Latics go into the difficult fixture at Newcastle United still hoping to pull off the greatest of great escapes. They are seven points from safety with only eight games to play and most pundits have written off their chances of survival. It will require a monumental change in fortune for Latics to escape the drop.
Acting manager Graham Barrow was part of the coaching team that helped to bring about some miraculous relegation escapes in the Premier League under Roberto Martinez and he will be using that experience to try to do it again in the Championship.
One of Martinez’s rallying phrases was ‘Sin Miedo’ – without fear – and Barrow’s team would do well to adopt a similar approach in the remaining games.
Latics are currently second bottom on 34 points but they have 24 points still to play for.
In previous seasons Rotherham United stayed up in 2016 with 49 points and in 2015 with 46 points, while Birmingham City stayed up with 44 points in 2014. A target of 50 plus will probably be required this time around.
It will be a tough run in with Latics up against four of the top six teams, Newcastle, Brighton, Reading and Leeds. Four games are at home and four away. If Latics are to have any chance,
Barrow like Martinez must get his team playing without fear. The manager and coaching staff will be striving to create an atmosphere of self-belief and positive thinking.
There are some strong characters in the dressing room with players like Stephen Warnock, Jake Buxton and Dan Burn determined to give it their all. But Barrow will want the rest of the squad to have the same self-belief and to show the same determination to fight for the cause.
Barrow must instil a mindset amongst all the players that they can get enough points to survive starting at Newcastle. The Magpies may be going for the Championship title and automatic promotion but their home form has been inconsistent.
Latics have performed much better away from home this season and fellow strugglers Blackburn and Wolves have both won and Bristol City drawn at St James’ Park.
They must try to build on the improved performance against Aston Villa and be prepared to take their chances when they get them.
The biggest problem this season has been in the final third and the lack of goals has cost them dearly. Barrow and his coaching team will have been working hard with the players on their finishing during the international break.
They looked much better against Villa in a formation that had been successful under Martinez, so there is still hope that Barrow can summon a revival.
But whatever happens over the next eight games it is important that Latics get back to the type of football that was absent under Warren Joyce. The stale defensive football that was served up was not only ineffective in accruing points but it was deeply unappealing to watch.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 31st March 2017.