12th Man: Happy Hunting

Warren Joyce

So it’s back over the Pennines on Saturday afternoon and a return to Oakwell which has been a happy hunting ground of late for the Latics. Possibly the high point of Owen Coyle’s short tenure came at Barnsley as the relegated FA Cup winners came away from Oakwell with a 4-0 win.

Last season’s match at Barnsley could arguably have been considered a turning point in our season, going in to the game Gary Caldwell’s side had failed to win in four games with a damaging defeat to Blackpool in the previous game leaving any thoughts of promotion right at the back of the mind.

Goals from Andy Kellett and Yanic Wildschut saw Latics take all three points and the win over Barnsley was the catalyst for an unbeaten run of 19 games that saw us reach the top of the league and become favourites for promotion. Can this weekend’s match with Barnsley act as a similar catalyst?

Warren Joyce has now had a full two weeks with his team and will hopefully be better prepared to deal with what Barnsley throw at us. There have been positive sounds coming out of training from the senior players over the last week and an acceptance from Stephen Warnock that they let Gary Caldwell down. Whether you agree with that or not hopefully the club can now move forward under Warren Joyce’s tutelage and start to move up the Championship league table.

Joyce can’t expect to be judged on the Reading defeat with so little time with the squad beforehand so hopefully we’ll get more of an insight in to how his Wigan Athletic side will line up over the coming months after Saturday’s game.

Interesting sounds came out of the press last week with rumours circulating that Paul Scholes would be named as part of Warren Joyce’s coaching staff.

As of yet those rumours haven’t come to fruition and with a comfortable job with BT Sport and a lack of coaching badges it remains to be seen whether someone like Scholes would even consider taking a job with Latics.

It will come as no surprise that Wigan Athletic were named the cheapest club in the Championship in this year’s BBC Price of Football survey. The most expensive season ticket at Latics was also the cheapest in the league which shows just what good value it is to watch Latics and how lucky we are to have an ownership structure who recognise the need to keep football affordable.

If we can get the on pitch side of things right we can still be in for a decent season.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 18th November

12th Man: Baptism of Fire

Warren Joyce

As Baptisms of Fire go Warren Joyce couldn’t have been given a hotter reception on Saturday.

Two goals down within four minutes and a Latics side that looked a shadow of the side from a week earlier in the win over Cardiff. Saturday’s defeat was the heaviest of the season and the first time Latics have lost by more than a one goal margin. It was also arguably the worst performance of the season.

If Joyce was in any doubt to the task facing him Saturday would have given him a clear indication as to what’s needed. Joyce shouldn’t face any of the blame for Saturday’s defeat but we have to hope he can get his ideas over to the players quickly – too many more performances like that and we’ll be looking at an instant return to League One.

The international break has come at the right time for Latics and should give the new manager valuable time to get to know his squad. It’s very unusual for a manager to come in to a club and have every player signed by the previous manager but that’s what Joyce will have to get around and hopefully the players loyalty to Gary Caldwell doesn’t damage our chances under the new manager.

I see that Red Bull are reportedly interested in buying an English club to add to their portfolio of football clubs across Europe. One would hope they don’t cast a glance towards this tiny part of Lancashire. Despite their undoubted riches winning the FA Cup as Wigan Athletic was far more satisfying than winning it as Red Bull Wigan could ever be.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 11th November 2016

12th Man: The new gaffer

Warren Joyce

Joyce oversees his first training session as Latics manager

So just over a week after Gary Caldwell was sacked as manager of the Latics we know who is replacement is. You could be forgiven for thinking ‘who’ when you read about the new appointment. Indeed many of our more vocal supporters across social media have done just that. Many deriding a supposedly cheap option.

I think that’s harsh. On reflection Joyce was probably the least cheap option out there. The fact we’ll have had to pay compensation to Manchester United and have offered the manager a 3 and a half year contract.

Also he’s not an untried manager. He was manager of Hull in the early 2000′s and was also manager of Belgian side Royal Antwerp during their link up with Manchester United whilst his record with that club of 14 titles in eight seasons is unsurpassed. He has a reputation for playing exciting football and developing young players so should be an ideal fit for Latics.

What’s more surprising is how we got to this appointment in the first place. I appeared on BBC Radio Manchester’s Monday football show earlier this week along with Paul Middleton from the MFE fanzine and Paul Rowley the BBC’s owm Wigan Athletic correspondent. We spent an hour discussing the managerial situation at Latics and we were all in agreement that Gary Caldwell had been sacked too soon.

All season we’ve looked like just ticking and Gary Caldwell had been adamant that a win was just around the corner. He was proven right on Saturday and although he wasn’t in the dug out I thought it showed the man’s class that he had contacted Graham Barrow and the staff to offer luck on the morning of the game. Barrow also alluded to the players wanting to do it for Caldwell. Indeed all of that squad are Caldwell’s not one player has been signed by another manager.

Which brings us back to why did Caldwell lose his job so early in the season? Did the club panic or did something go on behind the scenes? I suppose we’ll never know but I still think Gary Caldwell can feel harshly treated. We reportedly offered the job to both Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville before approaching Joyce tells me we didn’t have a plan in place before letting Caldwell go.

But football is a results business and it’s now on Warren Joyce to get those results.  Latics need to stay in this division.

There’s no two ways about it so let’s hope Warren, the coaching staff and players all manage that come May.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 4th November 2016