything after that ten game un-beaten run was going to feel like that. The facts are we are still well placed for that play-off run, talk of overtaking Leicester and Burnley was fanciful, and those sides have been consistent and have been out of reach since the turn of the year.

Our major problem isn’t the hiccups against Yeovil, QPR and Bolton it’s the fact we were left so far behind in 2013 and as such have spent the last few months playing catch up. We’ve got ourselves in to a good position and the name of the game is now consolidation, we’ve been lucky that over the last couple of weeks the results for the clubs around us have gone our way.

If they hadn’t we could well have slipped out of the play-off positions, with the amount of extra games we’ve had this season in Europe and the FA Cup any play-off place would be a massive achievement for Uwe and the squad.

The performance against Leicester was one of the best I’ve seen this season and it was heartening to see the lads have still got some reserve in the tank following the poor performance at Bolton a few days previously. Special mentions have to go to two of our longest serving players, namely James McArthur and Jordi Gomez. They have been virtual ever presents under Uwe in the last few weeks and both covered an unbelievable amount of ground in the Leicester game.

 

In particular it’s good to see the much maligned Jordi Gomez excelling under Uwe and finally getting the respect he deserves from the DW crowd. It would be a crying shame if he were to depart in the summer, maybe this run of form and the push for promotion could convince him to stay?

So it’s on to Leeds on Saturday, it really is a game we need to win ahead of that return date to Wembley where we’ll be out of league action for the week. So in seven days we face two massive home games and a return to Wembley for our second FA Cup semi-final in as many years. It’s never dull when you support Wigan Athletic