In the first three matches of the season Wigan Athletic had to play the three promoted teams. They drew with Norwich and Swansea –games they should have won – and beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 in a game they were rather lucky to win. Two spectacular deflected goals from Franco Di Santo won the game for Wigan, although QPR came close. Football is a strange game.
Away at QPR – another “must win” match for Latics? Last year Wigan Athletic stayed up largely due to their excellent record against the bottom teams. This year things have not worked out too well against teams currently in the bottom seven. At home – a win against QPR, defeats to Bolton and Fulham , a draw with Blackburn. Away– a defeat at Wolves and a win at West Bromwich. Overall the progress so far is P6 W2 D1 L3, with four of the six matches being played at home. A good result at QPR will help redress the balance.
Let’s keep the faith! There has been too much doom and gloom among Wigan Athletic supporters in the past couple of weeks. Yes we are a small fish in a big pond. We are the minnows that the big clubs want to nibble. But we are a proud club and we are far from finished this season. Of course Latics will be found wanting in defence against the attacking quality of a super-luxury Manchester City team, but this does not mean we cannot stay up. Good performances against other teams with their backs against the wall, can make a huge difference. Dave Whelan is right to insist on balancing the books and ensuring our short term future. He is the wonderful driving force behind the club – let’s hope he can hang in there a few years longer.
However, his protege, Roberto Martinez, does not have the “luxury” that his predecessor Steve Bruce had in offering over-the-odds salaries to often less than wonderful players. He has built up a squad capable of staying in the Premier League and better than most in the lower reaches of the division on a meagre budget. What is lacking is confidence, with the accumulation of bad results over the past two seasons having a cumulative effect on the “psyche”of the club. Martinez has players who could comfortably fit in to a top four club, but whose “psyche” has been affected by playing with a struggling team. Every player is affected by playing in such a situation – we should not be too judgmental about their ability to perform the Premier League, given this factor. There is no player who has played for Wigan Athletic this season who cannot cope with the Premier League demands. Let’s be fair – we can compete with most teams in the division, and even get the odd decent result against the monopolistically rich – and that is a terrific achievement for a small town team. A big transfer kitty for Roberto Martinez in January is not the key – he has the players necessary for Wigan Athletic to stay up – so let’s give him and his team that support.
So what of QPR? They have history, being formed in 1882, from the amalgamation of two clubs, their main players at the time coming from the Queens Park area. They hold the record of playing at 20 different home grounds in their years in pro-football. They have been at Loftus Road since 1933, except a year at White City in 1962-63. Loftus Road has a current capacity of 18,360. Their only trophy win was in 1967, when they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2, coming back from a 2-0 deficit, in the League Cup, although they were in the third division at the time. One recalls the wonderful football of QPR in the seventies, being graced by the elegance of Rodney Marsh and Stan Bowles, plus that terrific goalkeeper, Phil Parkes.
QPR come back to the Premier League after a 15 year gap. They have a new owner in Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian who has done an incredible job in transforming Air Asia into a huge budget airline. Fernandes has already shown a ruthless streak in dismissing Neil Warnock, who brought them up from the Championship. They have appointed a big name in Mark Hughes, but he has an uphill task in preventing the slide of a team which has only two points from their last nine matches. A win for Latics on Saturday would put a further nail into their coffin.
Roberto Martinez needs to decide on the right tactics to get a good result against QPR. A loss would really knock us down further into the mire. QPR have some seasoned Premier League professionals, many on salaries way above those at Wigan. However, they have only won 1 out of 10 home games this season. They have lost 7 out of the last 9 league games. Hopefully Martinez can get inside his players’ heads and tell them that they can win this match. Yet again, an away win can help transform Wigan Athletic’s season. Go for it, Wigan!!