For the first time in... well, God knows how long, it felt a little better to chat with a member of the opposition fan-base. Not that I felt the need to gloat or anything, everyone has been thoroughly respectful to us whilst we endured a miserable run, but I will say that it didn't feel like a chore this week.
So for this week, we return to Martin Tarbuck of This Northern Soul - The No.1 Source for Wigan Athletic chat, banter and information. Not even bigging them up for the hell of it either here, for it is a tremendous site, so check them out.
Here's how Martin saw the game, along with some thoughts on Steve Bruce & Charles N'Zogbia...
A quite extraordinary game from where I was sat, how did you see things?
Martin: Yes, you know that weak underbelly that we possess that I mentioned in the preview hadn’t been exposed for a few months? Well there it was again in all it’s glory! We didn’t play particularly well in the first half but I don’t think that Sunderland did either. The second half I expect was a great half of football for Sunderland fans and indeed the neutral but obviously it was a complete sickener from our point of view as we folded like a cheap tent on a windy day.
Too many players from our team had off days but even so before the goal flurry, I thought we could get one and nick it, especially as there was so much anxiety in the home crowd but our inability to hold on to a lead cost us dearly and after that our heads went down in the sort of manner no professional footballers should do. Fair play to your boys, you could smell blood and feasted upon it with glee.
An absolute belter from Diame once again at the Stadium Of Light, how does he keep doing it against us? I hope this isn’t becoming an annual tradition.
Martin: He kind of reflects our whole team in a microcosm, he’s capable of moments of brilliance, very talented and capable of matching the best in the game on his day. Yet some days he goes completely missing and often lacks confidence and struggles to perform for anything like ninety minutes. Although he has a heart condition so maybe that’s being a little unfair.
I couldn’t allow myself to relax any until it was 3-1. With no strikers, and still at 1-1, you must have fancied your chances. What stopped you?
Martin: This is why so many fans are critical of the manager. I never had Steve Bruce down as a tactical genius but whatever was said at half time or even from the touchline in the second half, whether it was tactical or motivational, clearly it did the trick and he won that battle. We didn’t adapt or change our game one bit throughout and Bob just stands there on the touchline, arms folded, looking immaculate and all smiles afterwards. Our players needed a rocket up the backside and I think Bob is more of a wipe their bottoms for them type of chap. You’ve got to take the highs and the lows with him and Saturday was as bad as last weekend was good, there’s no in between with Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic but that’s the fourth game this season, I’ve seriously questioned what the hell he’s telling those players to do as they just weren’t interested whereas the same time last time they were piling into Blackpool. He’s a mini-Wenger in every sense so it seems!
That third goal mind, I’m not gonna complain (obviously) but the decision seemed a little soft...
Martin: We’re used to refs not giving us any favours but the first one was never a free kick and own of your players (not Gyan) was offside for the resulting equaliser. The penalty simply wasn’t a penalty, although the refs seem to have their own rule book when it comes to us. I just saw Rio Ferdinand perform an identical challenge on an Everton player at Old Trafford the same day and no surprise to see that wasn’t given. And finally, how Lee Cattermole stayed on the pitch is beyond me after eighty five minutes of his usual tackling like a ninja after ten cans of Special Brew. Apart from that, the ref didn’t have too much of a bad game!
I’m convinced refs cost smaller clubs like Wigan ten to fifteen points a season, let alone the goal difference impact and it’s particularly galling when you hear Fergie moaning about refs. If he had to put up with what we do week in, week out, the old boy would have spontaneously combusted by now.
But now I’ve finished my weekly ref whining I should point out that we got exactly what we deserved – nothing - after the way we defended in the second half
How did you view our performance, and who, if anyone stood out?
Martin: I don’t know how much of it was that the performance was well overdue anyway or it was down to us leaving the door open and inviting you in to help yourselves but it was a fine second half performance. Maybe the injuries kind of spurred the team on to go for it? I mean they are a bit thick footballers in general? Maybe the midfield thought ‘Well there’s no strikers to get the goals, maybe we’d better try and score?’ And they did…..and there was me in the preview saying Steve Bruce had probably run out of ideas…..
Obviously Jordan Henderson had a great game and I remember him from the game at our place making a mug out of one of ours to set up Gyan for his debut goal, they both must like playing against us.
I worried all week about N’Zogbia and how he could really damage us, but it was nice for him not to put too much effort in against his future employers... how did you rate Charlie’s game?
Martin: My thoughts entirely, I said a few weeks back that I wouldn’t have even played him against you for that reason. It’s not gone un-noticed in these parts that a certain former Wigan player seems to be engaging in quite the ritual courtship with Charles via Twitter and he’s not quite been slow in acknowledging it. The words tapping up spring to mind.
He’s an enigma and simply wasn’t interested on Saturday. We’ll thank him for the goals he’s scored but not miss his attitude if and when he goes. I suspect he’s one of those players who thinks he’s bigger than the manager but the one thing he won’t have realised is that a stronger manager won’t just let him do what the hell he likes and at a bigger club he will have to perform week in, week out. The grass isn’t always greener.
Finally, are you going to stay up?
Martin: Que sera sera. We’ve been down here so long we’re kind of preparing for it. I was always of the opinion that I wanted us to stay in the Premier League for years to come so we can bring a whole generation of fans through as we have such a young support but there’s so much wrong with this league that maybe we’re better off with a change of scenery. It gets a bit demoralising after six years of struggling, getting robbed by refs, charged a fortune for away games, only winning seven or eight games a year and financially it’s harder than ever to compete.
I have a similar beef to Niall Quinn in that thousands of Wiganers are now watching our home games in pubs and that’s really hurting us as well, much more so than Sunderland. If we do stay up we need a re-think about how we market the club, it’s easy for Sunderland fans to criticise our support (and many were on Saturday night – via the internet of course) but we’re a town of 80,000 people who get 16,000 watching us, the rugby get similar gates and 95% of their fans hate us for reasons they don’t even know let alone me and thousands of people in our town ‘support’ Liverpool, Everton, United & City so we’re up against it in that sense as well. We’re a small town whose team was in the non leagues 40 years ago and it’s a miracle we’ve lasted as long as we have to be honest
Our hopes as ever rest with Whelan and Martinez, but in the short term more so Roberto Martinez. If he can get us playing week in, week out and more pertinently, for the next four games like we did at Blackpool and never, ever play again like we did on Saturday then we’ll stay up and build a decent side for next season, or even in the Championship we’d be strong. Then there’s a real chance if we go down we could plummet like a stone but hey, according to some people that’s where we belong…