THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

26 November ~ Being a Wigan Athletic fan has never been easy, and never has this been more true than during the Latics' time in the Premier League. We've stepped off the trap door on the last day twice and cut it too close for comfort on another couple of occasions. But our problems could just be beginning. To date, I have been Dave Whelan's biggest fan. He opens his mouth far too often and the press are only too happy to lap up his elderly rantings on all manner of subjects. But there is no doubting his contribution and commitment to the club, and there is no obvious line of succession if he decides to retire.

Whelan has hinted that he is looking to hand over the club to his grandson, but the heir apparent is only 21 years old. There is a very solid core of people at the club, led by the excellent chief executive Jonathan Jackson, but a 21-year-old running a multi-million pound company is a very worrying prospect. (It is still better than having Peter Ridsdale in charge, mind you.)

As it stands, relegation would probably not be the disaster it has proved to be for others. The club could cut costs significantly, while probably retaining a large percentage of the current support. We may never get back up, of course, but it is hard to miss something that has been trying to get rid of you for years. An excruciating run of games through December and early January could conceivably leave us with a points total in the single figures by the time we get knocked out of the FA Cup by a Conference team.

The tough games ahead make today's match at Sunderland all the more interesting. Steve Bruce is a very average manager, but an excellent spender. He has left each of his clubs with much emptier pockets than when he joined. He isn't shy about lobbing insults over his shoulder as he walks away. Heir to Ferguson? Possibly, but it will be Darren, not Alex.

Having been robbed blind by incompetent officials during the Blackburn game last Saturday, it is clear that we're going to have to work our own way out of a desperate situation. In that game, Roberto Martinez played three across the back, with the full-backs pushing forward at every opportunity. We looked a much more dangerous team than we have done in years.

If he goes the same way again today, we should give Sunderland more problems. In fact, the fewer defenders we have the better off we should be. There have been one or two easy wins for each team when we have played Sunderland, but the games are usually pretty even. Having been the best team for 96 minutes against Blackburn, we need to build against opponents that are almost as bad as us. Paul Middleton

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