Why was that? Why was it more enjoyable than being in the Premier League? Many feel that ‘we’ve got our club back’ after a period of instability and bad decision followed by bad decision, following our relegation to The Championship in 2013. I must admit that I experienced spells of disheartenment during periods of our spell in the Premier League, because I felt going to games was a chore that I couldn’t afford, whilst plastic Premier league ‘fans’, had a go at us for being a relatively-small club (by Premier League-standards). I want us to succeed at the highest level, but I felt that the club needed to reinvent itself in order for it to improve - if anything, I feel we got promoted perhaps TOO soon last time and we didn’t have that diehard supporter base to fall back on, when the club fell through the leagues. We’ve averaged just shy of 10,000 this season which is somewhat more than our average in our last season in the third tier and one of the highest in the division. There’s still plenty of work to do, but the season ticket prices for 2016/17 will be a massive help and the club deserve huge credit for all they’ve done this season.
With 2016/17 being the last season that we’ll be receiving the much-maligned ‘parachute payments’, it’s now more crucial than ever that we try to build up the supporter base and continue to improve our playing squad, by adding young and upcoming ‘assets’ to our squad, otherwise it’ll be a struggle in future seasons to sustain a Championship team, let alone one with ambitions of winning promotion from the league. Personally, I would take a mid-table finish with those improvements in place right now – but this is Wigan Athletic and by now, we should know that nothing we ever predict (or want) will happen!
With all that, here are my ‘awards’ for this season:
Home Game of the Season – Gillingham. 2-0 down and getting battered by a side set to go top of the league, then all of sudden we turned it round to win 3-2, scoring the winner in injury time and all. Prior to that game, we didn’t beat a team regarded as a ‘top team’ and it may have caused a psychological issue. No surprise we didn’t lose a game in the league for 3 months afterwards.
Away Game of the Season – Walsall, similar reasons to Gillingham; this was a marker for our season, a feeling that we were going genuinely to challenge. An injury time Yanic winner sending Latics into the automatic promotion places, leapfrogging the home side, and Latics supporters leapfrogging advertisement hoardings and running onto the pitch to celebrate like they always used to seem to do on a regular basis!
Goal of the Season – Max Power, Swindon away. I just thought the way that he controlled the ball, getting it out of his feet then curling it in from all of 30 yards was just beautiful. The perfect goal for a central midfielder to score, in my opinion!
Player of the Season – Michael Jacobs. Difficult to choose, I know (I even voted for David Perkins in the club awards) but just for an alternative take, I think Jacobs’ versatility and creativity was invaluable earlier in the season when the team was struggling to click. The industrious midfielder would have been a shoe-in for the club award if he hadn’t have been injured for the last few months, I feel. Those early-season winners against Crewe and Fleetwood in particular, stand out for me as highlights in a very inconsistent first couple of months – we’d be at least 4 points worse off without them and possibly out of the automatic promotion places! Like a few of our players, if he’s given enough of a run in starting games in The Championship next season, I can see him having a real impact as he continues to improve with this young and hungry team.
‘OH FFS’ moment of the season – Chesterfield away. Listening on the radio is always an experience, due to your mind putting pictures with the over-excitable audio, but this game made it far more heart-stopping. 2-nil down with 10 minutes to go – I switched off in a fit of anger. I threw a paddy. A bit later, after I had calmed down with a brew and switched on Sky Sports News, I saw that we had got one back and tuned back in – just as Davies was about to take the penalty. The rest, well I’m sure you know what happened. Unbelievable scenes (in my house, let alone Latics supporters running on the pitch!)
And that brings me to away supporter of the year. This lad. His reactions to the Latics comeback is priceless!
Here’s to the new season and hopefully the continued upward trajectory of Wigan Athletic!