Opinion: Injuries at the wrong time
Feature by Paul Farrington
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2012
As perennial relegation fodder Wigan Athletic supporters are well used be written off and given no hope of survival.
This was perhaps most evident last season with the post Christmas performances and results to match the best in the world culminating in a late points haul to power over the line.
It was hoped that the Latics, largely unchanged from the team that finished so strongly, could push on and provide much the same this season. Unfortunately it hasn’t transpired that way and we’re presently sat in a position of just about safety and hovering dangerously close to the bottom three.
With Q.P.R., Norwich, and Reading all appearing on the fixture list this would have been a period of the season where Roberto Martinez and his team would have targeted for earning a possible six, or hopefully more points and putting a cushion between ourselves and the relegation zone.
Injuries and suspensions have long put paid to that optimism with the Latics forced to play a virtual reserve side when the Champions came to visit the DW Stadium the other week. So comical was the situation that the cumulative City wage bill comfortably eclipsed the transfer fees of the players on show for us.
No fewer than eight key players are missing from our present set up, Antolin Alcaraz, Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis, James McArthur, Shaun Maloney, Franco Di Santo, Maynor Figueroa, and have all been missing.
The names in the list above are key names for Wigan Athletic and form the strong back bone of our squad that served us so well at the tough end to the campaign last season. For the team with the smallest budget in the Premier League these players are always going to be sorely missed.
It is therefore testament to the present squad and the hard work of the management team that we have such able deputies who can fit so well into the now famous 3-4-3 formation.
The ability for those players on the fringes of first team action to come in and deputise so well for the first choice names was particularly illustrated in the weekend’s game with Q.P.R.
The defence was frightening blighted by a combination of injury and suspension leaving the Latics with just Adrian Lopez as a recognised centre back. He was teamed up with right back Emmerson Boyce and midfielder David Jones to provide the make-shift defence.
Q.P.R. on the other hand had a new manager fresh in his honeymoon period with a dearth of expensive and internationally recognised talent to choose from.
On the pitch there was only ever going to be one winner with the Latics, and in particular James McCarthy buzzing and determined to have strong influence on the game.
The red shirts of Q.P.R. were content to defend with eleven men behind the ball in the vein hope of a counter attack and sucker punch, a clever tactic against the Latics.
A 2-2 draw ensured and this felt frustrating, I left the ground annoyed that we hadn’t managed to come away victorious against such a dreadful Rangers side. We had fallen foul of the age old problem and conceded two soft goals to give a point to our fellow relegation fodder.
Upon further reflection, and as I sat down to write this article I had a serious second thought that a lesser team would have folded and suffered defeat.
We have everything that Q.P.R. do not. We don’t have an expensively assembled bunch of big names and big wages in world football, but what we do have is the strong team ethic and determination to perform that will see us through in the long run.
I can forgive our make shift defence for conceding those soft goals and I can look with pride at the way our make shift team stuck together. At no point, despite some howls from the frustrated home support, did the team go hiding and all that is despite going 2-1 to Djibril Cisse’s second half strike. Rather the Latics continued to work hard as a team to get the result needed. It took less than two minutes for that equaliser.
We didn’t get the win our performance deserved and which would have made the league table so much more rosy but we showed the character and spirit that with a full blown first eleven on the field will be more than enough over 38 games to keep us in the division.