The Wigan Athletic Fans' Season Preview: Into The Trenches We Go

Although consistently being labeled Premier League underdogs, Wigan Athletic are the only club never to be relegated from the top flight, can Martinez make it 8 years in a row?
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Although consistently being labeled Premier League underdogs, Wigan Athletic are the only club never to be relegated from the top flight, can Martinez make it 8 years in a row?

Pre season: Good, bad or ugly?

Good-ish I think we had two decent results against UAE sides on tour, beat Preston and beat Villareal at home. Not that it’s been helped by the continual backdrop of Roberto Martinez potentially leaving and N’Zogbia going to Villa. We’ve got to hang on to our hats now and try and remain intact until the 31 August with maybe an addition or two.

Hopes for the season:

That we take a decent point haul from our first three games, putting all three newly promoted teams to the sword, somehow collect in the region of 30-35 points by the turn of the year and spend the first half of 2012 playing beautiful, possession football in a shining example of how the game should be played despite our limited budget. A cup run would be nice too, I’d always hoped of visiting the new Wembley before ‘them men’ got there…..

Fears for the season:

Fears for the season are many other people’s hopes: that we crash and burn and are rooted to the bottom all season. We are the turd that will not flush in many people’s eyes. Mostly newer football fans and pundits incapable of thinking for themselves.

Absolute bare minimum you’ll accept:

As ever, staying up is our goal. Roberto has spoken of the top ten as an aspiration, and it would be nice to finish higher than 16th but most of our fans are realistic about such matters. We just want to be entertained, how we get there can sometimes make a difference. Compare our season to Bolton’s (spit) who performed admirably under Owen Coyle, top half for most of the season only to fizzle out and suffer a heart breaking 5-0 drubbing at Wembley to finish in 14th a mere 4 points above their near neighbours. For us, it felt like winning a trophy purely by virtue of the last two games and actually being 19th in the table with 20 minutes of the season left to go.

Fixture you’re most looking forward to?

Probably Swansea away next week, it’s got all the ingredients to be a proper three chilli dish: Their first game in the Premier League – sorry back in Division One – I slipped into Sky mode there for a minute, Roberto Martinez returning to his old club labelled a Judas by many, England v Wales as indeed it will be every home game for them and hostile home fans who will be chomping at the bit to carry on where they left off last season.

Can I use the phrase relegation six pointer in August as well? Hell, yeah I just did. Sorry about that.

From a ground hopper perspective, it’s the first new ground I’ve had chance to visit in three or four years, so it was pencilled in straight away, I just hope they’ve still got those ace pasties they used to sell at the Vetch Field.

Got the right manager?

Yes definitely and even more so now. Of course, he’s now got to justify his decision to spurn Villa and stay at Wigan for another year or two but he has that unshakable inner belief in himself and his team and is the nicest man around. Not that either of those qualities make a brilliant football manager but he’s winning so many friends within the  game, lots of people will be willing him on with interest. There is still a section of the Wigan Athletic crowd that can’t wait to get on his back which is incredulous given his long-term association with the club, that’s football fans I suppose.

By Christmas you’ll be…

In the relegation zone I expect but what’s new. If by some miraculous reason we find ourselves in the upper echelons of the table, then no doubt we will be preparing ourselves for an onslaught of bids from some of the bigger clubs below us and a team about to be dismantled. It’s all cyclical for us, once every couple of years we do have a good season but then our best players get picked off and before you know it ‘we’ve consolidated on 40 points’, slipped down the table and we’re back fighting relegation again the next year.

It’s a pretty futile existence and I’m not sure which I prefer, I suppose the mid table option is better as ultimately we win more games, but there’s clubs far bigger than Wigan in this division who operate under the same principle of putting out the deckchairs for the second half of the season if they happen to be safe early on.

Having said that it’s not good for the heart the way we go about staying up and it’s going to catch up with us sooner or later, which seems to be the generally accepted view of former professional footballers now paid handsomely to come up with nuggets for the media

Fears for the season are many other people’s hopes: that we crash and burn and are rooted to the bottom all season. We are the turd that will not flush in many people’s eyes.

Player you’d most like to sign?

I can’t honestly say I’ve seen a lot of him apart from at the World Cup but we’ve been linked with Nelson Valdez of Paraguay a few times. Maybe his mate and fellow countryman, big Antolin Alcaraz can put a word in.

I’ve kind of got him pencilled in as that attacking midfielder/second striker in the Roberto Martinez 4-5-1 formation. One of the criticisms the Latics fans repeatedly make is that they want to see two up front and it’s never going to happen. However, that ‘in the hole’ role or whatever you want to call it is the most important role in the team and we need a class act to fill it. Plus it might remove some of the grumblings about us only having one player up front swinging wildly and failing to land the spherical object in close proximity to the nearest barn door.

Which player should we look out for?

Victor Moses. He’s been groomed to fill the boots of Charles N’Zogbia and if pre-season is anything to go by, he looks almost ripe for it. I guess we just need to find the new Victor Moses now, ready for when we sell the old Victor Moses to Spurs or someone at the end of the season if he does do well.

Which player would you love to ditch?

None. Other fans would gladly offer you names but it’s a new season and a clean slate. At a push Mauro Boselli has gone back to Estudiantes on loan after spending most of last season on loan to Genoa, we could do with Estudiantes handing back the £6m we gave them and just writing it off as a bad job but I suspect the negotiations around that one could be a touch tricky. Our record signing and we don’t want him, not exactly Bob’s finest hour that one.

Opposition hate figure?

There’s not one that shines above the rest at present following West Ham and the nauseous Scott Parker’s demise. Tevez is a nark who always scores against us, the former Wigan trio of Bruce, Cattermole and Bramble are almost universally disliked given the disparaging way they have acted about a football club who revitalised/developed all their careers and I suppose Rooney won’t be too popular next season following his forearm smash on James McCarthy.

Tell us something we don’t know about your club?

We’re the only club never to be relegated from the top flight of English football. Christ knows how.

What won’t happen this season?

We’ll take points off Manchester United. It just doesn’t happen. I’m sorry if other club’s fans think we roll over, we don’t, we just can’t even get close to them and on the rare occasions we have, we’ve been unlucky or stitched up. It would be nice mind you.

Favourite chant?

“Seven years in the Premier League”

A touch on the cheesy side but a pleasant reminder to those who have come and gone (or just arrived) that we’re Wigan and we’re fighters. It would be nice to get to number eight as we are about to go into our 80th year as a football club, and considering we spent the first 46 of those as a non league club playing in the Cheshire League and Lancashire Combination, it’s some achievement. Not that people pick up on that, it’s all empty seats, s*** crowds etc even though we were getting 1,000 on at home to Stafford Rangers just over 30 years ago.

Where will you finish?

I think I’ll plump for a hat-trick of 16th place finishes then after the last two years. Such heady ambitions – it’s the greatest league in the world you know?

Any other news?

We’re now sponsored by 12Bet instead of 188Bet. I haven’t got a clue what the difference is apart from the obvious 176.

And our new home kit is not out until the 7th September by which time we’ll probably be mathematically relegated. Not that I’ve bought a kit since 1995 mind you.

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