12th Man: Too little too late

Too little too late

Martyn Waghon

Saturday was one of the better home performances of recent times – a disallowed goal and numerous goal attempts hitting the woodwork was all that prevented us taking three points in the derby against Bolton. In the end Martyn Waghorn’s wonder kick kept our chances alive but it’s only a slim chance and with the games coming up for this team I genuinely fear our days in the Championship are numbered.

The reaction from Waghorn to his goal was completely understandable, he’s endured a frustrating season after being one of the catalysts in last season’s run to the play-offs. This season for one reason or another he hasn’t had chance to show what he can do. His exclusion over the last few weeks whilst being fit is another example of the baffling selections from Malky Mackay. Waghorn is a proven Championship goal scorer to exclude him is ridiculous.

The reason we are in this position is our inability to score and the managers inability to find a solution to this is hampering our chances of survival. It is criminal the amount of proven goal scorers that have signed for Latics this season and either not been used or marginalised. We have two strikers out on loan in their respective countries scoring on a regular basis whilst Martyn Waghorn and Billy McKay who remain at the club have been marginalised and bar three or four minute appearances here and there largely haven’t been given a chance.

Instead of shipping out Oriol Riera and Andy Delort at the first opportunity why didn’t the manager try to coach them in to his style? Surely that is the job of a manager – to coach? Instead Mackay seems willing to blame everyone else bar himself for our position. Those sentiments don’t wash with me and won’t wash with the Wigan Athletic supporters.

Surely it makes more sense for us to utilise the players we already had rather than ship them out. Mackay’s comments become more outlandish by the week, when he first arrived he blamed our position on the squad being too large yet last week he said he had brought in young loan players to “give us some bodies for a bench” then commenting on Jerome Sinclair and Josh Murphy he said their arrivals were “to give them some experience”.

In our position we should not be looking to give other club’s youngsters a chance to gain experience. We should be focussing on what is best for Wigan Athletic and somehow managing to maintain our Championship status. The manager is doing neither at the moment, even with the departures we had more than enough quality in the squad to get out of this situation and if we’re looking to give youngsters ‘experience’ I would much rather see Wigan Athletic youth players given that experience than Mackay doing a favour for his old pal at Liverpool Brendan Rodgers.

Amazingly we still have a chance to get out of this but that will depend on Latics scoring goals, with Mackay in charge and the games coming up I’m not confident we
can do that.

Sean Livesey

12th Man: Still in with a chance

marc-antoine-fortune-and-kim-bo-kyung-celebration-v-norwich-city-16x973-2314971_1600x900Two wins in a week, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that and yet those two wins weren’t even the biggest news of the week.

12th Man: Need to push on

Rumours  were abound on Monday night that Malky Mackay would finally be relieved of his duties as Wigan Athletic manager.

12th Man: The plot thickens

Ben Watson, Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman, FA Cup

Where do you begin to describe the last seven days in the life of Wigan Athletic, a must win game on Saturday against Huddersfield came and went with yet another defeat for the increasingly under pressure Malky Mackay. Once again we were our own worst enemy as we dominated the game but yet again failed to create any chances of note and lost to a cross come goal.

This was preceded by the departures of the two men who were central to Wigan Athletic winning the FA Cup as Ben Watson departed for Watford and Shaun Maloney headed stateside to join Chicago Fire. Later on in the week Adam Forshaw and Callum McManaman followed them out of the door signing for Middlesbrough and West Brom respectively. Malky Mackay has continually stated since he arrived he only wanted players committed to the Wigan Athletic cause at the club and I suspect the removal of players such as Maloney and Watson are central to that purpose.

There is no getting away from Malky Mackay’s record since he arrived at the club, it has been nothing short of abysmal. I and many others have been quick to call the club out on his appointment and subsequent record but is there an underlying reason to this. Have all the players who left the club this January become so disheartened with life at Wigan Athletic that they simply didn’t want to be here any longer?

If that is the case it’s a sad end to the careers of many Wigan Athletic players, especially the legendary FA Cup winning side. It was clear many players saw their future’s elsewhere but I thought it would have been in the club’s best interests to keep our most talented players together to help us win the battle against relegation. But despite that there are financial considerations to consider and as it looks more likely that we will be starting next season in League One it is understandable that the club has to plan financially for that likely occurrence.

We can blame former managers, we can blame the current incumbent, we can even blame the board but the fact is everyone needs to rally behind Wigan Athletic at the moment. The future of the club is at stake and if that means replacing our high earners and marquee signings from the summer so be it – even if we don’t agree with it.

Malky Mackay will live and die by his record with his own players, the club are giving him the opportunity to shape his own squad. The departures of Uwe Rosler and Roberto Martinez’s key players are displaying that. Perhaps we will see that upturn in form as Mackay’s signings start life at Wigan Athletic.

Whether that will be enough to keep us up remains to be seem.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Thursday 29th January 2015

12th Man: Better

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We’re still firmly rooted in the bottom three, we’re still conceding silly goals and we’re still not creating or scoring anywhere near enough. But and it’s a big but Malky Mackay may have finally stumbled on something of a coherent line up on Saturday afternoon against Blackburn. A point still wasn’t good enough in our situation but it was the first point earned where the side had fought back under Malky Mackay.

Perhaps, just perhaps some of that old belief is coming back, I’ve been critical of Mackay’s selections recently but credit is due to him for bringing William Kvist back in from the cold. The Danish captain gave a good account of himself on Saturday and the praise he received from the manager was well earned.

Saturday was Kvist’s first appearance under the manager and his first since October, only Mackay himself knows why Kvist hadn’t been worthy of a call up to the first team previously but now he has he surely must keep his place for Saturday. Ben Watson has looked a shadow of his former self since returning from injury and the introduction of Emyr Huws alongside Kvist added some much needed composure to a struggling midfield.

Also refreshing was the forward play of Martyn Waghorn and James McClean, McClean is making a decent fist of his role as a forward for Mackay and although he still looked isolated having Waghorn alongside him gave him that support that had been missing in recent weeks. Waghorn was a big miss earlier in the season and it was such a shame that his excellent form after joining us in January wasn’t continued in to the start of the 2014/15 season. It was also interesting to see Andy Delort given game time, I think it’s quite clear that Mackay doesn’t think he is the answer to our striking issues but he has a proven goal scoring pedigree and offers a different type of threat that could still be effective.

The lack of goals is our main issue at the moment and with the gap between us and safety widening with every passing game it’s imperative that the side starts scoring goals. Huddersfield come to the DW in a mixed run of form themselves, wins over Watford and Bolton have been sandwiched between defeats to Middlesbrough and Reading. If we want any chance of staying up, games like this Saturday’s are key.

The time for talking is over, by hook or by crook we have to stay up and that has to start with a win on Saturday. We’ve done it before and if we put in a 100% we can do it again – come on Wigan.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 23rd January 2015

12th Man: Can it get any worse?

James McCleanI feel like these articles have become the equivalent of a broken record over the last few months. Once again we as supporters hope that we’re about to turn the corner and once again the players and the management fail to live up to our expectations.

Owen Coyle said that Wigan Athletic fans had un-realistic expectations just before he relinquished his role as Wigan Athletic manager Owen probably had more of an idea what he meant than Wigan Athletic supporters but at the moment Wigan Athletic fans only expectation is of a team willing to give a 100% each time they step out on to the pitch. Sadly that is far from being the case with this current Wigan Athletic side.

Where has it gone so wrong for the Latics over the last few months? Is it really nine short months since Wigan looked on course for a second consecutive FA Cup final and a quick return to the Premier League? A series of disastrous decisions following last spring has taken us to the current situation and it really is difficult to see a route out of our current situation.

The appointment of Malky Mackay is looking more disastrous with every week – tactics are confusing, selections are baffling and certain players are being marginalised. Far more than they ever were under Uwe Rosler, if survival was the aim of the game this season we should have kept with the aforementioned Uwe as I refuse to believe he would have overseen such a disastrous spell of games. Nine games, one win, one draw and a huge seven losses – for a new manager who traditionally receive some sort of bounce it makes for sorry reading.

Malky Mackay has continually stated that he makes his selections based on the players who impress him during training. The selection of Liam Ridgewell couldn’t have been based on training alone, if Mackay had judged the centre-back in training he would have seen he was woefully short of match practice and in term playing time with his new team mates.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Liam Ridgewell had a nightmare debut at Birmingham and it isn’t fair to lay the blame at the player, his primary focus is to spend six weeks with Wigan Athletic to get fit in order to return in time for the start of the MLS season. The fact that he hadn’t played a game since October surely means that he couldn’t be thrown in at the deep end in such a high pressured game – especially when we are seemingly well stocked with defensive options. The fact that he was only withdrawn due to injury concerns me, anyone who saw our defending during that game could tell that Ridgewell was nowhere near being up to speed.

Time is fast running out for Wigan Athletic and if we don’t find some form from somewhere soon I fully expect us to be starting next season as a League One club. From the attitude of the management and some of the players I think that’s already seen as a given.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 16th January 2015

12th Man: Happy new year?

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It hasn’t been a happy new year for Wigan Athletic, the win on Boxing Day against Leeds – Malky Mackay’s first in six games was quickly followed up by a gutless performance against Sheffield Wednesday and our first FA Cup defeat in normal time for three years.

It’s fair to say Malky Mackay has done little since arrived and certainly not enough to warrant the amount of controversy that was brought on the club by his appointment and the subsequent defence of his character by chairman Dave Whelan. Performances have frankly been terrible and the tactics seem archaic one goal from open play in eight games tells its own story. Dave Whelan’s call to arms of “trust me on this one” rings more hollow with every passing week.

Mackay certainly didn’t arrive with a reputation of exciting football but I don’t think anybody expected what has come since then. Not only are we not scoring goals but we are still conceding stupid goals. All that has changed since the departure of Uwe Rosler is that we are creating less and playing worse.

Malky Mackay states that his team selections are based on those impressing in training which is a decent enough policy but when those very same players serve up the same terrible performances week after week how long do you persist with that policy? Players like Andy Delort, Oriol Riera, William Kvist, Emyr Huws recruited at great expense in the summer have seemingly be frozen out whilst Ben Watson and Chris McCann who returned from serious injury just over a month ago are seemingly guaranteed a starting place each week.

The case of Delort and Riera is particularly interesting and at the same time damning, two players who were regular scorers for their previous clubs not given a fair chance at Wigan by either the new manager or the one who signed them. We as a club cannot afford to get it so disastrously wrong in the transfer market and despite Mackay’s reluctance to play either striker I refuse to believe a front two of the non-scoring Marc Antoine Fortune and a hard working left winger is a better option than two strikers who come with the goal scoring pedigree as Riera and Delort do.

There was an air of resignation during the FA Cup exit to Bolton, it would have been an ideal time for Mackay to make changes and give game time to those who have received little or no game time since he arrived. Instead we stuck with what hasn’t been working for the past eight games.

For Bolton’s part they made numerous changes with young exciting players making their debuts and you could see the positivity throughout, similar to what we experienced last season under Uwe Rosler. Bolton completely outclassed us on Saturday and if it wasn’t for the man of the match performance from the re-called Ali Al Habsi it could have been 4 or 5 nil.

The fact that Mackay continues to state how well we’re playing is also a worrying trend. We aren’t playing well and haven’t played well on a regular basis since he arrived. The odd 30 minute spell here or there doesn’t matter until you can produce those performances consistently.

It’s depressing to be a Wigan Athletic fan at the moment, the club seems in turmoil in so many ways but still we have a chance to save ourselves. But the players and the management need to start delivering quickly otherwise we’ll be back in League One and many bigger clubs than Wigan Athletic have failed to recover after relegation to that league.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 10th January 2015

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