Ooh that’s a big word for a Sunday morning! For the benefit of us thickos, I think it means “not knowing which outcome is for the best”. And as far as Wigan Athletic are concerned, I don’t, I really don’t.
I think in most people’s minds, we are down anyway, for us to stay up we need a sequence of four independent events all to fall in our favour. In case you didn’t know, the critical path is as follows:
1. Rotherham to lose at home to Reading on Tuesday
2. Rotherham to lose again at Leeds on Saturday
3. Millwall to lose or draw at Wolves on Saturday
4. Latics to win at Brentford
Number 1 is unlikely as Reading are already on the beach.
If Number 1. happens then it becomes a three game scenario but given Rotherham only need one point from these two games against two teams with nothing to play for, it really seems unlikely that they will lose both. Stranger things have happened even though Leeds have flipped back into crisis mode after being rejuvenated a month ago.
So if 1. & 2. happen, it’s over to part 3 and time to ask Wolves to do us a favour, highly ironic given their fans appeared to be singing “Millwall” to us yesterday. You’d think their team getting in the play offs would be more important than relegating Wigan but they are a strange, deranged bunch.
Those odds are already looking pretty distant before we even consider the fourth part of this equation, which is the only part we can do anything about.
I remember going to Brentford twelve years ago when Neil Roberts of all people slotted home from an angle as narrow as our 1-0 victory. It was a tough place to go then and we were on our way to 100 points that year.
But if you want a blueprint as to the changing fortunes of two different clubs, you only need to look at how the year has gone for Wigan and Brentford. Come on, we were all thinking it in August: be a good place to go and get promoted that.
Yet Rosler’s profligacy in the transfer market and tinkering with the team, the awful, destructive appointment of Mackay and a complete absence of coherent decision making at the top have all contrived to undo us.
Even if Brentford fall short of the play offs, there can be no doubt that they are a team on the up whereas we are a team on the decline. This is where the juxtaposition comes in – Brentford are better than us, just like Wolves were better than us yesterday. The league table doesn’t lie.
That doesn’t mean we can’t beat them, we’ve had enough experience in recent years of beating the best teams there are in any league. But IF all the above miracles come to fruition, then we’re going to need an even bigger miracle in the summer to turn the club around into a team that can be competitive in the Championship next year.
Isn’t it easier just to throw our hand in and admit that it will be much easier to make ourselves competitive in League One, given our comparatively bigger budget? I know it’s not the Wigan way to give up but even though relegation is a disaster for the club, we all know it’s been coming a while and have accepted it in varying degrees week after week, defeat after defeat.
Again, it will only re-open old wounds to surmise why we aren’t as good as Wolves or Brentford, two teams who came up last year but we aren’t as good as them. We are totally bereft of quality. Look at what Wolves had up front yesterday: three forwards who have all scored around 15 goals this season, whereas we’ve been crying out for one forward all year. Defensively, despite being suspect they had more than enough organisation to parry everything we could throw at them.
Brentford are a tight, disciplined, organised team who weren’t brilliant at our place but will be well drilled at their home ground and oh yes, are also playing for a play off place. Both sides have continued their upwards momentum from last season whereas we have continued our downwards trajectory. That factor alone can be very difficult to reverse.
It is only now that we seem to have actually start to address this with the unlikely appointment of Gary Caldwell, a man who at least appears to have the backing of both players and fans. The trouble is that he literally has nothing to play with. Nothing in midfield, nothing up front and an ageing defence.
I don’t want to go down a doom and gloom route, and I’m tempted to cut this short now and say that of course we want to stay up because you always want to play at the highest level you can and trot out a load of believe guff and slogans nicked from Everton.
Yet I think a growing number of us actually #believe that crystallising relegation could actually be better for us in the long run. Yes, just like we said last time!
“At least we’ll win plenty games in League One and get to renew some local rivalries” – we were saying exactly the same about the Championship two years ago.
So either argument is riddled with unforeseen unknowns but surely from a stability perspective staying up has financial and status benefits?
It certainly is but looking at the job that needs to be done over the summer, it suggests that if we did stay up Caldwell would presumably have to work yet more miracles to build a settled, organised, ambitious football team so that we do not endure the disaster of this season again.
He’s got hardly anyone left who he can sell, and certainly not for the money we once used to pull in, a handful of players out on loan who will not be overly keen to come back unless he can have a serious chat with them, tons of players out of contract some of which would be “keepers” if we can arrange the finances, others that we wouldn’t want to keep or wouldn’t stay anyway; and we have those still under contract, many of whom are unfit or underperforming. There is a glimmer of hope coming from the youth but it is unfair to expect great things from those who have so little experience.
We may have some transfer funds but probably nothing like the extent we have had previously (and noting that even though Rosler spent £10m last summer, we brought £7m in from McArthur – again let’s not prise open those old wounds too much but I think we realised pretty quickly that James McArthur was priceless….)
The logic behind going down being a good thing (is this negativity or positivity, I don’t even know any more??) is that it will be easier to rebuild in a division where we have greater financial clout, incoming players will accept lower wages than at Championship level and we will in theory face weaker teams, at least until the parachute payments dry up completely. It will be easier to give young players a chance if we are playing at a lower level and we can in theory win a few more games (yes I know: WE SAID THAT LAST TIME!!)
The danger is that the disjointedness continues as we still have big earners swallowing the parachute payments, we still have disruptive players under contract, the management fails to release the funds to approve decent long term contracts to incoming bright young players – indeed if we can even do the hard part of unearthing them in the first place and maybe our younger players aren’t all that in the rough undergrowth of the third tier. And of course the man we’re expecting to sort all this out, good old Captain Calamity is two weeks into his first ever managerial job.
In spite of all this, football is a remarkably simple game and if the above miracles all happen then maybe the miracle of turning us into a solid, competitive, winning Championship side again may not be impossible: a few little tweaks here and there, the addition of some pace out wide and a couple of genuine goalscorers (‘cos they’re dead easy to come by) and we could be back up there before you can say “Mick McCarthy”.
The bottom line is that all of this is pure conjecture as it is all out of our hands, plus I suppose a lot of it will unfold whatever level we are at.
It still doesn’t stop wrecking people’s heads and discussing what we’d like to happen and for me, I still genuinely don’t know. Of course I want to see us take it to the final day and I always want to see us win but I really don’t know where our future lies: both Jackson and Sharpe still talk of getting Wigan Athletic “back where we belong” in the Premier League, even as we stare down into the abyss of League One.
But did we ever belong there? We certainly deserved to be there but it is a long road back before that comes the case again and once again, probably involves not only miracles but large sums of cash, which I doubt will ever materialise again unless Life of Pies sells two billion copies.
So the only conclusion is that there is no conclusion. The juxtaposition as to whether it’s better to stay up or go down is a fascinating (depressing) one yet we can control very little of what happens, all we can do is support our team. We’ll be reet.
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