12th Man: Make or Break

Callum Mcmanaman and Martyn Waghorn

Two games left to go, hopefully three. Three games left that could make or break our season, it feels strange that we have such a clear target for the first time all season. It feels as though we’ve been playing catch up from the start of the season.

Be it Charity Shield, Europe or FA Cup there has always been something else to take our focus away from the league and that promotion bid. All of that is gone now and for the first time this season we know exactly what we have ahead of us.

It shows once again what an outstanding achievement it has been from Uwe and the squad to reach the play-offs. The time for looking back and patting ourselves on the back isn’t now though, Uwe has been clear in his belief that our season starts now.

If the lads can re-create the knock out mentality that they have built up over countless Premier League relegation battles and the two consecutive FA Cup campaigns they will have an outstanding chance in the play-offs. There are mitigating circumstances though, the defeat to Blackburn was the sides 60th game this season. The amount of games are beginning to tell, whilst the injuries to key players which has been an issue throughout the season is still affecting us.

All of that being said it’s a case of two games, we have been pretty evenly matched with QPR over the two previous games this season and I suspect that will be the case again in the play-offs.

The most important thing in the first leg will be able to go in to the second leg with a chance. If we can go to Loftus Road level we will have a great chance in the second leg.

Support will be crucial over the two legs, the lads thrive on the big time atmosphere. They did so under Roberto in the Premier League relegation battles and in the cup run and have done under Uwe so far.

I understand the difficulties in getting behind the side at the minute, be they financial or practical. Not everyone is able to get to the games on Friday or Monday but with prices from both clubs being reasonable and the club providing free travel to London on Monday we have a great opportunity to show our support to the lads and try our best to help them get over the line.

Two games, two battles and then hopefully we can be discussing a return to Wembley. We have un-finished business there.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post – Wednesday 7th May 2014

Let’s make sure we’re returning.

12th Man: We’re not finished just yet

Uwe Rosler

It’s been a nervy few weeks hasn’t it? After the FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal a lot of people expected Wigan Athletic to falter and not meet their aim of reaching the Championship play-offs. A near perfect win over Reading upped expectations and with three points needed from the final three games it was expected that Uwe Rosler’s side would achieve their aim sooner rather than later.

The two games following that with defeats against Burnley and Blackpool severely tested that theory. It’s been an incredible turn-around since Rosler took over in December, in December we were lying in fourteenth position after a run of five straight defeats. On the verge of being knocked out of Europe and looking over our shoulder hoping we weren’t about to be dragged in to a relegation battle.

The form of the side since then has been nothing short of remarkable and to find ourselves in the play-off places in early March is something I’m sure Uwe didn’t envisage. Yes he promised Dave Whelan that he would qualify for the play-offs but to reach that position as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-finals is a remarkable feat.

The performances of the last few weeks have been disappointing, a lot of enforced changes have interrupted the flow of the side and they’ve struggled to re-create the heights of February and March but still they’ve qualified for the play-offs with a game to spare. Even the ultra-confident Uwe wouldn’t have predicted this when he arrived in December.

The key now is to re-create the attitude that the Latics players have had to the FA Cup over the last two seasons. We have two extra games of the season, we want a third if the side can recreate their cup form we will be a match for any side in the play-offs. We shouldn’t fear QPR or Derby, we should relish facing them. If we can reach Wembley again who knows what will happen.

First of all though we need to concentrate on Blackburn, it may well be a game where neither side has anything to play for, there will be a number of changes. The fact is though a lot of the players coming in to the side have the chance to stake a claim for a place in the side ahead of the play-offs.

The final word should go to the much maligned Gary Caldwell who returned to the side on Tuesday night at Birmingham and marshalled the defence superbly. He will have given the manager something to think about with his first start of the season. Along with Emmerson Boyce, Shaun Maloney, Jordi Gomez and James McArthur he formed the backbone of the side. These are some of our longest serving players and if anybody can help us get back to the Premier League it’s these lads.

Let’s hope that we can get ourselves back to Wembley one last time.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 2nd May 2014