Fine Young Gary-balls

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Ten games to go, and whereas it shouldn’t be about him, it is perhaps a career defining couple of months for Gary Caldwell above all others. His career at this stage will reflect whatever Wigan Athletic achieve this year. If we go up, then it will be the launchpad to bigger things and he will be celebrated as a ‘fine young manager’, if we miss out then it’s quite possible both the club and it’s manager will fade back into obscurity over the next few years.

It’s crazy to think it, but Gary Caldwell already has a relegation on his CV, albeit it he was only appointed at the stage whereby it would have required a miracle to prevent it. His upward trajectory since then means that if we can get promoted, his stock will rise as a manager and if we don’t, he will be the bloke who used the parachute payments to buy up all the best players and still couldn’t get his team anywhere near little old Burton Albion.

Will he be able to add his name to such luminaries as Paul Jewell and Roberto Martinez who actually achieved something for the club? Or will he be the nearly man like Uwe Rosler who performed brilliant feats in the cup and play offs only for it to end in heartbreak (at Brentford too!) and for things to get far worse the season after? There’s a lot of debate about what makes a good manager and we have of course also had people who were considered “good managers” and had achieved elsewhere like Coyle and Mackay yet they were dreadful for Wigan Athletic.

So which category does Gary Caldwell fit in to? Maybe that is going to be defined in the coming weeks. Yet the margins between succeeding and failing in football are so thin that it could come down to a single kick of a ball somewhere in the next ten games. However, the challenge is to make that scenario impractical by putting some distance between ourselves and the chasing pack again.

We will do that by putting in convincing performances and winning football matches, and if we can take it to a Bradford City team who are flying at the minute and emerge with three points, then the outlook will look so much brighter again. Swindon on their own patch are another very difficult proposition as well. Yet these are the challenges that you must thrive upon when you decide to become a manager, and there are some mighty ones coming in the next few weeks.

No point looking back at all at points lost against Oldham, Peterborough and Colchester, but it’s time for Gary Caldwell to deliver, as that wiggle room we had has all but disappeared. I have no doubts he is both a good man and a good manager but is he a “winner”? Again, that will all depend how the remainder of this season pads out, starting this Saturday.


First published in the Wigan Evening Post 12th Man column on Friday 18th March

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