I think it may have been Sir Alex Ferguson who first coined this awful term but it is very much squeaky bum time. We’re not so much galloping gleefully over the line as crawling on our hands and knees and we can only be grateful this slippage isn’t being compounded given the equal proportions of jitters in the Burton and Walsall areas.
I’ve got to say, having seen them live twice now that Burton are no flash in the pan. Yet there is no secret ingredient to their success, they are just super organised and work terrifically hard. If we can do the same then, in this division at least, nobody should come near us. It is perhaps symbolic of my own footballing indifference these days that I couldn’t name too many of Burton’s team but they all looked like highly talented players on Tuesday night, and whereas they didn’t have too many clear cut chances, they certainly dominated the game for a good hour or so whilst we struggled.
Just as with the home game, Burton harried and pressed as if their lives depended on it, they got first to the ball far more often than ourselves and didn’t tire of doing so. Why should this be? Surely we should be getting first to the ball because we have (on paper!) a stronger squad with better players? If both teams are trying to get first to the ball, then who loses out? The team who aren’t as fit at the other one, you’d assume, yet fitness needs to be matched by attitude. Can we put it all down to the Perkins effect? He’s only one player but he is a player who sets the tempo and whose attitude rubs off on others
The other factor is how quickly you move the ball and I thought that, pathetic gamesmanship aside, Burton did that very well too on their narrow pitch. It will be interesting to see whether there is a limit to their effectiveness if they do go up, and if we go up, how our conflicting styles fare in the Championship. For a team to come up from non league and romp through League Two and be at the top of League One for a long while doesn’t happen by accident.
I’d like to think a lot of it is down to picking the right manager and having that continuity and Burton have had some crackers over the past few years from Peschisolido to Clough to Rowett to Hasselbaink to Clough again. Whereas we unfortunately have thrown a Coyle or Mackay in there in the last few years whose personality, let alone style of play just seemed totally at odds with the club.
As for ourselves, the slightly patronising but factually correct way to put it is to say that if we are unable to beat Southend at home and Blackpool, then we probably don’t deserve to get promoted. The more tactile way to say it is that these players have worked so hard all year to put us in this position, that it would be sheer madness to blow it now, so hopefully they will have the impetus to finish the job off.
First published in the Wigan Evening Post 12th Man column Friday 22nd April 2016