A case for cautious optimism in the Joyce era

 

A couple of weeks ago many Wigan Athletic supporters had probably never even heard of Manchester United’s reserve team coach Warren Joyce. The betting at the time was on Old Trafford icon Ryan Giggs. But as the talk of the former Welsh winger gradually evaporated, the harsh reality hit us. How likely was it that Latics could actually afford Giggs, or that he would even seriously consider a relegation battle in the Championship at Wigan?

The process of appointing Joyce seemed to drag. Indeed, a thread on the normally effervescent Vital Wigan forum entitled “Excitement levels reaching zero” referred to his impending appointment.  The premature dismissal of Gary Caldwell was still ringing in our ears, leaving a feeling of lingering discomfort among some. There were hopes for a big name like Giggs or maybe an experienced ex-Premier League or Championship level manger.

But as time has worn on people have started to learn more about Joyce and his potential to do a good job at Wigan. Indeed some questioned why he would want to take the job, given his successes at Manchester United and his high standing within the club. More than a few of us are now wondering whether David Sharpe has made an inspired choice in recruiting the Oldham-born coach.

Joyce might not be a household name, but has certainly been held in high regard in Manchester. He had spells managing clubs at both Hull City and Royal Antwerp and had a highly successful record with the Manchester United development squad. But where can he take Latics? What will be his brief? What kind of backing will he get from Sharpe?

Although Joyce’s appointment eventually came as no surprise there was an element of the latter in him being given a three and a half year contract. Previous managers had been appointed on rolling contracts, so why has Joyce been treated differently? One possibility is that he would not have taken the position without that security. It is only 18 months ago that the chairman was talking about Caldwell being at the club long-term. Or was Sharpe making a statement by offering his new manager such a deal?

In the last 24 hours we have been able to listen to Sharpe talking about the new manager’s appointment and Joyce himself talking about his new job and his past experience. Sharpe commented that:

Warren is the perfect manager and coach for where we are at as a club right now. He’s great at developing younger players, putting his time into younger players and coaching them into becoming winners and better footballers but he also relies upon experience too, like we already have.”

The chairman also made it clear that the club would not be splashing money around like Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday.

Joyce’s immediate task is to lift the club out of the relegation zone. In the long term his ability to develop young players will be of paramount importance in a club that will no longer be buoyed by parachute payments. Put simply, he will be responsible for enabling the club to punch above its weight in a division where so many others are splashing out money like confetti.

In order to maintain financial stability at Championship level, without major injections of funds from the Whelan family, the club will need to generate the bulk of its revenue through the development and sale of young talent. If that is indeed the club’s desired direction, Joyce appears an astute and logical appointment.

In the meantime, his focus will be on a win or two to ease the nerves that led to Caldwell’s dismissal, and his arrival.

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