Bernard Ramsdale, a founder of the Wigan Athletic fan site This Northern Soul has been a friend to this site for a few years, so much so that one of two Wigan fans raised doubts the ensuing “love-in”. He remains a great, albeit electronic pal whose contributions to these pages have been outstanding. After a rest from “Who are You?” duties, Bernard is back. That friendship does not extend to playing to the gallery – Bernard simply speaks his mind – but he has, shall we say, interesting thoughts on the relegation battle …
Where have you been? Since you were last here, Wigan must have survived cast-iron tips for relegation at least twice – yet are still hanging on. Explain.
Colin has kindly given me the honour of writing for you all again after my little break for the first game of the season between our beloved teams. I would like to say a big thank you to Ned Brown of the Three Amigos website for doing the honours last time round. He did a sterling job and his site proves there are other Latics fans around the world. It’s a pity there aren’t enough of them living in Wigan who don’t go glory hunting elsewhere, but hey, it’s their loss!
I genuinely thought that the last time I contributed to this great site it would have been my last for many a year. Let’s face it, we were teetering on the edge of an abyss darker than a really dark thing until an amazing final furlong in which we beat, nay hammered, the best teams in this division during and this has ensured that you all have to put up with me for a little while longer yet!
We are used to the title of ‘relegation certs’ and we develop a siege mentality. Over the past few seasons it is not untrue to state that the team and the supporters have truly come together on many occasions and this is down to the very faithful Wigan Athletic internet community. For a club of our size we have some great fan sites and when the time is ripe we all tend to work in tandem, creating something that is possibly unique. We all must be doing something right as the club’s top brass are on first name terms with a lot of us.
It saddens me when a defeat against Latics is always reported as a ‘bad day’ for the opposition, Villa and Tottenham away this season for example. The truth is we play probably some of the best football in this division, but the type of players we need to attract will not come due to a strict wages structure. So we have a team of lesser known names, all of whom are technically gifted and coached the Barcelona way.
You are a great admirer of Roberto Martinez, the manager and the man. Do you ever sense he may be ripe for another challenge?
Roberto Martinez is an absolute diamond. He is certainly destined for greater things and let there be no mistake about the fact that he was Liverpool’s first choice to fill their managerial vacancy in the summer. He insisted then that he had not finished his job at Wigan and refused a massive wage hike and the promise of a decent transfer budget at Anfield. He then reportedly turned down Aston Villa, again, and West Bromwich Albion. His loyalty to his chairman, players and supporters is breath taking.
Deep in my heart I feel he will leave in the summer should he avoid relegation again. The climate in Wigan is such that we are always battling against the odds and most other supporters of the game would love to see us relegated. But these people should be careful what they wish for because if we do get treated to the dreaded drop, the Premier League is then in danger of taking all the romance out of the game completely and will be dominated solely by ‘big city’ clubs.
Future little boys like Wigan, and Wimbledon before them, who achieved an amazing dream for their small town teams, will never be able to replicate it because the gulf will soon simply be too wide.
Martinez deserves the chance to succeed at the highest lever and if the football supporting public of Wigan could see beyond Manchester’s obscenely bought trophies and so called success it could well be in Wigan. There is nothing more he would like, but have I ever told you the footballing support in this town is very fickle?
Interestingly, somebody in my local boozer asked me last weekend if Martinez would ever be the manager of Spain. My reply, having spoken to the man himself on numerous occasions is that he wouldn’t. He would perceive it as a ‘part time’ job. Martinez, although one of the most respectable and polite people you will ever meet does demand total control of a club and he works almost around the clock and he can be as ruthless as the next top flight manager. He loves it and I feel he would miss the buzz of day to day football.
If you pressed me about his next most likely destination, it would be Arsenal.
And if the worst came to worst, how would you as a fan – and Whelan as an owner – approach life in the Championship?
Make no mistake about this, the Championship is a superb league filled with some great teams. If we were to be relegated we would still be a small team within it. I go back to my prediction of the Premier League being nothing but a division of big city teams relatively soon and you can perhaps understand why I said this. The likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and most of the Championship would feel at home with the big boys wouldn’t they? The only thing preventing these teams from achieving their place in the ‘big city elite league’ is the lack of results. Fancy little old Wigan Athletic getting them though, it’s simply not fair is it?
As for myself, I would follow this team back to the Northern Premier League from whence we came. The chairman has ensured that the club is now running at a profit and the drop, whilst tasting as sour as an Alan Pardew press conference after the Barcodes have lost, again, will be sweetened somewhat by the fact we won’t be crippled with extortionate player contracts, giving us a slight chance of promotion again. Failing this, we will almost certainly become a top ten Championship side for many decades to come, but that is only my opinion.
That said, I am confident of staying up for a few more seasons yet as our football style is good enough and it deserves to be played at the highest level.
Games against us: mudslides, controversy, the Bruce factor – which one/s stick in the mind most for you?
This one’s a no brainer for me. Having supported the club from non league days and stood in some godawful places and football grounds, it was a game against Sunderland which accomplished my lifelong dream.
The date was the 18th August 2007. The game was the third one of the season and we won 3-0 at the DW Stadium and the result took Wigan Athletic to the top of the Premier League. It only lasted for a few hours, but through them all I was utterly bladdered! I took a photograph of the league table whilst I was in Frankie and Benny’s after the game and it is still one of my most prized possessions! Due to my intoxicated state the photo is a little blared but there we stand, right at the pinnacle of the English game and nobody can take that away from me!
That means so much more to me than sitting in a pub somewhere in Wigan with a Yernited shirt on and watching Manchester United win the Champions League. Simply because this honour is mine and was achieved by my local team.
For the record Sir Titus of Bramble played for Latics that day.
Tell us who is doing particularly well for the team this season and who needs moving on.
I have answered this question before and it remains the same and always will be. I don’t really like singling out players because as far as I’m concerned the manager picks the team to play. He is the only one who truly knows what the squad are like as people and players. I refuse to believe anybody who pulls on a Wigan Athletic shirt is not doing their best. In a nutshell, that is good enough for me.
Who are the greatest players you have seen in Wigan colours – and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Leighton Baines is probably the best left back in the country at the moment. But he is also level headed and loyal. He only left Latics because it was an offer that he and the club could not refuse from Everton. Unluckily for Everton they are about to suffer the same fate that Latics did during this transfer window.
Going back through the years and indeed the start of my time supporting the club it would be true to say that Micky Worswick was my first Latics hero. I was around ten years old at the time and for me he was George Best flying down the Springfield Park wing. In fact, he was once voted the non league George Best. Many of the players I could name would certainly not be household names. Of those players that Sunderland supporters may have heard about who have performed admirably for the club are Joe Hinnigan, Henri Camara, Arjan De Zeeuw, Jimmy Bullard, Charles N’Zogbia, David Lowe, Andy Liddle, Peter Atherton, Emile Heskey, Luis Valencia and a certain Lee Cattermole who had the potential to join that list following his move to Latics from Middlesbrough.
The player himself admitted that it was good for him to move away from the North East and his football in this section of the football world was pretty impressive under Steve Bruce. However, the first opportunity that he got to return up to the land of the semi Scots, he scarpered! Thanks for that Mr Potato Head!
Is there any current Sunderland player you’d love to see play for Wigan?
Simon Mingolet would fit in well at Latics. I may be right in assuming that he took the place of the very costly Craig Gordon and Simon’s emergence has resulted in a rapid downturn in fortunes of Gordon.
Adam Johnson would also be very handy in midfield for Latics wouldn’t he? It is fair to say that our midfield could actually do with some experience but the likelihood of Johnson ever arriving is as likely as me playing naked Twister with Marilyn Monroe! Adam has actually spent most of his time as a footballer in the North East apart from loan spells at Leeds United and Watford, oh, and a money grabbing exercise at Manchester City!
What will be this season’s top four, in order, who is going down and, unless already mentioned, where will our clubs finish?
Top – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton
Going down will be Reading, Southampton, and wait for it Newcastle United. Now this isn’t meant to ingratiate myself with Sunderland supporters. It is a genuine feeling that Alan Pardew’s level is really the top end of the Championship. Last season was a fluke for him and he will soon be back where he belongs. Still, he’s doing okay at that ‘wee club in North East’!
Latics have the potential to be a top ten team as soon as this season but the current transfer window will more than likely rob us of star midfielder James McCarthy who, in my opinion, will be the next Steven Gerrard. On the first of January Martinez said, ‘McCarthy is going nowhere’. Now he is quoted as saying something like, ‘McCarthy will only leave at the right price but I’d very much like to keep him’.
If we can keep hold of him and he stays fit I am confidently predicting tenth. Even if we lose him I don’t think we are in fear of relegation.
Sunderland have surprised me this season, I thought they would have done a lot better than they have done. There is no doubt about the quality of the manager and our very own Shaun Maloney who played under Martin O’Neill at Celtic and Aston Villa has nothing but the highest regard for him.
Again, this fixture is occurring in the middle of a transfer window and the team that plays against us on Saturday may well be different come February. MON is already on the case with regards to new signings and I predict eleventh spot, one place behind the mighty Latics!
Is it time to stop whingeing about the various forms of cheating and accept it as part of the modern game or is there something we can do to stamp it out?
Are you still here reading my ramblings? This is a somewhat thorny subject with me because in almost every game Latics take part in there is cheating going on. I dare say it is also occuring elsewhere but in our case, and perhaps Reading’s the referees are often loathe to do something about it. Wherein lies the problem. So the answer is no, there is nothing we as supporters can do about it but swallow the injustices that happen to our teams.
The top brass of the Premier League, the FA and FIFA need to seriously look at it though. But unless clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona et al suffer as much as teams like ours do nothing will be done.
Cynical? Me? No!
What single step should Wigan Athletic or the football authorities take to improve the lot of ordinary supporters – or is the game slipping away from its traditional roots?
I think I can refer you back to my big city big league claim earlier? It suits the Premier League for things to keep going as they are. This includes teams falling into massive debt, just so long as they’re a ‘big club’ and this results in the Premier League brand prospering.
What the teams throwing millions of pounds away (which they don”t have) don’t realise is that there are only three domestic trophies per season worth winning and winning them just isn’t worth it. This isn’t sport, it’s a monopoly and if you ask me it’s also obscene and one day football will kill itself. In answer to the question I feel football left it’s traditional roots a long time ago.
Will you be at our game (sadly, Pete Sixsmith won’t) and what will be the score?
Shouldn’t Luiz Suarez be appearing in ‘Splash’? Of course I’ll be there, unless Marilyn turns up with a Twister mat and two crates of real ale! I confidently predict a 2-0 victory for Latics. Whilst this may be somewhat unpalateable to yourselves, this coupled with a loss for Pardew’s Premier Puddings will soften the blow and help further in my ‘going down’ prediction as well!
Finally, bring us up to date on you, the site and, if you wish, your son’s condition/quality of life
* Bernard Ramsdale on himself:
This Northern Soul goes from strength to strength and a lot of work goes on behind the scenes which help to make it the internet’s most famous location for history relating to the club. Yes, I know, we have no history!
The site was the coming together of three top Latics sites and we all thought that less would be more, however more has become even more and we wouldn’t have it any other way, apart possibly from our techie, Alan Moore, without whom the site wouldn’t exist.
I started a new job last June and managed to convert my boss into a Wigan Athletic supporter. He has benefited by learning about how great his local club is. In return I have benefited from watching quite a few games from the top hospitality boxes as a perk of my job! Whisper it, but I do prefer to sit with the ‘proper fans’. I can confirm that the prawn sandwich brigade is alive and thriving very well indeed in Wigan, but nothing beats a pint and a chat with your mates before, and after a game does it? Shirt and tie to watch football? What’s that all about?
Incidentally, only three people have ever worn jeans in the Wigan Athletic boardroom at the DW Stadium, Roman Abramovich, myself and media whore, sorry whizzkid, Martin Tarbuck. I know, it’s a pretty crap claim to fame, but there you have it and at least myself and Martin didn’t drip pie juice down our shirts in that hallowed place!
Anyway, that’s (nearly) me done now and thanks for reading. If you made it to the end of these musings from a fanatical nutcase like me, I salut(e) you!
Bernard has written here in the past – https://safc.blog/2011/11/a-special-wigan-who-are-you-when-life-means-more/ – about his son, Anthony, who suffered appalling braan damage in a 2007 road accdient. Now be brings us up to date:
My son who was residing in a North Wales Acquired Brain Injury Unit is now living in a Young Persons Disabled Unit in Preston. Intensive neuro and physio treatment have been reduced but Anthony being so close to home has seemed to make him improve slightly, he is certainly alert for longer periods.
I was delighted to see the face of my wife, Sheila, when he was brought back to the family home in Wigan on Christmas Day, albeit for only a few hours. If I could have bottled her joy and love that day and sold it, I would now be a very wealthy man. A place has been reserved for him on the disabled area of the Springfield Stand as and when we need it and he will be making his debut in shortly.
Interview: Colin Randall