Thanks to this morning’s Autotune scandal, today’s post match blog is brought to you by the letter X, the number 6 and some, frankly, crap pop music.
“Do you believe in life after love?” might have been a poignant for Cher, or whoever penned Believe for her, but it’s hardly up there with “To be, or not to be?” in terms of eternal questions. Then again neither Cher or Shakespeare were Wigan Athletic fans, so what did they know about our pain, eh? What did they know about losing 6-0 or about watching the Premier League dream slip? What do they know about South American centre-halves and four, four, bloody two?
I would guess, barring a major new BBC drama, reimagining the bard as some failed lothario football hack, that both would freely agree that they know nowt on the subject. But the language of football fandom is the language of love, we’re all romantics at heart and I have to write about something other than Chris Kirkland’s bad back, so bear with me.
Because, actually, Cher has it right. We’re all in a relationship, it’s on the rocks and we’re all dealing with it in different ways. There’s those of us who still think we’re a bit of a looker and are looking forward to knocking off a steady stream of models once things reach their inevitable conclusion, there are those who are panicking because we don’t have buckets of youth vigour any more and are doomed to a life sat in front of daytime TV, sat in nothing but our pants and a pool of our own drool. These are the people who see a life after love. Depending on their outlook they’re either chomping at the bit to get there or are carrying a heavy heart ever onwards.
And then there are those of us who aren’t quite so ready to give up, who can’t see past the end of this romance just yet. Of course, some of this lot are already sat in their pants, drooling, stuck for an idea of how to get things back on track, but the rest of us are ready to fight for what we’ve got. Ok, maybe it’s because we’re deluded but I’d prefer to think that it’s because we think that we’ve got something worth fighting for.
In case you’re in any doubt, I fall into the last category and that’s where Billy Shakespeare comes in.
It seems that if you’ve got the temerity to be a small club in the Premier League you’ve got two options. You either shut up shop and play the percentages or you bugger off back to where you belong; chances are that even if you do the first then you’ll end up doing the latter anyway. Ask yourself whether you’d rather be Stoke or the West Brom of a couple of years back, would you rather go down with applause for you your adventure or stay up with a begrudging nod to your pragmatism?
Football is supposed to be about expression not attrition clinging to Premier League survival like Blackburn, Bolton or Stoke and like the Fulham and Boro of old isn’t living. What is that they say about if you reach for the stars then you need to be prepared to fall flat on your face and about it being better to have tried failed than to not have bothered in the first place? The clichés can go on for ages, but strangely I can’t think of one that goes along the lines of “stick about for as long as you can, be generally dour and aggressive and see if you can snatch something before the end”
I certainly can’t remember one that mirrors the immortal lines of a Mr P Jewell courtesy of the Sky Sports studio, if we’re playing a big club, let’s try to keep the score to two nil, you never know when that additional goal difference will come in handy.
I might be a dreamer, but at the end of the day, that’s why I’m a football fan. As a child you dream of FA Cups and league titles, not dramatic nil-nil draws against Liverpool. I want my children to grow up with football that imagines wearing a Latics shirt and going on a mazy run past four defenders before slotting it in the top corner, not one where the pinnacle of their dreams would be a last ditch goal line clearance to deny Man City their fourth goal. I spend enough time being pragmatic during the week to spend my weekends studying it as an art form.
So if you’re sat there in your carefully positioned armchair getting angry at the boy from Balaguer ask yourself what are you so bothered about? You’re cross because this bloke wants more for the club than a non-existence trying to grind out nil-bout stalemates because he wants to try and build more than a team for the next 6-9 months? The cost of failure, unless you’re bothered about the views of the supporters of ‘big four’ clubs and rugby fans, is relegation to the Championship and the people who say that the only bad thing about being in the Championship is promotion to the Premier League are wiser than you think.
Still we haven’t given up just yet and Saturday’s game showed that there’s more to Latics than the team that surrendered so meekly to Blackpool. I’ve got the evidence of my own eyes to go on for that, but the kind words of Ancelotti and Drogba say more than I could. I got the impression that Chelsea spent most of the first half waiting on their chance. They say that Latics gave them a game. My if-but-and-maybe-ometer says that things might have been different if Latics had got the first goal, but most of all we can walk away pointing a clear weakness rather than a faltering game plan.
I think we can officially say that Latics cannot defend for toffee. This wasn’t the collapse that we saw last week, or last season. The team stood up reasonably well but at least three of the six goals came from just poor defensive play. Whether that’s personnel, experience or tactics, it’s fixable you can defend better without making it your only aim. You can bring players in get coaching help, build a brick wall in front of the goal and hope the referee doesn’t spot it.
Most of all, you can lighten-up about our deficiencies and try and celebrate what we are good at. Find the things in the relationship that you like and if it is going to be the end of our time in the top flight then enjoy it whilst it lasts. If it’s going to be a long hard season, then why make it any longer?
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