Writer: Jimmy T
Date:Friday November 18 2011
PROJECT UNITY: WIGAN ATHLETIC FANS ARE FIGHTING BACK
By Jimmy T, TNS
Some of you may recall a blog I did a couple of months ago under the above title. We all know what has happened in the last couple of months and it somehow feels even more difficult to introduce such a concept when we're rooted to the bottom of the table. But you know what, some football fans are like that. Usually the best kind - and I'm talking about football in general here not anyone in particular. When they are faced with adversity, they come out kicking and screaming and chanting and singing and laughing in the face of their predicament.
I always remember Millwall away a few years back. They hated us with a passion and had finally got one over on us at the New Den and were leading 3-1. We simply went downstairs for a pint or two at half time. Came back up suitably oiled ready to face thousands of mocking Cockneys and what did they get? 20 minutes of non-stop "Let's Hang On" to which they had no answer to. Beaten but not disgraced.
It's easy to love your football club when your football club is winning but it's in times of adversity when your club really needs your love and support the most. It's payback time now for those fifteen years of progression and success since Whelan threw his hand in. And by that I don't mean we're going down even though we might. It's time the fans gave the club some payback.
We need to pay the club back for the good times it has given us and stop wallowing in our own misery at our plight. There`s no point is there?
Roberto Martinez very bravely agreed to meet some fans` representatives at short notice and regardless of your views on his management, one thing is for sure: when we have really, truly and unequivocally got behind the team - they have delivered: Blackpool, West Ham, Stoke and some of the bigger games the season before against Arsenal when we were 2-0 down and against Liverpool and Chelsea. There`s no point saying that the fans win the game. They don't but they can influence the game. Even so it might not be enough but at least we can say we did our bit.
We need to be that 12th Man. Trust me, we will enjoy it collectively. Let's remind ourselves of why we fell in love with our football club: that siege mentality, that little club battling against the odds, that never give up spirit. Let`s give those players such a wall of noise that they can`t fail to ignore it and if they are struggling, let's give them encouragement - not get straight on their backs!
This isn't about who is the bigger or better fan. This is about us all being bigger and better fans: doing everything we can to keep this club in the Premier League and maintaining that spirit no matter where our future lies.
So back to Project Unity: The initial idea is reproduced in full below. It was met with interest from some quarters and ridicule by others. It also met with approval from the club itself. I didn't have all the answers just a set of ideas, plans and beliefs. Some of you who know me know that as a family man these days I don`t have much time on my hands so I admitted from the outset that maybe I am not the best person to lead this. I was hoping for inspiration for elsewhere but I just wanted to throw an idea out there.
If I could sum up one line from the initial piece below it would be as follows: we're the best fans in the world when the chips are down, and usually get our rewards for it. Why do we always let it get to that stage. The chips are down and Wigan Athletic needs you.
The original concept was to travel en masse to away games, just like we did at Stoke and Blackpool and roar the lads on to victory by giving them the type of support that would blow them away. Well, as a few people have pointed out our home support isn't exactly the most vocal either.
So let's make this change this Saturday at home to Blackburn. There's a rumour that the drummer might be back. Love him or loathe him, it's been a lot quieter without him. From your own perspective, please try and get to your seat a few minutes before kick off and get ready to start singing even before the game starts. No matter where you sit: East, West or South - noise is infectious! Excite those players and they might excite you in return.
I guarantee there will be 4,000 Rovers fans there singing their hearts out. Let's take it to them, pray for a good start buoyed by the atmosphere and before long they`ll be turning on their manager. Let's show we are behind ours (even if you aren't) by encouraging every Wigan Athletic footballer on the pitch every step of the way. I know we can't prevent silly defensive mistakes but a) we've had quite enough of those lately and b) with a home crowd roaring them on, they will be more likely to attack because they want to please us. They're footballers and they are easily pleased too, so get behind them.
Now to Sunderland and we had earmarked this one as a game to launch our campaign. Again, it`s going to be difficult given the recent run of results we've had but we also know from past experience that 500 of ours are worth 10,000 of any other clubs when we`re in the mood for it. So let`s get in the mood. If you're stopping off, let others know where - the more the merrier.
Sunderland isn't the most away friendly place so if need be let's get in the ground for 2pm. Let`s get under the concourse, enjoy a few beers if that's what you like to do and start singing your hearts out for a good 45 minutes. We've got some good young lads following us now, they've got plenty of enthusiasm and heart and just love following their football club up and down the country as many of us have done over time. Some of their songs might not be your cup of tea but they are the lifeblood of our support and will lead the way.
Let`s start building the atmosphere and then with 10 minutes to go let's get upstairs and get the flags, balloons and banners flying and let's greet those Wigan Athletic players with a cacophony of noise. Let's catch our opponents out cold just for once and if we give that team great support they will respond. Imagine going to Sunderland, singing our hearts out and returning home with a great victory? Wouldn't that be worth it for the look on Brucie's face? Let's show him that we might be a small club but we are a proud club with great fans, fans who get behind their team in times of distress.
Let's use these two games to rebuild our season and rebuild our support and let's keep in touch. Let's build bridges between our fans using the exact same methods that we're using to argue: phones, email, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Together we can be stronger and fight this.
PROJECT UNITY: ITS' TIME THE FANS OF WIGAN ATHLETIC FOUGHT BACK
Anyone remember Blackpool in April? What a fantastic day that was.
What about Stoke in May, who could forget that?
Two great away days where we turned up in numbers, we sang our hearts out, we waved flags and banners, we gave the team unwavering support, we had a party and we could have sold our allocation two or three times over. And we got the result we needed when the chips are down.
But why do we always have to wait until the chips are down before we get excited and go mad for what suddenly seems a tiny allocation of tickets?
One of the ideas in my muddled little head is that we somehow need to do something this season to recreate the atmosphere at the key games last year.
We turned up that day in May at Stoke not knowing for sure whether it was going to be our last day in the Premier League or not but we turned up and had a party.
We do not know whether this season will be our last in the Premier League or not yet even if the urgency seems to be missing on the pitch, maybe it's time we impressed a bit of urgency OFF the pitch
The bizarre thing is that on the rare occasions when we do actually turn up in numbers away from home, the team generally performs. It might just be coincidence but then it might not be. Footballers are pretty simple people who respond to encouragement.
It's all very well saying 'they're a shower on the pitch, why should I spend my hard earned paying to watch them?' and you know what you've probably got a point.
The club took a lot off stick (including some off me) in May for 'only' taking 1,500 tickets for Stoke but their argument of 'we only usually need 700' was borne out at the next away game at Swansea and at Villa, Everton & City. As soon as the drama has subsided, so has the support.
I'm not knocking the 700 who were there or the ones who can't afford to go but I think a few of us have got to be brutally honest with ourselves and occasionally admit that we don't go because we can't be arsed. Maybe even because it's cheaper or even a better atmosphere to stay at home or watch it in the pub. Or maybe because it's not do or die. It's just die. Only kidding.
We all had a great day out at Blackpool and Stoke and by all accounts the atmosphere the Latics fans created at Blackpool in particular blew the players away and we got the performance we wanted and needed.
We're all moaning about the lack of great days whilst waiting for them to come to us. Maybe it's time that we met them half way?
So here's an idea:
I'm not so naïve to suggest that if we sold out our allocation everywhere then we'd suddenly start winning away games and nor am I suggesting that our fans should start running up big debts and travelling the length and breadth of the country week in, week out like we did in such large numbers that first year we were in the Premier League.
But perhaps we do need to choose a handful of games and promote it via the websites and the club to get as many there as possible and create a party atmosphere, singing and waving flags and banners and celebrating our football club and making sure we all have a good day out.
There's something wrong when there's a better atmosphere in the pub than there is at the game but it's happened over time as prices have gone up and the novelty of travelling to (and often getting beaten at) Premier league grounds wears off
Why do we have to wait until the chips are down before responding in this way? Why don`t the fans of Wigan Athletic unite and try and create that atmosphere at Blackpool or Stoke for a few away games a season and let's see if we can make a difference?
It doesn't mean that we`re going to win the game but then we're not going to win every game. We somehow need to get enough of us there to make other people want to be there and build momentum.
Instead of idiots ringing Talksport or going on Facebook or Twitter slagging off our support, let's turn up, make a racket and blow them away. Enough to keep them quiet for a few months and then let's do it again!
The fact it's now October and I've only just got around to writing about it, I can only apologise for.
Whether we can through the websites focus on a handful of away games and get as many fans as possible there, maybe involve the club organising or subsidising travel en masse.
Arrange a meet up at accommodating pubs nearby an hour or two before and build that atmosphere: 10-15 coaches of Latics fans all building that spirit and taking it into the ground with us, or even meet in the ground an hour before and go up 15 minutes before kick off like we did at Blackpool
At this point I`m not even at the planning stage either nor have I got games in mind. October ones are too soon so for some reason Sunderland appeals. 1,500 or 2,000 of us packed into a corner of that huge ground could still blow them away just like 1,500 did at Stoke. But then the same applies anywhere, even United: we know we`ll get beat but it could be the last time we ever play there so let's go and sell out and sing our hearts out. Yes I know it's £40 a ticket but it's what £2 on the train?
Next year I've not even looked at and all those fixtures are still at the behest of Sky and a movement to Monday night yet but I' not saying anything about Sunderland or United or any other game, I'm saying let's choose one and get there in numbers and enjoy being fans of Wigan Athletic for the day and celebrate everything we've achieved.
Which game it is doesn't matter, it's the sentiment that matters.
There it is, that's me, just one fan coming up with a suggestion
I'll leave it there and let you Wigan Athletic fans reading have a think about my idea
Latics and Proud
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Date:Friday November 18 2011
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