What an awful season it has been. Latics once again defied the odds, but this time it went the wrong way. How could a team tipped for promotion by the bookmakers end up getting relegated?
With the Brentford game coming up Billy Grant (@billythebee99) of beesotted.co.uk asked me to respond to some topical questions about the nightmare that Wigan Athletic fans have been through. The article is also posted on the Beesotted site.
When we touched base for the first time this season around the time of the Forshaw saga, we had no idea our season would end up like this. We (and the world) thought we would be battling against relegation and you thought we would be battling for promotion with Uwe Rosler making his much awaited return to Griffin Park. Where did it all go topsy turvey?
Things had already started to go awry by the time that Brentford visited in mid-October. Just over a week later, with only three victories in seventeen league games, Rosler was shown the door. It was a sad end to an era in which the German had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. The previous season he had taken over a team in 14th place and got them into the playoffs, only to be narrowly beaten by QPR. Moreover the stunning win at the Etihad against the to-be Premier League champions in the FA Cup sixth round would stick in the memory for years to come. So would the semifinal, taking Arsenal to a penalty shootout.
Sadly things had gone pear-shaped for Rosler in the second half of his reign. The rot had set in towards the end of the 2013-14 season. The confidence that had been generated through a long string of good results had started to wane. Then over summer Rosler was to lose class performers in Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez, but the biggest blow was the departure of James McArthur on the transfer deadline day.
The new season had seen the team coming back from pre-season training in Germany in poor physical shape, with second half collapses being the order of the day. Moreover Rosler had made nine new signings since the summer, all in need of a settling-in period. But their arrival had swelled the first team squad to over thirty, the end result being Rosler having to deal with disgruntled players not getting a regular game.
Sadly Rosler could not inculcate his vision into his players. As time wore on it appeared that he and the players had become more and more out of tune in terms of what should be delivered on the pitch. As the new season wore on we were to see less and less of the commitment required for the high tempo, high pressing football he sought.
By November the dream of getting back into the Premier League had become almost unreal. It looked like it was not going to happen this season with Rosler. Dave Whelan stepped in, relieving the German of his job, bringing in Malky Mackay, stating his belief that the Scot was the right man to take the club back to the Premier League.
Little did we know what depths the team would plumage towards under Mackay. His appointment did great damage to the club’s image as portrayed by the national media. Moreover the team did not rise on the bounce effect of a new manager, as is so often the case. In fact they got worse. They did not win a single home game during his tenure and he will go into Wigan Athletic history as their least successful manager.
When Mackay had taken over he had stuck by an “old guard” who had been underperforming under Rosler. Neither did they perform well under him. The result was no less than thirteen players dispatched out of the club in the January window. Given the departure of so many players who had proved themselves in the Premier League it was no surprise that the standard of football was to plummet close to rock bottom. The hoofball that had become evident under Coyle, which Rosler could not eradicate, soon became the order of the day under Mackay.
The conspiracy theorists say that Mackay was brought in as a short-term alternative, with his main task being to cull the dead wood within the playing staff. It could be said that he did that. Perhaps some of the players from the Martinez era had become complacent and were causing divisions within the camp.But the cull, together with a reluctance to provide Mackay with sufficient cash to find adequate replacements, left the club so short of quality players that relegation was always going to be a possibility. Mackay was to replace the departed players with those on short term contracts or young loanees green behind the ears. It was a recipe for disaster.
So many fans are relieved that Mackay will not be at the club next year, even if it is in League 1. But it should not hide the lack of foresight and decisiveness by new chairman, Sharpe, who left it too late in dismissing him.
Give us your thoughts on Brentford’s season
Many of us were shocked by the decision to not continue with Mark Warburton. I wonder if he had come to Wigan with Rosler we might have been promoted by now, rather than relegated.
Warburton deserves commendation for what he has done since he took over as manager. He has stuck to his guns by insisting that the team play good football and their quality has surprised others in the division. To be within reach of a playoff spot on the last day of the season is some achievement.
Whoever follows Warburton is on a hiding to nothing. You have to hope that Benham will make the right appointment. Whelan made a major blunder at Wigan by appointing the “long ball” Coyle following the departure of “tiki taka” Martinez. You need to appoint a manager who will build on what is established, rather than one who will destroy it.
There was an enormous who-ha over Wigan’s poaching of Adam Forshaw at the start of the season. He gave his reason for leaving being he wanted to move to a ‘bigger club’ and to one that was ‘challenging for promotion’. A bit cheeky. Would you admit, looking at how the season has panned out, Forshaw made the wrong move? He was a key player for us and has become a bit player since his move.
Rosler was building for the future by signing a handful of younger players. Andy Delort, Adam Forshaw, Emyr Huws, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and James Tavernier were brought in. All were stars at their clubs last season and they are still good players. Sadly they were dragged into a situation where even experienced and capable pros, such as Ivan Ramis, Shaun Maloney and Leon Barnett, had been struggling to impose themselves on the field of play. Sadly those young players were mismanaged, first by Rosler then by Mackay.
Forshaw’s transfer had hit the headlines because of the bad feeling it created between the clubs. From the player’s point of view he was rejoining the manager who had nurtured him to the point of becoming League 1 Player of the Year. He was also joining a club that had a squad good enough to challenge for promotion, which would offer him a more lucrative contract.
Like those other young players Forshaw was never able to truly establish himself. He made 13 starts, with three appearances off the bench, scoring one goal.
Talking of Forshaw, his agent played him a big BIG get-out-of-jail card. Out of the blue he got him a move to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough after staring relegation in the face. At one stage, he looked destined for the Premier League with them but now has to settle for the playoffs. Assuming we don’t make the playoffs, do you think Forshaw will be a Premier League player next season?
Ben Watson’s agent did even better. Since leaving for Watford in January he has been a regular in a side that is already promoted. Forshaw has been largely used as a substitute by Middlesbrough, making only five starts.
Forshaw had been part of the January cull, with the club cutting their potential losses for the season by selling players off for whatever transfer money they could get and freeing others on lucrative contracts. So many fans had been disenchanted by the lack of performance by the squad that Mackay did not meet the opposition one would have expected when selling off the family silver. But there were fans who thought the departures of young players with potential was worrying.
Aitor Karanka has done a good job at Middlesbrough. They can play attractive football and will have as much chance as any other team in the playoffs. We learned last year what a lottery the playoffs can be. Should Boro get promoted they are going to have to bring in a lot of new players as their squad is not anywhere near Premier League standard.
Forshaw still has not established as a regular starter in the Championship, but he does have potential and maybe the Premier League environment would suit him?
For a while Latics fans were a bit disenchanted with Brentford over the Forshaw saga, but most of us will wish the Bees well in the quest for promotion. You have an outside chance of getting into the playoff zone, then a one in four chance of winning the playoffs. But the likelihood is that Derby will win at home to Reading on Saturday. If they do then I will fancy their playoff chances. Despite poor recent form their squad is probably the best outside the top two.
The Rotherham result in midweek has consigned you to Division 1. Despite our little ding dong earlier this season, most Brentford fans would actually prefer you stayed up. We had a good day out at Wigan much preferring it to our trips to places like Bolton and Millwall to be quite honest. How do you think you will get on next season???
Wigan is a friendly town and away fans seem to enjoy their visits. I went to Millwall for the first time a couple of weeks ago and can understand why your fans are not keen.
Dave Whelan is now 78 and after 20 years of guiding the club he has stepped back. He made a mistake with the Malky Mackay appointment and his inappropriate comments were gobbled up by the national media. It has sadly tarnished the image of a man who has done more for Wigan Athletic than anyone before.
When all this was going on the club seemed to have no direction and leadership. But now Latics have a new chairman and a new manager, both young and hungry for success. The 23 year old David Sharpe wisely opted for a manager who believes in playing football the “Wigan way”. Moreover his expectation is that Gary Caldwell – only 32 years old – will stay in the position long-term.
Next season is a great unknown for us. There will be another mass exodus over summer as the club sheds its highest wage earners and rebuilds. Sharpe has already stated his goal of promotion next season, but most of us realise that this might not happen so quickly. A large number of new players will be coming in and it is going to take time for them to gel and learn to play football with the style that Caldwell expects.
With the youngest manager and youngest chairman in the four divisions at the helm there is renewed optimism at Wigan. The era of Whelan has gone, but an exciting new one is about to commence.
Do you think you players will turn up at the weekend?
More than half of the players who made the starting lineup against Wolves last weekend are on short-term contracts which finish next month. Many of the remainder are likely to be leaving in summer. Will this motley crew give their commitment on Saturday?
Nevertheless Caldwell will expect them to give their all and many might want to impress possible future employers. Moreover there is no pressure on them to get a result.
Given such a scenario who knows what will happen? It could be a surprise victory for Latics or a hammering.
My guess is that it will be a 1-1 draw.
Thanks to JJ of http://threeamigoswigan.com/ for this post.
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