What an emotional time it has been this season for Wigan Athletic supporters. It has been a roller coaster ride and there was a period when even the most positive of our supporters were moving towards the dark side, touting for Roberto Martinez’s resignation. What a change there has been in recent weeks. The post match interviews with Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan at Blackburn revealed a mutual love for the club on behalf of manager and chairman. Moreover they showed that strong professional bond between two men who have the utmost respect for each other. That Wigan Athletic are moving on to an eighth season in the Premier League is testimony to the belief of the two men that Latics can compete with the best. The interviews reduced me to tears.
Emotion is one thing but how can we measure a successful season in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic? The cynics in the national media tip our club for relegation each year, but somehow we continue to maintain our status. Let’s look at the statistics to compare this season with those previous in the Premier League.
Our most successful season was our first in the Premier League in 2005-06 under Paul Jewell, finishing in 10th place with 51 points and reaching the League Cup final. The next most successful seasons were under Steve Bruce – 11th with 45 points in 2008-09 – and 14th with 42 points in 2007-08, when he rescued us following a disastrous start to the year under Chris Hutchings. Roberto Martinez’s teams have twice finished in 16th place, last season with 42 points and with 36 points in 2009-10. Paul Jewell’s 2006-07 team finished 17th with 38 points, winning at Sheffield United on the last day of the season to avoid relegation. We are currently 15th with 40 points. A win against Wolves would seal this position, but would not take us any higher since the teams above us have 44 points. However, it would place us above Aston Villa, who tried to convince our manager to join them last summer.
Wolves have succumbed to relegation after teetering on the edge for the previous two years. Their decision to sack Mick McCarthy in February and replace him with his assistant Terry Connor was hard to fathom. They have just appointed ex-Cologne manager Stale Sollbaken, a Norwegian whose most successful time was in winning five consecutive Danish league titles with FC Copenhagen. He played a handful of games for Wimbledon in the 1990’s. He will have a difficult task revitalizing a demoralized squad. Nevertheless Wolves have fine players in strikers Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher. The previously excellent winger Matthew Jarvis has had a mediocre season, but remains a threat. Any of these three players would be a welcome addition to the Wigan Athletic squad next year, although their transfer fees and wage demands might be beyond our current parameters. Wolves fought out a goalless draw with Everton last weekend, despite having only 9 shots on goal (0 on target) compared with Everton’s 21.
Form predicts a win for Wigan Athletic on Sunday. Latics’ lineup is likely to be the same as that at Blackburn. A bumper crowd will be at the DW Stadium to celebrate the recent achievements of the Latics team. This is likely to boost our average attendance statistic which currently stands at 18,447, already well up on last season’s 16,812 and the 18,006 figure in Roberto Martinez’s first season. Latics’ league performance over this season does not statistically reach the level of the Bruce era and Jewell’s first year. However, the quality of football we have seen over the past couple of months far outshines that shown at any time during the club’s history. Moreover there are grounds for genuine optimism for the future, with a good squad and young players continuing to come through.
The Wolves game provides an opportunity to not only congratulate the players on their mind blowing recent performances, but also to let Bob and Dave know how much we appreciate what they have done for our club. Were either of them to leave we would be back to square one. They are an amazing double act and we need to do all we can to persuade them both to stay. Let’s congratulate them both on being true believers who keep the faith!