Setting the pace

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Ten games in. A useful marker. I remember reading somewhere about the way that the Germans would cover games in the run up to a World Cup. Far from having Wrighty and Robbie Savage clowning around on a comfy couch, the German approach would be to stand around a table wearing suits and discussing whether it was conceivable that Germany would not win the World Cup.

At the risk of going all Teutonic and serious on you, I’d like to attempt to a similar potted analysis of Wigan Athletic’s chances of promotion this season. The good news is that we are in second place, which is a promotion spot. However, bad news is that we have lost two games against the teams in 1st and 3rd.

Let’s take a look at those teams. There seems a general perception that one or both will fall away, probably to make way for a divisional powerhouse like Bradford, Blackburn or Charlton.

I think Shrewsbury could be here for the long haul however. They are built on a solid defence, with a narrow home pitch and by all accounts are rapidly turning into Burton Albion v2.0. There is arguably a blueprint there which allows smaller clubs to achieve great results and where’s the harm in that? We might be a club with a bigger budget and stronger squad this year but this approach has served us well in the past and also may be required should we ever grace the Championship again.

Peterborough are a different prospect. They have an abundance of attacking players and their model historically has always involved scouting the London non-league for young, explosive talent capable of making the step up. Keeping their key players fit will be key as they are scoring for fun. If the goals dry up, they do not have the defensive resilience of Shrewsbury to fall back on.

Given the general animosity following last Saturday, would it be harsh to want their best players to get flogged in January and for the Posh to miss out on the play offs in heartbreaking fashion? They could have another lap of honour perhaps!

The Doomsday scenario is that both teams continue at the blistering pace that they have set and some of the others improve and catch us up. Yet, Shrewsbury, with 26 points and no defeats over 10 games equates to 120 points over a full season, must surely tail off against that run rate at some point.

Even if they somehow miraculously keep this up and effectively go on to secure one of the promotion places, we should firstly concentrate on putting as much distance between ourselves and third place and worry about them later, in the same manner in which we eventually mugged the title off Burton two years ago.

In the short-term, we just need to keep winning. We are going to have to get used to teams coming to the DW and attempting to stop us playing, which inevitably causes frustration on the pitch and in the crowd. Yet, what a refreshing change from last season to watch a team go out with the intention to attack and score goals rather than us being entrenched in our own half for long periods.

My final wish, if we are to have a successful season, is that the crowds start to pick up sooner than April and some of the tens of thousands of Latics fans who have watched us over the past few decades can return to cheer on their exciting local side in greater numbers this season.

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 29th September 2017

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