Good afternoon from the rapidly diminishing camp known as Team Cook. I’ve never been afraid of being contrary, and not just for the sake of it either. There is considerable angst being poured out towards the fine manager of Wigan Athletic right now, and here begins a brief and potentially shortlived case for the defence. Even though we don’t seem to have one right now!
I don’t know if Cookie is much of a literary type but I’d always go for a bit of Rudyard Kipling “if you can keep your head whilst all around you are losing theirs” when confronted with a set of damning statistics that imply that you are not very good at your job. Haven’t we all had spells in life and employment where you suffer a drastic run of bad luck and nothing seems to go your way?
There are as many examples of managers who have been retained and turned it around as there are of those who have been prematurely sacked. We can look at Lee Johnson and Paul Warne in our own division to find great examples of the former. Even Sir Alex Ferguson came close to getting potted early on in his Man Utd career, and had that scenario unfolded, football history would have had a whole different landscape to it.
So yes, we’re dreadful right now but will it really get any better at this stage of the season by rolling the dice? The fact we are undoubtedly in this position is perhaps mainly down to Paul Cook: his signings, his teams and his tactics but then all the smart comments last August were all about how we “Just needed to stay up” and we are still somehow on track to achieve that, albeit flimsily.
From what I know of his career, Paul Cook has excelled everywhere he has been, turning poor teams into promotion challengers and encountering success at big clubs and small. Where he hasn’t been tested is in the top two divisions, and boy is he being tested now. Does this mean he is out of his depth? Possibly, but I refer you to the three managers listed above. I can almost smell the burning keyboards right now angrily taking to social media “this lunatic is comparing Paul Cook to Fergie”.
No, I’m not, oh angry one! What I am saying is that most decent managers face a crisis of confidence in their teams and their abilities at times. Some get sacked and are never seen again, some go on to encounter far better success elsewhere. Others actually get through a sticky patch and go on to turn around their own bad form. But there’s a sticky patch and there’s our away form, which is stickier than a stick insect convention held in Sticksville, Stick County.
I don’t know the right answer but I am genuinely prepared to give Paul Cook till the end of the season because a) he got us in this division and b) if we can finish the season the way we started it, then we will be fine.
As it stands, there are three factors in our (managed?) decline: the results, the manager and the players.
Results wise there are enough hard luck stories to imply we could be half a dozen points higher up the table by now, in which case, we would still be subject to moans and groans but perhaps not people losing their heads en masse due to our proximity to the relegation zone.
Incidentally, you can pinpoint exactly the time the style of football changed, by that I mean the tactics, the style of play and the team selection. To be perfectly honest, it all went a bit pear shaped at the exact point that the new owners took over. You might say that is coincidental or highly speculative, to which I would respond with – there is always more than meets in the eye in most situations, and especially when it comes to football.
It may be quite possible that Paul Cook is working under instruction, to ensure safety first at all costs, and playing in a completely different way than he has preferred to throughout all his previous football management career. Whether it’s his own brainwave, or he is being encouraged to adopt this mentality, I don’t know but it is clear it needs scrapping and reverting back to what has served him so well in the past. We genuinely don’t know why he is pursuing this method.
As for the players themselves, they may well be fearful of their future under the new administration and this might be reflected in their low confidence performances. It is highly telling that the one shining light in our season, has no worries whatsoever about his future as he has a stunning career ahead of him. However, I have only limited sympathy for the rest of them. At least they don’t have to spend the first week of every month constantly refreshing their online banking waiting for the “you have funds” message like our neighbours. Who incidentally are putting up ten times more fight on the field than ourselves, despite operating in the shadow of one of the most ridiculous financial sagas any football club has had to suffer. The collective players and management of Wigan Athletic are very welcome to prove me completely wrong in that previous sentence this Saturday.
Ultimately, it’s not over till it’s over and there are more games to play. Sure they’re not easy games, but when did Wigan Athletic do things the easy way? We go till the end of the season.
Before anyone thinks I’m playing some kind of “I’m a better fan than you” game here by blatantly thumbing my nose at anyone who dares to criticise the manager, well, I’m not. In fact, I’m a terrible fan these days; and should we find ourselves in danger of losing to “them men” on Saturday, I won’t be hanging around till the final whistle, not because I have a social evening to arrange (Mamma Pier at Wigan Cricket Club in aid of Joseph’s Goal – tickets still available, just Google it!) but because I simply can’t tolerate defeat to them above anyone else.
I’ll still be there the next game though, and so will you if you’ve anything about you. A supportive, boisterous home crowd might just help us get the result we need on Saturday, and would certainly be more use than a negative, silent support. Let’s at least show them we are on their side as fear is our greatest enemy right now and we need to overcome it.