Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'A Wigan Athletic legend who, for me, will be spoken about in the same bracket as Paul Jewell and Roberto Martinez. His actions off the field and achievements on it were truly special...'

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Our panel of experts have their say on the departure of much-loved manager Leam Richardson from the Wigan Athletic hotseat...

Martin Tarbuck:

There was a time when we used to celebrate being rubbish. Walking out of Underhill after getting thumped 5-0 at Barnet. Going to Hereford United when we were bottom of the entire league, singing ‘92nd and we don’t care, doo dah!’ Indeed, for many of us, it is the reason we chose to support Wigan Athletic over the multitude of north west Premier League behemoths many others in the town choose to latch onto. Even so, well, what can I say? It’s not a pretty sight out there, is it? On or off the field. I think most of us signed up to the fact early doors that this season might be a struggle, but even the most positive of Wigan Athletic fans (hello Sean Livesey) will be struggling to pull out a few nuggets of gold from the past few weeks of utter garbage. Now, I’m being harsh there, we haven’t been that bad. And I mean that. There’s nothing like Latics fans when it comes to over-reaction. A bit more discipline at Swansea and a somewhat uncertain penalty decision was the undoing of not the one point we collected, but all three points. I don’t even think we looked terrible at Coventry, we showed some signs at of attempts to play football, in spite of our poor confidence, against a team who went close to the play-offs last year and could well do again if they can keep their off field matters at bay. There’s always an argument as to why we should lose a game. Nearly every team in this division is stronger than us, but that sort of self-defeating talk is not going to get us out of this pickle, is it? It is becoming clear the manager wasn’t backed as much as he liked in the summer, and maybe that’s no bad thing, given what went before. But sadly it has also become clear he wasn’t helping himself with his team selections and formations. I would have still backed him to turn it around, simply because there is no guarantee anyone else will turn it around. We haven’t been walloped in most games, but we simply aren’t creating enough chances. There are some decisions, which, just like the team, I cannot defend. I’ve noticed, what I call the ‘Magennis effect’. Which is no slight on Josh or his performance or ability, but when we bring him on, we seem to capitulate. Maybe because we resort to hitting it long and camping in our own half. But very often, we are camped in our own half because, as I say, the opposition have better players than us, and if we’ve had the audacity to take the lead against them, like we did at Swansea, then they just get angrier. These are just my thoughts and I think, regardless of the outcome on Saturday, we all need a break from Wigan Athletic for a month or so, and dare I say it Wigan Athletic need a break from the constant flow of games to work on changing things for the better. I dared to look at the table earlier and it makes for grim reading. Yet when you look further up, you can see Norwich in third and PNE in seventh, two teams we competed and drew against at the start of the season. And you have to wonder what has happened to that Wigan Athletic? And if we can get that version of our football club back, then we surely have a fighting chance of remaining in this division.

Since I started writing this, it would appear those calling for the manager’s head have got their wish. So a few questions then: What happens if the next bloke is no better? What happens if the next bloke (or women, hey it’s 2022!) doesn’t get any money to spend in the transfer window either? What if we were just going through a sticky patch? What if the players (still here) were the problem and not the manager? What if the owners are funding our club to the level of which they think is justifiable for less than 10,000 home fans? And a final one, what are YOU going to do about our current predicament? In terms of the last question, there are only two ways to go. You either keep supporting the team and hope upon hope it turns around. Or you can continue shouting angrily into the void, sack the manager if we go on a losing run, or even sack the board! With no consideration of what the alternatives might be. The owners bought us when we were on the verge of oblivion, I’m not going to turn on them any more than I would Richardson, because the alternative fate doesn’t bear thinking about. Just because they have lifted us back up to the Championship at the first time of asking, doesn’t give us fans the right to demand more, in spite of our dismal form.

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Leam Richardson waved goodbye to Wigan Athletic on Thursday morningLeam Richardson waved goodbye to Wigan Athletic on Thursday morning
Leam Richardson waved goodbye to Wigan Athletic on Thursday morning

Anyway what with me being a shamefully hopeless optimist, I am hoping the turnaround starts on Saturday and we can at least overtake Blackpool. But I’m not sure we will do any better without a manager than we would have done with one. Regardless of who is appointed and when, we will soon have a lengthy break, a few more games and then we have a January window, to try and shuffle the pack a bit. I understood all the criticisms aimed at the manager, I really did, but I also knew he saw a lot that we don’t, and presumably had his reasons for every decision he made. For anyone else to come and make wholesale changes mid-season could also be dangerous. I think we were competitive in most games but we just don’t seem to have the backbone or resources (or both) to see games out or pick up the tempo. It will also be interesting to see if Humphrys is recalled, or Fletcher and Scully will get a decent run out now. If that was all down to the manager, then maybe a change will do us good. I absolutely share the sentiments of just going out there and being bolder on the ball, and fielding a more attacking line up. But what if we're not good enough to do that? I can honestly say I feel terribly sad about Leam Richardson’s departure, as I would have dearly liked him to be the man to turn it around. But now he’s gone, I hope the next person can, for the good of the club and it’s future. If I was wrong for supporting him on these pages, then I will gladly admit it. I supported him because he has done so much good for us, phenomenal things for us over the years, and there was every chance he could have turned it around. It wasn't even close to the biggest challenge he's faced and overcome during his time here. But he’s gone now and we have to look towards the future. The night is always darkest before the dawn….let us just hope it doesn’t get any darker in the meantime.

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Wigan Athletic: Talking Football - Thanks for everything, Leam

Greg Farrimond:

'There is no room for sentiment in football'. Not always true, but it certainly is when it comes to managers, and I have little problem with that. Which is why I’ll strip all of that away before passing comment on Leam Richardson’s sacking. But I still can’t see fair reasoning for it. While I won’t call for any special treatment for him, he deserves to be treated fairly and honourably at the absolute least. So to fly him out to Bahrain and hand him that three-year contract just two weeks ago, at a time when things were far from rosy, was the club’s way of committing to him. It’s a u-turn the Tories would blush at, and one that screams of instability, especially when you add in the fact it came after staff and players hadn’t been paid on time for the third time. The club now looks a bit silly for using that announcement as a response to the negative story. In recent years, I’ve not really disagreed with any of the various sackings we’ve seen - even Gary Caldwell’s - but this one doesn’t sit right with me, even with the poor form and results. Many have said we were promoted too early - this squad, while it has some good players, is not one built for the Championship. It had little investment in the summer, and is therefore not that much, if at all, stronger than last season. And that’s fine. We have to cut our cloth accordingly and sensibly, especially when the bitter taste of administration still lingers. With that, though, should come realistic expectations. The gulf in quality between the Championship and League One is huge, so if we don’t try and make up the gap, we have to accept that, by not having that extra yard of pace or that consistent composure at the back, we’ll struggle no matter who is in charge. We were punching above our weight with our early away form, which was never going to hold. And if this squad is ever less than 90 per cent, we’ll probably lose most games in this division. While the current form isn’t acceptable, we were always going to hit a bad patch, and survival would still be a big success. So if we want to remove sentiment from everything, the cold fact is we are where we should be. And changing the manager brings as much, if not more, risk of making things worse, as it does opportunity to turn the corner. I was at Coventry on Tuesday and it was woeful and gutless; the worst I’ve seen for a while. But I don’t see why sacking the one man who has got a track record of getting the best from these players is the answer at this moment. I hope an injection of new ideas is what is needed, but the lack of stability being shown by those at the top - from late payments to huge u-turns like this - doesn’t reassure me their decision making is all that great. I’ll now re-introduce the sentiment to talk about Leam...a Wigan Athletic legend who, for me, will be spoken about in the same bracket as Paul Jewell and Roberto Martinez. His actions off the field and achievements on it were truly special, and I’ve no doubt he’ll be successful elsewhere. Thanks for playing a huge part in saving our club, Leam. It will never be forgotten.

Caddy from the 5:

The whole negativity around the club at the moment is a far cry from that great day in Shrewsbury only a few months ago, and the fans were definitely split on whether Leam should still be manager. Personally, I was always in Leam's camp, but I was losing patience. His hands were obviously tied where money is concerned, but the team selections and tactics were concerning. Now obviously Leam and his team saw the lads day in, day out and will know a hell of a lot more than me. BUT Shinnie continually on the bench, Broadhead (when he plays) being taken off on 70 minutes, Power still getting 90 minutes every game despite zero goals and zero assists, Tilt before Kerr (yes, I know he's injured now), Darikwa ridiculously out of form, McClean a shadow of last season, Naylor not doing it (for me), and Aasgaard getting blisters on his backside sat on the bench has the lads around me scratching their heads week in, week out. It's easy for me to have a go at the players, but I can only say what I see. And I know the flip side is 'well, who's gonna take their place'? Back to Richardson! He brought in the lads signed in the summer. If he didn't think they were good enough, why sign them or keep them on the fringe? Back to the owners! If we've no money, what does the manager do? He brings in what he can, with what he's given. But Lord Lucan has been seen more than Fletcher, Scully, Edmonds-Green so far, so Leam couldn't fancy 'em, surely? Whether you were 'Leam in' or 'Leam out', the football we were playing was frankly dire to watch. Lack of confidence? Not good enough? Tactics? Probably all three if I'm honest, so where do we go from here? We can't get to the World Cup break quickly enough, for me, to give the whole club a reset we all need. A win on Saturday against Blackpool is a must, a lift going into the four-week break would do wonders. Brian Clough got it right...'the only certainty in football is the sack'. Am I gutted Leam went? Yes. But I was also gutted when Bobby Campbell left, and Roberto Martinez, and James McArthur, and Warren Joyce...only kidding on that one! We all move on, we always do, it's in our DNA! A big statement from Mr Al Jasmi and Talal in January is badly needed, with whoever is in charge to get the good ship Wigan Athletic back on an even keel, or I feel another season lording it in League One awaits. Right, I'm off putting Leam a few 'Bow in the pump, because he'll always be welcome to one in Wigan.

Matt Auffrey:

I started supporting Latics some time during the 2009/10 season as a 20-year-old American university student. One of my flatmates was a casual Chelsea supporter. During that season we would watch the Premier League weekly recap show every Sunday night together on Fox Sports. While watching that show, I gained my first exposure to Wigan Athletic, and the rest was history. I was hooked for life. Three months ago I had the opportunity to visit Wigan for the first time with my father. The weeklong trip exceeded both of our expectations by a wide margin. Everything from the sights, to the culture, to the people, to all things Latics was truly phenomenal. Our last full day in town was the Saturday of the Bristol City match at the DW. An exhilarating day of ale, footy, and meeting dozens of new people, ended with a special photo op before we left the stadium. After what I assumed to be an exhausting day of various match day activities, Leam Richardson graciously took the time to have a chat with my father and I before we posed for a picture together. He was kind, engaging, and as genuine as anyone else we had met during our trip. He left the most positive impression possible. I admired Leam tremendously before that interaction - as did all of my Latics mates back in New York. My appreciation for Leam blossomed all the more from that point on. There was no question he was someone who ‘got’ Wigan. It was well understood he was all-in with all aspects of representing and serving the club. Having Leam acknowledge face-to-face what we lads in New York had been doing to support the club for the past several years meant the world to us. “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Leam made us feel like rock stars. Football is a business, and the club has made a very tough business decision to move on from Leam as the first-team manager. I don’t agree with the decision and am hurt by it. Leam was the fuel that ignited the flames of the Phoenix. The impact of his guidance and leadership over the past several years cannot be measured. Leam deserved several more months minimum. He deserved to receive better financial backing in the January 2023 transfer window. I wish I could feel confident about this weekend’s fixture against Blackpool, our upcoming manager search, and what the immediate future of our club will look like after the World Cup break, but I am apprehensive. In a situation like ours, no one should be feeling like a winner at the moment. Hopefully, we will transition back to a winning culture within a short amount of time. Thank you, Leam. You will be missed.


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A knee-jerk reaction to Tuesday night's result, and strange timing with only one game before the World Cup. Things are looking very unsettled behind the scenes...late wages, rumours of the club being up for sale, and there's usually no smoke without fire. In short, worrying times. Leam, you can hold your head high. What you did in our darkest hours means you rank up there with any of the managers in our history, so thanks and good luck in the future.

Martyn Bowen:

July 1, 2020 is a date that will forever be etched on Wigan Athletic supporters memories. I sure none of us will ever forget where we were or who we were with when we heard the dreadful news we had been put into administration. It felt like a bereavement, especially when just 12 hours earlier we were at the DW revelling in the dismantling of Stoke City to almost guarantee Championship survival for another season. What followed is well documented. It was painful, difficult, uncertain and supporting the Latics stopped being fun. Top-calibre players both experienced and from the academy were sold off for a pittance as the club struggled to survive. On the pitch we suffered some very heavy and morale sapping defeats to teams we would normally beat. Among all the uncertainty one thing remained constant. He was Leam Richardson. He could have taken the easy option and left the club and who could have blamed him had he done so. But, no, he took the difficult route. He decided to stay, he fought, he led, he rebuilt and he made us proud to be associated with Wigan again. Just when we thought he could do no more, he then played a pivotal role alongside Dr Tobin in saving the life of Charlie Wyke, which really did put football matters into perspective. We can argue about formations, line-ups and tactics but, in my view, every realistic Latics fan must have known that, with the current squad we have, this season was going to be very challenging. To me, the players are trying but many of them are simply not up to Championship standard. And the ones that are, are either injured or out of form. Changing the manager doesn’t solve that. Significant investment is needed and, if the owners are willing to spend some money in January, Leam - for all he has done for Wigan - deserved the opportunity to prove if was capable of being a Championship manager or not. If the owners are not planning to spend in January, then sacking Leam - especially having just given him a three-year contract, makes no sense at all and, to me, is a backward step. Changing managers is not always positive, the dark days of Malky Mackay are a reminder of that. As a season-ticket holder and supporter of many years, I would like to thank Leam for all he has done for Wigan. He is a legend and deserves to have a stand named after him. In the dark days he gave us hope, integrity and leadership when we desperately needed it, and I for one will always be truly grateful to him for that. Up the Tics.

Ed Bazeley:

Firstly, I am one of several Latics fans devastated by the news of the club having sacked Leam Richardson. Leam is a genuine club legend, he was willing to fight for us in our darkest days of administration, and kept us in League One with a makeshift squad consisting mostly of 'rejects' and Academy kids. Then after keeping us in the league that 2020-21 campaign, he had us in a very healthy position in the season that followed. Then, in November, came Leam's greatest moment, when he saved Charlie Wyke's life, alongside Dr Tobin. Despite this great adversity, everyone at the club stuck together and we became champions, even without a player as influential as Wyke, in what was arguably the highest standard League One division to date. At the start of this season, Richardson had us looking like a very decent Championship outfit too. Although our recent form has been undeniably bad, Leam has done so much for this club. He has truly gone above and beyond what you could expect in someone who was our assistant manager in very recent times. Despite negative murmurings from some on Twitter, the vast majority of Latics fans have so much respect for Richardson and rightly so. It's a pity the club have sacked him in what seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. We look foolish now for sacking the man we so recently gave a long-term deal too. We even named a stand after him. Leam is a true hero, and it won't be easy seeing someone other than him on the touchline. Here's to you, Leam Richardson. Hopefully regardless of who the new manager is, we will see a few fresh faces coming through the doors in January. Jason Kerr being out for the rest of the season is a massive blow too. In my opinion, and presumably the opinion of a lot of other Latics fans, Kerr is imperative to us defensively. At times he also helps us out offensively when he overlaps the fullback. The bottom line is, it's imperative we get a positive result at the DW on Saturday against Blackpool in our last match before the ridiculously located and ill-timed World Cup.

Will Heyes:

The departure of Leam Richardson came as something of a surprise, when you consider that last week he signed a new three-year contract. Fast forward to this week, before the ink has dried, and we learn he has 'left' the club. Did he jump? Or was he pushed? Probably the latter. But then again, maybe it was not such a surprise after all? In view of recent results, his departure had an air of inevitability about it. But this leads me to ask why he was given a new contract, only to be dismissed the following week? In any event, Leam has gone and Latics begin the hunt for a new manager. Whenever the position has arisen in the past, there has been no shortage of applicants. Latics need the right man in place and soon. Hopefully, with the one-month break, a new manager will be appointed, who will bring in some fresh thinking and new ideas. The break will give Latics some respite, as they lick their wounds from their recent maulings, and give more time for the injured players to recover. Morale is probably a bit low right now. The players look shell-shocked with signs of battle fatigue. A good rest and a new man in charge at the helm, will turn things around. A final word about Leam. He was Paul Cook's right-hand-man, when Latics won promotion in 2018. When the club went into administration in the summer of 2020, relegation followed, Cook abandoned the sinking ship and Leam was pitched into the hot seat. He had to make do with what was left of the tatters of the squad. He was tasked with keeping Latics in League One which, with limited resources, he achieved. Next season, he was tasked with getting Latics back into the Championship, which he did! This season was one hurdle too high for him. His limitations at Championship level have been exposed and clear for all to see. But we should take this opportunity to thank him for what he achieved and wish him well for the future, I am sure he will be back in the not-too-distant future. There is plenty of time to turn this round, the fans can play their part too, by acting as the 12th man and getting behind Latics on Saturday and giving the players a morale-boosting cheer. Come on you Latics!

Peter Hamilton:

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Hardly a shock that Leam Richardson was sacked as manager. Dreadful football to watch towards the end, most supporters were dreading to watch it week in and out. Talal and the owners need to show ambition with the next management appointment - Shaun Maloney, Steven Gerrard or Sean Dyche come to mind straight away. Hopefully some player movement in and out involved in the transfer market to improve the squad.

Jack Benson:

I want to start by saying credit to every single Wigan fan who continues to go to games (personally I’ve been to every single game). Secondly we have to start attacking. We will never win a game if we don’t shoot, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Wyke, Broadhead, Magennis or Fletcher up top if the service they’re given is abysmal. So hopefully Lang's return helps us in that department. We put ourselves under so much unnecessary pressure by constantly hoofing the ball to our striker who has no support if he manages to win the header or hold the ball up. Surely Scully, Aasgaard or Fletcher can’t be worse than what we have been doing. We have to give players a chance or else it’s pointless, because we’re so predictable in what we do. Teams must look at the fixtures, see Wigan Athletic, and rub their hands thinking that’s three points and the goalkeeper can bring a deckchair to sit on, as he’ll have that little to do. On the plus side, the effort is always there and it’s nice to see them say thanks to the travelling fans after most games. Other than that ,I don’t see a plus side to the current situation. It’s gutting that Leam has gone in this manner, and at this time and we can only see at the end of the season if it pays off or not. But the next appointment is crucial. If it’s not the right person, it will have been for nothing. Rob Edwards would be someone I’d like to see or someone with similar tactics to his. One final thing: ‘Here’s to you, Leam Richardson, Wigan loves you more than you will know...’


My instant reaction? A short-sighted move, a lack of loyalty and a reaction to people online. This is the first bad run Richardson has had as our manager outside of administration, with a squad largely from League One and a fair few injuries to boot. Is the squad situation from a lack of backing or manager preference? Probably a lack of backing looking at it now. The football's not been great recently, fair enough, but the fans in the stands haven't been calling for the manager's head, despite the results. It's only online after Tuesday that I saw it more commonplace for the first time. The announcement on Twitter by the chairman of a new three-year deal, that wasn't announced at the time it was signed, only to be used to provide cover for a bad news story about late wages, now seems to ring true, and that should be very concerning. The chairman said on Twitter earlier in the season that they'd learned lessons of the past when it came to recruitment on promotion. But this feels very much like when Gary Caldwell was sacked, which David Sharpe later went on to say he regretted and went too early. We know what happened after that, and I'm now fearful of a repeat. The connection Richardson built with the club after what he did under administration should never be forgotten and that connection helped to build ties with the ownership group. For me, that connection has now been broken. Could Richardson have turned it round over the World Cup break? Probably. Now the ownership group will have to put their money where their mouth is and back a new manager with a budget to shape the squad, which clearly needs reinforcements, into their own image.

Emma P:

At the risk of sounding like a ‘happy clapper’, I’ll start off by pointing out we came out of administration 18 months ago. And as much as I’ve come to despise the phrase, it’s true we almost didn’t have a club to support. Phoenix 2021 Ltd, along with Mal Brannigan and Leam Richardson, dragged this club from the clutch of death and made a promise we would be sustainable and successful going forwards. They have already given us more than we could have hoped for in those dark days, the least we can do as fans is back them through the downs as well as the ups. But look, let’s be honest, things aren’t great at the minute, are they? I don’t think anyone expected us to be ripping up the league at the first time of asking, but I think the majority of us expected more than what we’ve been given so far. We came into this league as title winners, continuously praised throughout last season for the character, spirit, passion, determination, heart and fight we showed regardless of how each game was going; repeatedly coming back from behind to claim three points wherever we played. These days we’re lucky to get nil out of most games. We look lost, the play doesn’t flow anywhere near as well as it did last season, the performances are well below the standards we’ve set for ourselves and that ‘character’ seems to have diminished. On top of that we’ve got players like Fletcher, Scully and Edmonds-Green that can’t seem to get into the team at all, despite the fact the rigid loyalty Leam has shown to some of the regulars clearly isn’t paying off. Most of the fanbase can see there are a select few that are desperately needing a rest, Power, McClean, Keane etc, but for whatever reason, Leam appeared to be stubbornly unwilling to let someone else take their place for a couple of games. We can be forgiven for not being perfect in every area, given this squad has never played together at this level before, no one is anticipating miracles, but we absolutely cannot forgive a lack of effort. Especially when we have an ever growing list of men out injured. With all that being said, when news broke on Thursday morning that we have parted company with Leam, a mere fortnight after announcing a renewed three-year contract, I’m now completely failing to see where the club goes from here. I have to say, I think this has been a knee-jerk decision, and a really terrible one at that. I can’t see anyone coming in that would do a better job with the resources we’ve got available. In 24 years of following this club, through the ups and downs, relegations, administration and everything that came with it, I’ve never been more disappointed in Wigan Athletic than I am today. What a poor way to repay the faith and trust Leam has put into us over the last two years. Everything about it stinks for me. The timing is beyond weird, with our last game before the World Cup break in 48 hours, the least we could have done is given him one last home game to say goodbye to the fans. I don’t buy into this opinion that 'any other manager would have gone weeks ago' at all. Eight games without a win is bad, but it does not warrant losing a job. Leam (and his family) deserved so, so much more than what we’ve given him. He deserved the chance to turn it around at least through the January transfer window. We owed him that. I’m not completely blinkered, I can see exactly why certain people thought a change would be best, but not like this. This hurts. A lot. The man will always go down as a Latics legend in my eyes. My gaffer, here’s to you, Leam Richardson, Wigan loves you more than you will know.

Sean Livesey:

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‘It’s never dull’, they say. I wish it was. Just one normal footballing season for Wigan Athletic Association Football Club, that’s all I ask. Will never happen. Tuesday felt different, I don’t know why. Same line-up, same decent first half, same end result. Same as it’s been for a while, but the end result felt like a turning point. I didn’t have the heart to read Twitter, but the bits I did see represented a sea change in the fanbase's opinion. In plain English, the collective had turned from ‘back him’ to ‘sack him’. Of course, it’s ridiculous we should be having this conversation. We know successful football clubs are stable football clubs, but you only need to cast a glance across the leagues to see football clubs desperately searching for that next manager that can achieve their aims – winning promotion, avoiding relegation. We felt different, though, or at least you thought we did. Here was a manager who achieved the unthinkable over the last two years. People forget just what a hole we were in mid-administration when Richardson took over from the hapless John Sheridan. He had stayed at a club that had been destroyed from within, somehow managed to start turning results around, all while Paul Stanley, Gerald Krasner and the other one lined their pockets and told us how wonderful they were. The Spanish experiment failed spectacularly and, for a long time, it looked like if somehow we were saved it would be as a League Two club. Instead, some shrewd January arrivals managed to turn the tide and somehow, despite it all, we managed to retain our League One status. Then Phoenix 21 happened, and the season of our lives, cup runs and a title win that felt like salvation. A title win that was a huge two fingers up at those who tried to kill us. Leam was central to that. The board had spoken about a plan, and about running us in a sustainable way. With how everything ended with IEC, I’m sure that’s something we can all agree about, but being sustainable also means there is not much money to spend. Sadly, there aren’t thousands of extra supporters waiting to bang down the door to get into the DW of a weekend. We have what we have and, in a town that is increasingly struggling economically, disposable cash is at a premium. I wonder whether seeing this first hand has made the owners reassess where we are financially, and how much they’re willing to spend. If that means at worst we become a League One club, and at best a yo-yo club between League One and the Championship, then so be it. It’s better than the fate we faced after Au Yeung and Stanley Choi had got their grubby mits on us. That being the case, did anyone expect anything different this season? A relatively quiet pre-season on the arrivals front gave way to some strong early performances. The draws against Norwich and Preston seem a lifetime ago now. But we began to pick up wins and at the end of the summer we looked like we would be ok this season, despite the lack of strengthening. What has followed since the Hull defeat, I doubt anyone would have predicted. We’ve gone from being among the early season pacesetters to the foot of the table. If we'd beaten Hull, who knows what would have followed? Back to Tuesday, and it was clear this is a side running on empty, looking shattered both mentally and physically. Have they given up playing for the manager? Not for me. There was a clear downing of tools under both Malky Mackay and Warren Joyce. I don’t think we can say the same about these players this time around. Those same players who fostered such a team spirit last season haven’t just given up the ghost now. But the board has decided differently. There’s no getting away from the form of the last few weeks, it’s been a horror show of a month. Blackburn apart, the performances haven’t been strong enough and the results have been getting worse. The style of play has been difficult to cope with, despite our lack of resources and injury blows, and it does feel at times we are playing within ourselves. Can a new manager get more out of this side? We certainly have to hope so. Relegation is unthinkable, but sadly will quickly become a forgone conclusion if we don’t get the right person in. Whoever takes over from Leam will have to get limited players playing at 100 per cent to have a chance of avoiding relegation, and he will have to be backed in the transfer market. But with persistent (as of yet unproven) rumours of financial issues mixed with a team spirit built last year torn apart it won’t be an easy job. Managers come and go, football clubs will continue, but the sacking of Leam brings to an end an era that began back in the summer of 2017 with Paul Cook. And took us through the worst times as a football club and, through two promotions, the best of times. Cook and Richardson should be remembered for the legendary figures they were for this football club. It’s sad the era couldn’t end on Leam’s terms but so is the game. The World Cup and subsequent shut down can’t come at a better time for us.