The 12th Man: Title glory feels like so long ago
In our last Championship campaign, there were so many wrong decisions on and off the field.
In the season that saw us relegated down to League One, we saw three managers in one season and a change of chairman.
I was convinced those dark days of the football club were over. But two years on, it’s deja-vu all over again.
We’ve now lost five games on the bounce and fans are asking serious questions of chairman David Sharpe to actually what is going on at the football club.
The problems go all the way back to the summer transfer window. We should never have let Jason Pearce, Sam Morsy and Chris McCann leave. Also the sudden exclusion of captain Craig Morgan was out of the blue.
As every game goes on, it’s looking as though the appointment of Warren Joyce was the wrong one.
Yet again, the appointment was the ‘cheaper’ option. There’s no doubting Joyce is a fantastic coach, but being a manager is a different ball game altogether.
In a way I feel sorry for Joyce, it seems he needs a transfer window to bring in his own players. But our next two games are Derby and Huddersfield. We can’t just keep losing games hoping something will change.
I honestly think Joyce won’t last much longer unless we turn around results. But then the question is who actually would we bring in?
The defeat to Rotherham on Monday was nothing short of an embarrassment. Joyce in recent weeks has been slated for his negative approach, but you couldn’t have criticised him on his team selection. We played arguably our most attacking line-up. To be 3-0 down at half-time is unacceptable.
Most of the blame in my opinion lies with the players, some of them are out of their depth in this division.
Hopefully in January, we will try and recruit as best as we can. Also, keeping Yanic Wildschut at the club is a must if we stand any chance of survival.
A year of contrasts
We have now reached the halfway point in the 2016/17 Championship season and the success of last season’s glorious League One campaign feels like light-years away.
That special day in Blackpool when Latics celebrated the League One title is in stark contrast to the despondency which currently envelops the DW Stadium.
The optimism of pre-season has been swept away in the space of only five months. Gary Caldwell’s team had finished last season with a run of only two defeats between January and May. Whilst this season Latics have only won four in 23 games and are mired in a relegation battle.
Caldwell had revamped the squad at the beginning of this season by adding 14 new faces, and although the team had initially failed to gel, most fans were far from despondent and expected results to pick up.
The sacking of Caldwell came as a big shock for most supporters. The club had made great progress under the former Scotland captain and there appeared to be a long term plan in place.
However, owner Dave Whelan and chairman David Sharpe became impatient and made a decision they are probably now regretting by dismissing a good up and coming manager.
The appointment of former Manchester United reserve coach Warren Joyce was a risky decision and
this has proved to be the case, and has only compounded Latics’ lowly position in the table.
Joyce was untried at Championship level having spent the last eight years in the protected atmosphere of reserve team football and a more experienced manager might have stabilised Latics after Caldwell’s abrupt departure.
Joyce’s cause hasn’t been helped by the current injury crisis. But the new manager has struggled to make a positive impact and to get the best out of Caldwell’s squad.
The transfer window should offer some new options but Joyce needs to review his tactics and formations if the players are going to believe in the manager’s methods.
Some players are certainly not giving 100 per cent for Joyce and this was evident in the first half at Rotherham.
There will need to be a significant improvement in all departments if Latics are to stay up. But they are still only four points away from safety and there are several equally poor teams around them so it is still possible for them to escape the drop.
Another major sea-change is required at the club, but it is certainly not an impossible task, if everyone decides to pull together.
One defeat in five games saw Gary Caldwell sacked, granted we weren’t much of a threat going forward but we were a solid, well organised unit.
Under Warren Joyce we have just suffered five defeats in five games, two of those, Ipswich and Rotherham, were classed as must win games and we look an absolute shambles.
In the space of just eight weeks the team has gone so far backwards that it is unrecognisable to what it was, we have regressed from looking like we were coming to terms with a highly competitive league to a Sunday League pub team who are completely out of their depth.
The team look so disorganised that it beggars belief, the first 45 minutes at Rotherham brought comments that it
was ‘the worst away performance in memory’, three goals down – and it could have been much more – to a side that had mustered just 10 points all season and had a -27 goal difference.
Some may point to the players not being good enough, I’d counter by saying earlier on in the season they looked good enough to compete and on Boxing Day five of our players had Premier League experience. I feel the problem to this particular conundrum
may lie with the band leader as opposed to the band members.
The appointment of Warren Joyce back at the beginning of November was a decision that had many scratching their heads, no Championship managerial experience, in fact his only managerial job in English football was running a club 18 years ago, Hull City, who at the time were in the bottom division. He lost that job after 17 months in charge, they had struggled in the bottom half of the league for the majority of the season.
Joyce has no connection with the Latics, certainly no connection to the fans, he feels like a stranger, which is what he is. In interviews he lacks charisma, no drive, not even a hint of humour.
Latics chairman David Sharpe claims to have had a four hour conversation on football with him prior to his appointment, I bet that was riveting!
The decision to appoint him is a very strange one and a massive gamble that is backfiring at an alarming rate.
I’d love to know the process of choosing him, who made the decision and why, David Sharpe revealed that
Joyce was “highly recommended.” I would love to know by whom?
Warren Joyce worked developing young players into emerging stars at Manchester United, his priority was to improve the players rather than focus on results.
Player development takes time whilst points are needed immediately in the cut throat business of league football – two very different roles with different objectives.
We have missed a massive opportunity over the past two games, two games that if we have any realistic hope of staying up we should be winning. If we had we would now be sat clear of the relegation zone, instead we have been beaten by two poor teams, both low scoring who still managed to put six past us between them.
I fear we are in dire straits and we need to take drastic action to rectify the situation.
It’s time for the decision makers at the club to stand up and be counted.
Up the tics!
Leaked document: content for Wigan Athletic 2016 Christmas crackers*.
*Not to be confused with Jacobs Christmas Crackers, the Latics attacking midfielder’s new line of premium biscuits for cheese**.
**Not endorsed by 12th Man (they’re too dry).
Why didn’t Warren Joyce worry about filling the vacant side back position? Because he had a s-Kellett-on in his cupboard.
Which Latics defender is king of the kebabs? Doner Don Daniels.
What do you get if you cross a Wigan Athletic striker and a frog? A (Kaiyne) Woolery jumper.
Who is Wigan Athletic’s most magical player? Stephen Warlock.
Which erstwhile Latics ‘keeper has been demoted to toilet duties? Adam Bog Man.
What’s flaming hot and tastes like egg on toast? The Grigg Breakfast.
Which Ticsmon has melted cheese with every meal? Adam le Fondue.
What goes ‘hic hic, bzz bzz’? Max Powertool.
‘Short Shorts’ by the Royal Teens (song)
Roberto Martinez’s Big Book of Defensive Fallacies (comic)
‘Going Down For the Third Time’ by the Supremes (song)
The Max Power Drinking Game Vol IV, Extended Edition (book)
Dan Burn’s Own Goals and Gaffes (VHS tape)
Jussi Jaaskelainen ‘quietly’ relaying instructions to his defenders
Gary Caldwell writing on sticky notes and handing them out
David Perkins earning his obligatory booking
Dan Burn making an extravagant 60-yard clearance
Nick Powell holding his leg while requesting to be substituted (three times)
Toys and paper hats have been cancelled as £3.45 materials budget reallocated to fizzy orange and jelly for Gaz Caldwell’s leaving ‘do’.
In the interests of balance
Well, that didn’t quite go to plan did it? The theory was that once we’d got the tough games against Villa and Newcastle out of the way that we’d yield some points against Ipswich and Rotherham. But that notion has failed in disastrous circumstances so we are left to search for another narrative. And the hard games keep on coming.
Yes, we know there are no easy games in football. A cliché so worn it was first uttered by a handy Arbroath team just before they strutted onto the pitch to play Bon Accord in 1885 to despatch the ball past them 36 times.
Warren Joyce has had a few difficult games but then so did Gary Caldwell. In the 14 games he had in charge, half those teams either are in the top six or have been when we played them, or have been for a long period such as Birmingham were before they stupidly and inexplicably sacked their manager (ring any bells?).
We played the team who is currently top, a team who were top when we played them (Norwich), plus Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham, Fulham, even Brentford were sixth and the division’s form team when we played them at Griffin Park and ground out an effective goal-less draw.
In the interests of balance, Caldwell also faced a few teams who were around us at the bottom including Burton, Blackburn and Wolves. The difference being that we took seven points from nine in these games against relegation rivals, compared to none from six in our last two under Warren Joyce.
So against this backdrop we have to ask, where are the points going to come from? Caldwell was sacked for losing seven of his 14 games, Joyce has now lost six in 8. The next two are against promotion chasing sides and again are being “written off” in certain quarters (though Wigan Athletic have a pleasant habit of surprisingly us very occasionally).
I suppose the Burton away game in two weeks is the next big six-pointer. We’ve still never beaten them but a win there and perhaps the first seeds of the transfer window might be the catalyst for a change in fortunes.
Yet given our record there, it is not inconceivable that we could pick up points at Pride Park (no I’m not calling it the iPro Stadium!) and maybe Huddersfield will come here playing the same, silly, high line they did at their place and let Yanic skip through the middle of them.
Considering the last two games were seen as must win for Warren Joyce and Wigan Athletic things couldn’t have gone much worse.
We’ve gone from flirting with relegation when Joyce arrived to it looking a near certainty unless something changes quickly. The knives looked to be out for the manager after the Rotherham game.
Although the aforementioned knives were out Joyce, they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. That well flaunted three-and-a-half year contract will see to that. But how our two next games pan out could have a serious bearing on how much Joyce is backed in the January sales.
Those two games are against the two in form sides in the league in Derby and Huddersfield. Huddersfield are once again flying at the top of the division and won’t make the same mistakes they did a month ago whilst Derby are in excellent form since the return of Steve McClaren and could well be on for a return to the Premier League.
One thing concerning me along with the results lately is the constant talking down of the squad since Warren Joyce arrived.
I’m not having it that Rotherham have a stronger squad than we do. Better forwards than Will Grigg, better creative midfielders than Jordi Gomez and better attackers than Yanic Wildschut.
That’s the crux of the matter though, supporters and management alike thought we had a squad more than good enough to compete at this level across the summer. Now that squad is nowhere near good enough and the current manager is complaining about the ‘cards he’s been dealt’.
I think that’s a bit of a red herring to mask poor results since the new manager arrived. If the squad is so poor we can expect another expensive refresh of the squad next month and hopefully then we can finally get it right. Again.