The post Warren Joyce era starts with home clash against Villains.
I didn't review the 'performance' last weekend against Bristol City because I'm not too sure what could have been said that either hadn't already been said before or was actually fit for public display. They were probably the worst side I've seen this season apart from ourselves who were quite shambolic in yet another game that could have seen us strengthen our survival hopes but instead we have plunged ourselves into deeper, murkier waters that we may not surface from.
Warren Joyce paid the price on Monday for an abysmal 23 games in charge but it is probably several games too many to actually save our season similar to the sacking of Malky Mackay in 2015. Maybe the run of fixtures against the sides around us saved him from the chop earlier because just one win against Forest, Blackburn or Bristol City would have changed the complexion of the season massively but instead we came away with 1 point and that is probably more points than we have had shots on target in those games as our attack looked as poor as I think I have ever seen it.
I defended him at the start of his reign when he moved our only winger into the centre forward role because it allowed us to attack sides on the break. In December we looked to be putting some good performances together and were unlucky with some results and then in January we finally looked like we were getting it right. The transfer window came and went and everything has literally fallen apart from there. We have looked pretty appalling since in fact. Yes we look relatively solid at the back but because we are creating absolutely nothing going forward we are staring at a defeat as soon as the first goal goes in. His substitutions to try and change the game are horrendous and it is that that I think has turned even the most supportive of fans against him. At times he has looked quite simply, clueless. Replacing strikers with midfielders with score 0-0 AT HOME. Playing our only wingers up front and central midfielders in wide positions. The absolute farce at Blackburn of having no idea who was coming off. Abysmal management. In his defence (one final time) he probably isn't used to being in charge of a side that is struggling and losing games. It isn't his fault that he was put in this position though and just like his Grandad did two seasons ago; Sharpe has pretty much sealed our relegation with a poor managerial appointment. Good riddance none the less.
So with 9 games to go we enter another era under Graham Barrow, this time until the end of the season. My thoughts on Barrow have been shared plenty of times before but on this occasion he needs the full backing of everyone involved with Wigan Athletic Football Club be that us the fans, the tea lady, David Sharpe or more importantly the players. I don't think his tactics will keep us up but his raw determination and love for the club might just do it. We were in this position back in 2012 when we faced a Premier League fixture list of Liverpool (A) Stoke (H) Chelsea (A) Man Utd (H) Arsenal (A) Fulham (A) Newcastle (H) Blackburn (A) Wolves (H) Stranded in the bottom echelons of the top flight we went on an unbelievable run and recorded probably the greatest escape in Premiership history, well unless you work in the media in which case it's totally forgotten about like most of our achievements. If Barrow can bring the passion and determination that that side had into this one then we might just snatch the results we need to turn this sorry season into something to remember.
I'm not sure what motivational tools were used by Warren Joyce but it's pretty obvious they didn't work. We have lost the togetherness that the players had last season that spilled over to the fans and we need to get it back. This season has mirrored the disaster of 2014/2015 in so many ways from the poor pre-season buys to the sacking of two managers and the appointment of a club stalwart trying to save us from certain doom, but we need to forget all that and literally prepare for the old cliché of 9 cup finals. Listening to some of our fans and reading social media this week I think the atmosphere around the ground will be much different and if the players can show some fight and determination then I don't think there will be too many complaints. All we have wanted to see, especially at home, is for us to attack sides and it's fair to say that if we do that then our remaining home games are games we can get something from. I think we need at least 9 points from Villa, Barnsley, Rotherham and Cardiff which will give us a good basis to work with and hopefully something to fight for against Leeds.
Away from home it's fair to say our run looks pretty difficult against Newcastle, Ipswich, Brighton and Reading but just like the list of fixtures above these are the games that stupidly we go and get results from. Our away record has again been far better than our home one this season and hopefully we can grind out some big results. Newcastle have looked shaky recently with a draw against Bristol City and a loss to Fulham so if we go there and get at them then the ‘loyal’ Geordie supporters will turn quicker than a bottle of milk left in the sun. We have nothing to lose as we are already all but down apparently so hopefully the players are left to just go out, play and enjoy their football without too much pressure. It’s strange to say that when we are in the position we are in but I think most of us are resigned to the drop so realistically we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The likes of Newcastle, Brighton and Reading will all be under pressure to beat us and continue their promotion push and they’ll see us as easy points so we can get the fans on their back quickly if we stifle them.
Former skipper, winner at Wembley, manager and part of the staff on that great May evening in 2013, Barrow is probably on most people’s list of club legends. If we survive and write another chapter in the Wigan Athletic story (the greatest story ever told) then he cements his place on that list. He just needs to get the players to believe and we fans will follow. There's a song in the charts I keep hearing at the moment that has the line "If we go down, we go down together" which is quite apt for our situation. We have always been that family club where we are all in it together from the very top to the very bottom. We win together and we lose together, and that was shown by the promotion party in Revolution and the streets of Wigan last May. That relationship between the players and the club is what I feel has been missing this season with players like Max Power not showing that same desire that he did 12 months ago. That can be down to the man in charge as it’s his job to keep the morale of the squad up and Graham Barrow has spoken this week how he wants things to be “smiles better” and hopefully that is what is needed to get the best out of the players because the last few weeks have been nothing short of appalling. I can handle losing if we have given everything and been beaten by the better side but I’m not sure that that has been the case of late. That is all I ask in the last 9 games.
Nobody has ever given us any hope and they have been ready with excuses each and every time we have achieved something we supposedly shouldn’t have. From promotion from the bottom tier right the way through to 8 seasons in the top flight and a cup final win. We get knocked down and we bounce back each and every time with a knockout blow of our own. We were already relegated before those 9 games in 2012 according to everyone outside our club just as we are pretty much are now. Even a dreadful refereeing performance away at Chelsea and a disallowed goal against United couldn’t stop us from achieving what we wanted to achieve. Starting with Villa tomorrow let's go and defy the odds again. We will do our bit in the stands we just need the players to do the same, and come May 7th we could be partying in the streets of Wigan again and painting the town blue.
OUR TEAM! OUR CLUB! OUR TOWN! UP THE TICS!!!
Shaun MacDonald: “We have to win games to stay in this league and, though we need to continue to keep clean sheets, we have to create chances at the other end to score the goals that will add points to our tally. We know how big every game is, we don’t need to be told and we feel the pressure really is on us. We have to deal with that; we’re paid to handle that and give 100% in our performances. If you’re in this league, there is always the chance that you can go to the next level so we have to be positive, put in big performances, and give ourselves the opportunity to have a better go at the Championship next year.”
Alex Gilbey: “Everyone is on the same page, everyone is going to approach these games positively, we’ve got our heads down this week in preparation for the game and we have to take that onto the pitch. We have to stick together, come through it together and try and get the points we really need. We’ve worked with Graham before, we feel comfortable with him and we’re looking to listen to him and learn from him.”
Head To Head League
Current League Positions
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