Indeed. Where do we go from here? It depends on your point of view and general leaning in life I suppose. But if you’re looking to me for words of wisdom then look elsewhere (nothing new there!) as I simply don’t know. I have continued to put my weight behind Paul Cook when others have faltered, but maybe all the BMWing from elsewhere (bitching, moaning and whining) has been justified. Maybe some of the great visionaries amongst our fans have seen this coming and their direct criticisms of Mr Cook have been absolutely spot on and now the League One chickens are coming home to roost.
In terms of outcomes, there now looks likely to only be two. Firstly, that we continue to match or better Rotherham’s results, or collect a few more points than say QPR or Millwall and finish above someone else – unlikely given our points run rate. Essentially, we “do enough” to stay up and the naysayers can move on to their stock argument of “well, it was only because there were three teams worse than us” (generally this supposedly incisive analysis is factually true about any relegation based scenario). Those of us daft, remaining happy clappers can say “well, the aim in August was to stop up and we’ve achieved it”. Again, technically true but there can’t be another club in the country with worse away form than us and the more the weeks go by, the more it seems that barely staying up maybe the most likely outcome and, although I’m sure we would celebrate if that happened; well effectively, we’re celebrating nine months of pure dismal mediocrity interjected with the odd great performance.
Of course, the other outcome is that we drop into the bottom three that we have avoided all season and stay there. It could even be that we only spend one day in the bottom three and that day is May 5th – the only day which matters. The culmination of all those continual gripes at the manager will be justified by those people who have expended considerable effort criticising Cook, whereas those who have (mostly) stuck by him, like myself, end up looking like a right wally. Well, anyway, it wouldn’t be the first time and I’m not changing horses now. Furthermore, perhaps implying we could avoid the bottom three before the last day is hopelessly optimistic given the opposition in our next two or three games, which is why so many have been fretting over our inability to pick up more points again Hull, Bristol City and Brentford.
In both home and away games, we have been quite consistent in a way. At home, we usually seem to match our opponents without necessarily putting them to the sword, the awful Bolton excepted. Whereas away, well I’d go further than just say we have an away day phobia. It seems to be that we aren’t necessarily afraid of scoring and (attempting to try) to win away from home. The panic actually seems to take over, once we have taken the lead – as if they know collectively what’s coming. It is a managerial problem that we cannot figure out the art of holding onto a lead, but it now seems to have reached fever pitch psychological levels and I don’t know the answer apart from perhaps (here comes the brickbats again) re-grouping in League One and learning how to win away again.
In this respect, if League One is our destiny, well to quote that awful Catherine Tate character – Am I bothered? Yes and no. Or rather no and yes. No, because a football club is about so much more than what division you are in. I have been so tied up organising the Joseph’s Goal Walk to Leeds next week and trying to get a fanzine off to the printers that I have barely had time to sit there ruminating over the lacklustre performances of Wigan Athletic. However, indirectly, Wigan Athletic is still consuming nearly every minute of my spare time but in a more productive way than the stuff I can’t control, like the results on the pitch. I mean we’ll all still be here next season right? Regardless of what division we are in, so why get so upset about it?
I’d even go as far to say that we have only ever been relegated from divisions that we were arguably too small to have thrived in anyway, we have never suffered shock relegations. Perhaps the Rosler/Mackay season was the only exception to that, where the budget should have produced so much more. As football fans, we take winning remarkably well and take suffering unbelievably badly because we have been spoilt. Again, that might upset a few people but I don’t think anyone could argue that over the past twenty years, we’ve had too much success and not enough suffering compared to almost every other set of fans in the football league.
Having said all that although, I should add that YES I am bothered about the potential impact of relegation mainly because of the profile, and dare I say, financial health of the club. We want the bigger games, the better players, the larger crowds, the sleeping giants coming to town and ultimately, as ridiculous as it sounds now, Premier League football so we can try and entice the young and not so young of Wigan away from their Sky boxes and into the DW Stadium once more. Every fan should want the club to play at the highest level possible, even though the PL has turned into a soul destroying affair for the lesser clubs now. Sadly, you can’t decouple the financial riches it brings just as you can’t avoid the financial poverty that awaits us if we drop further down the league pyramid.
All that now said, I think it will now come down to the last three games and if the players and manager can approach them like the FA Cup ties of last year, maybe all the indifference that has gone before will be forgotten. If we fail to stay up, I fully expect Paul Cook to walk. But as I said in my last robust defence of him a while back, maybe that was the plan all along, seeing as our form and approach to games turned dramatically downwards soon after the new owners came in. All we are left with is speculation as to what has gone wrong and how we fix it, but as I say, whatever the outcome, we’ll still have a club to support next season, and that’s the bit that matters right?