12th Man: That’s more like it

Donervon Daniels

I think that’s what they term a successful week, following on from another disappointing result on Sunday afternoon the New Era finally kicked in to gear on Wednesday night and how. Where in the past few games Latics looked laboured and without speed they looked pacey and direct against Scunthorpe.

There were some very good things about the first three games along with some not so good elements of our play. Against Bury in particular we looked dangerous and we should have come away with the win whilst Sunday’s game offered a strong defensive performance. So it was good to see all of that come together last night, let’s be under no illusions – Scunthorpe were a poor side. They won’t be the strongest side we face this season but as the old adage goes you can only beat what’s in front of you.

A lot had been made before the match of a need for us to play 442 as Will Grigg had looked so isolated in his first few games and although I don’t think 442 is the magic formula to all football success that many do it was pleasing to see Craig Davies finally get some game time. The management are clearly taking it slowly with Davies, his injury problems are well documented so to see him get a goal along with game time under his belt was another pleasing aspect of Wednesday’s game.

Playing two forwards won’t always work and sometimes our team selections and tactics will need to be adjusted depending on the opposition but on Wednesday it did work and it was pleasing to see both Grigg and Davies building up an understanding between each other and of course both players getting on the score sheet.

It’s still very early days and as ridiculous as the complaining over the manager, his staff and his players were after the defeats to Coventry and Bury so are the claims that we’ll walk the league after winning one game. Everything this season needs to be treated as a work in progress, we have the makings of a very good side and they need our patience both in the good times and the inevitable bad times we’ll experience this season. Let’s hope the lads can build on Wednesday night with our first away win of the season at Gillingham.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 21st August 2015.

12th Man: Give it time

Michael Jacobs1

So it wasn’t the opening week of the season anybody would have wanted but it was certainly one that many could have envisaged. As disappointing as the performance was against Coventry the performance against Bury was much better and it should have meant progress in the League Cup for the first time since 2012.

These two games have been my first serious look at Gary Caldwell’s new Wigan Athletic and although it’s very much a work in progress if we take the results out of the way – especially Tuesday you can see a lot of good things about this side. The midfield looks particularly impressive with David Perkins arguably taking man of the match for both games, whilst Tuesday allowed the likes of Max Power, Jordan Flores and Michael Jacobs to show us what they’re about.

There was a marked increase in creativity against Bury with numerous chances from across the side and you could see this is something that had improved from the weekend when Will Grigg had looked so isolated against Coventry. As impressive as the midfield looked the defenders in the side were disappointing, all four goals we’ve conceded could have been easily stopped and you’ve got to hope that with increased game time together the defensive side of our game will improve.

Looking across the Latics forums and social media after Tuesday’s defeat I was surprised at the negativity surrounding the side once again. Did anyone think we would be unbeatable after a few weeks together? This is a completely new squad, in footballing terms they are still strangers. With each game together they will get stronger and Gary Caldwell’s plans and philosophy will be more clear and that will be reflected on the pitch.

To write off the manager and side after two games must be a record, even for the ever impatient Latics fanbase.

This is a long term project, we’ve had two years of upheaval that resulted in relegation to the third tier – if we want any chance of returning to a higher stage we need to give the manager, his players and the chairman as much time as possible. Otherwise we’ll be back to square one.

Doncaster will be no easy task on Sunday, like Bury they’re a club that are now are equals. We have to realise that but at the same
time make sure that our quality shines through.

Let’s get that first home win under our belts.

Sean Livesey

Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 14th August 2015

12th Man: Let’s learn the lessons of last season

David Sharpe and Gary Caldwell

12 months ago, many people myself included expected to be writing about our triumphant return to the Premier League in August 2015. That wasn’t the case and although there’s no need to go over old ground as to why we were relegated Gary Caldwell and David Sharpe will do well to heed the lessons of last season, we’re in a similar predicament to last season although we may be in a new league. Once again we have been made favourites for promotion by most of the press and pundits and as with last year we’ve made a number of high profile signings who have had very little time to gel.

You have to hope the difference this time will be those players want to play for the club where in the case of last season that same desire wasn’t there. The squad has been completely re-shaped and at the time of writing only Leon Barnett remains from the squad that started the season last August and with his lack of game time in pre-season there is no guarantee he’ll make an appearance.

With the expectation comes added pressure and the playing staff weren’t able to deal with that last season, whatever the reason was for that. This time players talk about buying in to the vision of David Sharpe and Gary Caldwell two relatively young men who know our football club as well as anybody and will be eager to help us return to our previous lofty position.

Where last season’s squad featured a lot of un-proven talent this squad has heaps of League One and Championship experience and you can only be impressed by how the club have recruited this summer. The stand out players are clearly Welsh internationals Craig Morgan and Craig Davies whilst Will Grigg will be relied on to become the goal scoring striker we sorely need. Reece James joins from Manchester United again spurning supposed interest from Championship clubs while Everton youngsters Francissco Junior and JonJoe Kenny represent potential. Across the pitch we look strong and many may agree that on paper this team is stronger than the one that ended last season.

Despite this as I keep reiterating we need to proceed with caution, although David Sharpe’s comments at the Fans Forum about smashing the league were well intended and clearly the comments of an enthusiastic supporter they could be a stone around our neck. With so many changes and upheaval in the club this side will take time to gel and learn each other’s style of play – you can see that from the under whelming pre-season we’ve just witnessed.

The club needs to show patience but at the same time the supporters do as well, we’ve had two years of complete upheaval at the club since we won the FA Cup and this ‘New Era’ represents our best chance of returning to stability. Mistakes will be made along the way – Gary Caldwell and David Sharpe are both novices we need to give them as much support as possible.

Away from ourselves our rivals will be lining up to knock us down, make no bounds about it we’ll be a scalp for most of League One. Even if we feel more comfortable amongst the likes of Bury, Rochdale and Oldham it’s been over a decade since we were at the same level as these clubs. In that time we’ve been on a journey that they could only dream of and they’ll be eager to bring us back to earth.

Relegation really shouldn’t have happened last season, it was scandalous that a club who had invested so much and had so many resources on the pitch could be relegated alongside the likes of Blackpool and Millwall but relegated we were, relegation needn’t be the disaster it could have been if we can use this opportunity to get back to the Championship we’ll only do that if we use the club’s motto and progress with unity.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 7th August 2015