Heartbreaking. That is it in a word. We are a boxer on the ropes, we have our hands behind our back and people are taking it in turns to repeatedly punch us. I have had periods of utter despair in my mind over the past nine months with what is happening to our football club. I can completely understand, the anger, the hurt, the increase in cries for help for people suffering from deteriorating mental health amongst the Wigan Athletic community. Perhaps they don’t deserve the following credit, but I really don’t think that Choi and Au Yeung had any idea of the destruction and devastation their actions last summer caused to thousands of people, their lives, their future, their jobs. Or maybe they didn’t care, it was a business interest, a hobby to them. A gamble which they quickly grew impatient with.
The logical part of my brain reins in the anger when I consider that we were and still are completely powerless to stop it. Like many, I was certainly wallowing in midweek after another defeat and the rumoured exit, or at best inertia shown by the leading bidders. But then I managed to snap out of it, fearful of my mood affecting other areas of my life: my job, my family, my health. Football does affect us in this way, we all know it. It is all in our thoughts, our mind, our reactions. It creates such strong emotions and it is a battle of wits to control it. I never thought I’d find myself quoting an ancient philosopher like Marcus Aurelius in the 12th Man column but the sentiment bears up to scrutiny. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength!”
It is completely true! The whole branch of Stoicism philosophy concerns the adoption of an open acceptance of the worst case scenario, so that by manifesting it in your mind before it happens, you are left pleasantly satisfied, should the worst not actually happen. So I have privately accepted the worst now, and I am getting on with quietly watching the team that I love. Wondering at what level our future will be, and what sort of club we will have but knowing that I will be there, and want to be part of it. Giving up isn’t the answer.
Having said that, envisaging the worst case scenario isn’t actually the worst part of all this. It is the false glimpses of hope that we continually get fed in this ghastly “process” that is destroying our minds, by inviting positive outcomes into our heads that do not materialise. We have all spent days picking our phones up every two minutes and refreshing, waiting for a tweet to tell us that a bid has been accepted. Or we have woken up in the morning thinking “today is the day” and it never is. I’m writing this piece on Thursday thinking “ha ha we’ll probably get bought on Friday and I’ll look a right wally for writing this”. Here’s hoping. Nope, scrap that, must stop hoping.
Waiting for positive news that never seems to come is what is causing the most distress. If you can accept in your mind internally that relegation is probably going to happen, that we might end up being a threadbare, fans’ run club, more players may leave, we might even end up back in non league. Then any upside that subsequently follows is a bonus. One day soon, you will be able to watch Wigan Athletic again and have a beer with your mates, and reminisce over the many, brilliant memories that this football club has given you over the years.
And there will be a Wigan Athletic, too many good people care to make sure of that, even though some of them are seemingly becoming targets for some of our less enlightened fanbase.
I know a lot of Latics fans are on the verge of giving up but please don’t. Those staff behind the scenes aren’t giving up, we still have so many good people working at the football club and we still have such a good community of supporters (when we’re not bickering with each other) When we look back over the 89 year history of the club, which will one day be many more years, we will look upon this as our darkest hour. A small blip in the story of Wigan Athletic FC but thankfully it will no longer dominate our minds as it does now.
We are unfortunately being taken to hell and back right now by a string of people who were supposed to protect us and have failed us badly. But we will make it back. Sure we might not have even hit the bottom yet. We keep thinking we have but each new low arrives to clobber us over the head with renewed aplomb. This football club is still fighting though, for it’s life, if not it’s League One status, even though so much remains out of it’s control.
So to this weekend and the glorious blue eyed boy returns to the club where he became an idol. Putting into practice my philosophy, I fully expect him to score a winner for the fake football club he now plays for. Knocking another nail into our coffin because that is just the way things are going for us right now. I know that is not what anybody wants to hear but the truth is that I (or you) can’t control whether he does or he doesn’t. Plus, let’s face it, the irony in this happening has long been a feature of the Wigan Athletic fans’ psyche, whenever a former player returns.
I obviously hope he doesn’t, but hope is not a strategy. We have just got to ride this out. And one day, maybe next week or next month or at some point this year or at some point next year, we will wake up and something good WILL absolutely happen and we will leave all this destruction behind us. In the meantime, we just have to quickly forget each bad day at the office, knowing that, even if there are more bad days to follow, we are at least one day closer to eventually having a good day. We will come out of this mentally stronger. Because if you’re still with us after this past nine months, then you can cope with absolutely anything that football can throw at you.
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