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Wigan Athletic
August 10, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 08/10/2012

*contributed by Jakarta Jack, whose writing regularly graces Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

One of the lads in my class at school was called Brian. He claimed to be an Horwich RMI supporter. I thought I was remarkable enough at the time, being a Latics fan, in a town dominated by the cherry and white. There were few of us Latic fanatics at school and if we dared to utter words of blind optimism about our club, our classmates were quick to shoot us down. The message was – how can you support a measly little non-league football club? Don’t even dream of reaching the heights of our wonderful local rugby team or the football giants in neighbouring cities. However, I considered myself an optimist as far as Wigan Athletic were concerned. It was in my blood – and still is. I trust that those classmates are eating their words now.

To be honest, Brian was even more of an optimist than me. Horwich Railway Mechanics Institute was in fact a much older football club than Wigan Athletic, having been formed in 1896. Their only major success over those years was in winning the Lancashire Combination championship in 1957-58. Coming up on Saturday afternoon at Springfield Park was a Lancashire Junior Cup tie between our two teams. It was akin to David and Goliath. Brian saw it differently — an epic tussle between two of Lancashire’s outstanding non-league clubs. He reeled off the names of RMI’s starting eleven, declaring each player a “good-un”, although it was clear from the intonations of his voice that some were more good than others. He had faith – I thought foolishly so – that RMI would get a good result.

August 5, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 08/05/2012

Premier league summers have historically been a time of dread for the Wigan Athletic supporter. While Chelsea, United, Liverpool and Arsenal - recently joined by City and Spurs - are out spending their tens of millions, Latics face the two-headed beast of keeping their prized assets at the club and persuading new talent to join one of the league's least fashionable outfits.

It was Bullard and Chimbonda that first season, it was Charles N'Zogbia last time around, and there've been plenty in between. The fact is, Latics' recruitment strategy is based on the promise to young or unproven foreign players that they will be given the chance to develop their game at Wigan before eventually moving on to a bigger club. So the question is really not “will he leave?” but “when and how will he leave?” It is a calculation involving two key factors: how easy or hard he is to replace, and what is his potential value? (Which depends largely on how many years he has left on his Wigan contract)

May 11, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 05/11/2012

Dear Latics supporters and friends of the Amigos,

The support given us by ESPN Soccernet this season has generously extended our readership. One of the fantastic benefits has been connecting with Wigan supporters from all corners of the world. As many of you know, one of the writers of this website lives in Boston, the other in Indonesia.

While the internet and improved television coverage of the BPL has made it a lot easier to follow Wigan Athletic from abroad than it was 10 years ago, it takes special – to use a Roberto descriptor -- breed of supporter to do so. Most of our overseas fans are lucky to attend one or two matches at the DW each year, and spend hundreds of pounds in airfares and accommodation to do so. Back home, we arrive at work at the crack of dawn or stay on late in order to sneak out for the 10am or 3pm kickoffs. (Or 3am if you are Jakarta Jack!) Once at the pub, we have to fight the much larger crowds of United or Liverpool -- or Boston Red Sox -- supporters for a TV. The cable and internet packages that most of us pay for are comparable to the cost of a season ticket. If you can afford the new shirt in the first place, you then have to pay an extra 30 quid for shipping!

But we do it happily, because we love it.

March 9, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/09/2012

*contributed by Jakarta Jack, whose writing regularly graces Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

It is the early sixties and Latics have returned to the Cheshire League, where they first started in 1932. The Cheshire League is a now a superior league to the one they left, the Lancashire Combination, which has a reputation for the ‘big boot’ and ‘kick and rush’. Wigan Athletic, aristocrats of the northern non-league, away at Congleton. My Dad books the tickets on Eavesway coaches and away we go to South Cheshire. Congleton Town are a small club, even by Cheshire League standards. They made their way up through the Mid Cheshire League and their team is mainly amateur — some of their better players had previously distinguished themselves in the Wigan Athletic reserve team. Their ground is rustic to say the least, with an awesome slope from goal to goal, the pitch rutted and churned up. Their crowds are usually less than 200, but with Latics being the visitors they have their season high attendance of over 1,000. Latics’ visiting support can usually be relied on to give the home teams their best crowds of the season. Latics are in the top four at the time, while Congleton are pretty close to the bottom.

February 16, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 02/16/2012

As Latics supporters, we're used to being written off before a ball is kicked. Wigan will finally go down this year, we're told every year. Yet somehow this fantastic little club clings to its Premier League status again and again - we've become survival specialists. It was no mean feat under Paul Jewell, an enthusiasm-fueled season like Norwich are enjoying at the moment. Or under Steve Bruce, when he totally revived a team of strugglers and misfits. But in the Martinez era, it has been achieved on half the budget, allowing the club to allocate funds toward youth development and long-term sustainability.

Indeed the worst case scenario, that of relegation, is a lot less worrying than it was three years ago. The squad is deep and young, with few big name players on heavy wage packets. Latics would probably lose three or four quality players - Rodallega, Diame, Moses, and perhaps James McCarthy - but would still have a very competent side capable of winning the Championship. As evidence, Callum McManaman, who can't buy playing time with the current squad, starred during his loan stint at Blackpool, who are 4th in said league. Nouha Dicko, yet to feature for the first team at Wigan, scored on his debut for the Seasiders several days ago. Jordi Gomez was far and away voted the best player in the Championship last time he played in it.

All this said, incredibly - despite a cruel fixture list featuring the newly promoted teams in days 1, 2 and 3; a stretch of back-to-back games over Christmas against big four opposition; an 8-match losing steak; a (separate) 9-match winless streak - we're not down yet.

January 14, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 01/14/2012

*contributed by Jakarta Jack, whose writing regularly graces Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

Wigan Athletic have enjoyed some unforgettable moments in the FA Cup. My fondest memory remains a trip to Maine Road to play European Cup Winners Cup holders Manchester City, in January 1971. A fine Man City footballing team full of household names like Bell, Summerbee, and Young, playing against non-league Wigan. There were more than 45,000 people there that day, estimates of 20,000 of them traveling from Wigan. Those were the days of Geoff Davies as Latics’ centre forward. Signed from Northwich for £800, Geoff scored five hat tricks in his first three months, ending up with 42 goals for the season. Latics were unlucky to be losing 1-0 to a Colin Bell goal after 83 minutes following a bad goal kick from their admirable goalkeeper, Dennis Reeves. He had split his boot but apparently did not want to lose his concentration by stopping the play. You can see it here. In the last minute, Geoff Davies had a superb header pawed onto the post by the excellent Joe Corrigan. An unlucky ending for Gordon Milne’s Latics team whose performance brought great pride to its supporters.

December 9, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 12/09/2011

*contributed by Jakarta Jack, whose work appears regularly on Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

Do you ever get irritated by the “expert commentator” when you watch a televised football match? A particularly annoying tone of voice or an absurd level of incredulity and disbelief when a striker misses a chance. He will typically try to tell you that those things did not happen in his day. Some favour the top teams, others haven’t done their research or are just plain ignorant towards smaller sides like Wigan Athletic. Others still favour the clubs they used to play for. The theory is that they are good people to provide expert analyses, due to their experiences on the pitch during their playing careers. Their counterparts — the match narrators — are there because of their communication skills, their ability to reach out to mass audiences. They can grate on one too, particularly when glorifying the top teams and their players over all others — but I personally find them less irritating.

December 1, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 12/01/2011

Harry is his team’s outstanding striker. He can hit the ball with either foot with rocket-like precision. He can leap like a salmon and wins great headers. He has scored more goals than anyone has ever done for his club. He is an icon. But he is going through a bad spell. No goals for five games now and he is getting tense.

The manager ‘drops’ him and it makes the headlines. Harry has to play for the reserves. A blow to his dignity. He is angry, but being a true professional, he accepts his fate. His first game for them is not a success: no goals and a poor performance. He scores a hat trick in his second game. But he is not recalled to the first team. Harry goes to see the manager. The manager tells him that he needs to do more: only then he will look at bringing him back to the first team. Harry responds and gets back into the first team. He continues on his successful career path.

Those times have gone. Let’s be fair: Harry’s career at the club could well have been waning, but in those days the reserve team was a different beast. They played on the same day as the first team. If you couldn’t make it to your first team’s away game you could go and watch the reserves. You could see the young players playing with some seasoned pros. Both benefited: the first team players could regain confidence, reap havoc against less experienced opposition. The younger players in the reserve team could learn exponentially through playing with the seasoned pros. A bygone era!