12th Man: The Gamble backfires

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We needed a guarantee and instead we went for the gamble – that line can probably sum up the decision to appoint Warren Joyce back in October.

Nearly five months later that gamble has back fired spectacularly and once again Wigan Athletic are staring relegation square in the face.

There are many similarities to the last time we were relegated from the Championship. That season a manager who had previously done well lost his job, to be replaced by a candidate who ripped any attacking talent out of the side in an effort to make them hard to beat.

Warren JoyceOnly to further the problems in the side and secure their place in the bottom three. That’s where the similarities end. Warren Joyce isn’t Malky Mackay, but his football was as bad and that’s the crux of the matter.

I liked Warren Joyce, although I thought the decision to sack Gary Caldwell when they did was harsh I could understand it. I liked his no nonsense attitude and I liked the fact that he was a lower league workhouse of a player done good.

I thought his links to United were interesting if not necessarily relevant to the club’s plight at the time. I thought he could get the best of those United lad’s already at the club who are numerous in number. Andy Kellet, Reece James, Nick Powell.

His record with United’s youth teams is second to none, for all of this I could see why Warren Joyce may be attractive to clubs as a potential manager. Sadly football doesn’t always work out like you hope. As much as I can understand the decision to go for him it was still a risk, a manager whose only experience of the football league was with Hull back in 1998 wasn’t the ideal manager to come in to a relegation battle. Whatever he had achieved with United’s youngsters sadly went out of the window in the cut and thrust of the Championship.

Instead of the free flowing, attacking if more direct football we were promised never came to fruition. Instead we saw a Wigan Athletic side with some decent attacking talent in its ranks go from struggling to score to setting up for a 0-0 each game.

Those tactics may work away from home, indeed they have. Wins at Huddersfield, Wolves and Birmingham show that but at home it’s been excruciating at best. Unforgivable at worst. Those wins at Wolves and Birmingham probably bought the manager time, sadly since the United game it feels like things have only been going one way. Once the crowd turned after the defeats to Blackburn and Bristol City it felt like we were only heading in one direction.

There has been no significant improvement in our results since Warren Joyce arrived and our league position has got worse, were relegation was something we were expected avoid when he came in we’ll now be favourites to go down alongside Rotherham.

It’s simply been a disaster, but amazingly there is still time to turn things around.

There’s some symmetry in Graham Barrow taking over the reins at this moment in time. If he can somehow keep Latics from an immediate return to League One that will eclipse the achievement of keeping Latics in the football league when he was manager last time out in the early 90s.

Barrow took over from Kenny Swain with Latics looking at relegation to the conference

I think Graham getting the job until the end of the season is probably a wise move, the last thing Latics need now is even more upheaval. Two managers with completely contrasting styles has already left us rooted in the relegation zone this season.

What would bringing in a short term appointment like Kenny Jackett or Alex McLeish achieve at this moment in time? A manager whose heart wouldn’t fully be in it, with little or no knowledge of our players and another bedding in period that may or may not prove successful.

Graham Barrow has managed to cop a lot of flak in recent times. Not many people know what he does but many people know that he’s to blame when it goes wrong.

Equally he never seems to get the credit when it goes right. It’s difficult to accuse Barrow of being the problem when every manager since Roberto Martinez has been vastly different in tactics. Perhaps he hasn’t had that much influence?

Graham Barrow and Callum McManamanOr look at it another way. Owen Coyle, Malky Mackay and most recently Warren Joyce brought in their own staff. Uwe Rosler and Gary Caldwell worked with what they had which was Graham Barrow. Rosler even credited our FA Cup win over City at the Etihad to Graham as he had walked Uwe through the tactics that had won us the cup the previous season.

I’m not saying Graham Barrow is the answer to all of our problems. Not by any stretch, but the Chorley lad and Wigan legend is probably our best bet at the moment. His interviews this week have all been positive, and importantly he knows that we simply need to attack sides to get the rewards. He’s also a veteran of numerous relegation battles in the Premier League all of that counts in our situation.

If we go down fighting people will be a lot happier than simply surrendering our Championship status in a series of 0-0 draws and narrow defeats in the name of being solid. Graham will know that indeed, he alluded to as much when he’s taken on press duties in recent weeks.

Graham Barrow knows these players and he knows what they’re capable of. If he can somehow get them to have confidence in their selves again we may yet be playing Championship football again next season. In the meantime let’s concentrate on Aston Villa.

We can do this Latics.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Post, Friday 17th March 2017.

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