Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man PART TWO - 'I like the criteria set out by the board...it’s absolutely vital the board get this appointment right'
Our panel of experts run the rule over the biggest decision Latics will make all year – who will take on the reins from Leam Richardson...
Caddy from the 5:
It's a relatively quiet week at the DW so far after the weekend win, with the 'who's today's favourite for the new manager' taking centre stage. The victory over Blackpool was much needed and, at half time, looked a million miles away with yet another lacklustre performance from us, even with Blackpool down to 10 men. What was hopefully a rocket up the backside saw us play a lot better in the second half with Joe Bennett arguably having his best game in a Wigan shirt and Graeme Shinnie running the show. Surely he should be the first name on the team sheet now, he's miles above what we've got in the middle of the park at the moment. And goals from James McClean and Curtis Tilt sent the nervy crowd away happy for the first time in what seems like an eternity. The break for the World Cup allows Talal to oversee the interviews, and we've plenty of time to get this appointment right (we hope). We've all seen the names being bandied about, and Rob Edwards was my personal choice - but he's chosen Luton. There's also Neil Critchley - who again I'd have; Big Dunc - nope not for me; Gerrard - have we found a money tree on the Gant? And Shaun Maloney - stick to taking corners pal. They've all been favourites this week, which tells me no-one has a clue. Maybe Talal should ask Alan Nixon again who we're getting?! The manager looks like he'll have to work within a tight budget, so I feel the 'big names' are out, and why I feel Critchley is worth a punt. He knows the lower level and would have learned from his stint at Aston Villa under Stevie G laa. Whoever does get the job, though, MUST be backed by the Bahraini lads because what's essentially a League One squad is going to struggle after the break to stay in the Championship. Unbelievably, we've no players in the England squad for the World Cup but I'm hoping the Three Lions bring the trophy home from a tournament absolutely no one seems interested in. The time of year and where it is are among the main factors but, once it gets going, I hope we all get behind the lads from the beer gardens in our shorts and t-shirts, LOL. Cheers Sepp, you (edited for legal reasons), and let's hope it's coming home. Right, I'm off, I've just heard Pep Guardiola has been spotted in Azderz in the Strongbow aisle and I don't want him taking it all. Good luck England, and Up The Tics!
After a difficult week for everyone associated with the club, Latics gave us a massive pick-me-up with a victory over Lancashire rivals Blackpool. It wasn’t pretty, but the lads got the job done. After Blackpool went 1-0 up despite being down to 10 players, it gave us Latics fans that sinking ‘here we go again’ feeling. We looked a mess after the away side took the lead, and Shayne Lavery on Blackpool’s right wing seemed to have a free run at our defence, despite the fact it was actually Latics who had the numerical advantage. But whatever Rob Kelly said to the players at the half-time interval, it certainly gave Latics the kick up the backside they all needed. We looked a different side in the second half and, when James McClean’s corner went all the way in, Wigan finally got the sort of luck which has been evading us for weeks on end now. Buoyed by the equaliser, the crowd were then up for this derby of sorts. It is also worth noting that, following an unfortunate knock to Jack Whatmough, Joe Bennett entered the field of play with a few first-half minutes remaining. This massively changed the dynamic as McClean was now in his favourite position - on the left wing. And many Latics fans on Twitter reckoned this was Bennett’s best game in a Latics shirt. I’d find this hard to disagree with, to be fair, (and Latics Twitter is often quite divisive!). In terms of the new manager, I’d like to see someone with a bit of Championship experience behind their belt given the job. But whoever it is, I’ll back them as a fan of the club. Hopefully, whoever it is, they manage to implement their methods and style of play during the World Cup break. I also want to see the new manager backed in the transfer window come January!
So the four-year-old decided to bring his big headphones with him to the Blackpool game, probably so he didn’t have to hear his dad, among other West Standers, moaning about the efforts on the pitch. And to be fair it was a good shout up until the 88th minute, when all recent memories washed out my head and I found myself dancing away like a lunatic to Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners (which for the record should not be changed anytime soon, BIG fan of the goal music despite the judgements I’ve had from others). I may have even jeered the Blackpool fans…I know, right, a West Stander NOT just sitting there grumbling and moaning... But while it was elation and jubilation, the sour note remained of what the previous week(s) had brought. Personally, I am still on the fence about what has happened to Leam. I do believe it was the wrong decision in terms of timing, as there was no harm giving him the Blackpool game. Because let’s be honest, it was always going to be the same team and tactics. Some fans had fooled themselves into thinking that, just because a manager has gone, the same coaching set up are going to think ‘ah sod it, let's play 2-5-3 and bring in all the fringe players’. But as we all know, especially in this day and age, football is a results game with, in my opinion, minimal heart left in it. So as a chairman of a football club, you look at eight defeats in 10 and have to put on your business head. What’s done is done, people will still hurt, myself included, but it’s time to move forward. What we do not need, is another Malky Mackay or Warren Joyce saga to end the Wigan Athletic 2022/23 Championship season. The question is, do we go tried and tested? Or do we experiment? You’ll be surprised to hear after my earlier paragraph that, once again, I am on the fence. As far as I’m concerned, whoever it is needs to maintain the togetherness this team has. While the squad might not be abundant with quality, time and time again we’ve heard the players saying how they would stick their necks out for each other. The last thing we need is someone coming in who will break that. I might sound mad, but I’d love a manager who has a Plan (A) AND a Plan (B). The sole aim this season is to survive, which unfortunately will mean fighting dirty at times, and hoofing it when we need to. No Wigan fan wants to see this being the future, though, so we need a clear philosophy of play which is backed by the board so that when it comes back round to recruitment windows, the manager can plug those holes he believes are present. Summer felt like a lot of square pegs in round holes and despite the good start, this quickly got found out which is why we’ve been on the run we have been. Obviously I can't comment on the recruitment process. You’d like to believe the manager has input on which players to sign but, when these players are then left out with no real explanation, you have to wonder what the process actually is. I did actually want to stay quite positive during this, as I genuinely had forgotten what it was like to celebrate like I did against Blackpool and, depending on who you follow on Twitter, we’re either back on track to winning the league or we’re still rubbish and deserve to go down. We can’t be naïve and think the Blackpool game is suddenly going to be a turning point, because we barely won against 10 men. Yes I know, their goal shouldn’t have even stood, but it did and it took us a good while to even start turning the screw on them. There’s some big work ahead for the new manager, and they’ve got a decent chunk of time to do it, as long as this recruitment process goes well. Talal and Mal, it's over to you.
Personally, I was really impressed with the performance against Blackpool. The shape of the team looked good in the early stages and it felt as though the aim was to get Max Power on the ball when possible, for him to try and create something in that No.10 position. The sending off, the Blackpool goal and the Jack Whatmough injury caused disruption to the set-up, but I liked how Rob Kelly and James Beattie managed the game. Moving to a 4-3-3 formation after half-time, players being patient in possession, and waiting for openings to break Blackpool down was key in turning the game around and getting the win. I appreciate not everyone will feel it was a great performance, but it’s important to remember our game at Birmingham earlier in the season, and how resilient we were when we went down to 10 men. Playing against a side sitting in and defending deep in those situations, especially with a lead to protect, is difficult, particularly when you’re on the run of form we were on, and the sacking of Leam having an impact on the players. It could have been so easy for the players' heads to drop, thinking it was just going to be 'one of those days' again, and just start going route one up to Josh Magennis in that second half. But the team remained patient, passed the ball well, and got the reward the performance deserved. With the search for the new manager, I like the criteria set out by the board, where they are looking for someone who will play a positive brand of football and someone who understands what the club and the town are about. It’s absolutely vital the board get this appointment right. We’ve seen previously with the sackings of Gary Caldwell and Uwe Rosler that appointing the wrong manager mid-season can be disastrous, so the World Cup break has come at the perfect time. Not only for the club to find the best person for the job, but also to allow players time to recover from injuries following a pretty intensive run of fixtures. I don’t really have a preference on who I feel would be the best person to take over. Everyone who has been linked in the press has positives and negatives attached to their name. There are so many different angles that can be taken by the board on this...do you go for a manager with Championship experience? Do you go for a younger manager with fresh ideas? Do you go abroad? Or do you go for a big name and push the boat out? I’m sure we won’t need to wait too much longer to find out. What is for sure, though, is that whoever gets the job, they will need time to bed in, analyse the squad to see which positions need strengthening in January, and get their ideas across to the players ahead of the busy Christmas period.
After all the drama and shock of parting company with our now-legendary ex-manager Leam Richardson, some sort of normality returned to the DW Stadium on Saturday and a football match broke out. I must admit, it was a little surreal not to see Leam on the touchline, but I suppose we will all get used to it in time. Despite the boost of an early sending-off, there was very little difference in performance to previous games. No shortage of effort, but struggling to pass the ball, a distinct lack of cutting edge, and a team desperately short of confidence. In truth, it was difficult to tell which team had 10 men, and the Blackpool goal, combined with Jack Whatmough going off injured, added to the feel it was going to be another one of those days. Second half was much better and, after James McClean scored - it had to be him, didn’t it - it seemed to inject some much-needed confidence and belief into the team. Just as it looked we would have to settle for a draw, up popped Curtis Tilt to bury a header and send both players and fans into delirium. No matter what happens off the pitch, you just can’t beat a late winner and it sends us into the World Cup break with a much-needed spring in our step. Onto the new manager search, with the betting markets fluctuating with the slightest bit of money being put on, it is difficult to gauge who is the likely candidate to replace Leam. I think the calibre of the appointment will depend mainly on how much money the board is going to make available to spend to strengthen the squad in January. We can speculate but, until an appointment is made, it is difficult to predict if we think we have hired another Roberto Martinez, or another Owen Coyle. If limited funds are made available, then the reality is this squad will struggle to stay in the Championship regardless of who the manager is. That choice is entirely down to the owners, and I am more than okay with that - especially if it means the club is financially sustainable, not just today but also in the future. Up the Tics.
There’s loads o’ names, the list is long, some names are OK, but some are just wrong. Most have their plusses, and of course crosses, but there’s no consensus wi’ th’ internet bosses. Whoever the name, there’ll be someone to say, that they’ve had their time, and yon mon’s had his day. Cos tactics, charisma, and Premier League nous, are what divides critics like two floors of a house. Who’s good for the goose isn’t favoured by t’ gander, and they’ll tell you just why, stopping just short o’ slander. So whoever we get will find themselves soon, wi’ some fans on their back, and not 'over the moon'. Cos if there’s one thing that the world can rely on, it’s the guarantee Tics fans will continue to cry on, the appointment of managers who don’t fulfil their ideal, of a bloke to get t’ Latics back on t’ even keel. So buckle in all, cos the road ‘ll be long, and we all know whoever comes in will be wrong. Bloody rubbish Wiggin!