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