Well what a half season that was, as I sit here surveying the league table showing us to be four points clear of our nearest rivals, on an unbeaten run of ten games with manager Uwe Rosler picking up consecutive manager of the month awards, with a cup semi final tie in the Carling Cup in the New Year and crowds back up to the 20,000 mark and a positive media response to the club and its vision and ethos on how the game should be played.
Pre season began well, the new signings looked sharp and the additional bodies on the 30 plus squad seemed to spur the existing players onto a higher level, everything was positive within the club and the style of football plus the goals from a rejuvenated Holt, and new boy Riera soon to be joined by Delort who would become the first Latics player to reach double figures this season and be a key player in Rosler’s team.
A good pre season quickly became a good start to the season as all the preparation on fitness, stamina and team work really shone through. Victory followed victory and the manner of these results was pleasing on the eye. Rosler opted for a stable 4-4-2 line up only altering the line up for the cup games. Those players left on the outer seemed content to wait their chance, slipping into the side following the occasional suspension or injury and then playing their heart out to stay in the line up knowing that Rosler always played the players in form.
A good Carling cup run which heightened the strength in depth at the club saw Wigan claim the scalps of two Premier League clubs along the way and such was the strength of the club that a last ditch bid to prise key player James McArthur away from the club on deadline day was knocked back, the player himself declaring that great things were happening at Wigan and that he wanted to be part of it
The league continued through the autumn with only two defeats away at Derby and controversially at Watford but such was Wigan’s dominance of the league there was talk of some bookies paying up early on Wigan going up as champions. What could possibly go wrong?
And then, like Patrick Duffy in Dallas I stepped out of the shower and woke up to find a club in the relegation places, with only four wins all season, a new ma
nager appointed despite having an F.A. investigation into racism hanging over him, a chairman pleading guilty to an FA charge over comments to a national newspaper, crowds falling, fans booing and players looking as if they wished to be at any club other than our beloved WAFC.
The season in reality started with a team looking as if they were underprepared (again) following a pre season which saw defeats to Rochdale and Dusseldorf in what turned out to be two of only six proper pre season games in five weeks, players looked unfit and the constant chopping and changing of the line ups, left fans baffled and looking at the body language of the players a degree of frustration from them. It appeared that rather than playing to our strengths, we were lining up to negate the oppositions strengths allowing our opponents to dictate the game.
These factors saw us play four league games before we won our first league game, this at home to Blackpool, a team who two weeks before only had nine players on their books and this win was by no means convincing. Prior to winning that game, we had been deservedly beaten away at Burton in the Carling Cup, with ten changes to the line up from the previous game and such a disjointed performance that the abuse was already being directed from the terraces at the hapless manager.
Beating Blackpool was quickly followed by a victory over Birmingham, the first good performance of the season but it was normal service resumed as the five games in September saw the team take two points out of the fifteen on offer. As the nights darkened so did the mood of the fans and rumours start appearing on internet sites and in pub snugs of disquiet in the dressing room between the players and the management? October started with three consecutive draws, none of the performances anything to enthuse about but at least they included two clean sheets at home. By now Rosler seemed to have abandoned his expensive new strikers in Delort and Riera to bench warming duties, giving the lone forward role mainly to Fortune, a willing and industrious striker who however has a goal scoring record of four goals in an English season as his best return.
Just when the fans seemed to be reaching breaking point with the Rosler bingo, the theory being that numbers were pulled out of a bag to decide who was playing that day, a superb win away at runaway leaders Derby showed that the players did have the ability to compete with the best in the division and win.
Again though this proved a false dawn with one point from nine against three of our relegation competitors at the time, two of them such abject defeats that Mr Whelan decid
ed to dispense with Uwe’s services. We will probably never know why, Uwe himself has been as dignified in how he handled his dismissal as he was when dealing with the fans and the media and has thrown no dirty washing out at anyone connected with the club. Rumours suggest player power played a part in his leaving and tellingly I have not seen any comments from current players expressing regret at his leaving.
And so it was back onto the manager merry go round, names were linked such as Chris Hughton, Brian McDermott and my choice Steve Clarke, Worryingly all the money seemed to be going on Malky Mackay. I remember reading the texts, e-mails attributed to him at the time the allegations about him hit the press and thanking the higher powers that he wasn’t connected to our club, surely we couldn’t appoint him could we? Yes we bloody well could.
Never before has the club been so divided about a manager, a significant majority wanted him nowhere near WAFC, a vocal minority supported him, dishing out abuse to anyone who opposed his appointment and a small honourable minority withdrew their support for the club as long as he was the manager.
To Mackay’s credit he conducted himself with dignity at his press conference dealing with the questions honestly and presenting himself as a changed man. This should have been the end of it until the FA made its decision whether to proceed with a disciplinary hearing but comments from the Chairman on the day regarding the alleged Mackay comments, followed by a newspaper interview the day after when he is alleged to have made references to the Chinese and Jewish people which were considered offensive by those communities saw the Chairman landed with a FA charge, the outcome of which we are still waiting to hear. Mackay’s FA investigation continues leaving the fans as polarised as ever which doesn’t help the club.
On the field Mackay’s team has performed worse than Rosler’s, one win and one draw in seven games has seen us firmly rooted in the bottom three of the league, his attempts to converts McClean to a striker and many of his other tactical decisions has resulted in the team being booed off for three successive home games and also chants of you don’t know what you are doing although in fairness this could be applied to both players and management.
The team goes into the New Year with one of the worse goals for in the division, a midfield that lacks creativity and a defence that is conceding soft goals like they are going out of fashion. The squad is bloated with a significant number of players having had no first team league football at all this season whilst continuing to pick
up hefty pay cheques. These need to be moved on as well as some out of contract players (in the summer) so generate some capital to bring in new blood but the sixty four million dollar question is who would want to buy a player who a, is playing poor with a relegation threatened championship side or b, can’t get in a relegation threatened championship side.
All in all this is a remarkable down turn from two seasons ago when we won the FA cup as the dream has turned into a nightmare worthy of hammer house of horror. Time to get back into the shower methinks!!!!!
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