Vital Latics member and Wigan Athletic supporter Dingolatic asks for our new boss, Owen Coyle, to be given support from the Latics fans, he fears history could very well be repeated if he isn’t given that support, over to you Dingo:
This article has been brought on by some of the comments I’ve seen on message boards and on Twitter following the appointment of our new manager, Owen Coyle
Following our relegation in 1993, the better players disappeared in the close season, Wigan Athletic was very nearly bankrupt and the club was forced to bring in a new manager. Kenny Swain inherited a team of YTS lads and a few reserves he’d managed to bring with him from his assistant role at Crewe.
It was an unsettling time to be a supporter – I, for one, didn’t know most of the player’s names (the programme for a pre-season friendly had a photo with the caption ‘Fan’s favourite – Danny Vaughan.’ I remember wondering who the hell Danny Vaughan was, and which fans he was a favourite with (I’m still wondering).
With such a young, inexperienced, cobbled-together squad, Kenny Swain really didn’t have a hope. We lost three from the first six games that season, and it must have been around mid-September when the booing started – from a section of supporters at first, but soon by a large minority. It didn’t stop all season.
The annoying thing was that some of the football we played at the time wasn’t too bad: we could be quite good, in fact – Swain tried to instil in us some of Crewe’s much-vaunted passing style. I remember several games where we played some very impressive stuff for the first quarter of the match, but then someone would misplace a pass, or hit a shot well wide, or we’d simply fail to convert pressure into goals, and the booing would start, players’ heads would drop and the opposition would gain the upper hand.
By mid-season, the atmosphere was toxic: it appeared that many ‘fans’ only came to Springfield Park to boo, jeer the players and chant ‘Swain out’. What the boo-boys expected Swain to achieve with no money and a brand new squad of youngsters, I just don’t know.
Unsurprisingly, attendances plunged: who would want to attend matches with such an atmosphere? Not many of us, it appeared. That season we struggled to beat the drop to the Conference, and were kept up largely due to Andy Lyons’ and Ian Kilford’s goals. Both of them stayed on into the next season, but Swain departed, and people remember the Swain era as one of the worst periods (correction: THE worst period) in our history. But as with Danny Vaughan, I’m still wondering about Kenny Swain: if, as fans, we’d given him a chance, would he have come good in the end? Certainly, some of the players he’d introduced – Lyons, Skipper, Kilford, Connelly, Carragher – turned out to be gems.
Contrast this with our recent history. Now, you can say what you like about Martinez but I think his greatest achievement – FA Cup aside – was in getting the Wigan fans to react well in adversity: when things looked really bleak towards the end of this season and last, attendances actually increased, the atmosphere in the DW changed from one of sulky silence to one of support and encouragement for the team, and meet and greets made the players realise that we were actually on their side. This, I believe, was all down to Martinez’s own positivity, which was infectious (and to a majority of our more recent fans, who have proven themselves to be superb supporters).
Even when the team have struggled, it has been a pleasure to go to the DW. There’s been a ‘feelgood factor’ around the club which is wholly at odds with what struggling teams tend to expect. The whole BELIEVE thing didn’t keep us up last time, but in so many ways, it really worked. Positive support has become the Wigan Athletic way, and gives the lie to the media-led notion that Wigan fans aren’t very good.
As supporters attending matches, when things aren’t going well on the pitch we can do one of three things. We can show our support for the team by encouraging them. This can be difficult when things aren’t going well, but it’s the mark of true fans. Another option is to remain silent – this is sometimes the hardest thing to do, especially when things aren’t going our way. Or we can boo, jeer, complain and moan. This option is the easiest and also the most pointless. It is also – inarguably – counter-productive; just ask Blackburn Rovers. It will not bring your team success.
If you’re a supporter, you won’t do it. If you’re doing it, maybe you should be elsewhere (in fact, forget the ‘maybe’). Whatever you choose to do, know that other people will copy your actions and adopt your opinions, because following someone else’s opinions is always easier than formulating one’s own. And also be aware that it’s not just at matches where our voiced opinions count. At work, school, college and on message boards, by airing your opinions – positive or negative – you are giving others the opportunity to adopt them – without thought. And be aware that negativity breeds negativity – if you want your club to be surrounded by toxicity and hate, simply voice it on a message board. Do it often enough and you may begin to reap what you sow.
So this is a plea and it’s aimed at those who get their kicks from posting negative thoughts. And it’s a plea for help for Owen Coyle. He faces taking over the club at the most difficult moment in its recent history. He already has a horrendously tough job in getting the squad up to strength for the season ahead and faces losing some – or even all – of his most outstanding players before they’ve even kicked a ball for him. God help the man. In fact, better still, Wigan fans help the man. Whatever you think of him, for the sake of YOUR club, give him a chance.
Support your club, in the stadium, on the worldwide web, wherever you are, by saying something positive. It may catch on. If you can’t manage to say anything positive, just keep quiet. You never know: Owen Coyle may – just may -be the best manager we’ll ever have.