The Wigan Athletic ‘Who Are You?’

It could be subtitled “and how Sunderland missed out on N’Zogbia” – read on for a fascinating account of the aborted deal. We’ve said it before, or something like it. If Bernard Ramsdale* didn’t exist as an outstanding example of the (proper) Lancashire football supporter, he’d need to be invented. A past winner of our annual Who Are You? awards, he returns from a little rest – from Salut! Sunderland duties but not much else – with some more pearls ahead of Wigan v SAFC on Saturday. Bernard, landlord of Ye Olde Tree and Crown fan site, has tremendous humour and a refreshingly down-to-earth outlook. It really is a great read. But don’t expect a non-stop bundle of laughs; Bernard lives with the distressing consequences of an awful family tragedy …

Salut! Sunderland: Just when everyone is predicting Wigan for the bottom three, you turn 1-9 at Spurs (and indeed 0-4, 0-6 in your opening home games) into 1-0 at Spurs. What should we read into such a result – and the hammerings suffered in your first two games?

I would read absolutely nothing into the four results that you just mentioned. Inconsistent is what Wigan Athletic do better than anyone else in this League. We are always going to take a beating, especially against the so called ‘big four’, but then again last season we defeated Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. Our problem seems to stem from players who are willing to perform when it suits them but are unable/unwilling to continue the performances throughout a full Premier League campaign.

Some supporters feel that the players become somewhat demotivated when they play the lesser clubs, the players, complete with sizeable wads in their back pockets, seem unable to comprehend that we ourselves are one of the lesser clubs whose supporters are living the dream. The players can move to bigger, better clubs and they (and their leeching agents) know this, but at the end of the day, this is the problem that a club the size of ours will always have.

Hey, and don’t forget we also turned the 1-9, 0-4 and 0-6 into a 3-0 courtesy of a Carling Cup victory at Hartlepool United prior to the game at Three Points Lane! As I write this news has just broken that Harry Redknapp’s leading striker has also been re-christened Jermain De No!

We seem to have bought or been linked with just about every other Wigan player. Is Steve Bruce trying to recreate the Wigan Athletic of his era, is he mad or is very canny (Titus Bramble, vs Man City, certainly lived up to your own recommendation)?

Aah, Sir Titus of Bramble! You read the little missive that I posted then? Listen, Titus is a player who needs the full support of the manager, fellow players AND supporters, if he gets this he will thrive. The man was simply immense for us and he was desperately missed during the opening two games of our season! Thankfully, we seem to have steadied the ship since then. Steve Bruce will no doubt have Titus looking as solid as a errrrr, really solid thing and being solid and dependable are what makes Titus tick. I stand by my words of support for Titus, and I can confidently predict that he will be your player of the season come May, should he replicate the form he showed at the DW Stadium.

This then brings us onto Charles N’Zogbia doesn’t it? Bruce certainly did his best to sign the wayward Frenchman, but Latics were holding out for nine million pounds at least, and no disrespect but Andy Reid and the other names mentioned as part of a cash plus player exchange was simply criminal! Joe Kinnear once called Charles ‘Charles Insomnia’ and in the dealings between Birmingham City and Latics it is reported that he left his agent in charge of the deal while he went home for a kip!

The first Charles knew about the collapse was when his agent woke him up to let him know that the last minute wage hike, of an extra ten grand per week, had been rejected. It is rumoured that another foreign club were able to agree to the players’ demands, but it was too late to broker any deal by the time he had opened his eyes! Had Bruce, or even Tony Pulis, come up with the figure that Latics wanted for him a deal could have been struck. I am pleased that he is still at the club and is about to get a lesson in football reality. After reportedly refusing to play for Latics after a training ground bust up, and an N’Zogbia-less dismantling of Spurs, he is in for a tough time as the current squad are reportedly not going to forgive him any time soon. Victor Moses’ boots don’t half get dirty, the training ground needs a good sprucing up, and four months training with the reserves, without getting a game, will also be a nasty ‘wake up call’ for Charlie boy. It’ll certainly set the alarm bells ringing!

Maynor Figueroa? He is not the finished article yet, but he is making the left back berth his own. I suspect Bruce will be back for him in January, provided of course that he is still in situ at the Stadium of Light by then. He would also be wise not to try to get him on the cheap as Latics are finally learning to become a club who don’t undersell themselves or their players anymore. Considering Bruce was quoted as saying he would be able to shop at Harrod’s instead of Tesco’s when he joined you, it is something of a mystery why he keeps coming back to Wigan!


What, then, does the season hold in store for our two clubs?

Let’s start with Sunderland shall we? I really can’t see the Black Cats setting the world on fire, although in Darren Bent you do have a potent goal scorer, who in my opinion, should have played a major part in South Africa, but that’s another story. The arrival of Asamoah Gyan certainly makes up for the departure of big Kenwyne and scoring goals is key to at least staying in the Premier League and I expect Sunderland to do that. Bruce has also pulled off a good bit of business by going back to his old gaffer and signing Danny Welbeck on loan as well and if those three players don’t start slamming the goals in there will be something drastically wrong at the SoL.

The defence will be well marshaled by Titus Bramble and the loan capture of Nedum Onuoah from Manchester City and the re loaning of John Mensah from Lyon should strengthen that area of the park, providing of course that Mensah, a Wigan Athletic transfer target when Bruce was in charge of Wigan, stays fit. Lee Cattermole in the middle of the park certainly needs to keep the red card count into at least single figures this season because those cards are the only flaw in his game. He is by no means a dirty player and it looks to me as though he may be getting a bit of a reputation among the Premier League referees, and Lee can certainly do without that.

Sir Titus believes that a European finishing place is possible, but I reckon that at best you will finish in a respectable mid table finish as Bruce may well be another couple of transfer windows away from getting the squad that he wants. I’m looking forward to seeing Lee and Titus back at the DW Stadium and I’d take the draw now and call it a ‘thank you’ for the great service both players gave to us. They should get a decent reception from the home faithful. Titus will, guaranteed.

As for Wigan, the recent arrivals of Tom Cleverley on loan from Manchester United and big striker Franco Di Santo on a three-year deal from Chelsea augurs well for the season, as the midfield and attacking areas of the team certainly needed boosting. By all accounts the signing of Cleverley on loan is a major coup, and he is expected to be our player of the season according to a few of my Manchester United friends, but their fans refuse to believe that any player who isn’t on the Old Trafford books is better than any of their players don’t they? The problem of Chris Kirkland’s glass back has been nullified by the fact that we now have a reliable goalkeeper waiting in the wings, whilst the arrival of Antolin Alcaraz and the wonderful Ronnie Stam should ensure mid table respectability for ourselves as well. All we need now is for Charles N’Zogbia to stop being a petulant trouble maker and work hard, as per his contract. for the club between now an January.


You quite enjoy the craic with Sunderland fans. Anything to report on that score from the games last season?

Not really, I did extend an invitation for a few of your lads to join me in the ‘Brick’ for a pint or twelve after the last game, but I ended up sitting on my own like Michael Barrymore at a pool party! I was that lonely and depressed I even held a gun under my chin and thought of ringing Gazza to ask him to bring me a crate of beer, some chicken nuggets, a fully signed Kidderminster Harriers autograph book and a CD of Fog On The Tyne to cheer me up!

Did the World Cup mean much to you? Can’t wait for four years’ time, or just glad to see the back of it until then?

I’m afraid I fell into the same old trap. I actually believed that we could do well in the tournament, despite knowing full well that the England team really does lack any truly world class players. The Premier League is full of them, but when Steve Gerrard doesn’t have Fernando Torres in tow he’s quite average really isn’t he? The same is true of Frank Lampard without Didier Drogba or Wayne Rooney without Luis Antonio Valencia. Wherein lays the problem.

The competition as a whole failed to inspire me and I can say hand on heart that it was the worst World Cup tournament that I can remember. The highlight for me was seeing our new signing Antolin Alcaraz go down in history as the first ever Wigan Athletic player to score a goal in the World Cup Finals. It was also highly amusing to see Wigan Athletics’ third and fourth choice goalkeepers battling it out when Ghana’s Richard Kingson came up against Vladimir Stojkovics’ Serbia. We actually had six players playing in South Africa, but even that wasn’t enough to get me watching the games as avidly as I did at any other World Cup tournament.

The sad thing from an England point of view is that the future does not look too bright as long as Fabio Capello is in charge of running the horror show that is England. I know the team has got off to a good start in the Euro 2012 tournament, but I do fear that should we reach those Finals he will revert back to type and ensure that the two separate clique’s in the England camp get their own way and we will be back where we started, albeit with a new manager, in the autumn of 2012.

One other problem seems to be the fact that the players who represent their country seem to be looking at their international duties as a chore rather than a honour, and with the media always willing to put the boot in, is it any wonder?

We’ve promised no further mention of Ed*a*do in these questions, but do you feel we should just give up on cheating – diving, feigning injury, trying to get opponents sent off etc – and accept that it is now part of the game?

It isn’t a part of the game and these often imported cheating tactics should be clamped down on. The referee’s talk a tough game during almost every pre season but when it comes down to showing some consistency the referee’s do tend to bottle it. The teams they tend to punish are those of us further down the league, I mean, I have personally seen Steve Gerrard and Wayne Rooney actually almost officiate games at the DW Stadium due to their constant harassing of the referee during the 90 minutes play. This is an aspect of the modern day game that really does frustrate me. There really does tend to be a ‘bigger club bias’ in this League and it stinks. I do feel that match officials have a lot to contend with but they don’t half make rods for their own backs sometimes. I have lost count of the number of players sent off for two clumsy tackles, or one tackle and a ‘shirt off’ goal celebration whilst the blatant cheating often goes unpunished.

I have seen Paul Scholes get just a ticking off for a tackle that would have got any Wigan Athletic player sent off during the final game of season 2007/08 when United needed a win at the DW Stadium to win the title. The sad truth is that there was no way the referee, Steve Bennett, was going to be blamed for any United slip up had they lost the game. I have seen Ronaldo diving all over the place and blatantly trying to get our players sent off. I have seen Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson publicly slamming the referee’s at the DW Stadium. I quite often see a Wigan player booked for nothing, other than the fact an opposition player was booked a few minutes previously, and yes the opposition player in question is usually one who plays for one of the ‘big four’ and has probably committed enough fouls for his one yellow card that would have gotten anybody else sent off.. I really do not know what the answer to the problem is, but stronger referees willing to stand up and be counted would help.

Man City continue to falter in their attempts to make achievements equal investment. Is this good for the game or should we be rooting for them to break the mould at the top?

I personally think that City will come good eventually. The pressure is on Roberto Mancini to ensure that his team of ‘fantasy footballers’ can gel on the field of play, but I think it will finally be somebody like Jose Mourinho who will make it happen. They will more than likely finish in the top four this season and the reason I think this is because Liverpool are a shadow of the team they used to be, whilst Villa are going to struggle following the shock resignation of Martin O’Neill. That’s two pretty big hurdles less for City to jump and they may just win one of the domestic cup competitions on the way to a fourth place finish. This will mean they will have gone a short distance into making the massive investment pay off. The expectations of the City faithful are quite astronomical and the personalities of a few City supporters (Wigan born and bred) that I know has changed from that of accepting results good or bad, to one of arrogance. Sadly, they will get the silverware they are craving.

Who WILL be the top four, in order, and also who is going down?

Top…

Chelsea
Manchester United
Arsenal
Manchester City

Bottom…

Bolton Wanderers
Stoke City
Blackpool

Is it true your away support can now be counted, if not one hand, in dozens? Or just specific games? Whatever the answer, is it worrying to you as a really committed supporter?

Bit cheeky that isn’t Colin? I can’t deny that away followings have dropped off over the last few seasons, but this ultimately comes down to the cost of following your team away from home these days. Wigan Athletic generally have a good away support which is very high in quality despite the lack of quantity. Wigan is a working class town and those trips to London, and I presume you are commenting on the 360 fans who travelled to Tottenham, can become a burden. As a general rule though Latics do take about 20 per cent of their home support all around the country and when you look at it in that perspective it isn’t too bad is it?


What if you did prove the pundits right and go down? What would you make of life back in the Championship and would you do a Newcastle or do what Pompey look like doing?

For me personally going down would be no big deal. Sure it would hurt when it happens, but I would get over it. I have followed this club on a journey that many supporters of other clubs can only dream of. I have literally seen everything that it is possible to do so for a club of Wigan’s size.

Getting into the Premiership was a dream come true, reaching a Carling Cup final was absolutely unbelievable because when you consider that my personal journey started with a fixture against South Shields in the Northern Premier League in the early 1970s, and now sees me watching my beloved Latics on a level playing field with Manchester United and all the other great teams in this country, I still have to pinch myself.

Unfortunately for Latics that level playing field is diminishing. Billionaire club owners have ensured that teams like mine are now no longer able to compete with the financial clout of the big four, and a few others, although two of those clubs are massively in debt and in any other business but football, they would have been closed down years ago. So the sad fact is that as soon as Latics actually achieved the dream, the bar was once again lifted and it was lifted unfairly.

Wigan Athletic is a very well run club and the chairman is at least keeping the club debt free. Wigan Athletic own the stadium, and there is no way Wigan will go the same way that Portsmouth appear to be going. Hand on heart Wigan’s true level is as a decent Championship outfit and we will end up back there eventually. That is unless our top players (and their leeches, sorry agents), learn to be satisfied with decent wages and huge commissions, and more importantly, adhere to the contracts they were eager to sign in the first place. This would ensure that we aren’t starting from scratch every year by replacing players like Leighton Baines, Jason Roberts, Luis Antonio Valencia, Winston Palacios, Lee Cattermole, Emile Heskey (don’t laugh, for Heskey read Bramble) and the like.

That said, I do actually sort of semi support a couple of non league clubs, namely Colwyn Bay and Ashton Athletic and this tends to keep my feet firmly on the ground and I realize that deep down, the Premier League is only that, a league. I will support Wigan Athletic all the way back to the Northern Premier League if need be. Because it is my team.


Will you be at our game? What will be the score?

I regularly need to make 240 mile round trips from Wales to attend home games between the months of March and November due to extremely difficult personal circumstances, but, yes, I will be at the game as per usual. I will be over the moon if I see us score a goal at the DW Stadium, never mind win! That said, I think we will break our home scoring and points duck and am going for a Latics win by the odd goal in three.

* Bernard Ramsdale on Bernard Ramsdale:

Well, I don’t know where to start really because the future is decidedly up in the air. Steve (Halliwell) hinted at this when he stood in for me last time here on your great website. Anyway, those who know me will know about my son being brain damaged following a road traffic accident on 15th April 2007 after the Wigan Athletic v Tottenham Hotspur home game played on that date. Apologies for not letting any of you know sooner, but things like this do tend to put a downer on things. I am still a foster carer but I will knock that on the head and look after my own son some time in the future, but for now myself and Sheila will keep monitoring his progress in an Acquired Brain Injury unit in Wales.

I may have to sell up and move into a home large enough to accommodate my family and a couple of full time carers some time in the future, but I won’t be leaving Wigan and my beloved football team unless absolutely forced to do so due to circumstances beyond my control.

The site went tits up a few days ago, but it is now back up and running in a limited capacity and truthfully this is not a problem, just an inconvenience. My perspective on life as a whole has changed and my advice to anybody reading this would be to cherish and love those you care deeply about because you never know what lies around the corner.

Saturday will bring a game of football that’s all, any supporters of the losing team would do well to remember, that in the grand scheme of things, you’ve only lost a game. Having said that a victory for Latics will see me head back to Wales, tell my son the good news and then I’ll hit Colwyn Bay Sea Sports and Social Club and get absolutely bladdered!

Catch you next time!


Interview: Colin Randall

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3 thoughts on “The Wigan Athletic ‘Who Are You?’”

  1. Before I start, just let me state that I have personally met Roberto and it was for a two hour long q and a session for my YOTAC site. He is a very likeable and knowledgeable man. One of the most perfect gentlemen I have ever met.

    But even I was doubting his ability to stay on as manager after the first two results of the season and the previous horrendous run of results during the secon half of last season. Roberto see’s Wigan Athletic as the English Barcelona and intends our club to be a clone of the Spanish giants. However, he inherited a team used to playing the traditional English way and his often confusing tactics were hard for Steve Bruce’s players to understand. Since Bruce’s departure Martinez has got more of his own signings in the starting eleven.

    They are really good players, full of flair and skill, but Roberto seems to have them playing too much football, if you know what I mean. We are very nice to watch until we get into the final third when we try to complete some lovely, flowing passing moves by passing the ball into the net as well!

    All we need is a killer touch and we’ll be all right.

    As for Mr Whelan, he is known to threaten to walk out any time the supporters voice feelings that he disagrees with. He has done it several times since we got into the Premier League. It is like he is intimidating us, making us fear for a future without him.

    We must tow the Whelan line or else. Credit Mr Whelan for giving Roberto this kind of support though and I hope for both their sakes that this faith is justified come May. (or preferable March!).

  2. A wonderfully refreshing post.

    I had to laugh at the remark about sitting alone like Michael Barrymore at a pool party! You sound like the sort of lad that I would be delighted to sit down and have a pint with.

    What you say about players just getting ready to sign for the big boys seems true of any club outside the top 4. The PL was ‘designed’ to create the cartel, and it’s worked perfectly for the big guns. The only interesting and genuine competition is for the places 5 and beyond, regardless of which club you are.

    What are your thoughts on Martinez Bernard? I was interested to hear Dave Whelan’s comments the other day, warning supporters not to be ‘after his head.’

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