John Sheridan: the right appointment to keep Wigan Athletic in League 1?

I first saw John Sheridan play in March 1987 when second division Leeds United visited Springfield Park for a 6th round F.A. Cup match. Under the management of Ray Mathias third division Latics had knocked out first division Norwich in the previous round. However, on a wind-swept day, in front of a crowd of 12,479, they were beaten 2-0. The Leeds side was workmanlike with Sheridan adding class in the centre of midfield.

A year later, after seven years at Leeds with 230 appearances and 47 goals under his belt, he moved to join Brian Clough at first division Nottingham Forest for a fee of £650,000. Sheridan only made one appearance for Forest before he joined Sheffield Wednesday, where he was to spend seven years making 199 appearances, scoring 25 goals, including a scorcher which helped the Owls beat Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup final. After spells at Bolton and Doncaster he completed his playing career at Oldham Athletic where he spent six years, retiring in his fortieth year. Born in Manchester, of Irish parents, Sheridan made 35 appearances for the Republic of Ireland.

It was at Oldham where Sheridan began his long managerial career.

Stats courtesy of Wikipedia

John Sheridan has not been the kind of manager to take charge at a club high-flying in its division.  His relationship with Oldham Athletic has been remarkable, spending different five spells there, so often steadying the ship. He won the League 2 title with Chesterfield in 2010-11, followed by the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy in 2012, but so many times he was brought in to help a struggling club.

After leaving Chesterfield he joined Plymouth Argyle in January 2013 on a short-term contract until the end of the season. Argyle were two points off the bottom of League 2 and had only won one of their last 16 games. Sheridan helped Argyle to avoid relegation by winning 8 and drawing 4 of their last 19 games.

In October 2015 he took over at Newport County who were bottom of League 2, with only 5 points from the first 10 matches. They got only one point from his first three games, but then went on a 10-game unbeaten run. They finished in 22nd place, nine points clear of relegation.

In February 2016 he joined Fleetwood Town who were 20th in League 1 having lost their last eight games under Uwe Rosler. By the end of the season they finished in 14th place seven points above the relegation zone.

Sheridan has certainly had his ups and downs as a manager. But he has experience of working under relegation pressure and producing results.

There will be Wigan Athletic fans who are less than enthused about his appointment. But given the instability of recent months at Wigan it is important to steady the ship and avoid a further relegation. Sheridan will work on a low budget, his team likely to be a mixture of youth and experienced professionals who have become free agents in the era of Covid-19.

Although the majority of last season’s squad has departed it would be no surprise to see more of them leave over the next couple of weeks as the club continues to cut back its wage bill. Sheridan will then have the opportunity to bring in some of his own players.

John Sheridan may not be a marquee appointment, but he could prove to be just what Wigan Athletic need at this moment in their history.

Grayson, Sheridan, Leigh, and the Grievance Society: what is going on at Wigan Athletic?

These are turbulent times for all those concerned for Wigan Athletic.

Yesterday was a particularly depressing day when we heard that the departures of Nathan Byrne and Sam Morsy are nearing conclusion. Should the two stalwarts be gone by the weekend only Kal Naismith will remain of the team that started the final game of the season, providing he does not depart in the meantime.  A team that might have challenged for a play-off place has been dismantled for paltry financial gains.

Although most fans understand the reasons why the team has been dismantled there was an anger and frustration airing itself in the general direction of Gerald Krasner and Paul Stanley.

The possibility of  Latics playing their home games at Leigh Sports Village has caused consternation and outrage among the fan base. If the stadium were to be sold separately to the club it would be necessary for the new club owners to negotiate a rental agreement for a stadium. Were the terms offered by the DW Stadium owners to be unacceptable to the club they would seek alternative arrangements. The option of a move away from the DW is unpalatable to most Latics fans, but may be more of a bargaining chip to be used in negotiating a deal acceptable to both sides.

The situation was soon to be exacerbated when The Sun published an articleSimon Grayson set for shock return to management with crisis club Wigan with administrators drafting in experienced boss”. In it Alan Nixon stated that Grayson was to step in to help and should be in the dug-out at Ipswich on Sunday.

Were the administrators really going to bring in a new manager before the club had been sold? Or was the sale about to go through to new owners who favoured Grayson for the position?

Today’s tweet from Nixon stirred the waters even more. Like Grayson, John Sheridan is a very experienced manager and would merit consideration. But if it is true it asks questions about the administrators’ role and what is happening with their search for new owners.

The Wigan Athletic Grievance Society consider that “From the minute the administrators entered the club on 1st July, we have had nothing but false promises, contradictory statements, a fire-sale of players, and what appear to be worrying signs of growing mistrust between Begbies Traynor and everyone else involved.” They outlined their concerns about the actions of the administrators in the article published on The Pie at Night site. They are arranging a demonstration outside the Begbies Traynor headquarters in central Manchester tomorrow.

Opinion will be divided as to whether the demonstration will help get the club back on an even keel. There are concerns that the picketing could get out of hand and that the demonstration could provoke a negative reaction from the administrators that could be seriously detrimental to the future of the club. However, as the Grievance Society quote in their statement “Wigan Athletic is dying, we cannot sit back and let that happen.”

In the meantime we can only hope that the club can back on track and these turbulent times become a thing of the past.

BREAKING NEWS:

Ready for Brentford? The challenge for Paul Cook and his squad

What a tempestuous week it has been.

A wonderful performance by the Latics team in blowing away Stoke City raised our hopes of at least a mid-table finish, with lots of optimism for the coming season. Then it was all turned upside down by that stunning announcement of the club going into administration. The Wigan Athletic community is still reeling from that news.

Brentford away is hardly the fixture that one would choose following the turbulence of the last three days. They outplayed Latics at the DW Stadium in November to the tune of a resounding 3-0 scoreline. They have won their last four games and still have a chance of automatic promotion.

Latics were on the crest of a wave following the Stoke game on Tuesday evening. Hopes were high that they could go to west London and give the Bees a run for their money. But now we learn that the players, who had deferred 30% of their salaries in the lockdown period, will only receive a fraction of their salaries today. Paul Cook must somehow lift his players to concentrate on the here and now, despite the uncertain futures at the club that they all now face.

Sam Morsy’s rallying call was admirable and we can only hope that captain, manager and coaches can maintain morale in this difficult hour.

The news and social media have been awash with stories about what has happened to the club.

The EFL’s prompt notification that there will be an automatic 12-point deduction did not go down well with Latics fans. Questions abound how their “Fit and Proper Persons” criteria allowed a shady change of ownership leading to administration within a month of Next Leader Fund taking ownership.

The reasons for NLF opting for administration remain unknown although there is no shortage of conspiracy theories being put forward.

Fans have been putting forward their views on the social media and message boards. Some fear for the very existence of the club. Others are concerned that the points deduction will lead the club back to League 1, although there are optimists who believe the team can gather some 13-14 points from the last 6 games to avoid that happening.

In the meantime, Latics must find the funding to help them complete the season, by no means an easy matter with no money coming into the club from the owners and minimal revenues available from playing behind closed doors.

Should the club manage its way to complete its fixtures and somehow gather enough points to avoid relegation it would be a big step forward. A Championship club is more attractive to a prospective buyer than one in League 1. Moreover, the broadcasting revenues and larger away supporter attendances make it financially more viable, even if the club were going to run on a shoestring budget for a period.

My concern is that the very survival of the club is at stake. After following them to places like Congleton, Winsford and Oswestry I can deal with the likes of Rochdale and Oldham should the club manage to get through this sticky period.

It is a stressful and difficult time for us all who care so much for our club. The game at Brentford tomorrow pales in comparison with the mountain the club must climb to stay in operation. However, a win could really lift our spirits and give us a little more hope for what lies ahead.

Five talking points following a champagne-popping win over Stoke

Wigan Athletic 3 Stoke City 0

Champagne football returned to Wigan last night as Latics blew away Stoke City with the best display of the Paul Cook era. Gone was the hoofball that characterised the worst displays of the season. In its place was champagne football.

Granted, the first two goals were down to poor defensive play, although the third was something special. But the scoreline could have been much greater had Latics taken more of their chances. They were so superior throughout the game.

After the match Paul Cook commented: “That was an absolute top-class performance from us tonight. The only disappointment possibly was that it was only 1-0 at half-time. We created clear-cut chances, we dominated possession, and our appetite for work when we didn’t have the ball was so impressive.”

Let’s look at some points arising from the game:

It’s all in the head

Jonjo is right. It is bonkers!

Wigan’s play last night exuded a confidence based upon an impressive unbeaten run.

In November Latics lost 2-1 at Stoke through a Mame Diouf goal in the 93rd minute.

They have come so far since then. But who can explain it?

Cook’s popularity rating rises

There have been times over the past two seasons when Paul Cook’s popularity rating has hit rock bottom. At times the football has been either awful or too frustrating to watch.  Comments on the social media have been brutal at times.

However, since embarking on this unbeaten run in mid-February his popularity with the fans has been gradually increasing. People want results and they have been coming. Some of the previous performances were abysmal, others quite the opposite even if the results did not always correlate with the performances.

The manager summed things up well following the victory over Blackburn at the weekend:

It’s hard to be a manager at this level, because you get abused for much of the time. But then all of a sudden because your team wins a few games, you’re suddenly a good manager again.

The brutal reality is you’re only as good as your player and my players have never, ever let me down, over anything other than inexperience, naivety. When it comes to passion, desire, determination, attitude, they’ve always given me everything. I’ve never had a problem with any of them this season, never had a dressing-room row when I’ve had to question that side of things.”

I’ve certainly had plenty of rows questioning some of the stuff we’ve done, but that’s football. To see them now playing against such strong sides, and limiting them to not many clear-cut chances, is great credit to them.”

Last night we saw a performance matched by a result. It is when the two coincide that we can begin to see a brighter future ahead.

Butland has an off night

Peter Schmeichel once said: “Every player makes mistakes; every goalkeeper makes mistakes. Every manager does, every broadcaster – every person in life makes mistakes. But for goalkeepers, often when they make a mistake, it leads to a goal.”

Jack Butland’s own goal and assist for Kal Naismith’s first goal certainly helped Latics on their way.

Butland is 27 years old and has 9 caps for England. He is by no means a rookie goalkeeper, but his mistakes were costly for his team last night.

Naismith’s second goal was a stunner

When Kal Naismith came on for an injured Michael Jacobs after 32 minutes he went to the right wing. The Glaswegian has played in so many different positions for Latics and opinion is divided as to which is his best. Many would say he has had his best performances at centre back. But he had hardly shone in the past on the few occasions he had been employed on the right wing.

However, he had a fine game last night, giving veteran full back Stephen Ward a torrid time. Ten minutes after coming on he chested down a high ball and unleashed a tremendous effort from over 30 yards which was somehow pushed wide by the ‘keeper. Naismith’s first goal was a tap-in, but the second was the kind that will stick in the mind for years to come. The sheer power of the strike showed the excellent technique that the player has.

(Naismith’s second goal after 1:56 min)

It was a surprise not to see Naismith take the field in the first two games of the season restart. It will be even more of a surprise if he does not feature more regularly in the six games that remain.

Brentford – the acid test

Can Latics keep up their form for the trip to Brentford on Saturday?

The Bees have won their last four games and are only two points away from an automatic promotion place. However, Wigan have already notched up wins away against the teams above Brentford: Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion.

Keeping up an unbeaten run of nine games against another team in fine form is not going to be easy. The encounter will provide an acid test for Cook’s Latics.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

A Nottingham Forest fan’s view of Kieran Dowell

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of 22-year-old Kieran Dowell from Everton on a loan deal until the end of the season. Since the departure of Nick Powell Latics have badly lacked a midfield playmaker/goalscorer and Dowell certainly fits that profile.

The 6 ft 1 in tall attacking midfielder was born in Ormskirk and joined the Everton Academy at the age of seven. After playing for the reserve team he made his first team debut in a Europa League game against Krasnodar in December 2014. Dowell signed a professional contract in March 2015. He went on to make his Premier League debut as a 19-year-old as a substitute in March 2016 against Bournemouth. He made his first start two weeks later in a last day of the season win over Norwich city. He was given a new three-year contract in the summer of 2016. Dowell gained over 40 caps for England at all levels U16 to U20, being part of the under-20 World Cup winning side in the summer of 2017.

In August 2017 he joined Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan. He soon became a regular under Mark Warburton and scored a hat-trick against Hull City in October 2017. He went on to make 31 starts in the Championship with 7 appearances off the bench, scoring 9 goals.

Dowell joined Sheffield United on loan in January 2018 going on to make 8 starts and 8 substitute appearances, scoring 2 goals as the Blades won promotion to the Premier League. He went to Derby on loan in July 2019 making 8 Championship starts and 2 appearances off the bench.

In order to find out how Dowell did at Nottingham we contacted Matt at the Forza Garibaldi fan site (www.forzagaribaldi.com).

Matt commented:

At Forest, Dowell’s first couple of months were electric. He created chances and he scored goals. Some were absolute corkers too. He created something from nothing and was an instrumental part of our side.

 Sadly, Dowell’s impact faded quite dramatically. I won’t pin all of it on him as Forest did do their usual trick of collapsing and a change of manager at the turn of the year clearly disrupted things but he wasn’t the same.

Dowell’s appearances and influence dwindled and when the season ended and he returned to Everton it wasn’t really registered amongst Forest fans. When he signed for Derby on loan in the summer I thought it will either go really well or really badly.

 He may be an excellent addition for Wigan. There is definitely talent there, it just needs extracting. It just looks like a bit of a gamble which Kieron Dowell turns up.