How low can you go?

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Well, it is character building if nothing else. Hear me out here, but just as every football club has their days in the sun, we’ve also got to accept our periods in the doldrums. Whether we deserved for it to happen in such a disastrous, malicious manner is a point for discussion, most Wigan Athletic fans will feel not. Indeed most right thinking football fans feel our sense of grievance. You’d have to have a particularly large axe to grind to not be able to, which probably explains why Bolton and Barnsley fans feel we do deserve it.

Let’s assume we do deserve a reset. Let us sit back and give our opponents credit, reassured that karma ultimately serves everyone in the long term. Lincoln were out of the league for a few years, and deserve their success. Blackpool, our recent 5-0 wallopers have also been through ownership turmoil in recent years. Rochdale, well they’ve achieved very little in their footballing life but just like us, they have a loyal passionate fanbase, who choose to support their local side over the Manchester giants, and who deserve the joy of watching their club turn over those who have enjoyed better fortunes over the years.

As for Hull City, well, whereas finances have not been their primary issue, their whole character and tradition was nearly ripped up over the ludicrous Hull City Tigers debacle. Imagine thinking that you have to add ridiculous nicknames on to the name of your sports club in order to make yourselves more credible?

Let us hand it to them, for a mere seven months ago, it was us humiliating them and when I say “us” I mean that fantastic team we had, not the unrecognisable bunch that takes to the field now. Fair play to the lad who got a hat trick too, not that I think the defence or ‘keeper offered much resistance. In another world, a swift boot up the back side, early doors, from a midfield enforcer, let’s call him Mammy Sorsy, and there would have been nothing of the sort.

Yet throughout the team we are lacking in every sense. There’s two ways it goes now: down or up. For me, I can only see worse days ahead in the short term at least. What happens in the longer term is still out of our hands. I don’t see us picking up any more points this month against two teams at the top and one with a new manager in charge. March looks a little ropey too but of course, the single most important result we can get this season will be off the pitch, not on it.

The players we have are the players we’ve got and for them, again, things will go two ways. I think many fans hoped we got to January and added some experience to the squad and now we have that experience, we are wishing that we had a load of kids playing again.

Are the January recruits just journeymen, looking for a bit of first team football to keep fit? Or will they slowly use that experience to get to know each other and forge a more cohesive unit that stops leaking goals, start to create more chances and brings on the younger players. At the moment, it feels very much like the former but we have to pin our hopes on the latter. For hope is all we have left.

Of course, if we get new owners in, I would fully expect our current crop to up their game, as there will potentially be contracts on offer. Whether we stay up or go down, we can start planning our longer term future, and decide which of the squad we want to include in Wigan Athletic FC: The Reboot edition.

Like many others, I am fighting the urge to restrain my anger at the various parties who have brought us to our knees and trying to provide a more rationale, balanced view. Perhaps we are due a reset? What would have happened if Dave Whelan had not sold the club, but instead made us sustainable? Which is what we all want right? Imagine if he’d sold off all the talent and pocketed the money, slashed £9m off the wage bill and, with a lower quality squad, let us drop back to the 4th tier, where he picked us up from?

The fans would have gone ballistic at it, but maybe that was what was needed. Maybe we needed to be told that: “Young David’s got his pocket money, and that’s all he’s getting” He couldn’t pump money in forever, nobody should have expected him to.

Nevertheless, the two years’ that followed were disastrous. We were sold to the wrong people, a few of us asked questions from day one but no action was ever taken, mainly because we were doing OK on the pitch and the bills were being paid.

Even so, there was no way at all for IEC to do what they did, you will never convince me otherwise. £30m of talent flogged for a fraction of the price by Begbies, and probably another £30m sat on the Academy production line. There was a route to sustainability right there. But why would they want to do that? What did they care about Wigan Athletic FC? They didn’t, only we do, and we are still here.

The computer has crashed and all attempts to reboot are failing. I would say we are running on safe mode, but we are far from safe yet. We are currently (still) at the mercy of administrators and someone who wants to (but doesn’t have to) buy us. They can walk away at any time. Kept waiting by the EFL, who innocuously waved through the architects of our downfall last time and have now resorted to celebrating our defeats in hastily deleted tweets.

We are at their mercy, there is nothing we can do. If League Two awaits, then so be it. It didn’t have to be this way but even so, I am missing my football club, and not just physically. One day, be it this year or next, we will be able to walk through the turnstiles and reclaim it again.

The players, or even the stadium, don’t make a football club, it is the fans that make a football club. One day we will have our football club back. In the meantime, we’re just going to have to get used to getting gubbed every week. In the words of Owen F.Coyle, we just have to take our medicine. And I’m certainly feeling a bit sick now after mentioning his name.

Article first published in the Wigan Today 12th Man column on Friday 19th February 2021

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