Wigan Athletic supporter and Vital Latics member Robin Burgess aka rjb continues his series of Hope For The Future articles, over to you rjb:
9-1 last season was exceedingly painful, but I venture to suggest it was just what Wigan Athletic needed at that time, as it showed Roberto (and the players, too, as it was so bad) many specific things that still needed to be addressed. Such a large scoreline could not be ignored, considered ‘just one of those things’ that could be shrugged off. The ‘money-back’ offer from the players was a magnificent gesture (they didn`t have to do it, after all), that helped the fans to see that the players really felt that they’d let many people down, as well: the manager, themselves, Wigan Athletic and the fans.
So had those lessons been learnt? After last season`s 5-0 (x2), 8-0, 4-0 (x2), and then this season`s 4-0 to the seriously-underrated Blackpool (more hitting the ground sprinting than just running) and 6-0 to Chelsea, despite the good first half, there were many who weren`t convinced that we had what it took to progress. Many was the doom-and-gloom person who suggested we might end up like Derby that painful year for them. Where was our next (first!) point coming from? Ah, if only we could have looked more closely at the way the team was playing. That first half against Chelsea was not a fluke; it was because we were genuinely as committed as the Champions for much of the 45 minutes. The belief continued until the third goal went in (we had come back after 2 goals scored by Arsenal, after all). Then the heads dropped, as had happened in most of those other high-scoring games, and especially the 9-1.
‘This is not good enough,’ said the manager and vowed to do something about it. The seeds of a good performance were there: see Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal at home, and Aston Villa away, and others. We had to be rid of complacency, such as against Blackpool (though we`re not the only culprits: Chelsea after 6 wins, Arsenal when 2-0 up and Man U against Burnley last season, then Man City vs Sunderland recently, and above all, over-confident Tottenham, that helped towards our great victory – perhaps at last atoning for the 9-1). We also needed to avoid `being overwhelmed`, collapses that occurred last season, and Chelsea this time. But Roberto knows this as much as we do! The 9-1 made that very clear!
If only we could `train` ourselves to not look just at the result of a game, but to see a bit deeper (as RM constantly says): how the team is working together, how these partnerships that RM talks about are working out in practice on the pitch. Consider how sometimes if a shot had been just 15 cm (6 inches in old money) to one side, or lower, it would have gone in instead of missing, and how we would then be celebrating instead of being tempted to moan yet again. The players are doing almost everything right in such circumstances: the opportunities are created by good tactics, they`re getting into the right positions, and it is just the final part of the move that, at the moment, is slightly `off`. (There were at least 3 such examples in the most recent game against Tottenham.) But of course that can be the hardest part of any move: the final touch – which is why Defoe, for example, is so `valuable`. (And after his red-hot game for England, how well our players did to keep him to 3 or 4 shots, only!)
I see one bonus as being the great friendship that seems to have developed already between Hugo and Mauro Boselli (they`re almost exactly the same age). Did you see how Boselli congratulated Hugo after the Tottenham game? He wasn`t a bit envious that Hugo had scored and he hadn`t even lasted out the game: he was just pleased for his friend. So when these two both start scoring, we`ll have a potent strike force! And we have an impressive list of others who`ll contribute: Moses, McCarthy, Stam, Diamé, Gómez, Watson, Cleverley, Di Santo (N`Zogbia?!) and very likely Alcaraz, Boyce, Gohouri and Figueroa, as well. Nevermind the naysayers. Things are looking bright ahead!
Finally, a word about fans as supporters: Compare the (Carling Cup) Hartlepool fans who stayed loyally to the end and were still singing for their team, even though 3-0 down, and (newspaper quote) the ‘self-important, unrealistic and ungrateful’ Tottenham fans who booed their team off at the end, as they hadn`t won a game they`d decided their team should win. Their team had an `off` day (where the excellent play of the opposition may have played a part! – remember Harry`s comment: ‘We don`t usually drop points by … being outplayed off the park …’). It seemed that the team (and fans) thought it was `sewn up` before the game started, so rather than encourage their team to do better (by cheering, singing, waving banners, whatever it took), they thought it helpful to boo their team, just a few days after they`d had a remarkable victory on the same ground. Harry again: ‘We give the ball away after two minutes and it’s ‘boooo’. When you’ve not scored after 10 minutes the crowd are on your case.’ Glad we don`t such have self-important, unrealistic and unhelpful fans as that at Wigan Athletic. Oh!
Another disadvantage of the `glass one-eighth empty` type of fan is that it can actually lead to harmful results for the team: If the talented Jordi Gómez cannot be played at home because he will be booed when he comes on (leading to a poor performance), despite what he`s already shown us he can do this season when playing away (one free-kick goal, setting up a second, nearly scoring a third – out of only 4 scored so far in total!), then the negative fans do a great disservice to this club. They are setting a very poor example, also, to the youngsters we hope will become progressively more involved as they get older – just as we hope attendances will increase from that direction. If we want our team to improve then we share part of the responsibility to help achieve that (and part of the reward when we see it happen). Booing players, walking out just because our team is not doing as well as we would hope are not helpful options that show support for our players. To quote the experienced Harry Redknapp again: ‘When you have a bad day you have to stick with your team …’ Yes, we do! That is the challenge to us: to take the bad as well as the good, to encourage our players every way we can!
If you`ve enjoyed this article why not check out rjb`s previous articles in the Hope for the Future series:
Hope for the Future part 2
Hope for the Future part 1
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