The 12th Man: Our panel reflect on a season to forget - and their hopes for the future

Nick Powell

Nick Powell

What went wrong?

Martin Tarbuck: Player dealings in the summer both incoming and out left a lot to be desired.

No adequate back-up for Grigg, and Powell and Gomez both failed to live up to previous spells.

At the back, we were hasty breaking up the Pearce/Morgan partnership, even though Burn and Buxton proved solid replacements.

Never mind, though, as we signed about eight million midfielders.

Even so, 14 players in and a poor start to the season only 14 games old was hardly untypical for Latics, and I think we were incredibly hasty in sacking Caldwell just as we seemed to be turning the corner.

This wasn’t the Coyle or Rosler era when we had a huge budget – our objective was to stay up, and we weren’t too far off at the time.

I could tolerate Caldwell being fired, so long as we got it right with the next appointment.

I simply haven’t got enough words to describe why Joyce was completely the wrong appointment.

Three managers in a season tells its own story.

We’d have been better off sticking with the one we had.

Barry Worthington: Well what a season!

Following on from the euphoria of winning the League One title, we were full of optimism.

Grigg appeared to still be on fire, he scored six goals by mid-September, and the immediate future looked okay.

A run of five straight defeats, though, had Caldwell putting an emphasis on defence.

This helped to steady the ship, but the goals dried up.

A win against Wolves and drawing the next four games against some tough opponents looked like Caldwell was starting to get things sorted.

But a spanner in the works with a 1-0 loss to top-of-the-table Brighton had David Sharpe heading for the eject button and Caldwell was out of a job – prematurely in my opinion.

What happened next sealed our fate.

The appointment of Joyce was a calamitous decision of the greatest magnitude.

He was totally out of his depth, he appeared in interviews like a rabbit caught in headlights, he was bereft of ideas, his football was duller than dishwater.

It was as clear as daylight he was the wrong man for the job from day one, and he should have gone before Christmas.

Unfortunately the decision to leave him in situ to March cost us our Championship place.

Sean Livesey: Where to begin?

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and, despite claims to the opposite, it’s clear we hadn’t learned the lessons of 2014/15.

The constant turnover of the squad is nothing but damaging.

We finished the season as champions in League One but didn’t have faith in those who got us there to keep us there.

The likes of McCann, McAleny, Jaaskellainen and Pearce could have been the backbone of this season’s side.

Instead we made a huge number of signings, and in need of another bedding-in period.

The sacking of Caldwell exasperated the situation.

A defeat to the league leaders on the back of a decent run of form shouldn’t have seen Caldwell lose his job.

The fact Joyce couldn’t improve on our position in the table, is the reason we’re heading back to League One.

Joyce was admirable in his dedication to the role and seemed a genuine fella who wanted the best for the club, but equally it was probably some of the worst football I have ever witnessed.

The decision to hire a man with no experience of Championship football, and someone who hadn’t managed a senior side in England for over 17 years, will go down as one of the worst the club has made.

Just when we seemed to have turned a corner in January we completely unsettled the balance of the side with another huge recruitment drive with many of the players we signed not even fit enough to feature.

It begs the question just who is in charge of recruitment, and why do we have to sign a whole new team each transfer window?

Barrow managed to get a reaction of sorts from the side, but the overall feeling was that the damage had been done in the previous eight months.

Ian Aspinall: I was optimistic Latics would have a good campaign in the Championship.

It was always going to be a possibility the team would take time to gel and settle into a higher division. However, Caldwell was not given the time to adjust.

It was a regrettable decision by Dave Whelan and David Sharpe.

The board then made another major error by not recruiting wisely.

Whelan’s friend Alex Ferguson recommended Joyce, and what a disaster it proved to be.

Joyce was out of his depth in the Championship and he introduced a negative style of football, which was not only ineffective in accruing points but also deeply unappealing to watch.

Joyce was allowed to bring in 14 players in January and many of these were either unfit or inferior to the players already at the club.

We also lost Wildschut to Norwich and Gomez to Rayo Vallecano.

Through the season we also suffered with long-term injuries to Gilbey, Powell, Daniels, James and Kellett.

Some players who had done well in League One also struggled to cope with the step up.

Interim manager Barrow prompted an improvement in performances in the few remaining games, but it was not enough.

Joe O’Neil: The season’s finally over and one many fans will want to forget.

Many things have gone wrong, both on and off the field.

Firstly, the awful transfer dealings at the club last summer, letting players such as McCann, Wabara, Morsy, Colclough and Pearce leave the club, when they all played their part in League One.

Secondly, the sacking of Caldwell was premature, as we were only three months into the season, and we should have stuck with him to see if he could have got us out of trouble.

But the biggest mistake of the season was the appointment of Joyce.

At a time when we should have brought in someone with Championship experience or at least an actual manager, we went completely the other way and brought a guy in who was coaching Manchester United’s Under 23’s.

Jay Whittle: After our League One title win triumph, it felt as if we’d got our club back.

Everything seemed perfect, but we should have known it’s only a matter of time before the honeymoon period ends.

There’s many factors why Wigan faced the drop, but only a few reasons that played a crucial part in our fall.

The first reason was our recruitment in the summer.

On paper, we made some excellent signings. But 14 arrivals tore apart the team that won promotion.

We had an excellent team morale, with every player having a love for the club, and a strong relationship with each other and the fans.

Maybe a few experienced players at Championship level is acceptable, but 14?

That baffled me and still does to this day.

An even bigger issue was not having an out-and-out right-back within those 14 signed.

With the decision not to resign Wabara, it left us with literally everyone having a go there from Power to Warnock.

But the main reason for our downfall was the sacking and replacement of Caldwell.

Although his recruitment wasn’t top notch in the summer, and the club wasn’t in the best league position, I still believe he deserved more time, and it’s the least we owed to him for his service to the club.

Caldwell was replaced by Joyce, who has now joined Mackay and Coyle into the Wigan Athletic Hall of Shame.

Dan Farrimond: Undoubtedly, it’s the lingering curse of Columba Coyle.

The weekend after Latics invited him back to the DW Stadium, his foul-smelling anti-magic began to waft its way through the great halls of Robin Park.

Minor disagreements became full-scale brawls as that parasite of instability attached itself firmly to the dressing room tea machine. Dehydrated, Wigan Athletic’s once reliable representatives became feather-spitting buffoons craving the artificial stimulants of branded orange glucose drink.

A crying shame, since a £100 drinks machine repair job is all it would have taken for every single one of the club’s problems to be solved. (Yes, even that permanently malfunctioning hand dryer in the East Stand lavs.)

Highlights?

MT: The highlights ended when we battered Blackburn 3-0 in August.

I enjoyed the win on a freezing cold Monday night at Huddersfield in November but I suppose even then there was something niggling away that told me we weren’t going to win many games playing like that every week.

BW: The transformation of Dan Burn from public enemy No.1 in August to player of the season, the demolition of Blackburn back in the first home game of the season, and Nick Powell’s superman shows against Rotherham and especially Barnsley.

SL: The comebacks against both Barnsley and Rotherham gave us a glimpse of what we could have had if Powell had been fit/played in the right way and was a throwback to the old days of those famous Premier League comebacks.

Other than that the win over Burton was a good day out.

IA: In a season of few highlights it was Nick Powell’s 11-minute hat-trick to stun Barnsley that took the eye.

JO: The only real highlight of the season, is the vast turnaround in form of Burn.

And we’ll be lucky to keep hold of him during the summer, as he’s picked up both player of the season awards.

JW: The season was full of nightmares, and it made it worse how much of a shift the players put in.

It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort that let us down.

DF: Laugh out loud moments of 2016/17: Nicky Powell winning an endless stream of cheap free kicks for tripping over the hair on his own shins against Barnsley (thanks to Simon Hooper); Davey Perkins speed crawling to grab the ball with both arms, earning himself the most entertaining booking of the (admittedly mundane) season; realising April Fools’ Day was pointless because Latics’ whole season was a joke.

But Jakey Haugaard’s injured shoulder is certainly no laughing matter. Oh no-hoho.

Who would you like as the new manager?

MT: I’m quite open-minded but whoever it is going to be is going to need the full support of the fans and the board.

Caldwell’s title-winning tenure is somehow getting painted as a disaster in some quarters so he is out, and there are fans who don’t want Rosler back for similar reasons.

All of which goes to show that it will be impossible to keep everyone happy.

Reading up in the Bedfordshire press about Nathan Jones, he looks to be an excellent candidate.

Yet he also talks of his plans of taking Luton very far and I’m not sure whether moving to Latics now would be a good career move for him.

It is also telling he had a very rough patch early on but overcame it with the backing of the board and the fans.

If he came here and had a bad start to the season, well, you know the rest.

Maybe having Barrow in charge for a while has served as a useful buffer in between Joyce leaving and the next manager coming in, thus ensuring he gets more buy in from all sections of the fans. Barrow the Buffer has a certain ring to it.

BW: Please can we have a boss with charisma, drive and an attacking intent.

The squad is good enough to be competitive in League One.

We just need someone prepared to give it a go.

Out of the names available, if I was pushed, I’d go for Nathan Jones – young, ambitious, plays attacking football.

Would we be able to attract him to the Latics, though?

I’d feel it depends on how well – or not – Luton do in the League Two play-offs.

SL: For the first time in years I genuinely don’t know who should be our manager and indeed who we should be aiming our sights at.

Graham Barrow made a fair point earlier this week speaking to Paul Kendrick.

Managers who have had a previous connection to the club are those who have been most successful.

There’s no saying that will be the case this time around, but someone who understands the make up of the club wouldn’t go amiss.

IA: Paul Cook would be my first choice for the job.

Cook has strong Latics connections having played nearly 100 games for the club, and has just led Portsmouth to the League Two title, which he won with Chesterfield in 2014.

JO: Rosler, Caldwell, Stubbs, Appleton and Jones seem to be our shortlist.

Personally, I think we should steer well clear of Rosler and Caldwell.

We need the club to go forwards not backwards.

I would go Appleton or Jones.

JW: The one man I’d like to see in charge is Scunthorpe United’s Graham Alexander. I know what you’re thinking – ex-Preston and Burnley – but he’s done some really respectable work as a boss.

DF: There is but one individual for the job that only a fool desires.

A man to deflect blame in the deepest of crises, preserving his own scaly skin and by extension the club’s financial status.

A man so skilled in DIY that he could fix that faulty drinks machine before a breakfast of triple greased, fatty eggbacon washed down with liquid filth. His name? Nosey Barstool, Private Investigator and small time Blackpool Casino con artist. Sign him up, Sharpey.

Early hopes for next year?

MT: Well, seeing as we have been taking the mickey out of Bolton for their ridiculous over-celebration of NOT being champions, then we need to win the league basically! If we can keep the bulk of the squad together, then we should be strong enough to challenge for promotion but if we don’t for whatever reason then we need to accept we are in transition.

If we don’t set off like a house on fire, then I hope that precious commodity, patience, is in abundance rather than the constant nagging that Caldwell had to suffer in our last League One campaign because we weren’t 15 points clear in October.

We’ve achieved great things under the managers we’ve stuck with through sticky spells like Jewell and Martinez, so we do have a blueprint. Finally, I hope the home crowds don’t drop too much. We’ve had 20 years of success that a team like ours could never have even dreamed of.

The least we can do is continue to support the team now they are going to need it.

BW: Hopefully next season will see us winning games, playing without fear and scoring a few goals.

The ultra-cautious approach adopted through winter has now been placed in the bin, and the club can move forward again giving the fans some enjoyable moments.

I’d love to see us get promotion again, but more than that I am looking forward to us simply having a go. Up the Tics!

SL: Something more enjoyable than this last 10 months.

I’m not convinced we will go straight back up but that has to be the aim.

Bolton have managed to win promotion while under a transfer embargo and with a team full of free agents.

That shows what can be done if everything comes together.

I’m looking forward to the away days again, and hopefully winning more than a handful of games all season.

IA: The new man will benefit from having the nucleus of a strong squad for League One.

We must get back to the attacking football that was successful under Caldwell and, if we do that, we will have a good chance of bouncing back.

JO: Whoever the manager is next season, I just hope we gain some stability back.

We can’t keep going through three managers a season.

However, I’m sure next season will provide us with many more twists and turns as it’s never a dull moment watching Wigan.

JW: It’s vital we bounce back on the first attempt, and become a stable Championship club at the very least.

The goalposts have changed since our promotion in 2015-16, with the club no longer receiving parachute payments.

But we only need to look at Bolton to see it is possible to go up no matter what funds are available, as they only really own a packet of hob-nobs and a few Freddo’s.

DF: A new half-time game. I’m hoping for the pelting of ‘King’ Garton Joyce with rotten oranges.

A new club mascot. I’m hoping for ‘King’ Garton Joyce in an inflatable pirate outfit. Being pelted with rotten oranges.

A new concourse menu. I’m hoping for… a pleasant selection of fine wines and after dinner treats. But also rotten oran- (Word count exceeded. Enjoy the summer break, and we’ll be back).