12th Man: A fitting tribute

Dave Whelan with Emmerson Boyce and Roberto Martinez

Dave Whelan announced somewhat in jest that if Warren Joyce manages to get us back to the Premier League he would commission a statue of Joyce next to his.

He must have seen the previous game at Oakwell on Saturday because at present this Wigan Athletic side ae as far away from a promotion push as at any time this season. It was surprising as we arrived at Barnsley on Saturday that we started the game without a recognised striker on the pitch.

Will Grigg, Craig Davies and Adam Le Fondre all started the match on the bench with Nick Powell and Yanic Wildschut playing as forwards. I thought Latics started well and initially looked dangerous with Powell leading the line, sadly any plans that Warren Joyce had for the afternoon were sent in to disarray as Powell left the game through injury midway through the second half. Luke Garbutt was the man to replace Nick Powell – surprisingly not one of the three strikers on the bench.

After the result against Reading in the previous match a hard earned point away at Barnsley could be considered a decent point but in our position we really need to start getting wins, some would argue that’s why Gary Caldwell lost his job. Not many would criticise Joyce for his approach to the Barnsley game, after the disastrous result in his first match coming away from Barnsley with any sort of result was of the utmost importance but it was still disappointing to see us lack any sort of attacking intent during the game.

But then on the other side of the coin numerous Barnsley fans were full of praise for Latics and how we had ‘done a job’ on them. Indeed Joyce was praised for his approach to the game and how he managed to nullify the threat from Barnsley. Next up it’s another trip over the Pennines – this time to Huddersfield. David Wagner’s side took the league by storm at the start of the season but have dropped off slightly since then. Any sort of result from Huddersfield would but welcome but we really need to start winning games. Let’s hope Joyce can get his first win on Monday night.

I didn’t manage to get over to Wigan on Thursday to witness the unveiling of Dave Whelan’s statue but it looked a wonderful event, befitting of the man and a wonderful honour for someone who has given Wigan so much. Dave Whelan is often much maligned – by myself and others but there is no escaping the fact that without Dave Whelan – there would be no Wigan Athletic. Certainly not in its current guise – it was great to see Roberto Martinez and Emmerson Boyce return to celebrate with Dave Whelan.

The statue itself is wonderful and adds character to the Stadium. There is now a permanent memorial now to the most famous day in Wigan Athletics history and although some will laugh there is no better monument than seeing the man behind that day honoured permanently outside of Wigan Athletic’s stadium.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Saturday 26th November 2016.

12th Man: The plot thickens

Ben Watson, Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman, FA Cup

Where do you begin to describe the last seven days in the life of Wigan Athletic, a must win game on Saturday against Huddersfield came and went with yet another defeat for the increasingly under pressure Malky Mackay. Once again we were our own worst enemy as we dominated the game but yet again failed to create any chances of note and lost to a cross come goal.

This was preceded by the departures of the two men who were central to Wigan Athletic winning the FA Cup as Ben Watson departed for Watford and Shaun Maloney headed stateside to join Chicago Fire. Later on in the week Adam Forshaw and Callum McManaman followed them out of the door signing for Middlesbrough and West Brom respectively. Malky Mackay has continually stated since he arrived he only wanted players committed to the Wigan Athletic cause at the club and I suspect the removal of players such as Maloney and Watson are central to that purpose.

There is no getting away from Malky Mackay’s record since he arrived at the club, it has been nothing short of abysmal. I and many others have been quick to call the club out on his appointment and subsequent record but is there an underlying reason to this. Have all the players who left the club this January become so disheartened with life at Wigan Athletic that they simply didn’t want to be here any longer?

If that is the case it’s a sad end to the careers of many Wigan Athletic players, especially the legendary FA Cup winning side. It was clear many players saw their future’s elsewhere but I thought it would have been in the club’s best interests to keep our most talented players together to help us win the battle against relegation. But despite that there are financial considerations to consider and as it looks more likely that we will be starting next season in League One it is understandable that the club has to plan financially for that likely occurrence.

We can blame former managers, we can blame the current incumbent, we can even blame the board but the fact is everyone needs to rally behind Wigan Athletic at the moment. The future of the club is at stake and if that means replacing our high earners and marquee signings from the summer so be it – even if we don’t agree with it.

Malky Mackay will live and die by his record with his own players, the club are giving him the opportunity to shape his own squad. The departures of Uwe Rosler and Roberto Martinez’s key players are displaying that. Perhaps we will see that upturn in form as Mackay’s signings start life at Wigan Athletic.

Whether that will be enough to keep us up remains to be seem.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Thursday 29th January 2015

12th Man: The day we won the Cup

Saturday marks our first FA Cup game since that magical day in May, the day when the footballing world if they hadn’t already stood up and paid attention to Wigan Athletic. A lot has changed since that fateful day but nothing will ever takeaway the unbridled feeling of joy as Ben Watson’s header hit the back of the net.

Wigan FA Cup

As important as our eight years in the Premier League were for the obvious financialrewards and the continued recognition of Wigan being amongst the footballing elite I would say our FA Cup win was equal to it. As a child growing up the FA Cup was the ultimate and despite what the pundits and Premier League focussed press tell you it still is the ultimate.

Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup pedigree prior to last season had wavered in recent years, the fight to reach the Premier League and then stay there had relegated the cup competition to a distraction. Ironically Roberto Martinez was subjected to constant criticism over his team selections in the cup often accused of ‘disrespecting’ the oldest cup competition in the world.

I was lucky enough to attend all but one of our games in the FA Cup run last season, from a supporter’s point of view I don’t think we ever thought about winning it. Well not at first we didn’t, winning the FA Cup doesn’t happen to clubs like ours anymore. It was a chance for me to visit grounds I hadn’t been to before (Bournemouth, Macclesfield and Huddersfield) and have a good time watching football without the pressure of yet another relegation battle over our heads.

After the draw at home to Bournemouth I decided I would make the trip to the South Coast for the replay. Travelling by train to Bournemouth is an adventure itself and with the arctic conditions covering the country it was touch and go if the game would go ahead. But go ahead it did and it was one of those rare sights a Mauro Boselli goal (his final one for the club).

The FA Cup offered those of us who love our away days some fantastic trips, none more so than the trip to Macclesfield in round four. One of the few games that beat the weather that weekend Latics made hard work of beating the non-league side but win they did and all of a sudden the Latics had reached the fifth round. Another favourable draw both footballing wise and away day enjoyment wise meant a Sunday trip to Yorkshire.

The performance against Huddersfield was one of the most comprehensive of the season, racing in to a 2-0 lead before halftime further goals in the second half ensured progress through to the quarterfinal for only the second time in our history and the first time since Leeds in 1986. After being handed what were arguably favourable draws throughout the tournament our quarter final destiny laid down the East Lancs road against an Everton team still smarting from the semi-final defeat to Liverpool the previous season.

Latics came in to the game on the back of a 4-0 defeat at home to Liverpool and as per usual apart from a small band of optimistic Wiganer’s many expected us to be heading to Goodison simply to roll over as Everton made their way to Wembley. So confident were the Everton faithful that certain supporter groups were already offering ‘executive coach travel’ to the semi-final.

I have never known an atmosphere before like the one that greeted us as we entered Goodison that afternoon, a wall of sound from 2000 Wiganer’s. The atmosphere must have had the same effect on the players as it had had on our support as a Wigan Athletic side in mesmerising form took apart the leagues in form side with three outstanding goals in just over three minutes.

It started with Maynor Figueroa’s header, got better with Callum McManaman’s wonder goal and was rounded off by Jordi Gomez’s cool finish. Before you knew it Wigan Athletic were back at Wembley for the first time in 13 years, I and am sure many others thought this was where the ‘journey’ would end. We had got to Wembley and would be drawn against one of the giants and that would be it for our FA Cup campaign.

I was wrong and hadn’t considered the impact of one time Dutch international and Milan maestro Edgar Davids. Edgar mustn’t have read the script properly as he paired Latics with Championship strugglers Millwall leaving Chelsea and Manchester City to battle it out in the other semi-final.

I interviewed Ray Mathias in the build up to the semi-final a man who had managed a Wigan Athletic side against Millwall at Wembley previously and he was full of confidence that the side could do it. We were favourites of course but with a sizeable ‘London’ following for Millwall anything could have happened. The build up to the game was over shadowed as Wigan Athletic were laughably criticised for their failure to sell over 30,000 tickets for the semi-final. In fact well over 25,000 travelled down to North London for the semi-final and out sang the Millwall ‘fans’ from start to finish.

Jordi Gomez and Callum McManaman were once again in imperious form for the semi-final and although it was a tense game there was always the feeling that we would have enough which we certainly did when Jordi Gomez’s through pass found Callum McManaman and over a quarter of the population of Wigan partied in the North London rain.

I was still in a sense of disbelief when we reached the final, reaching the FA Cup final was the absolute pinnacle. Everything you dream of as a kid happening in front of you, it didn’t matter that the FA and TV Companies conspired to make it as hard as possible to get to Wembley, it didn’t matter that it cost a small ransom to get a ticket, it didn’t matter that we were outnumbered by Manchester City fans. None of it mattered as we were in the FA Cup final.

I travelled down to London on the Friday afternoon from Manchester and the train was packed full of polite but overly confident City fans who were expecting an easy win and a second FA Cup win in three seasons. They clearly hadn’t watched us in the cup last season and perhaps as well they hadn’t watched us in the league game where we had already comprehensively outplayed Manchester City only to come away from the Etihad with nothing apart from a severe dent to our hopes of survival.

I couldn’t sleep on the Friday night, a mixture of expectation, trepidation and hoping for the love of god that we could keep the score line respectable.  I was desperate for it not to follow the same lines as Cardiff seven years previously.

Heading out in to London before the game I met up with my Dad back from Spain for the occasion, I met up with fellow Wiganers and I saw friends old and new. The afternoon passed in a blur as we made our way over to Wembley and down the steps from Wembley Park tube I could see images of each and every goal from our cup run. They were all there, Jordi’s penalty at Macclesfield, Arouna’s thunderbolt at Huddersfield, Callum’s lob at Everton and the goal that set us on our way to the final – Shaun Maloney’s against Millwall.

I can’t remember much about arriving at Wembley until the players entered the pitch and there they were the multi-millionaires and world stars of Manchester City against our team of youngsters and elder statesman all moulded in to the philosophy of one Roberto Martinez.  I welled up as the players entered the pitch led by Dave Whelan, followed by Roberto Martinez and his captain Emmerson Boyce holding little Joseph Kendrick it was the symbol of Wigan Athletic and why this club of ours is so special.

I found it difficult to get in to the game for the first five minutes, I was in disbelief each time I looked around, this wasn’t like Cardiff. It felt different, it was different. Latics lined up like they had done so often over the last two seasons in the infamous 3-5-2 formation preferred by Roberto. The side showed no fear and from the off attacked City, there was no sitting back, there was no inviting pressure just relentless attacking and committed football.

The game reached half time and amazingly we were still in it, not only in it but were dominating and had been the better side throughout. We could conceivably had been one or two goals in front, the second half continued as the first had started. Latics attacking and looking to break in behind Manchester City whilst being strong in defence, the second half flew by. Before I knew it we were at the 80 minute mark and we were still in this.

The red card that followed for City followed and not only still in it but we had a real chance of taking Manchester City to extra time and possibly penalties. As Shaun Maloney lined up the corner kick I can remember thinking to myself “fairy tales don’t come true” as the ball swerved out towards the edge of the area it felt as though it stopped in flight as Ben Watson’s head connected. I spent a split second looking for that inevitable flag, there must have been something wrong with that. “He’s not raising his flag, we’re still celebrating – he’s given it.”

Pure unadulterated joy gave way to terror, knowing there was still three minutes of injury time left and this feeling could be taken away from us. It felt like the longest three minutes of my life waiting for that whistle to blow, but blow it did and Wigan Athletic did win the FA Cup.

I can safely say nothing in my life compared to that moment and nothing ever will again, getting promotion to the Premier League was great as was staying there and competing with the biggest names in the world but as Dave Whelan said “it’s the FA Cup, nothing is bigger”.

The FA Cup win in my mind should be dedicated to those who fought the hardest to get us there, those who fought to keep football in the town of Wigan, those who fought to get us to the league and those who fought to keep us alive. Be they supporters, be they directors, be they businessmen, be they councillors, be they players or be they managers. The FA Cup was for all of those who have been part of our wonderful football club.

Those who say there is no room for sentiment in football don’t know anything about football, Dave Whelan’s whole time in charge of Wigan Athletic has been built on sentiment. It was a sentiment that he had unfinished business in football and wanted to fulfil that business with his home town club. He’s done that and more. The sentiment also stretches to the management team, Roberto Martinez and Greame Jones regardless of your respective opinions of them have been a massive part of the modern Wigan Athletic. To have Roberto in charge of Wigan Athletic in their finest moment for me is wholly in keeping with the sentiment of our club.

The saddest part of the cup win wasn’t the relegation that followed, it wasn’t even Roberto Martinez leaving us behind which for me personally was hard to take. It was the realisation that we will never ever have it as good as that again.

Regardless of relegation, 2013 has been and always will be ‘our’ year.

 Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 3rd January 2014

 

12th Man: Stepping in to the unknown

Wigan flags

Wigan flags offer a taste of home in Eastern Russia

In a year of history making moments Thursday night represents one of the biggest steps in history for Wigan Athletic as they face Rubin Kazan.

When the draw was made Europe’s most easterly club wouldn’t have been high on the list of ‘wants’ for the Wigan Athletic faithful but in true Latics style the tie has been embraced by Latics fans and there should be a sizeable following in Russia for the game.

Just read that last line back to yourself, a sizeable following in Russia to watch Wigan Athletic a sentence that you certainly wouldn’t have thought possible when we laboured past Bournemouth in the FA Cup third round little over a year ago.

So what of Latics chances in The Republic of Tatarstan? Rubin Kazan aren’t in the best of form in their domestic league, they have only one win in their last five league games and were knocked out of the Russian cup last week.

But it’s the Europa League where Rubin truly make their mark, it was an un-expected point that Owen Coyle’s men gained at home to the Russian side little over a week ago. If the lads can get the same result this time it will be a remarkable result, Kazan are un-beaten at home in 22 European games and will be fully expecting to win this game and cement their place at the top of Group D.

This Wigan Athletic side as of those under Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez very rarely follow the script. After a hard fought victory against Huddersfield on Saturday and a long trip to Yeovil on Sunday Coyle will no doubt shift his pack and that should see game time for the likes of Roger Espinoza, Thomas Rogne, James McClean and Jean Beasuejour. Espinoza in particular will be eager to impress.

Rubin Kazan's impeding Central Stadium.

Rubin Kazan’s impeding Central Stadium.

So another week another historic moment, get anything from this one and we could well be looking at qualification for the latter stages of the Europa League. Who would have said that last year?

Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Wednesday 06 – November

End of an era

Roberto Martinez holds Wigan's first major trophy

Roberto Martinez holds Wigan’s first major trophy

So that’s that then, after four years and some of the highest highs coupled with the lowest of lows Roberto Martinez has left Wigan Athletic for a second time. This second departure has a very different feel to the feeling I had when he left in 2001, back in 2001 you knew he would be back one day in one form or another. This time I’m not too sure if he will be back.

Roberto Martinez joined Wigan Athletic alongside Isidrio Diaz and Jesus Seba who together formed the ‘The Three Amigos’. I had just turned eight years old when the Amigos arrived and had been watching Wigan Athletic struggle in the old third division for two seasons before their arrival.

The moves for Spanish players had been mooted for a number of weeks before they actually happened. Dave Whelan the ever astute business man and former Blackburn defender (he broke his leg in a cup final y’know) who had taken over as chairman of Wigan Athletic the previous Spring had been looking for openings in Spain for his growing sports wear chain JJB Sports.

Graham Barrow the former Wigan Athletic midfield enforcer and manager in 1995 was sent on a scouting mission to Catalonia. His orders involved watching three young Spanish players from the Spanish second division and one who was currently a Spain U-21 international, Barrow told the Independent at the time  ”I’m usually involved in free transfers and bargains from non-League, yet at the end of June, there I was on a plane to Barcelona on a scouting mission.”

After negotiations between Whelan, Barrow and the three Spanish youngsters they agreed to move to WIgan Athletic. Arriving in time for pre-season training in 1995, Isidrio Diaz a Valencia native had been playing alongside Roberto Martinez in Real Zaragoza’s B team and had also appeared for the same Catalan side as Roberto Martinez CF Balaguer, along with Jesus Seba another former Real Zaragoza player and Copa Del Rey winner with Villareal.

Wigan Athletic and indeed the Wigan of 1995 was a very different place to now, how must it have felt for three Spanish youngsters to sign for third division Wigan Athletic in 1995? The players moved in to the club accomodation at the time which was a Victorian terrace on Poolstock Lane, a main through fare to Wigan town centre. The terrace had been the childhood home of Dave Whelan and after his mother had passed away the house was used for new players acclimatizing to the way of life in Wigan.

That terraced house was directly across my childhood home, one Friday afternoon in August removal vans pulled up outside the home and an excited father bounced through in to the living room saying “You’ll never guess who’s moved in lad, the three amigos. After football training we’ll go and get your shirts signed.”

The next day came and a shy eight year old boy crossed Poolstock Lane with his father holding his hand to get his football shirts signed. The door was opened by Isidro in a dressing gown who upon seeing my shirts clutched in the hand of my Dad welcomed us in and offered us both a glass of orange juice. He was joined by Roberto and Jesus who came down and despite not speaking a word of English signed my shirts and hugged me whilst trying to converse with my Dad in broken English.

The joy and pride I felt of having The Three Amigos living across the road from me was unbridled. I crossed the road heading back home with a smile as big as the old 610 bus that used to pass by my front window.

The Three Amigos were taken to Wiganer’s hearts, they were the first Spanish players to play in England let alone Wigan and the Wigan Athletic fans took them to their heart. Jesus Seba struggled to settle at the club and returned to Spain before the end of 1995 whilst Isidro Diaz stayed a little bit longer but left for the final time in 1998.

It was Roberto who stayed longest and probably the only one who truly ‘got us’, and the player who found settling at the club the easiest. He was a classy player, a central midfielder who had a goal in him. Watching him was like nothing that the crowds at Springfield Park had ever seen before. He lacked the pace to make it at the very top but his vision was what set him apart.

Roberto impressed straight away in a league not known for it’s football quality and finished his first full season at Wigan Athletic as a division three winner and along with Diaz was named in the PFA team of the season.

From a personal point of view Roberto couldn’t do enough for me and my Dad. After seeing me wearing a Real Madrid shirt that had been picked up on a family holiday he arranged for his mother to bring a Real Zaragoza shirt over for me. I wore that shirt with pride and told everyone that “Roberto had bought this for me”.

He would often drive both of us to Springfield Park and drive me home from games. One memorable  journey took part ahead of the Junior Latics Christmas Party, with a Dad working away from home Roberto offered to drive me to Springfield Park as a favour for my Mum who wouldn’t be able to take me across town to Springfield Park.

I sat in the old supporters club at Springfield Park with Roberto and his future assistant Greame Jones and club legends such as Colin Greenall and Ian Kilford. It felt so surreal but so normal as I got to know the man who became known to Wiganer’s as Bob.

Roberto left the club first time around in 2001 after failing to be offered a new contract by the outgoing manager Steve Bruce. He moved to Scotland and joined Motherwell, before spells at Walsall and Chester along with Swansea where he was to return as manager in 2006.

Roberto returned to Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2009, eight years after leaving as a player and ironically replaced Steve Bruce the man who had released him eight years ago. At Swnsea he had built a reputation for building attacking sides playing the brand of football that had been made famous by his beloved Barcelona.

After three seasons of struggle and relegation scraps not to mention a League Cup quarter-final and the small matter of an FA Cup win Roberto left Wigan Athletic on Wednesday 5th June and made the short journey down the East Lancs to Goodison Park, scene of arguably one of Wigan Athletic’s best performances.

As an injury hit Wigan Athletic scored three goals in three glorious minutes to put Everton to the sword and seal a return to Wembley along with their first ever FA Cup semi-final appearance. This could arguably have been the game that sealed Roberto’s departure at the end of the season. This was the beginnings of that glorious journey to the FA Cup final and also the time when Bill Kenwright took a first look at David Moyes soon to be successor.

I’m sure Roberto didn’t envisage leaving us in the Championship when he decided to return to Wigan Athletic. People often ask why he has been ‘rewarded’ with the Everton job after getting us relegated and yes no doubt he needs to take the fair share of the blame for relegation this season but there were mitigating factors away from his control. He has worked with serious financial constraints in his four years at the club with the wage bill trimmed by a fifth and the transfer budget severely reduced. Whilst this season he has had one of the worst injury lists to befall the club in recent years. Despite this he has still produced exciting attacking teams that each season he has been here have produced shock results.

The moments of joy he gave me as manager roll off the tongue and are too numerous to list; our first wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in the same season. Relegating West Ham and securing survival at Stoke City. The run of games from the 2011/2012 season where we beat Liverpool, Manchester United, and Newcastle United to secure survival and then of course The FA Cup.

But he has also offered moments of despair, many Wiganer’s who prefer the blood and thunder style of football couldn’t take to him despite his status as a club legend. A lot derided him for his bravery and his refusal to play percentage football. But he gave me some of my finest moments as a Wigan Athletic fan and for that I can’t deride the man.

It’s taken me over a week to put these thoughts on to paper, not many people are lucky enough to meet their hero let alone get to know them. To have that hero return in 2009 was a dream come true for me and today has been a nightmare as Roberto moves on to ‘bigger and better’ things elsewhere.

I hoped he would stay and attempt to get us back to the Premier League and thought that the lull of being the first manager to take Wigan in to Europe would be a big enough pull to keep him at the club. Sadly it wasn’t, emotions may be raw at the moment but nothing in my eyes can diminish Roberto’s standing. That may be naive, that may be foolhardy but you don’t get much chance to look up to your heroes in Modern day football..

So thank you Roberto, thank you for the FA Cup, thank you for giving me some of the greatest moments of my life and thank you for BELIEVING in my little town and my little football club TWICE. We’ll ignore the lack of defending and heavy defeats.

Once a Wiganer, always a Wiganer…

Martinez_1721198a

Ye of little faith

Well that wasn’t as painful as we thought was it? Latics made their season bow in the Milk, Rumbelows, Coca Cola, Worthington, Carling, Capital One Cup this evening and on the whole it was a more than competent performance.

Seven changes were made from the side that beat Southampton at the weekend with Jordi Gomez, Albert Crusat, Ben Watson, David Jones, Mauro Boselli, Ronnie Stam and Jean Beausejour coming in to the side.

A comprehensive Wigan side put Nottingham Forest to the sword before half time with three well taken goals including a first of the season for the forgotten man Mauro Boselli and two early contenders for goal(s) of the season from Maynor Figuoera and Jordi Gomez.

Those goals don’t tell the whole story of the first half, Nottingham Forest have started the season in strong form under Sean O’Driscoll and they continued this good form early in the first half with some good passages of play which had Latics on the back foot, before the goal rush began and took the impetus out of Forest’s play.

The second half saw Forest immediately give themselves a chance to get back in to the match with another strike of world class proportions as Simon Cox hit an unstoppable shot towards Ali Al Habsi’s goal from 30 yards out.

Despite this goal and playing against ten men for the last 20 minutes of the match Forest couldn’t get any closer to turning the score in their favour as Wigan Athletic now without Antolin Alcaraz who was dismissed following his second yellow card  of the evening closed the game out. Before the night was out there was time for a debut for Ryo Myiachi along with another goal this time from popular youngster Calum McManaman.

So a night of first’s saw the first win for Wigan Athletic over Nottingham Forest, the first Wigan goal for Mauro Boselli in nearly two years and a debut appearance for Wigan Athletic’s first Japanese player Ryo Myiachi. All of that and four goals rounded off an excellent night’s work for Roberto Martinez’s men as the Latics go in to the hat for the draw for the next round.

Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Ramis, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Stam, Beausejour, Crusat, Watson, Jones, Gomez, Boselli.

McManaman > Gomez, Myaichi > Crusat, Fyvie > Boselli

Latics to fall at the first hurdle … Again?

Pessimistic that statement may be but despite all of the wonderful work Roberto Martinez has undertaken since his return to Wigan Athletic as manager the domestic cup’s is where we seem to falter a poor result against Crystal Palace twelve months ago signalled the start of a spell of continuous defeats that would last until November.

Roberto and the squad travel to Nottingham in buoyant mood after a hard fought win over newly promoted Southampton at the weekend whilst we should expect wholesale changes to the side it will be interesting to see just how competitive we are. A number of the Wigan Athletic Development Squad will step up to replace their senior counterparts, whilst currently out of favour first team members will be eager to show they’re deserving of a place in the squad ahead of Saturday’s game with Stoke.

In a week of firsts (Wigan hadn’t played Southampton in the league until Saturday) could the Latics pick up their first win against Nottingham Forest at The City Ground tonight? Lets hope so…

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