Ladies and gentlemen, The King has left the building… a pirate.
Sayonara, Shortsman II. Your reign was as short as your shrinking pantaloons, but we shall forever remember you as the guy who ‘wasn’t as good as Rosler, but not quite as bad as Malky’.
Speaking of which, here’s a quick history lesson for you! With nine games to go in the 2014/15 season, Latics sat six points from safety. Had Malky been excised following the victory over Rotherham — unlikely as that may sound — new manager Gaz ‘Homeboy’ Caldwell could possibly have utilised his superhuman strength and endurance to perform a miracle of Jesus Seba proportions.
Swipe forward through two years of drunken selfies, and the mythical Prince Graham Barrow finds himself in such a position.
But after a further two weeks of cheesy cat pics and an international break, will yet another individual be displaying his shorts (please not Pulis please not Pulis please not Pulis) in front of that dugout? On the basis of today… hard to say, really.
It’s a sad fact of the modern game, but oftentimes something as drastic a change of manager is required for a relatively simple change of strategy. Which is unfortunate, as it would have been much cheaper for a club in Wigan’s financial situation to simply buy an eraser for the tactics whiteboard.
(…And I am going to selectively ignore those chanting ‘Yanic money’ right now.)
Sadly, one thing you can’t immediately change by firing Shortsman is the form and quality of players at your disposal.
Though he determinedly fights against it, Omar Bogle is either horribly out of form or carrying a nasty gremlin under that ugly bandage on his left leg. The Bogmaster’s very presence is enough to put any defender out of step, but when a Championship striker steals the ball just outside the penalty area, he surely has grander designs than the side netting. Chance of the game = gone.
Villa began with the conviction of a Premier League side, but after the 20 minute mark, their through balls transformed into a jelly-like substance resembling jelly. Time for Graham B’s new ‘attacking’ plan to be executed… but not before a feast of jelly. Hey, you wouldn’t turn down free jelly, would ya?
Bogle rampaged his way into the penalty area a further two times before the opening half was out. I suppose he can be forgiven for miscontrolling the second attempt, especially since he earned a dubious handball with the help of faithful accomplice Gabby Obertan. Ref Tony Harrington suitably duped, foul awarded.
But Mickey Jacobs’ subsequent free kick was pushed clear of danger by ‘keeper Sam Johnstone, epitomising an encouraging but ultimately gristly half of Championship football. And in Latics’ case, that was… actually a welcome improvement.
Spirits were highest as the second half commenced, coincidentally just as Jacobs blazed from his own third to the edge of Villa’s penalty box before being dispossessed. With Bogle taking an ever more anonymous role, ‘Crackers’ quickly elevated himself to the status of ‘most likely to cheese ’em off’. (Hur-hur… oh, you can tell I’ve exhausted my quota of decent jokes for the season.)
In good time, sub Callum Connolly raced to the touchline before rolling a shin stinger into Johnstone’s worryingly exposed legs. And when other sub Ryan Colclough drew a mildly strenuous save from Johnstone, one sensed that oh-so-elusive Latics goal edging slowly nearer.
It was, however, false hope. Again.
The first Villa goal bore many similarities to Bristol’s almost exactly seven days ago. Matty Gilks might have met the corner with a strong fist, but Jimmy Chester stood waiting to sidefoot into the button that released a wave of sheer ecstasy across the North Stand. Five thousand went wild with delight, a further ten thousand went crazy with frustration, desperation and resignation.
With Danny Burn now occupying a centre forward position, who would defend the Latics goal? Who would be waiting at the near post to bash Scott Hogan’s header to oblivion? Nobody, that’s who. Albert Adomah’s cross was centimetre perfect, but the Hulk’s finish was even more accurate than it needed to be. 2-0 to quality football, I guess.
In conclusion, a casual observer would suggest there are some positive signs for Prince Barrow’s reign. But at this point they are dulled by the lingering torture of imminent doom… by which I mean Kellogulation. And if you’re wondering what that means, I believe it’s the author’s way of avoiding that word which must not be uttered.
(But yes, ‘Kellogulation’ actually means ‘to become a corn flake’.)
For evidence of this anaesthesia, look no further than the 22nd minute incident which saw Jamie Hanson take an awful grack in the googlies. Such events are ordinarily chuckleworthy, but on this afternoon you really did feel sorry for the poor guy.