Howling from the hills

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OK, let’s get a few cards on the table before I launch into another tirade against a misfiring club. I’ve supported Wigan Athletic for a quarter of a century, most of those as a season ticket holder and have seen us fighting against relegation out of the league and the glory of an FA Cup win. This season a combination of distance, illness and work means I’ve had to let my season ticket lapse and haven’t seen any live games, so my views on the current debacle are limited to television pictures, totally unbiased radio commentary (cough) from Wish and ramblings on message boards (well, one) from people whose opinion I respect.


Having got the disclaimer out of the way, I remain utterly dumbfounded as to how a club that won the FA Cup eighteen months ago in the most glorious day in the clubs’ (and my) history have fallen to the depths we see now. More than a few people, myself included, were stoic in the face of relegation, expecting to see some more exciting football than the turgid games in the Greed League and perennial struggles against the drop. Boy, were we wrong!


Relegation led to the departure of Senor Martinez, along with the spine of the team – Robles, Alcaraz, McCarthy & Kone – to join Latics’ old boy Leighton Baines at Everton Athletic. Key losses, but there was still more than enough quality in the squad to see us towards the top of the table. Then we appointed Owen Coyle as manager. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like Coyle and thought his appointment was an utter disaster, but I’ll also say that he had a tough job handed to him having to replace several players whose contracts had expired (another contentious issue for me) or had been/were about to be sold and I don’t think his buys were that bad, at least at this level. I still didn’t want him here, but I accept the constraints he was working under.


So, we start last season with several new faces and something of a fixture congestion with the club playing in the Europa League for the first ever time and didn’t we come oh, so close to getting out of the group? Performances on the pitch, however, were average at best and fitness levels made me wonder if I had a chance of a game, even on crutches. The end result was the departure of Mr Coyle to the joy of most fans, and his replacement by Uwe Rosler, who we thought was an up and coming manager, though we only found out later it was his assistant, Mark Warburton, who was the driving force behind the success at Brentford.


Nevertheless, the fans were happy and we did see an improvement in results to see us in the play offs and back at Wembley in a narrow FA Cup semi final defeat to Arsenal on penalties after beating Sheik City at their place, despite a cataclysmic drop off in performances from April onwards, with the notable exception of the utter rout of Reading. Sadly, that indifferent end to the season saw defeat to QPR in the playoff and that was that. Still, we all had high hopes for a good season this time, didn’t we?


So what happened next? We paid big money for a La Liga striker and a French second division forward, both of whom had scored goals. We also brought in experienced players from Cardiff and a supposedly young talent from City in Emyr Huws, along with the Danish international captain. How many other teams in this division had the quality of players we had? None, I’d argue.


Right, so we had the players in place with international, Premiership or Championship experience. Nothing could stop us now, except we then saw first Rosler lose the plot with his insistence in the lone forward with no support from anywhere and a defence that you could guarantee would make at least one horrific mistake per game. A series of sub-standard displays showed up the gaps in Rosler’s abilities and it was no surprise to the fans when he was finally given the heave-ho as the club arrowed in on a relegation spot.


“We’ve too many good players to be relegation candidates” many of us said and their pedigree backed us up, so surely the next manager would be able to quell the alleged dressing room problems and the new manager syndrome would propel us up the table. Yes? No, we chose a manager under investigation by the FA for racist, sexist and other -ist texts. More worryingly, Cardiff fans confirmed the type of unadventurous, dull football we could expect and, boy, were they right.


The prevailing view is that Mackay was brought in to do a hatchet job by culling the squad of the disruptive influences and by cutting the wage bill even more. What’s happening is that we’re seeing what few creative players we have left being sold off. We’re at least seeing a marginally more attacking line up on the pitch, but with players playing out of position. Full credit to James McClean for his performances as a makeshift forward, but there is still no sign of any change to the lack of goals we’ve suffered for many years now. Will things change? Who knows, but I’ve given up even thinking we’ll win any given game – it’s less depressing if you accept that we’re crap.


Old Wolf

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