Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'As for those moaning about how long the appointment is taking, well, I for one am glad...'
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We need to move on but, before that, I feel the need to acknowledge Leam’s Richardson’s statement of last Friday and once more, thank him for everything he had done for the club. Only time will tell whether the decision was the correct one, but I feel quite uneasy of this constant parroting of 'it’s a results business' by those who should know better. If you want to compartmentalise an eight-game winless streak - the worst and only run this bad of his tenure - and declare with no evidence whatsoever that ‘we would get relegated (in November), or somehow claim it would mean this streak would continue forever, then feel free. It’s not true though, is it. I’m fairly sure Roberto Martinez endured an eight-game losing streak while in the Premier League. Maybe he should have been sacked too? Or maybe not, seeing as we know what followed. No 'Great Escape', no 'Big Four' victories, no 4-0 thumping of Newcastle, no FA Cup win, no European tour. It’s a results business, you say? Had Dave Whelan taken your cliched soundbites at face value back then, we’d arguably have had none of those results, so be careful what you wish for. Leam’s results were to build a team from scratch, capable of winning the League One title at the first time of asking, and fostering a tremendous team spirit, despite bringing together a team of strangers. Except they weren’t strangers, half a dozen of them had played for us in administration, the year before, during terrible times, and who was it who stuck with us during those terrible times? One Leam Richardson. There’s tales aplenty of the tireless work he put in, just to put a team on the pitch, and also pulling equipment out of Euxton before it was sold from under us. Trying to pick a team out of academy players and those who remained, only for them to be sold from under him on a Friday afternoon, or let go for ten bob by our friends at Begbies Traynor. He looked a broken man at times, but stuck with it, stuck with the club, because he knew what it meant to the fans, to the town, that Wigan Athletic could not cease to exist. His loyalty was beyond question. So for every time you say 'it’s a results business' and he deserved to go, I will say it was Leam Richardson’s results (and actions) that kept this club in business, enabled us to find a buyer, to keep us up, and then his results were to win us the title the following year. His biggest fault was to be too successful too quickly, and get us into the Championship ill-prepared with a lack of funds being provided to strengthen. He deserved a bit more loyalty, from the fans, and the board, in my opinion. We can argue all day over whether he is a decent manager or not, but it's just as important to me he is a decent man, and he deserved better during a tough period. We’re better than that, or at least should be. Having said that, it wasn’t the fans who sacked Leam, it was the board, and who knows whether fans’ constant criticism had an impact or not. Regardless of this, the matter is out of our control. I consider the actions of the owners in this case to be a blot on the copybook but I am also prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they know what they are doing. We have to, we don’t have a choice. The proposed appointment of Kolo Toure can best be described as a leftfield option. I made the mistake of looking on a Leicester forum and, put it one way, they are hardly going to miss him. It seems his key quality is a good song. Well, that’s going to get us flying up the table isn’t it! On a personal view, I will judge with my eyes and observe his actions. The positives are he is a big name, with a brilliant playing career and, reading between the lines, he is a character, who is passionate about what he believes in. The stuff Leicester fans were saying about him being an appalling defensive coach (ironically) are not of concern to me, because he will ideally employ a defensive coach. His job will be to run the club, to be a figurehead. It is also a different type of appointment than the 'ticks all boxes' Neil Critchley option. It may be brilliant, it may be terrible, we will see. When we did the Joseph’s Goal charity walk to Fleetwood, their CEO joined us for part of it and I got talking to him. It was just prior to them appointing quite a divisive character in Joey Barton. He explained how they were a small club at League One level, with limited resources, and had decided to think outside the box a little bit and give Barton his first foray into management. He also thought Fleetwood had lost a bit of their bite during their recent rise and, as I’m sure older Latics fans might recall, Fleetwood used to be a hostile place to go. So even having a manager with a nasty reputation didn’t matter, it was win-win: Barton brought back the edge to Fleetwood, enjoyed comparative success for the club and, to be fair, they have held firm in League One ever since. Kolo Toure is a different prospect with different qualities, but in a similar vein is undoubtedly the 'think outside the box' appointment. It has also been heralded he would be the first African manager in charge of a UK league club. It may open routes into player markets. It may just be a statement of diversity, given our owners themselves are from the Middle East, indeed, it shouldn’t even matter where he comes from as long as he can do the job. However, I am sure Toure himself will want to prove himself, and that can only be good for Wigan Athletic. I see him being quite the character, but ideally with an ambitious, ruthless streak to succeed. He is also well-connected at the very top level of football to get both the resources and advice he needs. And as for those moaning about how long the appointment is taking, well, I for one am glad. I hope he is nailing the board down to every last penny in terms of investment we need to ensure we stay in this division and kick on from there next season. Otherwise, if those funds aren’t there, we may as well have just stuck with the last bloke, and left him to continue to try and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Despite this, he was quite liked around these parts, until he had the audacity to lose a few games on the bounce.
So it looks like Kolo is the man for the hot seat in the crazy world of Wigan Athletic. I welcome him and wish him well. And if history shows us anything, it won't be dull. He gets a squad of hard-working players who have proven they can get good results in this division. With a few additions, if backed by the owners in January, and a lift in confidence, hopefully the near future will bring a change in fortune on the pitch. It's always a gamble giving someone their first job in management, but we did that with Leam and overall that was a success. So let's get behind Kolo and the team and see where it takes us. Stay safe.
It’s never boring at Wigan, is it? We’re two weeks on from Leam Richardson being relieved of his duties and we seem close to appointing Kolo Toure as our new manager. A recruitment process that linked names far and wide (including our potential new manager's brother!) to the post and kept everyone on their toes as to whom it may be. With it being his first job as a manager, it’ll be interesting to see how he sets the team out, style of play etc but he’s impressed the board enough with his plans to get the job. Hopefully he’ll get the next few weeks to get his message across to the players ahead of our trip to Millwall after the World Cup break. We also saw the statement from Leam Richardson via the LMA (in true Latics style, at the same time the news broke about the new manager!) which was another example of our former manager being a class act. His love for the club is clear after everything he’s done over the recent years and his efforts will never be forgotten (nor will he need to pay for a pint in Wigan again). Moving on to the future, we’ve hopefully got a bright future ahead and the new appointment will have a positive impact on the rest of our season and beyond. Get behind the lads when we’re back and we’ll be flying! Special mention to England for the good start to the World Cup. Keep it up and bring the trophy home!
It’s safe to say the shock has worn off a bit by now. For 99.9 per cent of the football-following world, that statement could apply to processing Saudi Arabia’s upset victory over Argentina in the World Cup. In a very distinct part of North West England, a different piece of news has kept football fans occupied for the better part of this past week. Kolo Toure was one of the last people on my radar over a week and a half ago. Now, he is someone who will be at the centre of our universe for the foreseeable future. Many fan reactions to the looming appointment made note of all the things he didn’t have - managerial experience, familiarity with the Championship, prior connections to Wigan, and a squeaky clean track record. We will certainly learn more over these coming weeks about the positive attributes that allowed our new gaffer to emerge as a prime candidate among many others with different qualifications. And there still remains lots of worry about how our squad will adapt to new leadership. We’ll return from the World Cup break to face two sides currently in the top six (Millwall and Sheffield United). There should be little expectation for any positive point returns based on the performances from our last eight matches. However, it’s time for a fresh start. We owe it to the players, Kolo, and his staff. We have no idea what the starting line-up will look like for our next fixture on December 10. We don’t know how our playing style will change. We don’t know which players will still be here by the end of January and who will have moved on to somewhere else. The number of uncertainties regarding our future are as great as they’ve been in a while, and that’s something we’ll all have to accept. We’re fortunate we have the distraction of Qatar to hold us over until we resume play again. Let’s stay open-minded about the appointment and continue to provide the utmost support possible to the club. We’ve all stuck with the club through much darker times than right now and there’s no reason to lose faith. Let this new era of Latics football be one of our most successful yet.
It’s weird, isn’t it? We spent weeks begging for the World Cup break so we could have a minute away from the rollercoaster that is Wigan Athletic, only to be missing the drama after a solitary week away. After a well-deserved and much-needed week off with family and friends, the lads returned to Christopher Park this week in preparation for the arrival of their new gaffer, before jetting off again for a warm weather training camp in Turkey. Kolo Toure seems to be the man that impressed the board above the likes of Neil Critchley, Duncan Ferguson and even Steven Gerrard, who were all linked with the vacant manager's position in the days that followed the shock removal of Leam Richardson. And things are certainly starting to heat up again. Admittedly, the appointment of Toure is definitely somewhat of a risk, but the same would be said for whoever was due to come in, so maybe we should just give him a chance and see what happens? Novel concept, I know… Whether letting Leam go was the correct decision or not remains to be seen, only time will tell. But regardless of whether you were ‘Leam In’ or ‘Leam Out’, the touching, heartfelt message he penned to his staff and fans - ironically in the week that marked one whole year since Charlie Wyke’s cardiac arrest - will be one that’s remembered, alongside his many achievements at the club for a very long time to come. His departure leaves a very interesting atmosphere around the club. I think even the fans that believed it was the right time for a change are sad to see him go, but there has been a slight undertone of excitement building over the last week. That little sense of the unknown that comes with a big change. Questions being asked about certain players and where their futures lie, particularly the lads that are out on loan. Will Kolo see something different in the squad that maybe Leam didn’t? Are some of the lads that have struggled to get in the side going to make a return to the matchday squad? Have we maybe seen the last of some of the regulars? As well as the questions surrounding the future of assistant managers James Beattie and Rob Kelly. Personally, I imagine it would be slightly naive to assume they’ll still be employed in the same roles by the time Millwall comes around on December 10. Assuming it’s very likely that one, the other, or both will end up wherever Leam pitches his tent in the end. In any sense, I expect a reshuffle of the backroom deck and the potential to maybe see one or two more big names behind the scenes. It’s all very exciting, if a little anxiety inducing. Hopefully, this break will prove to be exactly what we needed as a club. We’ll see. Kolo, Kolo Kolo…
Now then, who’d have predicted this turn of events two weeks ago when Leam Richardson was shown the door? Even by our ‘It’s Never Dull” © standards this has to go some. After it emerged last week that we had approached Yaya Toure about the managerial vacancy and he had subsequently decided to remain as a coach at Tottenham, a few days later another Toure was suddenly in the frame. This time Yaya’s older brother, Kolo. This was quite the surprise when betting markets had made it clear Neil Critchley looked like he was about to be appointed. So the weekend came and went without any clear confirmation on the new name to expect above the door of the manager’s office but, as the clock ticks to two weeks since Leam left, it's Kolo time. So not a name that was in the running, or had even been mentioned by the bookmakers. It shows you those odds lists shouldn’t be used to inform any sort of debate. So, Kolo Toure, what do we make of that? Well the board and Talal are the ones who make the decisions, of course, and they’ve reached a decision that Kolo is indeed the man for us. There’s two things to say on this. We as supporters haven’t sat in on any of the interviews. We don’t know what prospective managers have pitched or promised, and we don’t know in turn what has been promised to managers in terms of support or transfer budgets. It's a left-field choice, but sometimes those choices pay dividends. Was anybody thinking of David Wagner when he took over at Huddersfield or Mauricio Pochettino when he took over from Nigel Adkins at Southampton? I’m not comparing Toure to either of those managers, but the situations are similar - and led to successful outcomes for those clubs. It’s refreshing to see we’re looking outside of the usual Championship merry-go-round and, by doing that, it may well offer us more value than we could get normally. But of course it’s a risk - but all management appointments are a risk. In our situation, a risk may pay dividends. As I’ve made clear in this column in recent weeks, I wouldn’t have sacked Leam. But we are where we are. If the board have decided Kolo is our man, and they’re going to back him in the transfer market, then he deserves our full support. Toure is the most expensive option due to the compensation owed to Leicester, including any staff he’s expected to bring with him, which should put paid to the rumours regarding our imminent financial implosion. The new manager will have two weeks to work with his squad before we return to action at Millwall, and he’ll need to get up to speed quickly. It's a hard working squad that, although it has its limitations, is full of heart. If Toure can somehow get the side away from the bottom three by the end of the season, he’ll be the latest in a long line of well-loved managers to make their home in WN5.