As fans of a club whose Premier league inception was a fairly recent experience, us Wiganers can remember the buzz that promotion brought to the club and the extraordinary first top flight season we enjoyed. Most of us can anyway, some the wrong side of 60 that are losing their marbles might struggle.
We are not alone in experiencing the thrill of promotion and seeing our club benefit from that adrenaline and excitement in the first Premier league season.
How often do we see promoted clubs get off to a flier nowadays as the ‘new kids on the block’? Quite often actually.
Ourselves and West Ham did it in 2006, Reading followed suit in 2007 as did Hull in 2009. Newcastle and West Brom both survived comfortably last season after Blackpool had made an impressive start too.
The common thing with most of the aforementioned is the way it all turned a little sour not so soon after, leading to a new cliché, the ‘second season syndrome’.
We suffered our fall from grace in the 2007 season where we only managed survival on the final day despite a comfortable 10th place finish twelve months earlier. West Ham of course had a similarly difficult 2007 season and the controversy surrounding Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano didn’t help as only a near miracle meant survival for the Hammers.
Reading suffered relegation in 2008, Hull started the 2009 campaign on fire , even winning at Arsenal which was a major achievement back then, but only ensured their top flight status on the final day. Similarly Blackpool ended up in the bottom three despite a promising start.
So where am I going with this? Well, with all three promoted clubs winning this weekend, will we see yet another repeat in history?
On paper, all three new boys looked weak before a ball was kicked. Yet as we’ve seen previously, the excitement around a promoted club can make up for a lack in quality and lead to a successful season, or at least an impressive start.
Despite this theory, none of the three got off to a particularly impressive start, with QPR losing 4-0 at home to Bolton on the opening day; Norwich earning just two points from four games and Swansea goalless up until this weekend. It’s fair to say none were lightening out of the starting blocks.
Yet this weekend could be a turning point, all put in impressive performances to beat established Premier League clubs.
Swansea broke their duck with an unexpected 3-0 home win against West Brom, with three forwards Sinclair, Lita and Dyer all scoring.
Of the three promoted, they were the ones I thought had the best chances of salvation before a ball was kicked. After a slow start it looked like I might be very wrong but this win has offered them some hope.
Likewise Norwich, they haven’t had the greatest start but pushed Chelsea all the way and came very close to beating Stoke a few weeks back. They managed a win at the Reebok, 2-1, to give them their first three points.
Despite the performance, they were given a helping hand by a pathetic act of petulance by Ivan Klasnic through his sending off. Referring to it as a ‘headbut’ would be an insult to violence really, if that’s possible.
QPR, probably the strongest on paper after some impressive late transfer dealings, managed a convincing 3-0 win away to Wolves. Decisively taking advantage of a below par Wolves performance, Rangers ran away with the win thanks to goals from Joey Barton, Alejandro Faurlin and DJ Campbell.
If you look back, in 2005/06, Wigan didn’t make a terrific start either.
We got a great performance if not any points against Chelsea and then a stale showing at Charlton led to another 1-0 defeat, even our first win was an unconvincing 1-0 against Sunderland thanks to a dubious Jason Roberts penalty.
Jewell’s boys then embarked on an incredible run that I doubt anyone predicted, winning seven of the next eight games to become Chelsea’s nearest challengers in second place.
Although I don’t expect any of the promoted three to challenge Man Utd or Man City, this weekend could provide a catalyst for them to kick on and surprise a few people, themselves included.
One of the wins in that eight game run was of course at Goodison Park, Damien Francis’ first half strike was the only goal of the game and the only goal of his Latics career. Wigan haven’t won there since.
That run will continue for at least another season after Everton took the three points with a 3-1 home win on Saturday. Latics took the lead thanks to yet another deflected goal from Franco Di Santo, they’re becoming his speciality.
Despite this, Phil Jagielka equalised just two minutes later after Tim Cahill’s header rebounded back off the bar, Jagielka was left with a simple tap in. Even so, 1-1 at the break wasn’t a disaster and reflected a reasonably even first half.
An interesting stat I found at this point was how much each Latics player had ran in the first half, Watson, Moses, Van Aanholt and McCarthy had all ran over 6km. But the player with the furthest distance? Ali Al Habsi.
No I’m joking, the furthest runner was that lethargic, lazy, useless git Jordi Gomez with a total of 6.383km. Despite this, Gomez couldn’t find a way through the Everton defence in the second half and neither could any other Latics player for that matter.
Wigan went behind for the first time late on through a goal from Everton new boy Vellios. Wigan’s defence was undone by a brilliant cross by the underrated Tony Hibbert, which substitute Vellios gladly headed home.
Another new boy, Royston Drenthe, hit Wigan on the break and slotted past Ali to make it 3-1. The goal itself came in the 99th minute, which was annoying considering only six minutes of added time were indicated.
Of the Latics new boys on show, Van Aanholt was impressive at left back, almost scoring with a curling right foot effort in the second half with the score at 1-1, which ended up just over the top.
David Jones also came off the bench to good effect and showed some neat touches, almost scoring with a lob which came back off the bar. It all could have been so different had those near misses been a bit lower.
Before I go, I just wanted to go back to QPR, and in particular, Joey Barton.
He was excellent against Wolves and despite all his media baggage, there’s no denying he’s a talented player.
Barton scored the opener with a scuffed effort and also had a hand in the second goal, his box to box performance caught the eye but he couldn’t resist a bit of a jab at the opposition when things got a tad out of hand towards the end of the match.
An old feud was rekindled with Karl Henry and after an aggressive tackle by the Wolves man which left Barton in a heap, Joey couldn’t resist a jab at the mocking home fans after he went down. His 3-0 gesture with his hand and generous blowing of a kiss was typical Joey, it was just a bit of banter that fans love to see, but with it being Barton, some people needlessly jump on the bandwagon and criticize.
Barton then appeared on Sky’s Goals on Sunday the following day and gave a frank account of his career including his flashing at Goodison, how it all went sour at Newcastle and finally how he feels he’s matured to not let his critics get to him.
Although he’s an easy character to hate, personally I’m growing quite fond of Barton. Okay, he doesn’t help himself at times and gave evidence to support the immature young footballer ruined by money stereotype, but it’s characters like him that lighten up the game.
How boring would football be without fiery characters like Joey? I’m not condoning some of this previous actions, but as a person his antics do add something to the game and the banter he has with opposing fans certainly spices things up a bit.
Goal of the Week: Modric or Nani, the choice is yours.
(Emmerson) Boycie of the Week: I’ll give this one to Joey Barton for his man of the match display and typical Barton antics, during Wolves 0-3 QPR.
Rodney (Marsh) of the Week: It can be none other than Mr Torres following his unbelievable open goal miss, although he played quite well, the miss overshadowed his performance significantly.
Barton’s Words of Wisdom: On Karl Henry: “I really don’t like him. Judging by his tackles on me, he doesn’t like me either. Everytime I play against him, he’s non-existent.”
Boselli Watch: Scored a goal despite a blatant handball, inevitable comparisons with Maradona are drawn yet again.