Shifting Sands

Well, hello there and welcome to the issue we just about managed to sneak in at the end. A last minute winner if you like, to make you whoop with joy and invade our pitch (pages). Like the last issue of last season, we’ve got sand on the cover but in very different circumstances.

Just over twelve months ago, it was an egg timer, symbolic of the fact that it was just a matter of time before we slipped into the abyss, with an awful manager, an uncaring squad and a really bad, debilitating stench around the place. It wasn’t over-dramatic to suggest that it was the beginning of the end for Wigan Athletic.

Yet the transformation has been sure and steady and the young duo of Caldwell and Sharpe have proceeded to get almost everything right on and off the pitch his year, putting many smiles back on our fans’ faces.

So now that the football season is all but over, we can start to dream of foreign shores, sat on a beach and wearing our shirt with pride again, metaphorically or otherwise.

Sometimes it seems that for some clubs, you really do have to drop down a couple of divisions to stabilise and rebuild and haven’t we done it remarkably well?

Yet football is not a sport where you can rest on your laurels and all of the goodwill built up this year will start to drift when the next season starts, and we will face a much tougher challenge in the Championship. The Championship is getting more and more like the Premier League in that one or two of the clubs who go up, invariably come straight back down again, there is a gap to be bridged if we are even to survive.

The other alternative way of looking at it is that we have a winning, settled side and a defined style and that there is no reason with a few quality additions to the squad why we can’t have a crack at going up again.

The “big clubs” such as Norwich, Southampton, Leicester have all climbed back to the summit after a fall but make no mistake they are big clubs. Take away the parachute payments and we are left with 8,000 fans and clearly although we’ve had the status of being a Premier League club, we are far off it in terms of stature. Indeed not many towns can compete with big cities now in a footballing sense, and the old milltowns who traditionally were the top dogs of British football now dwindle all around us, Burnley excepted. May as well put money on them to go straight back down now if past history is anything to go by.

Even the parachute payments, which let’s face it, are the ONLY reason we’ve been promoted [insert winky thing] will only go so far in the Championship as nearly half the division will be on them but I’m not about to start getting in that deep thinking mode and imploring you to think about the future because today will all be about enjoying the moment.

We have had a phenomenal run of success not just this year but the last 20 years and it definitely felt our days were numbered after the catastrophic events of last year. So we can only heap praise on Gary Caldwell, Jonathan Jackson and David Sharpe and a truly fantastic bunch of players for doing a terrific job in every aspect and putting the club back on a terrific trajectory again.

To put it into perspective, Oldham Athletic have just ensured that they will spend their 20th season in a row in League One next season. During that time we have been promoted three times, spent eight years in the Premier League, won an FA Cup, weren’t too far off winning another one and had a European tour. And oh look – here comes a fourth promotion.

I’m sure in spite of the above, the moaners will re-surface again next year if we don’t get off to a flyer, let’s face it, it is something we excel at doing in Wigan but bloody hell when you read above comparison, well, go and moan to an Oldham fan and see what sympathy you get……..

I have always been a cautious type when doing these editorials, the accountant in me can’t help do the maths and recognises that 80% of what we’ve achieved at this club has been done out of defiance, and no mean amount of support from Whelan’s chequebook. It’s hard to see how we will re-set the last fifteen years and do it all again. But as we stand, after a season that has simply been one of the best we’ve ever had, well who wouldn’t back us to just continue the momentum? How far, who knows.

This season will throw up many memories that will never be forgotten and a group of players who have worn the shirt with heart, pride and passion and possess no mean amount of skill. Again, teams like our last couple of opponents, Blackpool and Barnsley have been there and done it like us – but nothing like to the same extent in the modern era. And when you look at the state Blackpool are in, well we are indeed the fortunate ones.

Have a great summer and stay lucky
Jimmy

The above article is the Editorial from Mudhutter issue 57. If you want to buy the full magazine in either print or download form, please click here to buy. There’s also a selection of back issues available at the same address.

MH57