Let’s be upfront. We didn’t go to the game, most of you didn’t go to the game, and so instead of a pretend match report, let’s have a look at the things that made us go “hmmm…” this weekend.
Woah, woah, woah it’s magic…
We know. No matter what soccer Saturday pundits (or anyone else who don’t have rights to cover the games) want to tell you, the FA Cup is still pretty sweet. If you’re stressing about what side your opposition have turned out or whether your manager is taking it seriously, then you’re doing it wrong. This third round weekend kicked off (literally) with a scouse derby straight from the eighties and wrapped up with Newport sticking it to Leeds, with Arsenal also seeing their backsides against Forest, what’s not to like?
Of course, Latics did their bit in romancing the cup. Paul Cook making a single, forced, change to the side that had played our last league game and sending his team out to attack and reap the benefits of being quickest out of the blocks. To a certain extent this worked, although Bournemouth’s strong bench eventually saw them haul back that two-goal lead.
Even forgetting the penalty shout that came moments before the equaliser it was a good day at the office for Latics and a more than welcome distraction from the League in the Perm household. You just don’t get the same nervous tension listening to WISH FM rattling through another league game as you got from those last 20 or so minutes from Dean Court on the Beeb.
Some things never change…
Ah speaking of aunty Beeb and penalty shouts, it was nice to see that Match of the Day hasn’t forgotten how much it hates Wigan Athletic on Saturday night. The result meant that they couldn’t quite dismiss us in the footnotes of the show, but scant “the home side had chances to win it” style highlights and Matthew Upson’s off-hand dismissal of what looked a fairly blatant shove on Ivan Toney served as a timely reminder that if your face doesn’t fit, it never will.
Still, at least it wasn’t covered by Channel 5 or else we’d have been pushed out by 5 minutes on Shrewsbury’s game that they hadn’t played yet.
Ashes to ashes…
Don’t get me started on the cricket. What do you mean, “You brought it up”? Oh, ok, I did, only so I could draw parallels with Latics though. No, I’m not going on another “could do better” rant but there is a cautionary note for us in England’s abject failure.
The growing consensus is that England let themselves down with a lack of planning. They knew the ashes were coming and that proper pace and proper spin bowling would have aided their cause on Aussie wickets. Despite knowing this, they did little about it which meant that they were short of firepower and equipped with one batsman who can bowl a bit of spin, in Ali, and a young lad, Mason Crane, who no one knew if they could trust in a test match.
We’ve been around enough blocks now to know that the occasions where a footballer can be dropped into a new team and see an immediate effect are as rare as good test matches on drop-in wickets. If we’re going to get promotion this season then it would be of great benefit if the team that we finish up with at the end of this transfer window is one that will serve us well in, at least, the first couple of months of next season so that any new signings get time to bed in.
A lot is being made of Lee Evans’ return to Wolves with many predicting no activity in this window whatsoever, but saying that £750m is too much to spend on one player is different from saying that there’s nothing to spend and the impending arrival of Jamie Walker and persistent rumours around James Vaughan suggest that there will be some business done this month.
When it comes down our prospects this season, keeping hold of what we have will probably prove as important as anyone Paul Cook brings in so hopefully anyone who does arrive will have that bit of pace or trickery we’ll need next year. What a difference keeping hold of Yanic would have made last season so it would be nice to think we can find another player in that mould, the same one might do, if he’s available at the right price or on loan.
The Price is Right…
I’ve read a fair bit over the weekend about why Latics won’t be spending too much this January. The story goes that the Whelans won’t invest because they are in the process of selling up and new owners can’t invest until they own the club and might not materialise if we don’t get promoted. Some people find it strange that the sale isn’t being pushed through so that millions can be piled into the club within hours of it being completed, but – as we’ve already established that Latics are likely to get promoted – why would you bother?
My guess, and it is just that, is, if there any delays, that Dave is trying to get a Championship price for a club that the buyers see as being in League One. Who can blame him for that? There’s no rush from my perspective, no guarantees that the grass will be greener under new owners (in fact you can pretty much guarantee that the grass will disappear every February) and why shouldn’t he get the best return he can on a club he’s invested a lot of his fortune in over the years?
The reality of any low spend though is likely to be more mundane and depressing. Latics simply don’t have the money sloshing around that they have anymore. We’ve all seen the accounts which lay bare what some of us have said for a long time, that the core turnover of the club is simply not enough to sustain a high league position and from experience we should all know that over speculating to accumulate doesn’t actually get you anywhere.
So, staying within our means is where we’re at for now and until we know who the new owners are, and what plans they have, we’d better get used to the idea.
It’s all in the numbers…
I hit myself with a fairly depressing thought yesterday. A FA cup tie against a Premier League team is supposed to be a financial boost for a lower division team but when you take into account our white elephant of a stadium, the wage bill and our fans’ tendency not to turn up to these things, apply the FA stipulated split of the gate money then I guess there’s a real possibility Latics could make a loss on the return fixture against Bournemouth, unless it gets picked for TV.
Then again, there’s something we can do about that. As I started off saying, the magic of the cup is still there if you want it to be and whilst there may be plenty of reasons for you to stay at home, ticket prices are likely to be low so don’t let those reasons become excuses. If you can get down, turn up and show your appreciation for the lads’ efforts on Saturday by cheering them on and seeing they can do it again.
Although, looking at the weather forecast, let’s hope it doesn’t take extra time and penalties to get a winner.