Whilst it was the 4-4 game against Everton that really cost us the title last season, the 1-0 defeat to Wigan when they were enjoying top form, certainly didn’t help. What was usually a guaranteed three points, often after a 4-0 win, was a game that saw our grip on the title loosen.
Alan Moore from This Northern Soul has shared his thoughts ahead of the 2012-2013 season.
Scott the Red: What would have to happen this season for you to class this as a successful one?
Alan Moore: I’ll accept nothing less than, ooh, European qualification, a tilt at the top four… a title challenge even.
What’s that? No, of course I’m taking the mick, just as all those fans of “bigger” clubs are taking the mick that insist there is something wrong with Latics’ place as perennial escape artists. Of course 17th place will be our first aim on the pitch again this year, but after our steamroller finish to last season it will be more than a little bit disappointing to see Latics leave things to the last minute again.
It’s the little things that often get forgotten in these days of wall to wall exposure and yet it’s exactly those small things that we should cherish the most. Success is relative and for me it will be more about matters off the pitch. Continued financial stability, further strengthening of the relationship between the club and fans, increased trust between the same fans and the manager; back to basics, recognising our position as a small fish in an ever growing pond and getting back to being the family club that we always used to be.
STR: Wigan’s form at the end of last season was only bettered by City. Does it frustrate you that Wigan can’t play like that all season?
AM: If we played like that all season then we’ll be giving Real Madrid and Barca a run for their money in 2013/2014 and no one is going to state that as a realistic aspiration for Wigan Athletic, are they? Seriously though it is frustrating that, despite the manager telling them how ace they are all year, our players only seem to be able to really turn it on when their backs are to the wall.
I’ve not got a clue why that might be, it’s almost like they relax when they’ve no option but to win and because they’re relaxed they suddenly start to believe they’re good footballers again. If it is a belief thing then the size of their achievement in the run-in last season surely has to be a massive boost. Carry that into this season and then maybe, just maybe we can manage a year without a relegation battle.
STR: Do you think the business you’ve done this transfer window will enable Wigan to avoid a relegation battle?
AM: Thankfully I’ve been somewhat distracted from the summer shenanigans this year. I’ve moved house twice and attempted to resurrect my cricket (cough) career… shut up at the back, I’m not even mid-life for a few years yet, let alone in crisis… so I’ve had a largely football free summer. The Euros passed me by, I had but a vague notion of the Olympic football tournament and the rumour mill hasn’t even ground a single grain for me.
For all I know, we’ve tried and failed for Messi, Di Rossi and Llorente whilst fighting off bids from Europe’s top clubs for the likes of Hendry Thomas and Ben Watson. Well, I could guess that we haven’t but I can only comment on the definite deals.
Of the departures, Diame (West Ham) and Rodallega (Fulham) will leave the biggest holes but (puts brave face on) they barely featured in our spectacular close to last term. Still losing them to fellow mid-table aspirees and without adding to our balance sheet does stick in the craw a little bit.
In have come Fraser Fyvie (another young Scot with plenty of potential), Ivan Ramis (an experienced and confusingly named Spaniard), Ryo Miaychi (a ‘raw’ Japanese winger on loan from Arsenal) and Arouna Kone (a hit and miss Ivorian striker that created a bit of interest by bagging a goal for every two games last season in la Liga).
All in all, I’d say that things were in the balance. Time will tell whether the new guys settle into the English game and much will depend on if/when Victor Moses finally makes his way to Stamford Bridge, for how much and whether that money gets reinvested in the team. Once again it looks like I’ll only really be able to answer that question come 1st September.
STR: Who do you think will be your most important player this season?
AM: Do you want cheese on that answer? Honestly, I think it will be the crowd. There’s a very circular debate to be had at any club about whether it’s the team’s job to raise the crowd or the crowd’s job to motivate the team but it’s been very noticeable over the last couple of seasons that when Latics fans abandon their natural tendency for miserablism, chuck their prejudices to one side and adopt a devil-may-care attitude, the team respond. The shear drunkenness of the crowd at Blackpool away 15 months ago was something to behold as was the reaction to being all but relegated at home to West Ham a few weeks later. Last season, welcoming parties outside the ground before games and a “if we’re going down, we’ll do it with our heads held high” approach in the stands added to that togetherness that I was blathering on about a minute ago. And every time the players paid the fans back with results.
It’s possibly too simple an equation to say that if the fans start off this season as they finished the last, determined to enjoy themselves, and don’t fall back on their MO of backbiting and whinging then who knows what results we’ll get? And even if they don’t come, at least we’ll be spending our Saturdays with smiles on our mush!
STR: Two years ago, you sung the praises of Roberto Martinez to me and didn’t want him to be a short-term fix. Do you still rate his ability to take you forward?
AM: My starting point for that is the answer to the first question. I can’t honestly sit here and tell you that I see a potential plan for moving Wigan Athletic ‘forward’. I think he ‘s a damn good manager and the right man to be managing us at this moment in our history, but to move forward we need to reach a point where we can pay bigger wages, and we (obviously) need more income through tge door.
That’s not necessarily about getting more fans through the door, it’s about getting them to spend more when they’re there. Our match day income for one season is about the same as yours for one game, the initial flurry of new shirt buying each season quickly falls away whilst people wait for tge inevitable Christmas sale and all the time we’re offering just about the cheapeast Barclays Premier League football going.
So I guess what we mean by taking the club forward in that context is strengthening the club’s infrastructure, and despite a few doubters out there, Bobby does seem to be the first manager who sees the reserve and youth set-ups as more than just jobs for his mates. He appears to have forced the chairman to improve our facilities and move for academy status which has to be a positive sign. Whether he’ll still be around to see the fruits of his labour is another matter.
STR: Finally, who do you think will win the league this season?
AM: I said United last season and meant it, but if I said it again this year I’d be being polite to my hosts. Your midfield is very much in a transitional stage and whilst a fit Vidic and Van Persie would definitely strengthen your team, I can’t help thinking that City have got that bit more about them. On a plus point, I got that prediction wrong last season, didn’t I.
STR: Ha, hopefully you’ve cursed City now instead! Cheers mate.