12th Man: Positivity

Jordan Flores

I’ve been quite surprised by the reaction from some quarters to our win over Fleetwood – many saying we were hanging on at the end, some even saying we were lucky others arguing that we don’t deserve to be where we are in the League. Or even that we should be doing a lot better than we are.

I know that football in its very nature sometimes generates views that are polar opposites and we can’t always agree but the reaction still surprises me. If someone had said at the start of August that we would be in touch with the play-off places, unbeaten at home and only four points off an automatic promotion place I think I would have snapped your hand off.
This doesn’t mean that the side shouldn’t be criticised but at the moment I can only see positives.

To make as many changes as we have in terms of the players representing us and the style of play we’re asking them to play there was always going to be a bedding in period and for us to be challenging in the top half of the table is tribute to Gary Caldwell, Graham Barrow, David Sharpe and all of the players.

Wins like those over Crewe, Fleetwood and even Chesterfield may be seen as lucky by some but for myself it shows something that was missing throughout the majority of last season and that’s a determination to see the job out.
As we head over to Oldham on Saturday we’re in a great position and we aren’t even firing on all cylinders yet. If we can sort out our away form, imagine what could happen to us this season.

It was encouraging to see that we still had goals in the side on Saturday despite missing both Will Grigg and Craig Davies, it looks like they’ll both be unavailable for Oldham so it gives Jordy Hiwula another chance to make that number nine position he’s own.

Despite being linked with a move away Samni Odelusi could well have a part to play whilst Grant Holt edged closer to a return with 90 minutes for the Under 21’s this week. With Shaq Coulthirst returning from injury it makes a weakened forward line look that bit stronger.

If we can start to be more clinical – especially away from home we’ll start to get the results expected of us.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 25th September 2015 

12th Man: Never say die


Last Saturday was a great example of the difference between this season’s Wigan Athletic and the one that went before it last season, 2-0 down with under ten minutes of the game remaining many Wigan Athletic fans thought Saturday was heading for yet another away defeat but a crazy ten minute spell changed all of that.

If Latics had been in this position at any point last season there is no way we would have seen what we had and that’s a tribute to the skills of Gary Caldwell and his staff – to increase the confidence and attitude of this young team. Although Latics weren’t at their best on Saturday they didn’t expect or deserve to be 2-0 down coming in to the final stages of the game. Latics had their fair share of chances against a strong Chesterfield side and either side could have gone in ahead at half-time, it felt like the season was following a similar path as Latics spurned a number of chances and found themselves 2-0 down.

For us to score three goals in nine minutes and actually win the game could be a big turning point for our season, Saturday meant many things – it meant we got our first three points away from home this season, our first away goals and our first comeback of the season. A win of the like on Saturday will do wonders for a youthful and ever improving Wigan Athletic side – the substitutes on Saturday made a big difference and key amongst those was Jordy Hiwula and Andy Kellett – it needed a lot of composure for Hiwula to recover from the earlier chance where he hit the bar to score the winner and he showed some great composure to get the winner whilst Kellett made a big difference to Latics attacking chances alongside Chris McCann who showed the sort of driving runs we haven’t seen since the high point of Uwe Rosler’s time in charge.

It’s now one defeat in five games for Wigan Athletic, with three of those being wins. Gary Caldwell’s young team seem to be finding their feet and if we can keep in touch with the leading pack over the next couple of months we would certainly be in with a chance of the play-offs come the end of the season. It feels far too early to think of anything more than that.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Thursday 10 September

Slowly but surely


wigan-athletic-1-crewe-alexandra-0-michael-jacobs-celebration-4x373-2655544_478x359After the disappointment of the Gillingham game a week previously it was good to see the Latics return to winning ways at home on Saturday, the 1-0 score line doesn’t do justice to Latics dominance throughout the game. After the way we started the first half it could have been another game like Scunthorpe and it was a shame we didn’t manage to convert those chances in to goals.

But as many have pointed out the game against Crewe is the like of which we would have lost last season, Gary Caldwell stated one of his main priorities for this season was to turn the DW in to a fortress and although it’s early days our home record of two wins and one draw so far points to that.

Many people said we were lucky to get away with three points against Crewe but I would qualify that by asking were Crewe lucky to get away with only conceding one goal? We had nine shots on target to Crewe’s two and although we took our foot off the pedal in the second half the defence stood firm and we didn’t look like conceding which we have in the past couple of weeks.

Tuesday’s transfer deadline day brought its own sense of drama as three new arrivals stepped foot in to Christopher Park, as the mythical window ‘slammed shut’ at 18:00 it looked as though the Latics had failed to land any transfer targets but one after another came in three young players to strengthen our defensive and attacking options. Andy Kellett the latest player to join from our neighbours up the road along with Jack Hendry who Everton were tracking represent the latest signings that the future of Wigan Athletic can be built on. Both are young defenders with an impressive pedigree – Kellett featuring for Plymouth on loan as well as winning U21 honours with Manchester United whilst Hendry who has broken through the Dundee United youth system and impressed with first team appearances at Partick Thistle.

Haris Vuckic who joins on loan from Newcastle is an interesting proposition, he’s impressed at League One level in previous seasons – helping Rotherham to promotion a couple of years ago whilst he also has experience of the Scottish Championship with a stint at Rangers last season. The one disappointment from Tuesday came with the collapse of the proposed transfer of James Vaughan from Huddersfield – Vaughan without doubt is a Premier League striker and despite his injury record could be just what we need to help fire us up the league – maybe that will be one we revisit when the emergency loan window re-opens next week.

Add those three to the other impressive young squad members in all positions and the future of Wigan Athletic looks a lot brighter than it did for parts of last season, if Caldwell can meld this side together and turn potential in to experience who knows what we could do over the next couple of seasons. Chesterfield is next on the horizon for this new Latics side and as impressive as we’ve been at home we’ve been poor away from home, it would be good to see if we could change our away fortunes around this weekend as that would be another gear change for us.

I’m looking forward to Chesterfield, the last time I went there was in 1997 when as a ten year old I watched us win 3-2 – the contrasting fortunes of the two clubs show just how much we’ve progressed since 1997 when we were arguably on a cusp of a wave. We return on Saturday as equals once again but I wouldn’t say no to a similar result to that game in 1997.

I’d say all in all it’s been another decent week for the good ship Wigan Athletic, let’s hope that feel good vibe continues in to September.

Sean Livesey