Friday, 6 February 2015

Cherry Chimes asks Jesus was a Wiganer can their season be salvaged?

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Wigan v AFCB
Blogger/podcast Interview - Jesus was a Wiganer

I caught up with Dan Farrimond at Jesus was a Wiganer last weekend to ask him some questions ahead of AFC Bournemouth's visit to Wigan Athletic to see how he was feeling about the sad demise of his club and whether he felt optimistic that things were turning around. I hope that if Wigan do start picking up points that it is not against AFCB, but they have certainly been changing a lot of faces at the club in the last few weeks. The interview took place before the transfers of Gaetan Bong from Olympiakos and Sheyi Ojo from Liverpool.

CC: With players that have been at the club for a long time like Ben Watson, Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney all leaving the club this window, did it start feel like a sinking ship?

JWAW: A little bit, but the general feeling has been that a clearout was necessary. The squad simply wasn’t performing, and many of those on hefty Premier League wages were scratching their bench splinter-wounded backsides on the fringes of the first team.

I’ll admit it’s difficult seeing those guys go. There was a ‘where are they now?’ feature in last week’s Wigan Observer, which tracked the progress of those that won the FA Cup in 2013, and nearly all of them have moved on. Proof, were it ever needed, that football is as much a business as it is an emotional attachment. They say the two should never mix…

We needed to do something to avoid relegation by March, and if that means throwing a few hands overboard then so be it! The club is greater than any individual… except maybe Emmerson Boyce. Or Grant Holt. (Sorry, Grant!)

CC: Jason Pearce, a former Cherry, has joined you from Leeds Utd and I believe he has the battling qualities Wigan need now, but do you thing the team's style has to change to get you out of trouble?

JWAW: Arguably, there has been a bit too much style and not enough substance. Last season, we had the quality to play our way out of trouble. This campaign has been a stark reminder of how the Championship is so much different than the Premier League, and you need a different type of player to ascend through the ranks in this culture.

Take someone like Cristiano Ronaldo. He would have been beaten to a pulp in the Championship and most likely have retired at the age of 24 to work in his local hair salon or swimming pool (as a professional diver) or something.

Most shockingly, the squad has lacked the fight that can scrape you three points in those oh-so-common tight Championship contests. Too many times I’ve walked away from the ground thinking “we should have won that” or “how on earth did we get a point there?” In short, we ought to sign that David Haye chap on loan. No Championship ref would ever argue with him…

CC: With Malky Mackay bringing in his own players do you feel there is a better chance of an immediate pick up in Wigan's form?

JWAW:  Well, our goals conceded tally isn’t awful. The striker situation has been dire, with Mackay himself admitting that those at the club were not fit for purpose, hence the Roy of the Rovers style ‘play a winger as a centre forward’ stuff we’ve been forced into. Not James McClean’s fault, but I don’t think he used to read that comic.

But there is hope now that something has been done. In the plethora of new signings we have hungry youngsters who are (hopefully) eager to impress – they can only do better than what we’ve seen so far this season. Whether they’ll be able to pull us out of this horrible mess is another matter altogether. Hope is all we can do…

CC: How much have individual errors cost Wigan this season?

JWAW: While there have undoubtedly been individual mistakes leading to goals and/or lost points, I see those as inevitable in any team. Even the legendary Emile Heskey had his ‘oohhowdidimissthat’ moments, however rare!

What’s more disappointing is the way we’ve been playing as a team – i.e., not at all. There doesn’t seem to be any cohesion beyond the halfway line or knowledge of how to craft goals beyond set pieces. Now, if we were scoring from free kicks and corners, that would be a step in the right direction.

But above all, I believe what has really cost us is the lack of a striker. We signed two before the season started, but they have rarely played, and the ones that remain are plainly support strikers lacking a goalscoring partner.

I hope you’re getting the picture! I’ll try and be a bit more positive from now on…

CC: I've heard Billy McKay of Inverness Caledonian Thistle has joined Wigan, but do you feel a bigger named striker with Championship experience would be needed as well to give you a fighting chance?

JWAW:  The big names always sound good on the transfer deadline day Sports News Special, but in reality they could turn out to be right Bernard Matthews turkeys. After what happened with Grant Holt, I am incredibly wary of this.

As long as they score the goals I am not too bothered whether they’re plucked from Sunday League obscurity or the mighty Melchester Rovers! Heck, I’d even be willing to give Tony from the Robin Park five-a-side indoor league a go at this stage, so long as he’s given a fair stint in the first team.

Hey, I don’t suppose you fancy a Saturday job scoring goals at the DW, do you? We can pay you in meat and potato pie and/or discarded chip packets…

Seriously though, it would be refreshing to see Billy McKay get the best part of 90 minutes this weekend. We so desperately need an injection of something right now, and I’m willing to try anything… except that, ye owners of a filthy mind!

CC: Are you surprised at how fast the slide has happened at Wigan since being in the Premier League or could you see signs of it last season?

JWAW:  In truth, what has happened thus far this season shouldn’t ever have transpired – I feel there is something deeper infecting this club at the moment, and nobody can be quite sure what it is. But then again, seeing all the lucky escapes and glorious cup runs we’ve had in last decade, I suppose we were due for some karma realignment sooner or later.

There’s always the danger of freefall due to the aforementioned Prem-Championship culture clash, and this drastic change of lifestyle can be highly hazardous, even accounting for parachute payments. Just look at poor old Portsmouth.

Latics are up to their third manager in the search for a successor to Roberto Martinez, but that’s only because us fans are ambitious – and so we should be. You have to be in order to get anywhere in life. But we know all too well that you can’t just drop on a successful regime at the click of a finger, so we will just settle for average at this moment in time!

CC: Have the Wigan fans kept behind Malcolm Mackay?

JWAW: It’s hard to say, really. Those boos at the half time and full time whistle, are they for the players or the manager? Certainly, we haven’t yet established any real crowd chant in support of the Malkster, but we’ve been too panicked to sit down with Andrew Lloyd Webber and write anything at all, really!

Personally, I have been reserving judgement until the end of the transfer and loan windows, because up to now he has been playing with another kid’s Lego bricks. Once we start winning some games, I am certain the support will come. If we don’t, well, I fear that yet another manager might be playing with Mr Mackay’s building blocks quite soon. That’s the nature of modern football, though.

I had the chance to speak to Mackay when he first arrived at the club, and got the impression that it was very much a team effort behind the scenes. I think it is important that we heed our town’s own motto – ‘Progress With Unity’. It’s printed on the back of every season card and poster around the stadium. Together we stand, divided we fall on the floor and roll over five times holding our faces… then magically recover once the referee flashes a yellow card in the general direction of our assailant.

CC: How well did you think Wigan played against Ipswich and could you see some positives with the 4-4-2 set-up?

JWAW: I believe we were lucky that Ipswich weren’t at their top four best, but it is a good thing that we didn’t concede. The attacking game is still a lengthy work in progress, of course, but giving Billy McKay some game time can only be a positive move.

Yes, I suppose it was ‘better’ in the sense that it is more favourable to have a common cold than it is to have the runs. It’s hard not to be cynical, as every time we’ve seen an improved performance it has been followed by an awful result the following week.

However, the team seems a bit more balanced with some strikers out on the pitch and we can finally work on fine-tuning each position with a view to manufacturing the opportunities once again. Heh heh, just you watch – now I’ve said that, the eight defenders will be back on Saturday! (Rubs hands)

CC: Beating AFCB would surely give the Wigan players a big lift so is it a good time to play us now rather than playing the teams around Wigan in the league?

JWAW:  I’m a firm believer that the Championship has no respect for league position. Number 24 can beat number 1 just as a small town club from Lancashire can destroy Mancunian powerhouses in FA Cup finals.

Having said that, however, league position is a good indicator of form and quality, and I don’t expect us to win at all. I’d rather get the more difficult games out of the way early while we’re bedding in the new dudes, even if it means losing horribly. I’m very glad we don’t play you on the last day of the season… for both of us, because May is well and truly Wigan Time!

Our previous manager was accused of concentrating too much on the opposition. While I don’t necessarily agree with that, I do think that if we look after our own game, the points will take care of themselves.

CC: Do you expect a very different kind of match against Bournemouth than when you have played some of the other top six teams?

JWAW:  Funnily enough, we have been just as good against top six sides as we have against everybody else. Or should that be, ‘just as bad’? When you lose against everyone it makes very little difference indeed!

To paraphrase a certain villain, “what, you expect me to talk about the Bournemouth match? Well, Mr Bond, I expect us to lose.”

As previously mentioned, I don’t think we should treat it any differently to any other game, but I know we will. I don’t want to spoil the surprise (even though I probably already have)… you’ll find out more on Saturday!

CC: How badly do you want Wigan to stay in the Championship?

JWAW: I always want to see Wigan Athletic doing well, so I’d hate for us to go down. Nothing much else happens in this town, and the general well-being of the local populace relies so much on traditional forms of entertainment such as pitch ‘n’ toss, scarecrow punching and of course the football of a Saturday afternoon.

Football is this weird thing you have an unnatural emotional attachment with, so it’s always going to be there in some form, no matter what division your team’s playing in. But it would be very hard to accept that the Wigan Athletic Golden Years have well and truly ended. This season definitely ain’t over yet!

CC: Thanks Dan, as always some good fighting talk and plenty of great gossip for our fans to take on there about Wigan's fortunes. If you want to hear more about Wigan Athletic pop over to Jesus was a Wiganer and listen to the excellent PWU podcasts to find out exactly how they took two points off of Ipswich Town last weekend.this week's podcast on their site is entitled 'Hits from the Bong', which includes a preview of the AFCB match from 33 minutes in - I even get quoted! I'm not sure about what they have done with a replacement for Harry Redknapp in the transfer window, but it all looks good fun! 

I've also written a few thoughts on AFC Bournemouth in reply to Dan which I am sure he will post at some point today on the Jesus was a Wiganer site.

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