Soapbox: Wigan woes

We were unlikely to remain silent for long on the shambles that was yesterday’s game against Wigan. Did I read somewhere that Dean Whitehead was blaming the fans and the pitch (the pitch presumably being the same one Wigan had to play on)? Pete Sixsmith, in deeply troubled mood, finds other issues to address, but few answers…

So, it wasn’t
just the team who messed up on Saturday, my counting skills were found to be deficient – but not as much as their alleged footballing skills.

I texted my seven-word verdict (or six as it turned out) as I watched the last five minutes of the game run down, feeling that the chances of an equaliser were about as remote as me laughing at a sketch on the BBC’s Comic Relief marathon.

As the whistle went to bring the proceedings to a close, I was fuming. As I walked back to the car I was fuming. As I drove away I was fuming. I have rarely fumed as much.

I would imagine that Niall Quinn felt the same. Here was the last home game before season ticket renewals are due. Lots of kids there, courtesy of the cheap tickets for schools programme. A good win and a lot of these kids would be using pester power to talk their parents into getting them a £19 season ticket. Good marketing – even chimps know the strength of pester power!

And what happens? We play like a bunch of clueless, brainless, pathetic amateurs. How is this possible? Was it the sight of wide eyed children, sitting in eager anticipation of skills and thrills that reduced our £120,000-a-week strike force to play with all the panache of an eternally divided pantomime horse?

Did the expectations of impoverished urchins reduce Collins and Ben Haim to speechlessness – because there was precious little communication between them for the duration of the game. Was the weight of the club’s ambitions so great that the manager forgot that one of the elements of football is surprise and that every so often we should start with the one winger we have and perhaps try a little bit of craft in the centre of midfield?

Whatever it was, this was a performance that left the bile rising in the throat and the cash staying in the wallet. Considerably fewer people than the club want will pay over £400 to sit through rubbish like this.

Wigan were well organised and Mrs Doubtfire had a clear tactical plan: let Sunderland have a lot of the ball, back off them and give them space, because with the team they have picked, they will c*** themselves if they are allowed time on the ball. We just sit back and wait for the mistakes to come.

I don’t know whether she was as specific to say things like “They won’t attack a bouncing ball” or “They will allow you to run unchallenged for 60 yards before leaving a huge gap for you to slide the ball in”, but that was how we gave the goals away.

She will have said: “Look, the crowd will get on their backs when they make mistakes. You don’t need to force them into it, they will just do it naturally.”

And we did. Many times. Many, many times. They would win the ball, pass it to a fluorescent yellow shirt and they would knock it up to Mido, who would, in Rugby League parlance, “stick the ball up his jumper” until help arrived. Oh how we laughed at the portly Egyptian until we realised that he could do amazing things with a ball, things that Kenwyne and Djibril could not – trap it, control it, pass it and actually move to where the ball might be.

As a club, we have a habit of messing up in March. I remember a defeat at home to Southampton in the last year of Roker Park that ultimately cost us our place in the top flight, and home defeats to Crystal Palace and Cardiff City in abortive promotion campaigns.

This one worries me because I cannot see this team winning another point, yet alone another game.

How do we stop the slide? Is Healy the answer? Do we play either Reid (a constant disappointment since Christmas) or Malbranque (ditto) in the centre of midfield when Richardson is absent? Do we change the goalkeeper? Is it worth sending Ferdinand out in a mobility scooter to inspire some confidence in the back four? Why can McCartney no longer put a decent cross in? Why should Whitehead criticise the crowd? Why are we the world’s worst corner takers? Why should my life dominated by a bunch of bloody footballers? Am I going mad? Tricky questions – anybody out there got any answers?

6 thoughts on “Soapbox: Wigan woes”

  1. Although Bernard is having it both ways – with his final comment saying RS was right to say how dreadful we were – I must say I agree with him. I thought at various points of the game how efficient, well-organised and adventurous Wigan were. Or was I just trying to find some way of rationalsing how bad we were?

  2. Bernard, I think you are becoming just a little paranoid. All managers look at thair own teams performances and gauge their reaction by what the team does – or in our case on Saturday, does not.
    I think that many fans and managers are quite envious of a team that can comfortably hold its own in the top league and can consistently unearth good managers (even if he is a Mag and looks like Robin Williams in drag) and find players in countries that the average fan could not find on a wall sized map. You go to Honduras and pick up Palacios – we got Milton Nunez, a man smaller than Wee Jimmy Krankie and with half the footballing talent. We are envious and we want to do it!!!! Hope to see you next season.

  3. One of lifes great mysteries is the number of managers of opposing teams who always blame defeat by Wigan Athletic on their side ‘not playing really well’. This is not so, they just won’t accept that they have been beaten by the better team on the day.
    On this occasion though Ricky Sbragia was correct.

  4. I agree Colin, the crowd got restless very early again on Saturday. DW has a point in my view. The constant ups and downs with barely a season in living memory that has been allowed to just peter out uneventfully, takes its collective toll on our fans. Poor performances make the promise of a ‘breathtaking’ manager and subsequent appointment of Sbragia look rather foolish.
    DW has a point but our supporters recognise lack of effort. They also sense the smell of relegation like a great white shark senses blood. Over the years we’ve had a lot of practice.
    Niall looked a very worried man, and if he thinks that Sbragia is the right man for the job right now, then Quinn himself isn’t the man we think he is. Frankly, I think the time to act is now.

  5. I wonder if I was harsh on Dean Whitehead. I haven’t heard the interview, but he had a point if his main argument was that the fans getting on players’ backs after six minutes just played into Wigan’s hands.
    Some of us do have a habit of shooting ourselves in the feet like that. But what Dean has to remember is that people, one way or the other, pay a lot of money to see the Lads and were frankly cheated by what was served up on Saturday. We were actually so bad that we deserved to lose more heavily; Danny Collins was very lucky to get away with a back pass to Fulop (at 0-1, I think it was). Leadbitter showed great determination to get his goal but was fortunate with the bounce that put him through. And we never again looked like scoring from an onside position.
    But back to Deano. If anyone heard him, and can fill in the gaps, please post here…

  6. There was a staggering lack of decisiveness throughout the team. Combined with a lack of responsibility from anywhere. McCartney can’t deliver a decent cross because he relies on what I call his ‘habit’ ball. He knocks the same ball into the box without looking. One of the (umpteeen)fundamental problems is that we lack a genuine holding midfield player without Tainio. Whitehead can’t fulfill that role yet he is persistently asked to play there with the result that he looks like a headless chicken. Jones looks like as if he was conned into signing the January contract and had been led to believe that it was a contract with Spurs. He isn’t interested and that’s been the way of it for months now.

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