12th Man: From bad to worse

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This horrible season just goes from bad to worse, Saturday brought another morale sapping defeat and sadly a completely toothless performance from players who are an awful lot better than what they served up on Saturday afternoon.

Malky Mackay as of yet hasn’t been able to stop the alarming slide that has been prevalent all season long. As I said last week the deeper we look in to the situation at the DW Stadium and it’s clear that those issues go deeper than the manager alone. Like many teams before us a second season of Championship football is becoming a real struggle and if we’re not careful we could end up sleep walking our way in to League One.

Saturday was depressing for many reasons but primarily the lack of effort and application from the players, Roberto Martinez could be accused of a lot during his time as manager but his players always tried. They may not have been good enough to play the particular style of football that Roberto wanted them to on a consistent basis but there was always the effort and application there, none of that was present on Saturday and a very average looking Norwich side in the end got an easy win.

Mackay has had over three weeks in the job now and will have a better idea of what players are up for the fight and those that aren’t. Up to now bar a decent performance against Middlesbrough I and many other Wigan supporters have seen previous little evidence of a change in fortunes or indeed style to be linked with the new manager. Uwe Rosler enjoyed an immediate response and near meteoric rise up the league after he took over last season, Mackay as of yet hasn’t been able to influence such a dramatic change of fortunes.

The continued exclusion of strikers such as Andy Delort and Oriol Riera is baffling when a side such as ours is in desperate need of goals. One can only hope that those players along with Martyn Waghorn (when he returns from injury) are offered an opportunity to show what they can do alongside the hardworking but much maligned Marc Antoine Fortune.

Admittedly there’s still a long way of the season to go but there has to be some signs of recovery from this squad soon otherwise Wigan Athletic could well be returning from whence they came a lot sooner than anyone expected.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 12th December 2014

12th Man: Deep Trouble

Deep Trouble

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If people didn’t realise the trouble Wigan Athletic were in before the trip to Hillsborough they certainly do now. A 2-1 defeat to a side without a win in eleven games leaves Latics firmly entrenched in the relegation zone and most definitely in a relegation battle. I think Saturday showed that our problems go a lot deeper than Uwe Rosler and his departure won’t simply lead to Latics climbing the table and fighting for promotion.

It was the same old story on Saturday as Latics dominated a game in terms of possession and chances created but as with the side under Uwe Rosler they just couldn’t convert that superiority to goals. Marc Antoine Fortune works hard but looks so isolated on his own up front. I’m not advocating a return to 442 but he certainly needs more support up front, the support should be coming from Callum McManaman and James McClean on the wings but so often on Saturday Fortune would drop deep leaving no one in the box to convert those chances.

Mackay has had a good couple of weeks to work with his players now and with no midweek games in that time hopefully there has been plenty of time on the training ground to put his ideas across. Not having Shaun Maloney available on Saturday would have been a big blow after his virtuoso performance against Middlesbrough the previous week. But there were encouraging signs from Mackay earlier this week about whether the Scotsman can get himself fit and if he can he will surely feature against Norwich on Saturday.

Despite the controversy surrounding his appointment players have been queuing up to praise Mackay and his methods so far, if he can galvanise that support in the squad and get the players reaching their optimum on a more consistent basis Latics will hopefully start to climb the table and we can improve on what has been a truly terrible season so far.

            Andy Delort got himself on the score sheet again for the Development squad in midweek and along with Oriol Riera he must be due a call up for the first team very soon. Both are proven goal scorers and although they haven’t shown their best so far both players are surely worth a go. The same should be said for Martyn Waghorn who after such an impressive four months with Latics last season seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.

Like Rosler before him Mackay has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, how he manages to keep all the players happy and hit on a winning formula at the same time will be the key test of his management skills.

SEAN LIVESEY

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 5th December 2014

12th Man: Ideal opportunity

James McClean scores against Sheffield Wednesday in last year's abandoned match at Hillsborough

James McClean scores against Sheffield Wednesday in last year’s abandoned match at Hillsborough

There’s been a dark cloud hanging over Wigan Athletic for the last week, the appointment of Malky Mackay has caused never before seen controversy for the club. This was compounded on Thursday and Friday as Dave Whelan’s unfortunate interview saw him accused of using racist and anti-semitic language – if these are the last days of Dave Whelan’s reign it will be a terribly tragic way for his twenty years in charge of Wigan Athletic to end.

Sadly all of that is out of our hands and it is now up to the FA as to whether or not they charge him, the club needs to as quickly as possible get back to what it does best and that is impressing on the pitch. With the sideshow clouding the build up to the game on Saturday many could have been forgiven for forgetting there was a football game taking place at the DW on Saturday.

Mackay’s return to the dugout was low key as was the result but it could yet be the turning point in our season. A point was probably a fair result but Latics will feel disappointed that they couldn’t hold on for all three points, especially when you consider the amount of chances we had in the second half. Mackay’s team selection was interesting as Uwe did when he first came in he fell back on to the players that have been the bedrock of the team for the last three seasons.

Ivan Ramis, Roger Espinoza, Callum McManaman Emmerson Boyce and Shaun Maloney all started with Uwe Rosler’s signings such as Emyur Huws and Oriol Riera on the bench. The performance was impressive with decent football throughout and the defence looked a lot stronger with Ivan Ramis and Leon Barnett back at the heart of it whilst Shaun Maloney looked to be something close to his old self. Mackay has stated that all of the squad will be given a chance to impress and if media reports are to be believed that also stretches out to the much maligned Grant Holt currently impressing on loan at Huddersfield.

Next up for Latics is a trip to Hillsborough to face a Sheffield Wednesday side without a win in ten games, a side with a similar run of form to ourselves. With the atmosphere around the club at the moment and relegation still a distinct possibility it’s imperative that we start to pick up wins to climb the table. The longer we spend at the bottom the more difficult it will be for us to climb the table. A trip to a struggling Sheffield Wednesday is the ideal opportunity to do just that, last season when Uwe first came in both trips to Hillsborough the abandoned match in December and the rearranged fixture in the New Year were two of the most impressive performances of Uwe’s year in charge. Let’s see if we can do the same again this Saturday and finally get this season up and running.

As a side note I celebrated my wedding over the weekend and my wife Jayne being the kind understanding Soul she is arranged for me and ten of my friends to watch the game in a box before our wedding reception in Manchester on Saturday evening. The treatment I and our party received from the club on Saturday was fantastic – from a presentation of a signed shirt on the pitch pre match to their outstanding service through the day. It was an example of our club doing what it does best, not what had been represented through the press in the last week.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 28th November 2014

12th Man: Moral dilemma

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I made my views on the potential appointment of Mackay clear last week, I felt it was the wrong appointment for the wrong club at the wrong time but now that appointment has been made where do I stand?

There’s a moral dilemma to the whole situation that sits uncomfortably with me – do you separate what has gone on from the football side or do you take the view that someone who has been involved in allegations like those isn’t the right fit for a club that has made such strides over the last decade to eradicate all forms of discrimination.

It’s a difficult decision to make and I’m unsure exactly where I fall. From a solely footballing point of view the decision to appoint Malky Mackay makes perfect sense. His record at Cardiff was particularly impressive and the football world with people including Neil Lennon, Mark Warburton and Harry Redknapp quick to offer their support to the man.

My focus is on Wigan Athletic and I don’t want anything to damage my football club, if Dave Whelan truly believes that Malky Mackay made an honest mistake and his appointment will benefit our football club it is a decision that we as supporters of the football club have to abide by.

Focussing on football it is far from an easy situation that Malky is walking in to, this Wigan side have talent in abundance but have shown little of that talent since the end of last season.  There is a peculiar mix of three managers worth of players at the club with all bringing different qualities and attitudes to the side. Malky needs to get those three factions pulling in the same direction as soon as possible.

If he can manage to unite the team behind him like Owen Coyle and Uwe Rosler failed to do we may well yet be able to turn our season around.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 21st November 2014

12th Man: Where do we go from here?

Uwe Rosler

Last friday had a feeling of finality about it, the excellent win over Derby had been followed by a hard earned point against Fulham but the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion at Brighton the following Tuesday. It seemed that Uwe had one final chance to save his job. That chance was over when this expensively assembled Wigan Athletic side fell flat against their local rivals in the biggest game of the season.

One has to feel some sadness for how it’s ended at Wigan Athletic for Uwe Rosler, as Dave Whelan has continually stated in the last 24 hours – Uwe Rosler is a good man and a very good manager. There’s no doubt about it Wigan Athletic were revolutionised under the management of Uwe last season, a team that was sluggish and un-fit soon became a fantastic winning machine. That spell from February to April last season was one of the best I have witnessed whilst watching the club, only bettered by the end of the 2011-2012 season under Roberto Martinez.

After coming so close last season we all believed we would be flying high under the stewardship of Uwe this season. The fact that nearly twelve months after taking over Wigan Athletic are in a worse position than before he took over tells the whole story about this season.

Something has gone seriously wrong this season and after being backed so handsomely in the summer transfer market you can see why there was reluctance on the part of Dave Whelan to change managers yet again. Any new manager will have to work with what he has, there won’t be re-enforcements come January. The squad is already one of the largest in the league and the club simply don’t have the funds for another wide spread recruitment drive.

The appointment of Owen Coyle last season was unbelievable, it was the wrong appointment for the wrong club at the wrong time but there was an element of understanding in why Uwe Rosler was chosen as his successor.

Here was a young manager in a similar mould to Roberto Martinez, he didn’t besmirch the achievements of Roberto whilst manager of the club he embraced them he even replicated the tactics that gave us our FA Cup as we beat Manchester City to once again reach Wembley. He didn’t criticise the fans as Coyle did he embraced them and played up to the Wigan story, he added another chapter to that story.

So where did it go so wrong for a manager who performed miracles last season? Did he try to change too much too soon? Did he anger senior pros with his methods? Did he ostracise players? The situations of Grant Holt and Marc Antoine Fortune may well point to that. Whatever happened in the summer it hasn’t worked and a manager who seemed here for the long haul has been sacked less than a year after being appointed.

Where do Latics go from here? Dave Whelan spoke a lot about age in his interview in the aftermath of yesterday’s sacking. He’s 77 now and despite being in good health its imperative he gets the next appointment right, it could be one of his last as chairman. Many names are being touted about but the club need to decide what they want – do they want an easy fix that may well get them promotion or do they want to have somebody who will take a long term view of the club.

They were caught between both with Uwe Rosler and Owen Coyle with neither what the club really needed at the time. Whoever it is the priority must be to move up the Championship table as soon as possible, relegation to League One would be devastating for a club that had made such strides in the last decade.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 14th November 2014

12th Man: Business as usual

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It was a case of business as usual at Wigan Athletic in the last seven days. The euphoria of the win over Derby County was quickly replaced by the usual anger and disappointment as a certain three points was blown at home to Fulham and some comical defending gifted a win to Brighton on the South Coast, their first since August.

Does that tell the whole story of the last week? Not necessarily, the performances against both Brighton and Fulham were strong and with better defending we would have been looking at a haul of four points from the last week.
Sadly though we have now gone past the point of good performances being enough. We need wins and we need wins soon, nothing else is good enough now.

Uwe bristled when asked about the club’s position in the league table after Tuesday’s game but the fact is if we lose to Bolton on Friday night we could well find ourselves in the relegation zone.
That won’t be good enough for the club’s board and Dave Whelan, especially when we consider the amount invested in the side over the summer.
The club are approaching a crossroads, we’ve gone from the settled period of Roberto Martinez and a defined style of play to two managers in the space of 18 months.

I was a vocal critic of Owen Coyle’s appointment at the club and I still believe it was the wrong decision at the wrong time but Coyle’s record last season currently stands stronger than Rosler’s – the pressure on the manager is increasing and the honeymoon period is well and truly over. The club need to think very hard before deciding on the future of Uwe Rosler.

A decent manager doesn’t turn in to a bad one over night, but for Uwe’s sake let’s hope the club start to see enough positive signs to stick with the gaffer and get Latics back up the league table. Friday has a feeling of finality about it, a win once again can push us on. A loss in front of a partizan crowd could spell the end for Uwe. I personally hope he turns it around.


Whether he can or not, I’m unsure.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday 7th November 2014

12th Man: Let’s build on this

James McClean

What a difference a week makes for Uwe Rosler and Wigan Athletic, confidence was at an all-time low as the Latics headed to the midlands to face top of the league Derby. Many expected the worst and that was compounded after the team was news was announced with up to five changes from the drab 0-0 draw with Millwall.

Social media was awash with calls for Uwe Rosler to be fired, those same calls weren’t there at full time as Uwe and his under pressure side produced a display reminiscent to the best of what we saw last season. The fact that Latics scored twice against a side that hadn’t conceded in six games prior to last Saturday’s game and ended an unbeaten run that had stretched from the middle of August shouldn’t be dismissed.

When a performance was needed the lads dug in and produced it in fantastic style as super sub James McClean made it clear to the manager why he believed he should have started.

Some people would say that Rosler would have been sacked if we hadn’t won on Saturday but then you have to look at the investment provided in this side and in Uwe Rosler by the club and in particular the amount of young talent brought through. The club backed Rosler in the summer and they will give as much time as possible to ensure it works they won’t be rushed in to a decision the likes of that could alter the whole course of the club for years to come.

Uwe has probably bought some time from the supporters with the victory over Derby, it was similar in style to the smash and grab wins away from home over Ipswich and Brighton last year. The key for everyone now is to build on this and to make sure it wasn’t just a flash in the pan.

The next three games are against sides below us in the table, culminating in the local derby with them from over the hill. What an opportunity to start climbing that table and building some momentum.

Let’s hope the lads grasp that opportunity with both hands.

12th Man: The tipping point

The tipping pointUwe Rosler

So another week passes and Wigan Athletic’s wait for a win goes on, I spoke last week about only six points being acceptable from the games against Brentford and Millwall -two was what we got. We remain unbeaten in four but without a win in eight, if the pressure on Uwe Rosler was cranked up in recent weeks it hit tipping point on Tuesday night.

It’s probably fair to say that the majority of support has now turned against the manager or at least many are now questioning whether Uwe is indeed the right man for the job. His supporters; me included refer back to last season and that glorious spell from where he took over up to and including the FA Cup semi-final where he picked up a team that was on the floor and turned them in to world beaters. Whatever he did then he needs to do again and we need to quickly re-discover what made us great last season.

Has the manager tried to change things too quickly this season? Quite possibly, last year he gave the team a focus and a style. This year we’ve had neither. There are worrying rumours of player unrest but these are only that – rumours. The players publically at least can’t speak highly enough of the club and the team spirit within the club.

There are still things to be positive about even with our recent run of form, the return of Maynor Figueroa was one no one was expecting and should help to add more quality to the backline. The side are unbeaten in four games and haven’t conceded in three of those. The aforementioned defence looks a lot stronger than it did previously and the midfield is starting to dominate games. If we can build on that and start to add much needed creativity and goals to our game we can turn things around.

But time is quickly running out for Wigan Athletic’s season and Uwe Rosler’s future.

Rosler himself is bullish as you would expect him to be; he described himself as a fighter earlier this week and explained that he had taken bullets before. Let’s hope that he can arrest the alarming slide without receiving the bullet from Dave Whelan and Jonathan Jackson.

 First published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 24th October 2014

12th Man: Old Spirit

Wigan Athletic midfielder Adam Forshaw with manager Uwe Rosler

Another international break over and done with – the last time we returned to action after an international break we were full of optimism and why not? Latics entered that break with two wins on the bounce, one a thoroughly impressive 4-0 demolition of Birmingham City and a number of exciting new signings following the closure of the transfer window.

If the defeat that followed at Blackburn had us worried worse was to come with further defeats to Ipswich and Bournemouth in the weeks following. The pressure looked to be reaching tipping point for Uwe Rosler a couple of weeks ago, and as ridiculous as it sounds many suspected the gaffers job to be on the line. Two decent performances albeit draws against sides at the top of the league seem to have helped the stop the rot and Uwe has said the season starts as of now.

And how true we need that to be, I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to suggest the next week could shape our season. We’re about to enter a run of six fixtures in the next four weeks ahead of the next international break. The target has to be six points from the next two games – that of course is easier said than done.

Brentford will be coming to the North West hoping to get one over their former manager and with the Adam Forshaw saga fresh in everyone’s minds it is the ideal scenario to give Uwe and the Latics a kick. But the Latics will be fired up as well, Uwe’s talents as a manager have been questioned over the last few weeks and how better to answer those critics with a win over his former side.

The players sound fired up with Callum McManaman and Adam Forshaw in particular looking forward to getting back to action and with a resounding friendly win over Rotherham last week fresh in the minds where the likes of the aforementioned Forshaw and McManaman along with Riera and Tavernier played 90 minutes it sounds like we’re in decent shape to finally get our season underway.

I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday,  I took part in a Brentford podcast earlier this week and it was refreshing to hear the Brentford fans talk about their climb up the leagues and how exciting it is to see their side perform in the Championship. Brentford remind me of us back in 2003/2004 when we first came up to the Championship. We could do with a bit of that old fighting spirit right now, let’s hope we can see it this weekend and finally get our season underway.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday October 17th 2014

12th Man: Sooner rather than later

It’s been a torrid past seven days for all Latics fans. That sounds dramatic for an away draw and a narrow home defeat but the manner of Tuesday nights game is what will cause the most concern.

Ipswich came with a clear plan to rough Uwe Rossler’s side up and it worked perfectly. There were cynical fouls galore with Callum McManaman facing the brunt of it in the first half. Ipswich showed the same sort of fight and desire that Wigan Athletic showed so many times last season. That spirit has been sadly lacking for the most part this season.
Yet for all of that Latics could and possibly should have had a point with Oriol Riera’s volley a whisker away from gaining us a point.
Once again despite having the highest share of possession Latics failed to make the most of it which is becoming a common theme throughout this season’s performances.
Uwe described the Huddersfield game as a must win. After the last two matches Bournemouth on Saturday presents probably the most important game of Uwe Rosler’s 10 months in charge. Win and the season is more than salvageable with plenty to build on in the coming months. Lose and the pressure will crank up on both the manager, chairman and this squad of players.
I still have faith in the manager and players, Uwe Rosler’s burgeoning reputation didn’t come from chance but from strong performances on the pitch. I’m sure that he will manage to turn it around at Latics but it has to start sooner rather than later, where better than Dean Court?

First published in the Wigan Evening Post Friday September 26th 2014