Wigan picked up a point at home to high-flying Middlesbrough on Saturday but fell into the Championship relegation zone after other results went against them, rounding off a terrible week in which the club has been thrown into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Football in general has been in poor health recently, with FIFA continually in the headlines over alleged corruption and farcical Qatar World Cup suggestions; the footballing future of convicted rapist Ched Evans; and now the saga at the DW Stadium, with both new manager Malky Mackay and chairman Dave Whelan in the news for alleged sexism and racism in text messages, the latter in trouble for comments made about people of Jewish and Chinese background.
Whelan’s appointment of Mackay itself led to two sponsors pulling out of a deal at the club. Both are under investigation from the FA for various controversial statements and Whelan has stated he is prepared to resign from his position as chairman should he be punished. At the time of writing, no verdict has been given.
On the pitch it has been a hugely disappointing fall from grace for Wigan, who were FA Cup winners only 18 months ago – albeit in a season where the club also suffered relegation. Last season the Latics enjoyed a fine run and were only narrowly beaten in the play-off semi-final against QPR. Uwe Rosler, however, could not cure the team’s “hangover” (in his words) so far this season and was replaced by McKay last week.
Wigan’s drop into the relegation zone epitomises the tightness at the bottom end, with only three points separating Rotherham in 22nd spot and 14th-placed Huddersfield. One team, however, has a lot to do. Blackpool are now 10 points adrift at the foot of the table with still only a solitary win to their name – ironically in a match that saw many fans leave before the winning goal as part of an organised protest.
The Tangerines, of course, are suffering a similar downward spiral to Wigan. They too earned a point at home to Bolton on Saturday but it highlighted how much work they have to do to give themselves hope: even before the season’s halfway mark draws are no longer good enough.
“We’ve got to get wins,” recently appointed manager Lee Clark admitted after the match. Nevertheless, he added: “I’m even more confident now than when I walked in because I believe the players are fitter and they have more confidence.”
At the other end of the table, Derby ground out a fine win at Watford to send the Rams three points clear at the top. The promotion race is just as close as the relegation battle, epitomised by the continual see-sawing of clubs in and around the play-offs. Watford, Norwich and Nottingham Forest have all topped the table in the last couple of months but all now sit out of the top six.
Such indifference has allowed teams that hit any sort of form to benefit. The latest are Brentford, whose fourth win on the trot in the west London derby against Fulham on Friday propelled them to fifth following Saturday’s results.
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