12th Man: Singing in the rain

When Uwe Rosler arrived at Wigan Athletic he promised it wouldn’t be dull under his leadership and he’s been true to his word so far. As I write this it’s been seven days since Uwe took charge of his first game and the changes we’ve seen in that time have been un-mistakable.

Uwe Rosler

First of all let’s take a look at the trip to Slovenia; everyone present in Maribor knows that isn’t a game Latics deserved to lose. At the very least they were worthy a point but as the manager pointed out if the game had stayed eleven versus eleven as it should have Latics would have been victorious and through to the knockout stages of the competition.

But let’s be honest it wasn’t the Maribor game where the damage had been done, that damage was done in the home game against Zulte Waregem. But there’s no point crying over spilt milk and as difficult as it was to be knocked out on Thursday night it could well be a blessing in disguise for Uwe as he can concentrate solely on our Championship campaign.

As first home games go there aren’t many more difficult than a local derby at home to your closest rivals. To get a win and one where Latics dominated so much in the opening exchanges makes it that much better. The style of play in the game against Maribor was again evident at home to Bolton, all that’s lacking at the minute is fitness and as we’ve seen in recent weeks that lack of fitness can have serious consequences in the second half of games

In recent weeks a succession of people have come out to voice their surprise at our lack of fitness, it was something that hampered Owen Coyle’s time at Bolton and seemingly again his time with Wigan. It couldn’t have been easy balancing the amount of games with training and keeping the squad fit but to see players like Callum McManaman and Grant Holt so unfit was concerning. It’s good to see that. That will be something that Uwe and his backroom staff will have identified those issues and are looking to rectify it as soon as possible.

It could well have been two wins in a row for Uwe and if we’re being totally honest Latics were well in control at Hillsborough on Wednesday night. The first half was as impressive a performance I’ve seen this season and that includes the 4-0 demolition of Barnsley. James McClean and Nick Powell were in fantastic form whilst the midfield three of Ben Watson, James McArthur and Jordi Gomez revelled in the new style of play they’ve been asked to play.

As the rain continued to pour at Hillsborough I wondered how much longer the referee would allow play to continue and I think all of the stadium knew that the game couldn’t continue once Nick Powell’s one on one rolled wide due to the amount of water on the pitch.

It will be doubly disappointing for the management that the side had put so much effort in to a game which ultimately left us with nothing. The hope has to be that the side can recover in enough time to go again against Reading on Saturday.

As the games come thick and fast over the Festive period we need to make the most of this run of games and get points on the board, although we left Yorkshire without any points the performance has once again convinced me that Uwe Rosler is the right man to leader us forward.

Let’s hope we can do the same in the coming weeks.

 Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Friday 20 – December

12th Man: Seven days later …

Owen CoyleWhat an eventful seven days it’s been down at Robin Park, and not all for the better. Owen Coyle’s short and ultimately un-successful reign came to an end in acrimonious circumstances after the third home defeat in one very long week.

I wrote in last week’s column about the chance for a history making week, despite my misgivings over the performance against Brighton I didn’t expect us to be looking for a new manager so soon in to the season. People will point to the three losses against Brighton, Zulte Waregem and Derby County to being Coyle’s downfall but the reasons for his departure seem to go deeper than just losing three home games in a week.

Coyle was always going to be a controversial option when Dave Whelan and Jonathan Jackson decided he was to be the man to take over from Roberto Martinez. Being the man in charge when local rivals Bolton were relegated was one reason, but the issue with Coyle went deeper than Bolton and their relegation.

After four years of being sold by club and manager a way to play and philosophy that the club could continue to implement Owen Coyle when appointed was considered to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from Roberto.

Gone was the stylish attacking football in favour of a defence first approach, results in the first two months of the season masked what were generally poor performances but I and many Wigan fans accepted this new pragmatic approach as we were told it would ultimately lead to promotion back to the Premier League.

As autumn came the prospect of promotion became less likely as each game went by, a run of just two wins in ten games came to a head on Sunday evening when Coyle departed the DW Stadium ‘by mutual consent’.

Many people will be thinking that Roberto Martinez received a lot more support from the chairman but when you scratch below the surface you can see this is an issue that has manifested itself in more than just results. Dave Whelan revealed in his press conference on Monday evening that Owen Coyle hadn’t only alienated the fans but also the players and the man who counts most the chairman and directors.

In the four years where Roberto was manager we were treated to some of the best and some of the worst times, but there was always an ultimate goal for the club to aim towards; a footballing philosophy that would eventually give us results and allow the club to build for the future.

The club decided that a different approach was needed to return to the Premier League, ultimately it hasn’t worked.

So where do the club go now? Ian Holloway has been mentioned and although it didn’t end well for him at Crystal Palace he is a manager that could get the squad back to the expansive football we were used to.

This is probably the most important decision the club will ever have to make, the Coyle experiment has backfired spectacularly but there remains at Wigan Athletic a strong core of FA Cup winners and a strong squad of players assembled by Owen Coyle even if in the end he couldn’t get the best out of them. We need to get a man in who can blend the best of new and old and make sure that the previous four years were not a waste.

One final word on Owen Coyle, it hasn’t all been a disaster under his stewardship. He built a squad that SHOULD have been strong enough to compete on both fronts, regardless of his ability to get them playing to the standard required there is a decent base for a new manager to start from. This season may not be a write off just yet.

Originally published in the Wigan Evening Post – Wednesday 4 – December