There is a discussion which keeps doing the rounds this year involving comparisons to the 2002/03 season, the year when we really did “smash it”. Even though it’s an inevitable thing to bring up, I must admit I cringe a little bit every time I read it. Mainly because many football clubs do not encounter a season like that once in their lifetime, let alone twice and we should recognise that what we did that year under Paul Jewell was in all likelihood without parallel before or ever again.
Yet in any successful team, there are certain ingredients and indeed players who bring out those ingredients as the season progresses. Players like Max Power and Yanic Wildschut have passion in abundance and have made a real connection with the fans that simply hasn’t been there for a few years, Emmerson Boyce being the exception.
Michael Jacobs is another such example – a player with impressive guile and talent but also one who would run through a brick wall. He may be out injured right now but if you’re looking for moments when we started to “get serious” this season, then look no further than Michael Jacobs leaping eight feet into the air to nod down an aimless punt into the box to Will Grigg to score a pivotal goal in the Gillingham game. Of course, the forward players will get bums off seats but the defensive pairing of Pearce and Morgan has really come to the fore in the past couple of months, when early season injury prevented this from happening.
I’ve singled out a few there which seems a little unfair but we are in a position now where we have this type of player throughout the club, players who are hungry and want to succeed. Aside some of the obvious words like desire and resilience, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what “character” is but boy are we going to need them to show some character in the remaining fourteen games.
Saturday at Walsall may have been the consequence of a steady culmination since, well, the first day of the season basically to announce our arrival in the top two but in Bury and Millwall we have two exceptionally slippy banana skins heading our way. Staying there is going to be the next big challenge but now we can taste it, let’s hope those hungry players will battle just as hard to maintain this position over the coming weeks as they have done to get there.
First published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 26th February 2016
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