Worrying times

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It’s a worrying time for Wigan Athletic and by far the most worrying time of Paul Cook’s reign so far.

I use the term worrying for a few reasons – our form is clearly a worry but equally the distinct lack of confidence that has been evident in the home matches against first Birmingham and then Sheffield United on New Year’s Day is a bigger worry for me.

One win in 13 is terrible – anyway we dress it up, and I think the feeling of doom has been increased because of the way we started the season. Heading in to the Autumn we were finding this Championship lark easy and everyone was talking about a play-off place.

Talk of that was premature at best, but you can’t quell that kind of excitement and atmosphere when momentum is with you. As it is now we’ve not got any sort of momentum apart from that pulling us in to the danger zone. We’re dropping like the proverbial stone.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint where it started to go wrong for us, was it against Millwall where a penalty miss from Josh Windass meant we squandered a chance to go 2-0 up in a game we eventually would go on to lose?

Or was it before that when we lost all of our attacking front three, our centre back and our left back along with the talisman of the side Nick Powell? It’s probably a combination of that.

Our away form has been a cause for concern all season long but sadly that has now transferred to our home form. In our last two home games we’ve had a chance to score early on in the game, squandered those chances and gone on to lose heavily. That shows the lack of confidence among the side at the moment.

Lee Evans miss against Sheffield United was unbelievable at the time and doesn’t get any better on subsequent watches. We should have been 1-0 up and in that situation – who knows what the outcome of the match would have been.

It’s a crucial time for the club now, we’re in un-chartered waters and what we do next could define us over the next few seasons. With a new ownership structure in place and Championship survival a must what do Darren Royle and IEC do? I personally hope we don’t make any rash decisions, I still believe Paul Cook is the right man for Wigan Athletic and I still believe we will retain our Championship status under him.

There will be temptation to change direction with a new manager but whenever that is mooted I ask people realistically who could we attract that would be an upgrade on our current manager?

Steve Bruce always an un-likely prospect anyway has now gone to Sheffield Wednesday so can be discounted. Other than that David Unsworth keeps cropping up, is he really better than the manager who gave us the season of our lives last year? I don’t think so but the decision doesn’t lie with me, it lies with our new board.

I would hope they take lessons from our previous two Championship seasons where we got rid of previously successful managers in difficult times only to recruit replacements who exacerbated the problems rather than solve them. Loyalty in football is in short supply these days, but if anyone has earned some loyalty it should be Paul Cook.

That’s not to mask the issues surrounding the club at the moment, Paul Cook isn’t immune from criticism and he would be the first to admit mistakes have been made this season.

But equally as worrying as our recent run of form has been we still have five months of the season left to play, we’re not in the relegation zone and we’re not cut adrift by any means.

I’m the eternal optimist and I believe we’ll get out of this mess. Cook said it was down to him and his staff to find the answers and I believe he should be given the time to find those answers.

The vast majority of Latics fans admitted survival was the aim at the start of the season, I believe I predicted a 16th place finish in fact. I would still be happy with that, but the fact remains we need to start winning football matches again.

It’s a return to the FA Cup on Saturday and that match probably comes at the ideal time. A break from the pressure of the league may just be what Latics need to freshen things up, bring in some players from the cold and see what those not getting game time can do. If that can in return influence our league form all the better.

We’ve had a torrid time over the last couple of months but all isn’t lost and there’s still a lot of football to be played. I know it isn’t fashionable these days but instead of berating this relatively young side on the terraces and on social media how about we give them our support? They’ve earned that from us at least.

Sean Livesey

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