JUMP OFF THE HAMSTER WHEEL

I’m sure there are other things that people do to fill the void but just imagine for a second what life would be like without football? It is an all-consuming force which does wonderful, and occasionally terrible things to your emotions. I’m not necessarily talking about the wide gamut of feelings expressed during a typical match. And I’m certainly not talking about the overwhelming saturation of top flight football in particular which we’re told is the be all and end all in the modern game

No, there’s also those emotions that take place inside one’s own head. I mean your head or mine of course when I say “one” – sorry for poshing things a up a bit. I’m not the only one on these pages to perhaps make disparaging remarks about some of the rabid online over-reactions to every trivial event that takes place in the life of Wigan Athletic FC. Yet, we have to concede that football sends us all on a journey and messes with our head from one game to the next.

The wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke were enough to send us all a bit giddy: Paul Cook’s built a good team here – yes I know we all said that staying up is the priority but we could go for promotion again! Look at all our wonderful players, look at how well Grigg and Powell are playing together. We’ve got pace on the flanks, loads of options in midfield and a team spirit that means that we will give any team a good game, no matter how many good (expensive!) players they’ve got! 

However, you’re only as good as your last result and ours was a defeat against a team bottom of the table with zero points with a manager who has a hair island. You’ll have to seek out Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson’s Athletico Mince podcast to get that reference mind you. Sure, we can moan about there being a foul in the lead up to their goal, but how many goals did we score, against a team who were bottom of the division? A team who had let seven in the week before! It was wonderful to turn over Stoke at their former fortress but maybe they’re not all that, maybe they are in freefall, maybe they are this year’s Sunderland ™ We know all about the player malaise that often happens when you go down from the Premier League, when they’re still earning top wages but don’t want to be there don’t we?

Of course, what is really irking me, above all else, is that Bolton and Blackburn appear to be doing so well. Don’t they know it’s our job to be the perennial underdog, always punching above our weight? How dare they steal a march on us!!

The truth is that we are five games in, and still finding our feet. Though it has to be said that sending out a statement nice and early sets your stall out for the season, it is not always representative of the nine months ahead. So far it’s played 5, won 2, lost 2, drawn 1, 7 points and a solid 7 out of 10 from me.

With that we come to Rotherham, or rather they come to us. The importance of a game before an international break also appears to be typically amplified these days; the “going out on a high” syndrome before two weeks off. The fact that the Millers were favourites for relegation but are only a point behind us, and of course, managed to banjo us out of the League Cup a couple of weeks ago for good measure too. Is this the first (relegation) six pointer of the season? No, that would be ridiculous! Is it a game we could do with winning? Absolutely, but for the purposes of giving ourselves breathing space, not for a tilt at promotion.

Thus the cycle will begin again. Win and we’re going for the play offs, lose and we’re doomed to relegation, draw and a season of consolidation awaits. With a typically measured close, I’d like to imply that the latter scenario is the most likely one. it would be nice to challenge but of the teams we’ve played so far, only Aston Villa look like they will be up there, the rest are all bottom half currently. We’re yet to play the early front runners such as Leeds. Just imagine how intolerable they will be if they carry on their form? Although nobody can deny they’re overdue a decent season. As for us, well, keeping that points tally ticking over, plenty of entertaining football and keeping hold of the most prized asset in Cheshire since Tatton Park, one Nicholas Powell, will do nicely for me.

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 31st August 2018

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