We are the worst of fans, we are the best of fans. Probably because often we are the worst of teams and also sometimes the best of teams. We cannot go forward because I suppose we’re arguably miles further up the footballing pecking order than we were ever supposed to be, yet we cannot go backwards either – as the plan always seems to come together via luck or…or maybe that man does have a plan? We are the turd that will not flush, we are Wigan Athletic and as ever we find ourselves in a familiar position at the arse end of the season.
If you ever want a snapshot of a season in one game, then Tuesday at Stoke was it. A poor, disinterested, lacklustre first half riddled with errors and sheer incompetence followed by a second period which saw us pin back Stoke in their own half for long spells, play some lovely possession and attacking football, reverse a 2-0 deficit and cause the home support at the Britannia to turn on their own team and manager with the obligatory chance to steal it at the end gone begging. How can a team that be so good for at least half a game be so poor for the other half? How can a team that can be so good in the second half of last season have been so bad in the first half of last season, and hasn’t been much better for long spells of this one?
As ever, there’s disgruntlement in the air amongst certain sections of the Wigan fans upset because we haven’t kicked on and it seems the Martinez battle lines are as divided as ever. The poor fella only said we were AIMING for a top ten finish – he didn’t promise it but with two home wins all season it’s fair to say that yet again there hasn’t been a lot to shout about for Wigan Athletic fans this year as game by game we walk the ever finite tightrope between safety and oblivion. Oblivion is the slight favourite just about right now. QPR and ‘Arry appear to have relieved the government of their quantitative easing policy all on their own, Reading have found an extra gear under Eddie Hitler lookalike Brian McDermott and surely Villa aren’t going to go down are they, it just seems implausible?
Newcastle and Sunderland will surely pull away and West Ham and Fulham have enough resources and experience not to get dragged into it, which leaves little ole’ Wigan and Southampton. We played the Saints way back in August and they looked woefully ill-equipped for the Premier League as we simply let themselves come at us for half an hour with little end product like an enthusiastic puppy yet to cut his teeth. Then second half – well it was a Stoke type second half, absolutely flawless again, completely dominant and a 2-0 win to return with from the South Coast thank you very much.
Driving home afterwards, we listened to irate Saints fans ringing in and demanding the head of former Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Nigel Adkins after just TWO games of the season. A man who had taken them up from the third tier. Football fans eh? No patience. When they belatedly got their wish a few weeks ago it’s fair to say that the football world was full of indignation broadly filing the decision firmly under the “no nothing titty owners sacking managers for no reason” in the “modern football ills” drawer. The schadenfreude amongst us fans of the bottom half teams’ club was undoubtedly “well they’ll go down now won’t they and deservedly so, sacking nice Nigel like that” in the same way as everyone is throwing a paddy at QPR for being the first club ever to throw a Goodyear blimp sized sack of cash at a team to try and fix a short term problem.
Trouble is that it’s getting very tight down there and whereas the natural survival instincts of the lesser found Wigan fan is to look around and slowly try and identify three teams worse than us, well it ain’t looking good as that five point gap we had between at least two of them is now looking a bit sketchy as Reading have now climbed above us. As for QPR, well still four points clear from safety but losses are now turning into draws and all those pound coins they’re currently farting out are likely to propel them to a few more victories in the second half of the season.
Back to our next opponents and after a 0-0 draw at home to Everton and a respectable 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford Southampton’s new man may well be a vast improvement on the old man. Sorry Nigel. Especially given Alex Ferguson’s post match comments of them being the best side to visit Old Trafford all season. By contrast, we suffered our annual 5-0 drubbing and yes same again in the home leg. Game over and go on then we’ll loan you a South American prodigy to help you get out of the sh*t so we can do the same next year!
It seems on the face of it that the Saints could well march their way to a top half finish yet and reading stories implying Mauricio Pochettino could be the Michu of management do nothing to settle my fraying nerves. Ged, I’ll level with you, I’m really scared!
Hang on, back up a bit – haven’t we got our own football guru? Working miracles on a tight budget? Keeping the minnows that are Wigan Athletic in the Premier League on a shoestring and playing passing football? Occasionally turning the big boys over when they least expect it? I suppose, but there’s a saying about familiarity and sadly the position we are in does not exactly set us up for the most inspirational of finishes. We can’t do THAT again can we surely?
Let me take you back to Monday 5th March 2012 after we’d ducked at home 2-0 to Swansea in a truly appalling performance and we’re at our lowest ebb – rock bottom with a goal difference of minus 875 (ish) and Roberto Martinez holds an inpromptu fans’ forum. “We won’t go down, I guarantee you that”. He’s lost the plot here – he’s supremely confident – or is just a very lucky man. That’s what we thought; but you don’t beat Arsenal, United, Newcastle (4-0!) and lose to Chelsea under the most dubious of circumstances by being lucky though.
So when cool heads are needed in this part of Lancashire what is the Wigan response? To re-sign the crazy Austrian Paul Scharner of course. Just as we had found his successor. On Tuesday at Stoke, the colossal centre half Roman Golobart made his Premier League debut and acquitted himself quite well against the human wind turbine that is Peter Crouch. Apart from the goal mind you. What’s not to like about a footballer named Roman Golobart anyway? Brought through from the youth team after coming over from Spain and spending a year working under the tutelage of that other madman Terry Butcher, his tweets (@PutifarGolobart) represent the man at it’s finest, quirky and offbeat or maybe he just possesses that rarest of traits found in a footballer, a modicum of intelligence and it’s fair to say that if Scharner confines Golobart back to the sidelines he will be sorely missed.
However, since the powerful Ivan Ramis was ruled out for the season following a serious injury at Fulham a few weeks back and the continued curious absence of our Paraguayan centre half, who it seems is the first man ever to escape TO Alcatraz rather than face life in the back line of Latics, well even with young Roman we’ve been a bit short and ineffective defensively. Scharner will certainly add colour to the team and whereas his attempts to play further up the field in the past resembled more than a passing impersonation of a decapitated fowl animal the daft Austrian bugger is solid in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet. And maybe he might also thrive in a back three as it allows centre halves to freely express their frustrated centre forward inner self further up the pitch. It’s a funny move, but a welcome one.
Elsewhere, as I glance on Twitter, Wigan Athletic fans were out there clamouring for deadline day signings but we have already brought three in along with Scharner. Angelo Henriquez, an 18 year old Chilean on loan from Mancheser United who looks the part. If a little precocious and lightweight at times, he appears to want the ball, runs with it often directly towards the nets and seems to be trying to score a goal occasionally!! He’ll get that coached out of him if he hangs around here!! Plus we’ve got our very own Roger. Roger Espinoza in fact, the latest Honduran to pop up from the tunnel leading directly from Tegucigalpa to the home dressing room in WN5, this time via Kansas City Chiefs in the MLS. From early glimpses, he looks like a little ninja and is slowly starting to play like one too. Plus a young back up keeper "Billy" Joel Robles.
So we have competition within our squad, we have new hungry players and the usual mission to try and accomplish in the next 14 games. Given the continual influx of money around us and bright things of West Brom and Swansea out-Wiganning Wigan by a long way, it could be the toughest ask yet. For me, if we succeed and stay up, Roberto Martinez will again be a hero – for some sections of our support, well he’ll have just got lucky again……