The Dirty Dozen

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How many games does it take to prove that you are a Premier League manager? I suspect that the answer is more than 12, but it seems that that number serves as a fair marker for chairmen to consider that you aren’t. Or at least that is how Chris Hutchings must feel on this dripping wet Monday morning.

Twelve league games was all it took Geoffrey Richmond back in 2000 to decide that Paul Jewell’s shoes were too big for Chris Hutchings to fill. In those games Bradford managed a single win on their way to 7 points. That win, ironically, came against the side that Hutchings was asked to beat to save his job at the JJB stadium.

If you’re prepared to believe the grapevine, then Hutchings’ fate was sealed at an ‘emergency’ board meeting last week. Latics’ 12th League game, against Chelsea, was his last chance to turn things around, from no chance to ‘must win’ in the space of a couple of hours.

It may have been a long hard decision for the chairman and the board to make, but the swiftness of its announcement coupled with the chairman’s absence from these shores suggest that much of the deliberation had taken place before the result that sealed Hutchings’ fate.

Of course, any suggestion that Latics would beat a resurgent Chelsea side on Saturday would have been treated with a shovel-full of salt and I think that the style of recent defeats may have been more of a deciding factor. From the United game onwards Hutchings and his side have struggled to look like they knew what they were trying to do, let alone what they were going to do to stop Latics’ slide into the relegation places.

Hutchings’ admission that Latics’ stand offish approach to the first half on Saturday was a tactical decision was as telling as the 4-5-1 formation or the length of time it took him to make changes. The reasons for the previous five defeats may have been debatable but the final straw lay squarely at the feet of the manager.

The simple fact seems to be that, as nice a fellow he seems to be or as good a coach that he is, Hutchings isn’t ready to manage a side in the top flight yet. Unfortunately it’s not a job you can learn quickly nor can a club of Latics’ size and reputation afford anyone too much time to learn on the job. Had we been safely ensconced in the Championship, then maybe, but we’re not (yet) so the thought is worthless.

Even so, Chris has to be congratulated for trying to do things his way. Whilst Jewell’s tactics got increasingly more direct, following promotion to the top flight, Hutchings, almost immediately, turned that around and had Latics playing things right. It was said plenty of times last season that the fans might not mind going down so much, if the team were playing football, it looked for all the world that the theory would be tested to the full this year.

For all the right reasons, Hutchings has been sent off with an almost unanimous set of good wishes. He tried to play the right sort of football, to keep things positive and did it with a smile on his face. The last six games might have been pretty poor, but they should never overshadow the six years before them. Chris has played a massive part in the history of Wigan Athletic, and he should be remembered for his part in our rise.

Good luck in the future, Chris, whatever you choose to do with it.

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