Last night I came off a freezing cold football field and checked the scores and then went on to Twitter only to find a load of bells, Aston Villa fans most of them propagating a story that Wigan has taken 25 fans to Bournemouth away on a Tuesday night. It was actually 237 but what this is obsession with our crowds and the need to start telling lies about our club and posting snide pics of empty away ends, usually an hour before kick off.
The article below was the editorial from the last issue of the Mudhutter published in November but is as relevant as ever given events of last night.
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That joke isn’t funny anymore
The weekend of the Spurs game saw a new low in journalistic standards as both the Daily Mail and Talksport printed pictures of Wigan’s away support which once plastered on the internet were circulated around the world. There were no lies in the pictures, merely the omitted fact that these shots were taken well before kick off but who cares, it’s just another opportunity to put the boot into little old Wigan Athletic. We had the same scenario a month or so earlier when mouthy bint made good Karen Brady blurted out that we’d only sold 69 tickets for West Ham. In this case, again it may also have been true but this was a full week before the game and again several hundred ultimately made the trip to East London on a midweek night to watch our reserve team give the Cockney bellends yet another lesson. What was it one of the #wafc twitterati said (James) “a lie can make it half way around the world while the truth is still putting it’s shoes on”.
OK but what if several hundred isn’t enough for the media witch hunt? Oh, OK I get it, we’re all supposed to be millionaires now Wigan Athletic are in the Premier League are we? Have you seen the price of away tickets nowadays? We may only take a few hundred to Spurs or West Ham but it’s the same few hundred who used to go to Leyton Orient or Brentford, or Fulham for that matter. Well, not exactly the same faces, some new, some old. Like any team’s fans our support evolves: some drift away, some get the bug, some start families, whilst others have families who grow up and then become fans in their own right. The fact is our support base is small and our start point was lower but is that a legitimate reason for the more primitive elements of the press to continually use the size of our club and the town it resides in as a punchbag? No, it doesn’t, we have fans who deserve better.
I don’t think we are the world’s most loved club by any stretch nor would I expect us to be. Occasionally a pocket of seething hatred arises from some of our former lower league foes who like to tell us that we only got to the Premier League because of Whelan’s wedge. We’re no better than those other newly monetised clubs such as Fleetwood or Crawley or heaven forbid, MK Dons – a franchise buying our way up the leagues. Sure we had a helping hand but there’s barely a club in the Premier League today who doesn’t rely on some form of third party investment. And if it’s money what got us here, it’s money which threatens to send us back as wage inflation puts us in a place where we cannot hope to compete with even the West Hams, Fulhams and Sunderlands of this world and are forced to sell or give away our best players every year because doubling their wages and putting them on a four year contract could finish us off financially.
So yes we got a leg up the ladder but in case you haven’t noticed football is all about money now. I didn’t hear Leeds United fans complaining when they off trying to win the European Cup a few years back and the only reason Man Utd want financial fair play is because City currently have more buying power. Nobody is questioning why the pair of them see fit to pay professional footballers hundreds of thousands of pounds a week for kicking a pig’s bladder about. There may be big city clubs in the Championship or similar sized clubs in league one whose fans want to see the back of us but be careful what you wish for because when we’re gone there may be no-one to replace us and the Premier League will morph into NFL where only big cities and full houses will exist while the lower leagues drift back into part-time football.
Who are the town teams in the Premier League nowadays – us and West Brom, and that’s your lot. Much as I was disappointed that we lost to them the other week, sometimes we as fans have got to stop doing that natural reaction of wanting other teams to lose to ensure that we stay safe, like vultures searching for prey. Maybe sometimes we have to doff our cap and admire where West Brom are and what they have done as it’s sure as hell more admirable than what the West Hams and QPRs are doing.
And maybe some football fans out there should recognise what Wigan Athletic have achieved, for a small town club to stay in the Premier League for eight years, a tiny club in comparison to even places such as Norwich or Southampton let alone Newcastle or Birmingham. Stop comparing us to the clubs around us, as even the other Lancashire clubs had forty or fifty years start and stop comparing us to the cities which surround us in the Premier League who have generations of support to call on and a large surrounding population not hemmed in by Liverpool and Manchester. Compare us to the clubs where we came from: Chorley, Altrincham and Barrow or Rochdale, Stockport or Bury and realise that’s all we are. Bigger in status but purely by the virtue of yes, a bit of money up front but subsequently a mountain of grit and determination to keep us there.
We are the club that shows that it is possible for dreams to be achieved. Sadly, we don’t see the next dream coming through. The likes of Brighton and Cardiff may come up soon and will be very deserving but again they are big city clubs with brand new grounds, who is representing the small fry? Who will be the next town team to break into the top flight and win the nation’s hearts? Who is the next Wigan? Well guess what there isn’t one and there isn’t likely to be for a while because the money men have sewn up the whole cartel. Have a look down there, try and find the natural comparison to Wigan- the best I can muster is Barnsley or Peterborough and they’re more likely to go down than get up. A few years ba
ck we had Scunthorpe nearly shocking the football world and even if Proud Preston, sadly a shadow of past glories, had negotiated a play off final a few years back that may have been a story with an element of romance to it.
What you see throughout the football pyramid is a natural settling of the club’s with the biggest wallets and the biggest natural resources when our day comes to stand in line, it’s not going to be a pretty sight I’m afraid. The Championship is becoming equally as hard to get out of as the Premier League especially for those smaller clubs who have never fallen into the sleeping giant category, or even a former Premier League regular like Southampton or Norwich. The days of a Derby or Forest coming up and winning the league are but a pipe dream.
I’m not getting myself down about this and don’t want to start on a low note, this is a positive thing: proof that no matter how mundane you think our Premier League existence is, we’re actually sticking up for a hell of a lot more than Wigan Athletic, we are sticking up for small clubs everywhere by proving that you can balance the books and compete and indeed beat the biggest names in the league. Why should people on social media sites get away with telling lies about our football club’s support whether it be some bedroom keyboard warrior or even more worryingly established journalists – although it’s often difficult to tell who is and who isn’t these days.
Maybe we shouldn’t take all the stick to heart at all, maybe it is just me who does? Let’s face it, the online football blogging world is at saturation point and you can go from day to day amongst any of the tabloids or Talksh*te and Monday it’s “kick them out the poxy little club” and by Tuesday it’s “what a magnificent story the Wigan Athletic one is”. Two faced lardy sh*tes with pages to fill who specialise in hypocrisy to meet their wordcount. And even so, the pace of the media now is so frantic that yesterday’s storm in a teacup is quickly off the page and let the next series of hand wringing about something else begins.
I figure it’s my job to stick up for Wigan Athletic as a fanzine editor but also as a fan. Why is a fan of another team better than me because they happen to have been born in a large city or even a town with a longer, more established football club? This isn’t right at all and we must ensure we don’t dish out this football snobbery any more than we are asked to absorb it. Let’s keep working this thing together, we can’t fight every battle and I’m not the only one to over-react when the name of the good ship HMS Wigan Athletic is taken in vain but if we show unity and keep smiling then we’ve half a chance.
The above was the editorial of the current issue of the Mudhutter. If you like what we do then to buy a print copy, visit here
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