We don’t usually shy away from calling people rubbish here at the Pie at Night. Hell, we regularly celebrate the mediocrity that we’ve witnessed down the years, but like many others, we’ve been guarded in our criticism. Personally, despite disagreeing vehemently with the sacking of Gary Caldwell, that’s because I had nothing against Warren Joyce when he came in. I know football clubs do better when they’ve got consistency at the top over a long period of time and, mostly for that reason, I welcomed the fact that the club thought him worth a three-and-a-half-year contract.
Apparently, there are people out there who wanted him to fail from the outset, but that would be absolute folly given that when a manager fails, so does the club that they’re in charge of, and wishing that on your club would be somewhere between folly and absolute lunacy.
We could discuss Joyce’s idiosyncrasies all day. Long pants and a slick media presence could have bought him more time, but in the end I think the ex-United man was judged on what was happening on the pitch and fairly so at that. I couldn’t put as eloquently as Paul Kendrick did in yesterday’s post, but you can paper over a lot of cracks when you’re winning football matches. When you’re losing and it doesn’t even look like you are trying to win then everyone is going to start asking questions.
To stay on the right side of things, the only question that probably doesn’t have an answer is whether Joyce should have been given more time. After all, wasn’t he brought in with one eye on the future, weren’t his youth development skills a major point in his appointment? Yes, they were, but it’s unlikely we’d see the fruit of a better youth set-up in three and a half years and what use would it be if we we’re knocking about in the Conference by then anyway.
Ok, so that’s over dramatic, but the point is despite knowing his stuff, being a reportedly good bloke and wanting to do well, Warren Joyce was failing in his primary role as the manager of a football club. He’d failed to move us forward at all from the point he took over and arguably had taken us backwards on the pitch. Primarily because he failed to recognise what most people who’d been watching the team could see. His predecessor had already stabilised the team and what they needed when he got the job was for someone to work out how they could keep that, but start scoring again.
Joyce’s legacy at Latics will undoubtedly be as the man who tried to make us more solid that the previous tippy-tappy mon had and instead managed to create a dour team that on average conceded more goals and lost more games. With the fans turning on him over the last couple of weeks, it could only be a matter of time before the club acted.
So where from here? Well we need a new manager, obviously. Indications are that ‘interim’ manager Graham Barrow doesn’t want the job in the long term and many are questioning the wisdom of giving him the role in the first place. There is a lot of sense in not rushing to get someone in though. The past three and a half seasons (for that’s all it’s been, not the lifetime it feels like) have been typified by Latics appointing in haste and regretting at, not their leisure, but at the cost of parachute payments, the reputation of the club and the goodwill of the fans.
As long as David Sharpe and the Jackson Brothers use the next few months wisely, properly considering the structure of the club and the right men to fill it, this pause for thought could be the best thing that’s happened to us in a long while.
But, in the short term, what of Graham Barrow.
It’s understandable that people are asking why he’s still at the club given he’s been here throughout our downfall, but I’m not giving those questions much truck. He’s a clubman, one of the few connections back to our roots and I’m proud to support a club where our roots still, just about, matter. But is that enough for him to have got the manager’s job?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Barrow is a great manager, but to try and blame him for our position is just wrong, he’s been here throughout the last three years, but it’s probably worth looking a bit deeper into that. Coyle, Mackay and Joyce all asked for, and got, their own men to work worth. Coaches came into the club and changed the structure of things and I can’t see anyone arguing that it went well.
Uwe Rosler and Caldwell didn’t do this. They worked with Barrow and the lads we had, they got us to the FA Cup Semi-Final, the play-offs and the League One title. The common denominator in our misfortunes is managers who don’t appreciate the value Barrow brings to the team and history says that we do worse when Graham Barrow is marginalised at the club and better when he’s more involved.
Arguably the only thing that’s going to save us now is that mythical new manager boost. There’s few enough games left for it to make a real difference and, whilst he’s definitely not a completely new broom, Barrow is definitely someone who knows the club, knows the players and has their respect. He’s not managed for a while, but you know what, we’re a bit beyond that now. There’s no great tactical master plan needed, when you’re in the bottom three with ten games to go.
There’s no point us wasting time with post mortems now, let’s leave that until the summer and if nothing else let’s hope for a finish to the season we can be proud of. If Latics are to stay up from here, they’ll only do it by having someone who’ll back the players, get some spirit going. Someone who’ll take the shackles off, pick a team to attack and get them to go out and, you know, play football.
Last week I stuck my neck out to say enough was enough, just before we won at Birmingham, but it needed saying and I was prepared to end up with egg on my face. Now, I’m sticking my neck out again, in full knowledge that I’ll look like an idiot if we fall flat on Saturday, but keep on the way we are and well, we can all guess what comes next, stop playing with fear and who knows what could happen? Belief is key to the next nine games, it’s time to dust off those Sin Miedo posters and go for it.
Alan wasn’t anywhere near as positive about Latics chances in the latest podcast. Episode 20 – Shy talk and the lost causes is still worth a listen because, as usual, we don’t stick to the current position at Latics for very long. Find it on your favourite podcast app by searching for “the pie at night” or listen on the player below. It’s really up to you, but listen, people tell us it’s “alright you know”.