12th Man: A fitting tribute

Dave Whelan with Emmerson Boyce and Roberto Martinez

Dave Whelan announced somewhat in jest that if Warren Joyce manages to get us back to the Premier League he would commission a statue of Joyce next to his.

He must have seen the previous game at Oakwell on Saturday because at present this Wigan Athletic side ae as far away from a promotion push as at any time this season. It was surprising as we arrived at Barnsley on Saturday that we started the game without a recognised striker on the pitch.

Will Grigg, Craig Davies and Adam Le Fondre all started the match on the bench with Nick Powell and Yanic Wildschut playing as forwards. I thought Latics started well and initially looked dangerous with Powell leading the line, sadly any plans that Warren Joyce had for the afternoon were sent in to disarray as Powell left the game through injury midway through the second half. Luke Garbutt was the man to replace Nick Powell – surprisingly not one of the three strikers on the bench.

After the result against Reading in the previous match a hard earned point away at Barnsley could be considered a decent point but in our position we really need to start getting wins, some would argue that’s why Gary Caldwell lost his job. Not many would criticise Joyce for his approach to the Barnsley game, after the disastrous result in his first match coming away from Barnsley with any sort of result was of the utmost importance but it was still disappointing to see us lack any sort of attacking intent during the game.

But then on the other side of the coin numerous Barnsley fans were full of praise for Latics and how we had ‘done a job’ on them. Indeed Joyce was praised for his approach to the game and how he managed to nullify the threat from Barnsley. Next up it’s another trip over the Pennines – this time to Huddersfield. David Wagner’s side took the league by storm at the start of the season but have dropped off slightly since then. Any sort of result from Huddersfield would but welcome but we really need to start winning games. Let’s hope Joyce can get his first win on Monday night.

I didn’t manage to get over to Wigan on Thursday to witness the unveiling of Dave Whelan’s statue but it looked a wonderful event, befitting of the man and a wonderful honour for someone who has given Wigan so much. Dave Whelan is often much maligned – by myself and others but there is no escaping the fact that without Dave Whelan – there would be no Wigan Athletic. Certainly not in its current guise – it was great to see Roberto Martinez and Emmerson Boyce return to celebrate with Dave Whelan.

The statue itself is wonderful and adds character to the Stadium. There is now a permanent memorial now to the most famous day in Wigan Athletics history and although some will laugh there is no better monument than seeing the man behind that day honoured permanently outside of Wigan Athletic’s stadium.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Saturday 26th November 2016.

12th Man: Thanks Gary

It was only five months ago that Gary Caldwell and his side lifted the League One trophy

It was only five months ago that Gary Caldwell and his side lifted the League One trophy

I didn’t realise that Gary Caldwell had been sacked until 7.30pm on Tuesday, a full two and a half hours since he had been relieved of his duties. I was busy trying to feed a fussy toddler and hadn’t bothered to check my phone, let alone take a look at twitter.

When I finally got round to checking my phone, the countless messages, the twitter explosion and the missed calls from Radio Manchester absolutely shocked me. Surely there was some mistake? Things haven’t been great this season but sacking him? Sacking him before we’ve even reached the end of October?  Sacking him when we’re a win away from getting out of the relegation zone? Sacking him following a four game unbeaten run before Saturday’s defeat to third placed Brighton?

Nearly 48 hours later I still can’t make sense of the decision, last year was built on the feel-good factor and unity that Caldwell and his team brought to the club after two years of turmoil. The foundations laid that were supposed to last us for years. It feels like all of that has been thrown away in haste, there were growing murmurs of discontent at the game on Saturday but up until that Brighton wonder goal we had more than matched another top of the table side and like Leeds a few days earlier we had deserved to be ahead let alone behind.

Yes there were issues, yes it hadn’t been good enough, yes we desperately needed to start winning games but if you’re worried that we haven’t carried the momentum of the League One winning season in to this the way to counter that isn’t by getting rid of the architect of that – at least so early.

Injuries have robbed the team of some of it’s more established squad members – Reece James, Andy Kellett, Donervon Daniels, Alex Gilbey and Kyle Knoyle who hasn’t even made an appearance yet. Add to that new players settling in and last season’s side struggling it’s no wonder it’s been a sluggish start but we’ve got one of the best defensive records in the division and looked like we were on the verge of turning things around.

I feel like we’ve acted in haste and I feel for Gary Caldwell and his staff, he is far from blameless for our current predicament but equally I’m not sure we can lay all the blame at his door. I thought after last season he had done more than enough to earn a bit of loyalty from us. Sadly David Sharpe and the club hierarchy felt otherwise.

So where now? Some of the names being linked with the job are un-inspiring at best whilst Ryan Giggs who seems to be favourite has even less experience than the manager we have just sacked for not having enough management experience.

This will be David Sharpe’s biggest decision to date if indeed it is Sharpey who makes the decisions, this is far more serious than when the hapless Malky Mackay was given his marching orders. I just hope he has made the right decision and we get the right man in to replace Gary Caldwell.

Time will tell of course but I’m worried at the moment, far more worried than I was on Saturday night.

No matter your thoughts on Gary Caldwell he’s been a presence at the club for well over six years, first as Captain second as manager. He’s been there through all of our highs and our lows. Last year was one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had watching Latics and that was down in no small part to Gary Caldwell.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday October 28th.

Cheers Gary.

12th Man: Questions need to be answered

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So there you have it, a season that promised so much at the outset has finished in relegation to the third tier of English football.

This time around relegation doesn’t feel as painful as from the Premier League. Maybe it’s because it’s been on the cards for so long or maybe it’s because this is exactly what we deserve.

We had been offered a slight lifeline in the last couple of weeks thanks to Rotherham’s points deduction but the damage had already been done.

So just where did it go so wrong this season? This season was another example of Wigan
Athletic making the wrong decisions. We’ve been making the wrong decisions since we were relegated from the Premier League. Three major questions need answering in my eyes – 1) Why was Uwe Rosler given such a large transfer budget if we weren’t happy with the quality of his signings? 2) Why did we appoint the most toxic man in football 3) Why did we stick with him when results were so glaringly poor and it was clear no improvement was forthcoming?

It truly is a travesty that a club who spent so handsomely in the summer and were tipped as favourites for promotion should be relegated in such disastrous circumstances.

There is a twisted irony that in the season Dave Whelan steps down the club are heading back to the leagues he fought so hard to get us out of. I don’t link criticising Dave Whelan because without him there wouldn’t be a Wigan Athletic and certainly not a Wigan Athletic who had experienced the last decade of success but Dave sadly needs to take a lot of the blame for current situation. Catastrophic decisions have led us down this path.

One has to hope that the club have now made the right decision in appointing Gary Caldwell. Next season won’t be the walk in the park many expect, it’ll be a tough slog but already Caldwell has shown himself to be capable.

David Sharpe has said only promotion matters next season and although I agree with the sentiment it was that kind of attitude in relegation from the Premier League that has landed us in this mess. I’ll just be happy to see my team be competitive, play decent football and win a few games again.

That isn’t too much to ask is it?

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: 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

DW_Stadium

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