The last two years have probably been two of the most memorable in Wigan Athletic’s 82-year history, but 2014 is now turning out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Few events could match the tremendous highs of the historic first FA Cup win in May 2013 but the 2013/14 season was building for even more success until defeats in the FA Cup semi-final and Championship play-off semi-final shattered the dream.
The fine margins in football meant that Latics just couldn’t hold on for the final eight minutes against Arsenal to reach a second successive FA Cup Final. Losing on penalties was such a cruel way to miss out after performing so admirably.
If Latics had invested in a goal scorer they might have overcome QPR in a closely fought play-off semi-final and then gone on to beat Derby County in the play-off final.
These are all of course might have beens, but who could have imagined that they would be sitting in the relegation zone of the Championship by Christmas 2014.
Probably the biggest double giant killing in FA Cup history. Latics stunned Manchester City in the FA Cup quarter-final at the Etihad Stadium in March this year.
Latics had vanquished City in the FA Cup final in May 2013, but this time City were even bigger favourites to win on their home patch. Yet Wigan produced an even more inspiring performance that gave tremendous hope to underdogs everywhere.
Like many Latics fans I had mixed feelings about the appointment of Malky Mackay. Dave Whelan’s decision to appoint Mackay was a controversial and risky appointment.
Out of the game since his sacking by Cardiff City, Mackay has apologised for his “sexist, racist and homophobic” text messages and is awaiting punishment by the FA.
But matters only got worse when Dave Whelan tried to defend the appointment. The FA charged the Chairman over comments he made about Jewish and Chinese people in an interview.
Whelan apologised for the comments but accepted the FA Charge and now awaits his punishment. He has indicated that he may resign from his position as Chairman and it is not clear where this would leave the club.
Latics produced their best performance of this season when they upset the odds and defeated Championship leaders Derby County on their own patch.
Going into the game the Rams had not been beaten in 12 matches and Latics had not won in eight games but two goals by James McClean ensured Wigan got their just rewards for a hard working team effort.
Shaun Maloney is probably the best player at the club. On his day the little Scottish international is Latics best creative outlet.
His ability from dead ball situations is renowned and his free-kick against Middlesbrough was typical of the highest quality. If Latics can get him fully fit he could be pivotal to our survival chances this season.
Prospects for 2015
The prospect of relegation to the third tier of English football looms large. All the good work done by the club in recent years could be undone this season. The downward spiral shows no sign of abating and unless radical change takes place the problems will continue.
The lack of a cutting edge remains evident and Malky’s ultra cautious team selections have contributed to the problems.
Malky has tended to go with the experienced older players but this has meant Latics have often lacked the energy to compete over 90 minutes. A more balanced mix of old and younger players is required if Wigan are to avoid the bleak prospect of relegation.
The bloated numbers of coaching staff at the club could be having a detrimental effect on the decision-making process. In addition to the manager Malky Mackay, there is David Kerslake, Graham Barrow, Eric Black and Mike Pollitt all involved in first team affairs. Could it be a case of too many cooks?
The playing squad is too big and needs to be trimmed to a more effective level, but a proven goal scorer should be top of the shopping list if we are to move away from the drop zone.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on 29th December 2014.