If you’d have asked the average Wigan Athletic fan – of which I consider myself one – a couple of weeks ago if we were going to stop up, then I feel confident that you’d have got an unequivocal YES!
Unfortunately with disappointing results since then and two tricky away games to negotiate next, I suspect that in many cases it has quickly turned into an unequivocal NO!
Obviously the victory over Forest in the cup was great for morale and the trip to Old Trafford was great for the bank balance but I think our progress in the FA Cup may have had the unfortunate impact of taking our eye off the ball in the league rather than galvanising the squad.
I actually like the look and feel of the squad we have got now, there’s lots of names lurking around the fringes that I can’t wait to see in a Latics shirt. The trouble is that with all the squad upheaval, it is going to take another six games to maybe unearth our strongest team.
If there is one single element since last August which I could pin our failure down to it would be lack of stability. Same as it ever was. The only constant around Wigan Athletic is it’s instability within the squad. We’ve had more player ins and outs than any club in Europe in the past few years and if we’re not careful it’s going to cost us dearly.
I would quite honestly settle for being still five points adrift by the time we have played Fulham and Wolves as there is a real possibility that the gap could get bigger. If we can then take seven points out of nine; win our two home games against PNE and Forest and get a draw at QPR, then, maybe just maybe, we might get to a position by the end of February where we are only three points (or less) adrift again.
By that stage, the new squad will have had time to bed in and then the order we are facing suddenly doesn’t look taller than Dan Burn. There’s an awful lot of ifs and maybes to even reach that scenario, and it is quite feasible that elusive ladder to safety could continue to accumulate extra rungs over the next week or so.
We have extricated ourselves from these grim scenarios in the past though and I wouldn’t completely bet against us doing it again. I’m still waiting for that sign, a sign that comes out of nowhere, a sign that turns a season around, something to cling to. Our whole season can turn on a single event. Yet unless that event happens soon it may be a little too late.
Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 10th February 2017
You can listen to more of Jimmy’s thoughts on Latics’ prospects on the Pie at Night Podcast, search for us on your favourite app, on Soundcloud or listen on the player below: