Things seem to have gone a bit pear-shaped over the last few weeks. After 14 years of onwards and upwards we now appear to have reached a crossroad in Latics modern history. In some quarters Bobby is being referred to as Martinez (always a bad sign) and DW seems to have even less friends than usual!
Last summer everything was going fine, we didn’t lose any players despite the press having Palacios and Valencia nailed on for Man U, Liverpool or Real Madrid, in fact we’d “pushed the boat out” and brought players in – Cattermole, ex-Juventus Kapo (Iknow, Iknow) ex Holland U-21 de Ridder and some Egyptian bloke called Zaki – we even managed to get rid of Marlon King for goodness sake!
By January we were 7th in the table – but things weren’t all good, crowds were down, the “big clubs” were circling our best players like vultures and before the month was out Heskey and Palacios had gone and Valencia really was looking nailed on to sign for the unpleasant Scotsman at Old Trafford.
It was at this point that things seemed to change. The lack of support for a winning team must have concerned Whelan and Bruce and convinced them that any success achieved would be unsustainable and we would always remain “Little Wigan”.
Since then we have lost the manager and coaching staff and virtually a full team – the defence has remained intact but all the midfield and upfront players have gone for one reason or another – Cattermole, Palacios, Brown, Taylor, Valencia, Heskey and Zaki. We have brought people in to replace them this summer, but the worrying thing is that none of them, players or coaches, has any PL experience (err, apart from Marlon, who’s now back with us).
Will this situation change anytime soon, I don’t think so, not unless some Middle-Eastern dictator takes over (I’ll stay as we are anyway,thanks). Our crowds won’t increase – our towns too small and were in the wrong place, sandwiched between Liverpool and Manchester and surrounded by loads of other established clubs. Because our heritage is only non-league we have no “dormant fan-base” – we can’t win back the “missing fans” because we have no “missing fans”. Then there’s our perennial ball and chain, the cuckoos. If they had never existed and Latics were the only club in town we’d probably get an extra 3-5k fans (and vice-versa for them, of course). So our benchmark is not 75,50,40 or even 20k but the 14/15/16K the rugby got when they won everything in the 80/90’s. We’re matching those now and that seems to be the highest any Wigan club can achieve.
So what does the immediate future hold. Well. personally, I think we’ll be playing Championship football next season (not the end of the world btw). But again, during the last month alone, I’ve been an optimist after PNE, a pessimist after Cattermole left, an optimist after Villa, a pessimist after Wolves, Blackpool and United and a slightly more optimistic pessimist after the second half at Everton. All it takes is 3 points against them ‘orrible ‘ammers and I’ll be an optimist again!
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