I believe that stability is good for a football club; that maintaining a core squad that you build on over time is a good thing; that sacking managers often achieves nothing other than a short term boost followed by instability; that being a chairman that sacks managers is a dangerous habit to fall into and that, in general, standing by your decisions is likely to bring rewards in the long term. But, and you knew that was coming, I also believe that being able to identify that you’ve made a wrong decision and having the balls to admit and act on it, is a real sign of leadership.
Unless of course, you’re making too many bad decisions, in which case you need to go back to basics and ask yourself whether you’re doing things right in the first place.
The last four years, or so, at Latics have been an object lesson in all of this. BAD decisions in appointing Coyle and Mackay were followed by, seemingly good decisions to bring in Rosler and Caldwell, that were followed by, possibly, mistimed decisions to fire them off. We can debate the finer detail of those statements all day, but Coyle was too much of a change in direction from the way the club had been heading up until then and Mackay, well, I don’t even want to talk about it really.
It’s probably worth making the point that, Coyle may have well achieved what Uwe did at the back end of that season and Mackay could probably have won League one with us last year, but they’d reached a point where they were never going to win the fans over and had to go. Rosler and Caldwell clearly had their struggles leading up to their departures but still had support from large swathes of the crowd and could maybe have prevailed had the chairman shown support rather than the axe.
And it’s also worth pointing out that those decisions were made by different chairmen. On the face of it, Coyle, Rosler and Mackay being Whelan’s appointments and Cladwell and Joyce being Sharpe’s. If you prefer the rumour mill version then the appointments of Rosler and Caldwell were down to Sharpe, whilst their sacking and the appointments of Coyle and Mackay sit with his granddad. Not that it matters either way, the point is the same, this isn’t a blame game. I just want to talk about how we got here which, for me, is by the club not sticking by good decisions and then following them up with bad ones.
Certainly, that’s where we were in October, as I’ve said, Caldwell was struggling a bit, the club had a choice whether to stick or twist and went for bust. As with Rosler a couple of years earlier, this didn’t feel like a right decision, but only a poor replacement could make it a bad decision. Now, four months on, with the only difference in Latics position the fact they’ve only got eleven games left to change it, the fans are rightly asking whether Warren Joyce was the right man for the job and are looking for signs that he can turn things around before a return to League one becomes certain rather than seemingly inevitable.
Signs you say? Well he’s made us more solid and he’s also got a better points per game average than Caldwell. Or so I’m told. They seem like good signs, right? If only the evidence was so convincing…
So, there you can see, in stark contrast, the records of the two managers (ignoring Graham Barrow’s 100% record in complete charge of the team) and, well, the contrast isn’t so stark really. That difference in points per game would give us a massive 3 points extra over the course of a season and that solidity has led to us conceding le… oh, more goals. At the same time, we’ve scored fewer and the less time I checked, scoring more and letting less goals in was, generally, how you go about winning games.
There lies the hidden truth of Latics season. We brought in a manager to make us more solid when we actually needed one who could help us find ways to score goals. I’m not say that it’s easy, but when you look back to Will Grigg scoring 6 goals in his first eleven league games this season, or even the heady days of Yanic’s brace at Huddersfield, it’s not beyond the wit of man. And yet it’s something that Joyce has consistently failed to do. Some would question whether he’s even really trying to with evidence suggesting that the focus is definitely on defence in the hope that, at some point a chance will fall to a forward and he’ll take it.
The club, by giving him a 3 1/2 year contract are clearly prepared to back Warren Joyce. I suppose their focus was on his record of bringing players through at United, but can that be enough? At united he will have been working to clear guidance on the club’s philosophy, on how those players should play and (most importantly?) on what tactics they should fit into.
At Latics, Joyce has to work all that out for himself. He’d have you believe that, despite having a transfer window to make changes, our current tactical crisis is a result of having to make do and mend. There are warning signs that this timid defensive approach to the game is his preferred method, despite what he tells us. An editorial from Hull fanzine “the three o’clock at Kemption” is doing the rounds on twitter and could easily have been written this week.
I’m fed up of hearing that we’ve got a lack of quality up front. Instead of moaning about that, surely he’d be better served working out how Will Grigg got the aforementioned six goals and working on that. Instead of explaining that his team’s lack of width is through having no wingers, maybe he could ask himself why he brought Colclough back from loan and bought Obertan in.
If he hasn’t already then Joyce is on the verge of losing the fans altogether. The players seem to be working hard for his cause, but when your captain, vice-captain and assistant coach have all come out preaching a need to throw caution to the wind but the manager is still relying on defensive tactics then you have to question whether they’re all pulling in the same direction. Whether or not Joyce’s appointment was part of a long-term plan, there comes a point where the club has to take a good hard look and ask whether he’ll ever be capable of providing a short term solution.
I know my views, but it’s not my decision and after the ups and downs of the last few years I don’t envy the decision makers’ role at this moment in time. We won’t survive this season if Latics carry on as they are now and we won’t do well in League One playing as we are at the moment so something has to change. The question is as much about whether Joyce is willing to change things as much as it’s about whether he’s able to and I’m not convinced on either point.
Over to you Messrs. Sharpe and Whelan…