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

12th Man: The pressure is on

The Pressure is on

It may only be September but already the pressure is on Uwe Rosler and Wigan Athletic. Following the six points gained from the Blackpool and Birmingham games many people thought we had turned the corner and that the next two games away from home would see a continuation of the sort of performances we showed before the international break.

For the first 50 minutes of the game with Blackburn this was reflected in our performance, Latics fielding new signings William Kvist and Andy Delort played with pace and purpose and should have been ahead before halftime. The penalty miss from Ivan Ramis was a kick in the teeth but not as big a kick as what came in the second half. Latics deservedly took the lead through James Perch before what looked like a complete capitulation in the second half. Whether the second goal should have stood is up for debate but Latics once again fell away in the second half which must be a worry to Uwe Rosler. The result didn’t reflect the first 50 minutes of the game but Latics once again left Ewood Park with nothing for their efforts.

The good thing about the Championship is the chance to turn things around quickly and Huddersfield presented that opportunity on Tuesday night. A 0-0 draw may not sound like a way to stop the rot but it was the first away point of the season and a game which garnered 60% possession and 14 attempts on goal should have given us more than a point. On another night the side could have been celebrating a 3-0 win as it was a goalless draw is all we had to take with us back over the Pennines.

Andy Delort and William Kvist have impressed in their first couple of games despite the negativity surrounding both games. Kvist looks a very classy midfielder even if he doesn’t have the same attacking impetus as James McArthur did in that position whilst Delort is reminiscent of a former Latics favourite in Amr Zaki the way he threw himself about on Tuesday at Huddersfield was a glimpse in to what we could expect if he and Oriel Riera can get amongst the goals this season we’ll be ok.

Our record so far this season has been frustrating, the squad we have now should and could be performing to higher level than it has so far but I still have faith in Uwe and the side to turn things around and see us climbing the table before long. People have already begun comparing Uwe’s record to Owen Coyle’s and despite what many say the manager isn’t above the criticism that comes his way. The buck stops with the manager but I have seen enough this season and since he arrived at the club to tell me Uwe Rosler is the right man to lead our club.

With the losses of Jordi Gomez, Jean Beausejour and James McArthur and up to nine new signings to bed in to our way of thinking and style of play it was always going to be difficult to hit the ground running. Consistency is the name of the game this season and as we prepare for our next home game on Monday evening it’s important that we keep up our relatively strong home record. A win would once again see us back in the mix and we know this side are capable of providing that.

Come on Latics.

12th Man: Strength in depth

The international break is always a strange time for a club our size. Especially now we’re back in the Championship, with only a handful of call ups and less emphasis on the heavy travelling of players from the Roberto Martinez and Steve Bruce era it should have had a beneficial impact over the last ten days. With plenty of time for new signings Adam Forshaw and Andy Delort to bed in with the rest of those players who haven’t gone on international duty.

Uwe Rosler can reflect on an improving if not sparkling start to the season. 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses isn’t promotion form but we also have to remember we’re only in September.

A glimpse of things to come was shown in the Birmingham game, Callum McManaman was unplayable and looks back to his best now he’s got over the injury problems that dogged him during last season.
Add to the performance of the players already here the signings of international class players like William Kvist who captained Denmark recently along with the permanent capture of Emyr Huws the future is looking bright for Uwe’s Latics. The strength of the squad is one of our strongest assets and where Uwe’s squad rotation policy will come in to play.

Blackburn represents one of the toughest tests of the season so far. Despite the issues surrounding the club Gary Bowyer has built a strong squad and with the ever prolific Jordan Rhodes heading their strike force they’ll be a dangerous side to face.

A largely second string Latics went to Ewood Park in May in what was virtually a dead rubber ahead of the play-offs. With a full strength side coming off the back of two resounding victories Latics will go in to the game full of confidence. Hopefully that confidence will be well founded on Saturday.

 

12th Man: What a difference

What a difference seven days makes, when I penned my last column we were coming off the back of our first win of the season and despite getting three points there was still an air of negativity around Robin Park as the club and managers ambition was questioned.Callum Mcmanaman and Martyn Waghorn

The overreaction was put in to stark contrast as Wigan Athletic swept aside Birmingham City with a fantastic performance and followed that up by having one of the strongest transfer deadline days in recent memory announcing four permanent arrivals. The lack of ambition and calls of derision towards the management of the club were quelled when the Latics secured their two main transfer targets of the summer.

Uwe described League One player of the season Adam Forshaw as his number one target to replace Jordi Gomez as our creative midfielder, there were rumours abound why the deal was being held up so I’m sure it was a relief for all involved when the deal was finally agreed. French striker Andy Delort had been paraded on the pitch at the DW Stadium ahead of the Birmingham game yet his club insisted a deal hadn’t been finalised, luckily that was just bravado from FC Tours as Delort completed his move on Monday afternoon.

Many of us me included thought that would be the end of our transfer business but as the departure of James McArthur was confirmed to Crystal Palace two more signings were announced.  Danish international William Kvist joined from Stuttgart and even more surprising the confirmation Emyr Huws on a permanent contract after impressing in his first month with the Latics. This softened the blow of losing James McArthur and gives the squad an extremely strong look about it. With Chris McCann and Ben Watson to return from injury Latics are flooded with quality options in central midfield.

Things are looking a lot more positive than they were just over a week ago and there’s certainly a feel good factor around the club at the moment. The signings on Monday showed the club’s ambition and the hunger to return to the Premier League. Performances have picked up over the last couple of weeks and with improving results and Uwe Rosler building a squad that would be the envy of many in the league it makes for an interesting season ahead.

Could we defy the odds again? Don’t bet against it.

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