The 12th Man: Uwe's back in town!
So after all that, the anticipation, the hand wringing over ticket allocations, controversial ballots and being back on prime time BBC TV, we get to do it all over again.
Friday probably always had anti-climax written all over it, generally the most anticipated of away days do where Wigan Athletic is concerned.
The match itself followed the pattern of most of Latics games this season, Latics started really well.
They could have been two or three ahead before half-time whilst the opposition dug in their heels and got eleven men behind the ball as they defended for their lives.
It looked like Will Grigg’s goal on the stroke of half time would be the prelude to a flurry of second half goals.
Sadly Latics never really got out of first gear and the reckless challenge from Nathan Byrne meant that Fylde were to earn a famous replay.
A word should go to Fylde, their set up is clearly geared up for the football league, everything about them screams professional and I imagine it won’t be too long until we see them in the football league.
We shouldn’t be too surprised by Friday’s result, the FA Cup obviously throws up results like that time after time, Latics know that better than most. The concern for me surrounds our composure in front of goal – if you’re not somebody who watches us regularly and saw that we’re the leading scorers in the league you would wonder what the issues was.
But recently we haven’t scored the goals that our performances have deserved, change that and we’ll be in a stronger position than we are already.
So on to this week and the return of one Uwe Rosler to the Dave Whelan Stadium, I felt sorry for Uwe when he was sacked in November 2014.
Not least because what followed was 10 times worse than what we had experienced under the German that season. The six months that followed Uwe’s appointment in December 2013 were some of the most exciting I’ve ever had watching Latics.
An utterly fantastic FA Cup run that saw us very nearly win back to back FA Cups, the rise from mid-table obscurity to the play-offs and the feeling that we were going to win every single week.
It didn’t end well for Uwe at Latics, he changed too much too quickly in that second season but he was also operating in a time of high expectations and the expectation was that we would romp to the Championship title.
In the bottom three in November didn’t match up with those expectations, I feel Uwe would have easily kept us up that season but it wasn’t to be and although I was disappointed he left I couldn’t disagree with his sacking.
He’s had a mixed few years since that FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, he became the latest victim of the Leeds managerial merry go round before taking over at Fleetwood in 2016.
Fleetwood were amongst the favourites for promotion this season and although they’re not showing promotion form yet I expect they’ll be challenging before long.
For us – we need to keep up that pressure and keep getting those wins, it’s going to be a busy December and three points on Saturday are the perfect way to start the month.
How could Latics only manage a 1-1 draw in the early round of the FA Cup against a team from 2 divisions lower than them?
A team who have even done that annoying thing of starting their name with ‘AFC’ presumably so that they have the advantage, if they ever end up winning league title via alphabetical order.
That must have been the sort of sentiment in the minds of some Latics fans as they left the DW Stadium on the 5th January 2013.
Premier League Wigan Athletic had just failed to beat lowly League One AFC Bournemouth in the third round.
This shows us a couple of things. Firstly a lot has changed over the last 4-5 years, with Premier League AFC Bournemouth now having to look down to League One to find out what happened to Wigan Athletic.
But the other thing it shows us is that no FA Cup game is easy, and that only getting a draw against a lower league team, does not mean that you cannot win the whole thing. Does anyone remember how the 2013 FA Cup ended?
Not for the first time this season, Latics, who were the better side in the first half, did not make the most of it. A 1-0 score line is always dangerous in such games.
You are only ever one mistake or a badly timed tackle away from being all square again. And that is exactly what happened. And what a shockingly badly timed tackle it was.
It was unfortunate not to be able to put on a better display when on TV, but ultimately we should have too much for them in the replay.
There is the obvious danger – this is a potential banana skin game – but over the course of two games, class should win through.
The opening of this piece was written before the third round draw took place and so it is a little coincidental that we were drawn to play against Bournemouth should we manage to beat Fylde next week.
My only trip to Bournemouth was for the last game of the season in 2000. The season we made it to the play-off final.
That was a great weekend in May but trips to Bournemouth do not generate as much enthusiasm in the first weekend of January. But I am sure it will be a fantastic occasion…on the off chance that any Latics fans make the trip.
While it is not Latics news, it is also notable that the World Cup draw took place last Friday as well. England found out the teams that they will play in the group stage and we all found out what games will get us through the long boring close season.
Spoiler alert – England will not win the World Cup. But if you want proof that it is possible that they could win it, to allow the dream to endure. Then just look back to the last time that Latics played Bournemouth in the FA Cup, and remember how that competition ended.
Wigan’s FA Cup win was unlikely – perhaps even more unlikely than England winning the World Cup.
Unlikely and implausible things do happen in football. England won’t win the cup…but we at least have to accept that it is possible that they could.
Latics get back to league action against Fleetwood on Saturday. Wigan versus Fleetwood could never be described as a glamour tie, but it is very important for us to maintain our winning run.
Fleetwood began the season very well, but have dropped back a bit now and have been in poor form recently. But we must take nothing for granted.
Adding a twist or three to the game are the current links between the two clubs. There are three former Latics now at Fleetwood. Most obvious is manager Uwe Rosler. Uwe’s year at Latics was eventful. Taking over from Owen Coyle and transforming our results and making us a playoff team by the end of the season. Our form at the start of the following season was not up to the expected standard but many thought it was harsh to sack him before Christmas.
There are also two former Wigan players now with this weekend’s visitors. Jordy Hiwula did not get many chances at Latics two years ago but he will be remembered for that magic moment at Chesterfield when he scored the third goal in an epic comeback win. Conor McAleny came in on loan that same season and showed that he has huge talent.
For me, he was one of our best 11 players, offering superb support to Will Grigg and scoring some good goals, none better than the one at Walsall. Conor has been injured of late but hopefully he will be back to full fitness soon.
While it would be great to see him take some part in the game on Saturday, hopefully the headlines won’t be about Fleetwood Mc.
Latics face former manager Uwe Rosler’s Fleetwood Town this weekend at the DW Stadium.
Rosler’s team have had an indifferent start to this campaign and are in 11th position in the table but they are still hoping to be among the challengers at the end of the season as they are only eight points off a top-six spot.
Rosler did very well last season taking the Cod Army into the play-offs but they narrowly lost out in the semi-final to Bradford City.
The former Manchester City and East German international striker has led something of a nomadic lifestyle, managing in Norway with Lillestrom, Viking and Molde before coming to England with Brentford, Latics, Leeds United and Fleetwood.
Rosler has had good times at Brentford and Fleetwood but the nearest he has come to full-blown success was during his time with Latics.
When taking over from Owen Coyle he made an impressive start to his managerial reign and immediately improved results.
He transformed the club by improving fitness levels, tactics, organisation, team selections and team spirit. He introduced a high tempo pressing game similar to the successful German teams like Borussia Dortmund. His football philosophy was comparable to his famous countrymen Jurgen Klopp and Joachim Low, with the emphasis on quick transition, and based on quick counter attack.
Rosler’s team had a brilliant season and could have won a second FA Cup and been promoted to the Premier League if circumstances had worked out slightly differently. He masterminded a superb FA Cup quarter-final victory at Manchester City.
As at Wembley in 2013 they outplayed the massive favourites in what was probably the biggest double giant-killing in FA Cup history. The manager had prepared his men to perfection and they deservedly progressed to the semi-final.
In the semi-final against Arsenal they were agonisingly just eight minutes away from reaching a second consecutive FA Cup final, but they ultimately succumbed 4-2 in a penalty shoot out.
Latics’ choice of penalty takers on the day was strange, with some players unfamiliar with the art of the spot kick, and no doubt in retrospect Rosler would have chosen differently.
In the Championship Latics finished fifth and qualified for the play-offs.
In the semi-final play-off against Queens Park Rangers they might have won it after taking the lead through James Perch, but Rangers equalised from the penalty spot through Charlie Austin and went on to the play-off final with Austin’s 20th goal of the season in extra time.
Latics played more games than any other English team that season and fell just short of creating some special football history.
Injuries to key players and a poor start to the campaign meant Latics were always playing catch up. If Rosler had been in the post prior to the start of the season it is likely that they would have been promoted. A repeat FA Cup success and promotion via the play-offs would have been a unique achievement.
It all turned sour for Rosler at the beginning of the 2014/15 season when he was sacked in November and replaced by the disastrous Malky Mackay.
However, the overriding impression was that he had the potential to become a top manager who could have been successful with Latics for many years to come.
Friday’s night draw at AFC Fylde was an interesting one, with Danny Rowe cancelling out Will Grigg’s opener, to set up a replay at the DW Stadium.
Credit where credit is due, as although Paul Cook and the team will be kicking themselves over missed chances, with the score should have been put out of sight before Rowe’s equaliser, AFC Fylde kept on fighting, and showed that belief to get back on level terms to earn a replay. It’s just the nature of football that if you don’t convert your chances, you will be punished, which has unfortunately happened a few times this season.
However, on a positive point of view, I think Wigan did have some very good spells, and created a lot of good opportunities. Sam Morsy was excellent, however, that isn’t surprising, as the Egyptian midfielder has been sensational since returning to Wigan after his bizarre loan move last season to Barnsley. Friday helped show how important Morsy is to the side, as he is the heartbeat to the team, and you can see how every time he picks up the ball, he’s trying to create an opening for his team-mates.
Moving away to the World Cup draw, and I must say, as well as keeping an eye on England’s group, I was looking out for Sam Morsy’s Egypt, to see who the Latics skipper could be facing if he is selected to board the plane to Russia.
Egypt will be facing Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and the hosts Russia in Group A, which I believe could be a difficult group for the Pharaohs, but it’s more than achievable for them to reach the knockout stages, as they have got a talented side, including Premier League top-scorer Mohammed Salah.
England will have Panama, Tunisia, and Belgium in their way to advance into the knockout stages, with former Wigan manager Roberto Martinez managing
Belgium, who have been tipped favourites for the groups.
Over recent years, I have fallen out of love with international football, as I feel that players do not feel the same pride to represent their country as they did five years ago.
To say England aren’t the most exciting team to watch is a fair comment, but I still feel Southgate could do a job, as he isn’t just going for high profiled players, and giving youngsters the chance to gain experience in friendly affairs.
Back onto what really matters, Wigan return to league action for the first time in two weeks, with on the last league one matchday, the Latics moved to the top of the table, with a 3-1 win at the New York Stadium against potential promotion challengers Rotherham United.
Fleetwood Town, managed by former Latics manager Uwe Rosler, will be the next side to visit the DW Stadium on Saturday. Since being took over by Rosler, Fleetwood have been a force in League One, with the Cod Army only narrowly missing out on automatic promotion on the final day last season. Former Manchester City starlet Devante Cole has been firing this season, with former Latics man Conor McAleny also impressing for Fleetwood.
Rosler’s side are a well organised unit, and should provide a very difficult afternoon for the Latics.
Wigan had another boost before Saturday’s match, with on loan goalkeeper Christian Walton returning to action, after his freak injury at the Latics open day in September. Although Jamie Jones has earned to keep his place in the side, the England Under 21 international will provide tough competition for the Liverpool shot-stopper.
Will Grigg has been back on fire of late, scoring in consecutive games for the first time since August 2016, after the Northern Ireland international scored in back to back matches against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, and Blackburn Rovers in the Championship. Hopefully Will can kick on, and find the form he had in his last league one campaign in 2015-16.
Hopefully Wigan will continue their winning run in the league, and maintain their position at the summit of League One.