In February 2007 the 33 year old Roberto Martinez gave up his playing career to take over from Kenny Jackett as manager of Swansea City. Despite his lack of experience Martinez’ appointment was viewed favourably by the majority of the fans. He had left Swansea for Chester the previous summer after falling out of favour with Jackett. Martinez had spent three years with the Swans as a player, captaining them to League Two promotion 2005, also lifting the LDV Vans Trophy and the FAW Premier Cup twice.
David Sharpe’s bold move in appointing the 32 year old Gary Caldwell as manager bears a strong parallel to those events at Swansea. Caldwell was an outstanding captain and the club’s Player of the Season in 2011-12 when Latics miraculously escaped relegation by winning seven of their last nine Premier League games, beating Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in the process. His play always epitomized one hundred percent effort, with a never say die attitude. Moreover Caldwell was the general on the field of play who cajoled his teammates into following the manager’s game plan.
Sadly Caldwell’s career at Latics was dogged by a serious hip problem. Despite signing a new contract as a player-coach this season Caldwell has not been able to play. According to an article in the Scotsman last month Caldwell admitted that he had been struggling for years with the hip problem and that even training had become painful. There is little doubt that Caldwell had been putting his body on the line on numerous occasions for Latics when not fully fit. At times he made calamitous errors, incurring the wrath of the fans, but few could doubt his commitment on the field of play and the way he marshalled his teammates into playing out of their skins against some of the world’s top footballers.
For so many months the club seemed to have no direction and leadership. But within a short amount of time Latics have a new chairman and a new manager, both young and hungry for success. Sharpe has wisely opted for a manager who believes in playing football the “Wigan way”. Moreover his expectation is that Caldwell will stay in the position long-term.
Caldwell’s first task will be to get a good result at Fulham on Friday. It will be interesting to see if he opts for the 3-4-3 formation that Roberto Martinez used to great effect. Moreover will some players be brought back who were out of favour with Mackay?
The doom and gloom at Wigan Athletic has suddenly been lifted. Even if relegation happens there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Who knows what a dynamic young duo of Sharpe and Caldwell might achieve?
The period of drifting is over. Wigan Athletic are now heading down a firm track.