What a sad day.
The loss to Derby County puts Latics with practically no chance of avoiding the drop. The thought of relegation is hard to bear but what is even more depressing is that the two Davids – Sharpe and Whelan – did not remove Mackay at least a month ago. The lack of vision and decisiveness from above is worrying.
Less than 18 months ago Owen Coyle exited Wigan Athletic as a much derided figure. By coincidence his last game in charge had been a home loss to Derby. Coyle was sacked because it looked like he could not get Latics into the playoff zone. Moreover the stylish, if not always successful, football of the previous era had lapsed towards ‘hoofball’.
Uwe Rosler came in and enjoyed considerable success in his first season. His services were dispensed of when it looked like he was losing player support and failing in the quest to make Latics a serious candidate for promotion.
Little did we know what depths the team would plumage towards under his successor. Mackay’s 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 might well go into Wigan Athletic history as their least successful manager.
When Mackay took over he stuck by an “old guard” who had clearly been underperforming under Rosler. Neither did they perform well under him. His revenge was sweet, with 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.
Mackay’s tactics involved having two big strikers who could fight for those long balls. The most successful at retrieving those long balls was Marc-Antoine Fortune. Without him Latics seemed lost. With him they had a player adept at chasing seemingly lost causes and gaining possession. They also had a striker with an appalling goalscoring record. Forwards of lesser physical stature, such as Billy Mckay and Martyn Waghorn, were never going to be included in Mackay’s system, despite their proven career record as goalscorers.
The conspiracy theorists will 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 will be 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 Sharpe who has surely left it too late for hope of salvation in the Championship division.
It is to be hoped that Sharpe will also take a look at the coaching staff. Too many players have been written off this season despite arriving at the club with good credentials. There has been a disconnect between recruiting and coaching. The former has taken the brunt of criticism and Sharpe has enunciated his reorganisation of recruitment services. In the meantime it defies belief that the coaches could not have done more with so many of those new signings.
The challenge for Sharpe is to emulate his grandfather in appointing a manager capable of lifting the club out of this trough. Moreover lovers of good football will hope that he does not go for someone of the ilk of Coyle or Mackay. Between the two of them they caused so much damage.
It is to be hoped that the departure of Mackay will lead to a successful new era for the club.
Much of that will depend on Sharpe’s vision and leadership. It is a lot to expect from such a man so young.