All the fun of the fair

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Roll up, roll up and stand in line for your chance to ride the Wigan Athletic roller coaster once more. Height restrictions apply, ride not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition.

The season hasn’t even started and already things are looking as turbulent as ever. A confident performance against Liverpool, followed by one or two lacklustre outings, unsettled players being ostracised and finishing with an exhilarating 14-0 pummelling of nearby neighbours Chorley, albeit in somewhat dubious circumstances.

The Waltzer of players is spinning faster than ever with players getting thrown in all directions and it’s looking ever more like a repeat of two years ago, with numerous signings and loanees coming in and a few names seemingly heading for the door.

With that in mind, we can be forgiven if we do have a slow start – albeit I fully expect the meltdown to commence in some quarters should we not return from the ridiculously named stadium:mk with all three points.

It was the same two years ago when a bunch of strangers took to the field at Coventry and got taught a lesson. Looking at where the two clubs finished up has taught us nothing if not that the old adage of it being a marathon not a sprint really does apply.

The parachute payments have gone but we have (so far!) retained the core of a squad that, in my opinion, was more than capable of avoiding relegation last year had it not been for a farcical turnover of managers and players.

We can only hope for a turmoil free season this time out but some of the stuff going on behind the scenes isn’t exactly re-assuring. Yet, I’ve been really happy with the straight talking Paul Cook and, far from creating instability, I’d wager that by getting rid of players who don’t want to be here or aren’t buying into what the manager wants, he is actually removing instability.

There have already been comparisons between Paul Cook and another scouser called Paul, and I’d be delighted if can achieve half of what Jewell did. Yet Jewell had a torrid few months before he got the squad he wanted. And never under-estimate just how difficult it is to build that team spirit and cohesion, and it’s got much more difficult in the ten years since Jewell left the club.

That team spirit has always been the holy grail for every manager to achieve but in years gone by, it was much easier to keep any discontent out of the public domain and these days it’s practically impossible.

Freedom of speech and social media are a real enabler in one sense but quite dangerous in other ways and one can only imagine the egos that exist in your average football club. It must be tremendously difficult these days to get a squad of players who all want the same thing and are all fighting for the same cause.

We can’t read too much into a 14-0 trouncing of a non-league club’s youth team but it gives us a glimpse that the squad are all willing to fight for a place in the team rather than sulk about not being in it, then that is exactly the sort of collective attitude we will need as we go into a new season.

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 4th August 2017

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