Uwe & the fans meeting

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“I always compare myself to the best and the best was Alex Ferguson” – Uwe Rosler is nothing if not confident. I have been impressed with what the East German has had to say since the day he took over at the DW but as we learned with Owen Coyle talk can be cheap. The website and fanzine editors meeting with Uwe and Jonathan Jackson last week gave a small group of supporters their first opportunity to question the manager.

All of the major Wigan Athletic websites were represented along with representation from the club’s only printed fanzine The Mudhutter. The concept of these meetings was first put in place during the early days of Roberto Martinez’s reign and allowed a sceptical fan base to question the hierarchy of the club.

Last week’s meeting followed the same theme and along with the chance to question the new manager those present were given an update on the state of the club’s finances by Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson. At this point I would like to make it clear that the club should be congratulated for being so open at these meetings, let alone organising and hosting them in the first place. To be able to speak openly to the manager and Chief Executive about all of the matters that concern us is something we should cherish.

I can’t think of any other club that is so open and as such Jonathan, Ed Jones and Uwe should be congratulated for their time and effort in meeting us.

Jonathan set out by explaining how relegation had affected the club financially, obviously the club had prepared well for relegation with all of the squad having relegation clauses built in to their contracts which helped to soften the blow of relegation.

 

Parachute payments amount to £63m over the course of four years with the largest amount being paid in the first season back in the Championship and then reduced each season there-after and although £63m over four years is still a staggering amount it is a drop in the ocean compared to the sort of money we would have earned and have earned in the Premier League since our promotion in 2005.

 

In 2013 the club generated a turnover of £56m, this was a record turnover for the club but still pales when compared to those generated by other clubs. The aim of the club next season is to once again post a profit which if achieved will be the third year in a row that it has posted a profit and the ultimate aim of the club is always to at least break even.

 

Jonathan was keen to dispel the myth of the McCarthy money which has been the talk of the forums and social media in recent weeks. Jonathan explained how the deal had been structured and that regardless of what Owen Coyle had claimed (that we had £13m to spend in January) the club hadn’t received a lump sum from Everton as soon as the transfer was concluded. Like all transfers or rather the vast majority the transfer would be paid in instalments, so at the conclusion of these instalments the club will indeed have received £13m but to think that the £13m was there in one lump sum and all of it available for transfers was foolish to say the least from our former manager.

 

Jonathan continued to explain that some of the £13m received for James McCarthy may well be used for player strengthening in the future but that due to the new Uefa financial regulations and a need for the club to become self-sustainable an element of player sales would always be reinvested in to the club and not necessarily in playing staff.

 

Jonathan was keen to show the continued development of Wigan Athletic in the community and showed us a number of presentations to that effect with the high number of staff working in the local community. Be they dedicated members of Wigan Athletic in the community, members of the coaching staff or players. All members of staff at the club have a duty to give back to the local community and it was heartening to hear stories from this scheme along with videos of the players on their visits. As someone who grew up in the Rugby League dominated 90’s where the Warriors had a monopoly on all things ‘community’ and performed regular visits such as these it’s pleasing to see the club have made such progress in recent years with the visits, schemes and ticket offers for all members of the local community.

 

Jonathan said his aim is that all children in the Wigan area should be a Wigan Athletic fan, it may well be an unachievable aim but with Jonathan at the helm you know he will give his all to make that happen.

Looking in to the future Jonathan gave us an update on the status of the new training ground and academy that has been planned in one way or another since Roberto Martinez returned to the club from Swansea. The club purchased Charnock Richard golf club after the failure to gain planning permission at the originally planned site of Wrightington Country Club.

 

The club are now awaiting planning permission before their next move but hope to have a new facility which will become the home of the first team and youth sides built and in use within three years. Jonathan explained how much a facility like this will cost but the hope is that having a facility like that in place will eventually reap benefits through player sales.

 

At this point with coverage of the FA Cup final being played to those present Uwe Rosler arrived and the next element of the event began. Nothing was off limits in terms of questions that could be asked of the manager and like Roberto before him it became clear that the East German has a clear philosophy for the football club and one if given time could really help the club develop in the future and one day return to the Premier League.

 

Building on from what Jonathan had explained about the new training ground and academy Uwe set out why he thought the club had approached him and why he thought he was the right man to take Wigan Athletic forward. “I will never be the type of person to spend large sums of money, my passion is to build a football club, get results and develop players. My passion is not buying 31, 32, 29, 30 players – yes you need experience but you also need youth, you need hunger and young players who show that hunger.

 

“You need players who have not been there before but who want to go there, who want to play in the Premier League and will do everything possible for me and for this football club to get there. I think as well this is why the club chose me, I have a proven track record of developing young players from my time at Brentford. At Brentford I inherited a squad of 16 players, there are only two players left from that time. We completely changed the squad, at the time we had no assets to sell now we have a number of young players that can be sold there for money.” Uwe continued “the philosophy here is similar but on a different scale, I like to get loan players signed with a view to a permanent deal. To find out about their quality, to find out about their hunger, to find out about their ambitions, to find out how they work each day, are they part of the Uwe Rosler full package? This club has a history of developing young players and selling for big money, I want to get players in here to help us achieve our goals and at the same time help finance this football club.”

 

So all positive, Uwe made it clear through the interview that he wanted to invest and develop youth but that the experienced players here would still form an important part of his team. With that in mind, what of his rotation policy that has seemed to cause some controversy lately.

 

“We are not rotating for the sake of rotating, we have the hardest match programme in the Championship. Did Sir Alex Ferguson play the same starting line up each week? No in four years he played the same side only once. For me when you have a squad like we have with a lot of experience – an average age of 28 with a new manager coming in in the middle of December who inherited a squad not set up by myself you have to look what you have at your disposal and give the players a chance.”

 

Uwe was quite firm in backing up his opinion on squad rotation being the right policy, he continued “I had the same discussions at Brentford, but I believe coming in here on the back of six defeats and being the third best team in the league since December, being in the last sixteen of the FA Cup for only the third time in the history of this football club is a clear example that rotation works.”

 

Uwe’s approach is very similar to that of Roberto’s, obviously influenced by the continental up-bringing in Roberto’s case it was Johan Cruyff and the Barcelona ethos that was first implemented by the Dutchman. Uwe is different, he is still very much a football man and still wants his side to pass the ball and build from the back but where they differ is clear. Uwe in his own words isn’t necessarily interested in large amounts of possession or high pass rates “I like transition, I like tempo I’m not interested if you have 650 passes. The game in the Premier League is different to that of the Championship.” Uwe continued by explaining about Roberto’s possession based approach to the game “interesting I had an interview with a German football magazine that brings out a football book in German next month and they had written about Roberto and written about Wigan. They wrote in that book and asked me what I thought about it, they said that Roberto used possession as defence because when you have the ball and you pass the ball a lot maybe also in areas that you can’t score it means that you cannot be attacked.”

 

Uwe was extremely respectful throughout about Roberto’s legacy and continually stated he was stepping in to big shoes but that he relished building on what had come before, he went on to explain what he thought was needed to gain promotion from the Championship “my philosophy when you are in the Championship and you want to win promotion you have to win a minimum of 25 games a season. We have to attack, for me my philosophy is to get as many shots as you can as quickly as possible when we are winning the ball in the central areas.” He continued to explain how he lays this out in the side’s tactics “Winning the ball up high in the field my philosophy is four seconds until we have an attempt on goal.

 

“Winning the ball in central midfield I want to know how many times we can have an attempt on goal in seven seconds, and getting the ball in the defence and defensive areas how many attempts we can have in ten seconds.” Uwe’s approach is certainly interesting and we can see this approach bearing fruit such James McArthur’s goal at Brighton and Jordi Gomez’s interception that led to Chris McCann’s goal at Cardiff.

 

Uwe explained how this currently relates to football in his homeland “that is the philosophy of German football at the moment, the philosophy is not about possession in your own half. There are always two ways, it is not always about transition and is not always about counter to counter, sometimes it also about when teams sit deep and to be a top team you have to have many ways of playing.”

 

A lot of the questioning of both Uwe and Jonathan focussed on the prospects for promotion this season and whether the club definitely wanted promotion. Uwe found this funny and referring to certain stories that the gaffer had read explained that he would always want promotion but he elaborated by saying “Obviously I came in here and I had a lot of ground to cover, I think promotion is still realistic. I always set myself high aims and that is what the owner wants me to achieve and achieve it this year.

 

“Obviously I also want to build my own team and I think that the best chance will be next season I guess. But I still think it is achievable this season, when I see the number of injuries we have we are still getting results and we are still hoping on a strong end to the season I think it is possible to get promotion this year.”

 

Looking ahead to whichever league we may find ourselves in next season and Uwe outlined his plans for the summer “I know what I need in the summer and I know what I want, I know where I need to go for my type of football. It is just picking from different shelves, in terms of profile I am clear what I want and what I need.”

 

Uwe returned to the subject of the new academy and training ground and explained although he hadn’t had much time to deal with the plans so far he was interested in the effect it could have on the football club in the future “A good academy, good coaches, good facilities and a path way through to the first team, you need to show that it is possible to break through to the first team.

 

“At the moment where are the local kids going to? They’re not coming to our football club, they’re going to Liverpool, Everton or wherever. That should be our aim, to be so strong in this region so that kids can say ‘no, I’m not going there – I have everything I need here. I’m going to stay here.’”

 

Uwe continued by explaining just how important an upgrade in the facilities is “When you are talking about putting more finances in to our academy and putting better quality staff in place so that you can get a result where at least once a year you bring through a player to the first team squad for that we need better facilities. There is no way around it.”

 

Uwe confirmed that both Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell were on target for a return before the end of the season with Gary already starting to train on grass again, that following on from his original December return from the hip injury that has kept him out since last season.

 

The meeting ended with questions over our out of contract players, currently Ben Watson, Jean Beausjour and Jordi Gomez are out of contract in May. The situation with Ben is obviously complicated due to his injury but both Jonathan and Uwe stated that they will do all they can to keep our best players and that they consider those three to fall in to that category. What they can’t do is pay Premier League money if we aren’t in the Premier League.

 

Jonathan stated that the club would have a better chance of keeping all three players if we gained promotion, Uwe agreed and showed an understanding for our financial position that probably wasn’t evident under Coyle.

 

“We are not in the position to pay Premier League money, this season we have already had a drop in income even with the parachute payments and next season we will have even less money. Obviously if we are staying in the Championship and not going up wages have to be adapted, the contracts are very much dependent on going up. If we go up I think we have a great chance of keeping them, if we don’t I think we will have less chance because they are quality players. We cannot answer that until the last kick of the season.”

 

The meeting lasted well over two hours and we’ve barely scratched the surface within this article but I left feeling as positive about our football club as I have in a long time. Perhaps it’s Uwe’s approach that mirrors Roberto’s in a lot of ways that does that. Perhaps it’s Jonathan Jackson’s vision and approach for his football club or perhaps it’s the fact that we can see results reaching the pitch. Whatever it is, it feels good to be a Wigan Athletic fan now and there were times this season where we were unable to say that.

 

Sean Livesey

 

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