Latics fixtures released – Sheffield Wednesday first up at home

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The Championship fixtures for 2018/19  have been announced and Latics will face Sheffield Wednesday at home on the opening day of the season.  This is followed up with an away game at Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa and a home game against Nottingham Forest.

There’ll be plenty of local rivalries during the season with derbies against Preston North End, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers.

The derbies are currently scheduled as follows:

Saturday 6 October 2018 – Preston North End (A)
Wednesday 28 November 2018 – Blackburn Rovers (H)
Saturday 1 December 2018 – Bolton Wanderers (A)
Tuesday 12 March 2019 – Blackburn Rovers (A)
Saturday 16 March 2019 – Bolton Wanderers (H)
Monday 22 April 2019 – Preston North End (H)

Christmas and New Year fixtures have Latics away at West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day, away at Swansea City on December 29th and at home to Sheffield United on New Year’s Day.

Latics will round off the season at home to Millwall on Sunday 5th May 2019.

The full fixture schedule is available on the Wigan Athletic Official website.

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Book Review: World in Motion – The Inside Story of Italia ’90 by Simon Hart

World in Motion

Simon Hart revisits Italia ‘90 with an entertaining journey through one of the most culturally significant World Cups. It was a rare tournament with Scotland, Ireland and England all qualifying. It was a time of Gazza’s tears, Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ and New Order’s ‘World In Motion’. Italia ‘90 was to prove groundbreaking in so many different ways.

Hart carries out over 100 interviews with players, managers and administrators to paint a vivid picture of one of the most engrossing and memorable tournaments. He has interviews with Cameroon’s Roger Milla, Italy’s Toto Schillaci, West Germany’s Jurgen Klinsmann, Argentina’s Sergio Goycochea, and Ireland’s Packie Bonner exploring the full global impact.

In the 380 pages he not only examines the story of the tournament but the long-term social, political and economic paths of each country involved.

There may not have been many goals scored but seismic events were taking place at Italia ’90. As a result of the tournament the offside rule was changed; the ’professional foul’ for denying a goalscoring opportunity would now be given a red card and soon afterwards the back-pass ban came into force.

Hart summarises the significance of Italia 90 in his introduction, ‘It was a tournament which took place at a pivotal moment in the sports evolution; the advent of the Premier League and Champions League was around the corner, the influence of television was growing, and the world of football was about to become a much smaller place. In a sense, it acted as a last hurrah and a searchlight on the future. It had a direct impact on the way the game would be packaged and played in the decades to follow.’

There are plenty of interesting stories to keep the reader engaged throughout, with some highlighting how football was so different back in 1990.  For example when Costa Rica played a friendly in Wales prior to the World Cup, a Costa Rica Federation Official was flustered when some players swapped shirts with their Wales counterparts.

“Everything was so new for us, we didn’t have a shirt sponsor,” explains Juan Cayasso,

“We didn’t have enough. One or two of our teammates swapped shirts, and they were like, “No, no, no, that’s not possible, you can’t do it.”

When Costa Rica defeated Scotland in Genoa it was a big shock for the Scots. Hart writes: The next morning The Daily Record begged in their headline,

“Stop the World We Want To Get Off.”

The Times showed a weeping Scotsman with a Tam o’Shanter on his head, a pint in his hand and two tears rolling down his cheek muttering,

“I didn’t even know Costa Rica had a football team.”

Toto Schillaci who became top scorer at Italia ’90 remarkably didn’t make his debut for Italy until 1990. The Sicilian striker had a similarly meteoric rise to Paul Gascoigne.

“I liked Gascoigne a lot because he saw football as a spectacle,”

he says of a man who, like himself was an instinct-driven footballer who flowered at the perfect time.

“There were extraordinary players then. They played for the spirit of the game, for the hunger, for the shirt. It’s no longer like that today. They’re not as good technically as before. Now, football’s based more on running, on speed, and on physical power.”

The memorable anecdotes keep coming with Cameroon’s unlikely hero Roger Milla; Argentina spiking a drink during the Brazil quarter-final; Jack Charlton’s unorthodox methods and the Rocky films providing a major motivator for Italia 90’s stars.

Probably the most iconic moment was in the England versus West Germany semi-final when Gazza fouled Thomas Berthold and is booked. Gazza realises he will miss the World Cup final if England qualifies, tears roll down his cheeks and Gary Linekar signals to the bench.

England’s first ever penalty shoot-out failure was the start of a dispiriting trend. But when the players returned to England they were greeted by 70,000 at Luton Airport and 150,000 lined their route around the town.

Within a few months Gazzamania had taken hold and brought the 23-year-old his own Spitting Image Puppet, an aftershave deal with Brut, and a number two record in the charts with ‘Fog On The Tyne (revisited)’ with the Newcastle band Lindisfarne.

Patrick Barclay writing in The Independent at the time considers the impact of Gascoigne’s tears cannot be overstated.

“It was the beginning of the process that led to English football being the biggest in the world at club level. Because it was the beginning of football as entertainment with the coincidence of Gazza’s tears and a dramatic World Cup. I hope this doesn’t sound sexist, but Gazza’s tears broadened the audience.”

Hart writes, ‘England having produced their two most exciting tournament victories since the 1966 World Cup, against Belgium and Cameroon, had now given the record 26.2 million audience watching at home another epic contest – and a hero with a vulnerable streak.’

Hart has done a tremendous job by capturing the stories behind a perfect moment in the history of the modern game; it is hard to imagine that there could be such a culturally important World Cup in the future.

World in Motion – The Inside Story of Italia ’90 The Tournament That Changed Football By Simon Hart. Published by deCoubertin Books, Price £16.99. 

This review first appeared in the June/July 2018 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Italia '90, New Order, Simon Hart, Wigan Athletic, World Cup, World in Motion | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can’t believe it’s not Scholes…

David Perkins

David Perkins

It was sad to see the Latics fans’ favourite David Perkins leave this week after three years with the club. The 35-year-old has joined Rochdale on a two-year deal after getting limited game time this season. The diminutive terrier goes with a big thank you and the best wishes of everyone at Wigan Athletic.

Perkins had amazing energy for a player in his early 30’s and he always gave 100 per cent commitment. He is a very likeable character and was a bit of a joker in the dressing room.

Before joining Latics he played for many other clubs including Morecambe, Rochdale, Colchester, Chesterfield, Stockport, Barnsley and Blackpool but he had never achieved a promotion until he managed it with Wigan.

Perkins was ‘Mr. Consistency’ during his first season with the club. Who’d have thought that the free transfer from relegated Blackpool would have had such a positive impact in 2015/16.

Well Graham Barrow and Gary Caldwell obviously did and the 5 ft. 6 in midfielder was a revelation. The tenacious terrier seemed to win every contested ball, ran miles for the cause and always kept the play moving.

He formed a great partnership with Max Power and latterly with Sam Morsy in the centre of Latics’ midfield.

Perkins played 48 games that season and he just never seemed to stop running. He achieved a remarkable quadruple in that first season winning Player of the Season, Players Player, Away Player of the season and of course, a title winning medal.

Not only did he win those awards, but also it was his first promotion as a player, and everyone agreed it couldn’t have been more deserved. He was such a popular player and character that he had his own song, which likened him to the former Manchester United and England international Paul Scholes.

“It’s Perkins you know, can’t believe it’s not Scholes…..”

Perkins is not renowned for his goal scoring abilities however and it was not until this season that he came on as substitute to score his first goal for the club against former club Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.

In some of the worst conditions I’ve experienced at a game, Latics came back from one down to win 3-1 with Perkins scoring a special third goal. It was a very memorable moment as the whole away end rose to celebrate with the fans’ hero.

Overall David Perkins appeared 98 times in a Latics shirt and scored just that one goal, but he will always be remembered as the engine that powered the League One title winning team in 2015/16.

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The best photography from Let’s Hang On

This gallery brings together some of the best photographs from the Let’s Hang On archives. Continue reading

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12th Man – The future’s bright, the future’s Latics

Champions 2018

League One Champions 2017/18. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

What a season, what a club! It’s hard to find enough superlatives to sum up Latics’ brilliant season. Nearly everything about it has been so special. Right from the close season everything has been perfection.

When Chairman David Sharpe was looking for a new manager he could so easily have made a wrong choice with plenty of other options available but after doing his research and interviewing Paul Cook he got the best man for the job.

Cook and his coaching team almost immediately re-invigorated the club. The manager may have inherited some good players but he also had to root out the poor performers and bring in some bargain free transfers.

Latics rarely have a good start and it was the first time they’d won their first three games since Paul Jewell’s team conquered the Second Division in 2002/03. Cook’s banter and plain speaking endeared him to the fans and the players responded with improved performances on the pitch.

Latics moved to the top of the League One table at the end of November with a convincing victory at Rotherham United and they would probably have stayed there all season if it wasn’t for the extra games in the FA Cup. But what a glorious FA Cup campaign it was.

Latics may have struggled to overcome AFC Fylde and Crawley Town in the early rounds but they went on to take the scalps of three Premier League clubs AFC Bournemouth, West Ham United and to top it all Premier League champions Manchester City.

Given the current discrepancy in resources and the level of the two teams at the time of the game, it is surely the greatest FA Cup shock of all time. The result will have given hope to other smaller clubs that they can defy the odds and achieve something amazing. It was a night of superlatives and those who experienced it will never forget it for the rest of their lives.

Latics narrowly lost out to Southampton in the quarter-finals and they could then resume their pursuit of the League One title with games in-hand. Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray thought it would be too much for Latics but Cook and his players had the belief and determination that they would do it.

Rovers and Shrewsbury Town pushed Latics to an incredible 98-point title winning campaign, breaking club records with the most goals scored, most clean sheets, best goal difference and the record number of away wins in a season.

It was a gloriously sunny day in Doncaster as Latics were crowned champions of League One. The atmosphere and celebrations at the Keepmoat stadium were something to behold and must rank as one of the best ever away days. It was the culmination of a fantastic season and with news that Cook had signed a new four-year contract the feel good vibe continued.

Cook was an in demand manager after such a successful season, but after being rewarded with a contract until 2022, he has shown his long-term commitment to the club. The positivity and togetherness generated by Cook has been infectious and with him in charge the future looks very bright.

The protracted sale of Latics moved a step closer this week when the Whelan family agreed to sell their major stake in the club and is now dependent upon approval by the EFL and Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Although the International Entertainment Corporation are something of an unknown quantity, it appears there might be a role for David Sharpe and the cash injection should help Latics to make a big impact in the Championship next season.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 11th May 2018.

Posted in David Sharpe, Doncaster Rovers, International Entertainment Corporation, League One, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

We are the Champions – Doncaster Rovers 0 Wigan Athletic 1

Champions18

League One title winners

On a gloriously sunny day Wigan Athletic were crowned champions of League One after a comfortable 1-0 victory at Doncaster Rovers.

Latics only needed a point at the Keepmoat Stadium and it never looked like they would fall at the final hurdle as Doncaster failed to register a single shot on target.

Will Grigg’s superbly taken goal on 75 minutes ensured that they claimed the title by two points with a +18 goal difference over second placed Blackburn.

Latics finished off a club record-breaking campaign with the most goals scored, most clean sheets and the record number of away wins in a season.

Paul Cook made two changes to the starting line-up from the draw with AFC Wimbledon with Gavin Massey and Nick Powell replacing Gary Roberts and Ryan Colclough.

Neither team got going in the early stages of the game but it was Latics who showed first when Massey and Michael Jacobs combined but Jacobs’ final shot was saved by the feet of Rovers’ keeper Marko Marosi.

Samy Morsy then fired from the edge of the area but his low shot was straight at Marosi.

Latics were looking the most likely to break the deadlock and just before the interval Grigg turned well in the box but the striker couldn’t beat Marosi from close range.

It was more of the same in the second half as Latics went in search of the goal which would surely secure the title.

Grigg went close on two occasions, first getting on the end of Massey’s flick from the back post and then cleverly heading Jacobs’ in-swinging cross with the back of his head but Marosi once again saved Doncaster.

But Grigg was not to be denied and the prolific striker scored his 26th goal of the season on 75 minutes to send Latics’ fans into raptures.

Nick Powell’s superb through ball found Grigg one-on-one with Marosi and the striker finished with ease before jumping into the crowd and celebrating with the fans.

Doncaster continued to offer little threat going forward and Latics saw out the remaining minutes controlling possession and easing their way to the title.

Latics’ players and fans celebrated at the final whistle as they collected the League One Trophy for the second time in three seasons.

 

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12th Man – A point to prove

Latics Team pic

The best team in the division

More than 4,000 Latics fans will be invading Doncaster tomorrow for what should be a massive celebration. The 5.30pm kick off means that it will be a party atmosphere before and after the game, as Latics require only one point to secure the League One title against mid-table Doncaster Rovers.

They lead second placed Blackburn Rovers by two points having scored 88 goals and only conceded 29, which is an 18-goal advantage.

It’s been a record-breaking season for Latics as they have broken the club record for goals scored in a season, number of clean sheets and potentially the most away wins in a season if they win on Saturday.

Add to that the amazing FA Cup run beating three Premier League teams, including Champions Manchester City and it just goes to show what an incredible season it’s been.

Most independent observers would accept that Latics are the best team in the division. But any dissenters will have to be silent if Latics prove a point at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Latics and Rovers along with third place Shrewsbury have been in a race for the automatic promotion places all season but Latics have pulled ahead in recent weeks.

Both Latics and Rovers have received recognition by having four players in the PFA League One Team of the Year. Latics have defenders Dan Burn and Nathan Byrne, plus midfielder Nick Powell and striker Will Grigg in the side. Rovers’ quartet is defenders Charlie Mulgrew and Amari’i Bell, midfielder Bradley Dack and striker Danny Graham.

The debate about whether Nick Powell or Bradley Dack is the better player has raged all season and is a hard one to resolve when Powell has been injury hit and has had fewer minutes than Dack on the pitch.

Some of Rovers’ fans don’t seem to accept that Latics are likely to win the title and may not be magnanimous about finishing second.

Paul Cook has already commented that Rovers got ahead of themselves with their comments that they would win the league when they were leading the table but Latics had games in hand.

The rivalry between Cook’s team and Tony Mowbray’s has been an intense one and the title race can perhaps be summarized by the fixture at Ewood Park when Rovers were leading 2-0 at half time and were already congratulating themselves on winning the title but Latics stunned Rovers with two second half goals and were the dominant team at the end.

If Latics secure the League One title it will be Paul Cook’s second successive title – a year after he won League Two with Portsmouth – and his third promotion in four seasons.

Not only has Cook’s team produced results, but also the style of football has been exhilarating and the way that the team constantly pushes forward has provided great viewing for the fans.

The likeable Scouser has done a remarkable job transforming the club from relegation no hopers to likely Champions and the future looks bright with him in charge.

Nothing is certain in football but it would only be fitting if Latics crown a magnificent season with the League One title.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 4th May 2018.

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Doncaster Rovers, League One, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment