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: 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

History in the making

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As history making years go 2013 will certainly go down as the biggest of the lot for Wigan Athletic. The first FA Cup Quarter-final appearance in 26 years was closely followed by the clubs first ever FA Cup semi-final and you know the rest.

Another landmark moment takes place later this week as Wigan Athletic embark on their first ever European campaign, the Europa League has crept up on us. After that glorious day in May it was back to the day to day business of football and with upheaval both on and off the pitch supporters and players alike could be forgiven thinking this is a distraction we don’t need.

But whoever is named in the squad on Thursday night will be part of living history, the first and most probably only team to represent Wigan Athletic in European competition. When you take a step back and think about what this small club has achieved over the last two decades its all the more remarkable.

It’s disappointing that most of the media have decided to concentrate on Swansea’s return to European football as oppose to our debut in the competition. Part of that may well be down to the effect of relegation, relegation means you are an irrelevance in the eyes of the Premier League obsessed press and as the draw for Group D was made it certainly wasn’t going to help our efforts to get noticed on the European stage.

But that could of course be a benefit the club have to decide just how seriously they want to take this competition, I understand completely the calls for us to play a reserve side and to concentrate on the punishing Championship campaign but the Europa League could work in our favour. A couple of decent performances and maybe a win here or there could build that momentum that we’re clearly in need of.

For Wigan Athletic to represent England in European football is a pipe dream even Dave Whelan wouldn’t have considered when he took us over in 1995. Promotion to the Premier League is one thing, staying there for eight seasons another but to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League is really something else.

Wigan Athletic formed in 1932, only promoted to the Football League in 1978 and residing in the bottom two divisions until 2003 are amongst some of the biggest names in Europe. If you’re heading over to Bruges or watching on TV just take a moment to think about that and think back to all of those who went before us and who have missed out on some of the greatest days in our history.

If it wasn’t for those that fought so hard to get us in to the league, we wouldn’t be here now.

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Come On In

…. Wipe your feet, take off your coat and in true Northern fashion get settled. This blog takes over from my old crumbly code ridden website that I’ve persisted with for far too many years now. What will you be able to find here?

Well hopefully in time quite a bit, I’ll be posting up old pieces from my archives including interviews with the likes of Richard Searling and Terry Jones but primarily this gives me the chance to dabble again in the world of writing without having to produce a weeks worth of copy in two days.

So keep your eyes peeled for plenty of Soul and indeed plenty of football related

Come on in

paraphernalia.