Whelan steps up manager search

Wigan's Emmerson Boyce is nearing a return
Wigan's Emmerson Boyce is nearing a return

WIGAN Athletic chairman Dave Whelan will today step up his search for a new manager with a view to identifying Uwe Rosler’s successor in time for Saturday’s visit of Middlesbrough.

Whelan is determined to take his time and make sure his third appointment since the departure of Roberto Martinez 17 months ago is absolutely the right man for the job.

The 77-year-old is still putting together his shortlist, with no leading candidate at the moment despite feverish speculation over the weekend.

Early odds-on favourite Malky Mackay (inset) has eased in the betting, with Chris Hughton now joint-favourite for the post and the rest available at 16/1 and longer.

But the Evening Post understands that the race remains wide open at this stage, with Graham Barrow and Eric Black continuing to take training in the meantime,

The new man – whoever he may be – will be boosted by the luxury of a full-fit squad at his disposal when Latics return from the international break.

As well as giving Whelan the perfect time to make a managerial change, the fortnight off from domestic duty has given a number of players the chance to work on their fitness.

Skipper Emmerson Boyce (ankle) and centre-back Ivan Ramis (hamstring) will be ready to face the Teessiders, who have already sold out their allocation for the fixture.

Striker Andy Delort is also over a back problem and, with long-termers Chris McCann (fractured kneecap) and Ben Watson (broken leg) champing at the bit after eight and nine months out respectively, it’s the first time in well over a year that every single member of the first-team pool will be available for selection.

The clean bill of health could not come at a more opportune time for Latics, who need to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible if they are to retain any faint hopes of a late play-off charge under a new boss for the second season in a row.

The return of club captain Boyce, the senior man in the squad at 35, will be particularly important.

And the defender admits he has found the last month-and-a-half tough to watch since damaging his ankle against Nottingham Forest.

“I’ve had a good week’s training and I’m desperate to be involved again,” Boyce said.

“It’s been so frustrating watching the lads in recent weeks and not being able to get out there and help them.

“You never like being injured, but it’s even worse when you’ve got the added responsibility of being captain.

“But that’s football, and hopefully when I do get back I’ll be able to make a difference.”