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:

Wigan Athletic: a club renting a stadium to survive?

“There’s an offer of £500,001 in.”

The Sun reports that the offer, presumably £500,000 for Christopher Park and £1 for the club has been made. We can assume it has been made by Frenchman Gauthier Ganaye on behalf of American businessmen Randy Frankel and Michael Kalt.

Although the administrators have stated their preference of selling the club and the stadium together the prospect of them having different owners is becoming more and more likely.

On July 7 news of an initiative to raise funds to buy Latics was made on the Wigan Warriors web site. It mentioned a “unique opportunity here to bring the ownership of these two great clubs together under one roof, each operating independently as before, but under a Wigan Sporting Partnership banner. It is envisaged that each club would retain all its training grounds, management and facilities.

The initiative was to be led by Ian Lenagan, Darryl Eales and Gary Speakman.They stated their belief that Wigan Athletic would be better locally-owned and as far the DW Stadium was concerned they stated that “sustainability and ownership of the stadium is equally important to both clubs, we are currently working with our longstanding advisers KPMG and talking to external parties.”

The communique was met with cynicism by the majority of Wigan Athletic fans who considered it to be an attempt by Lenagan to purchase the DW Stadium. What were Lenagan’s initial motives and what are they now?

Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the football club it was understandable that Lenagan and the Warriors would want to safeguard their tenure at the stadium. Buying into it would be the obvious way to do so. Were Lenagan to succeed he would own 85% of the shares, with the council continuing to own a 15% portion.

However, the running costs of the stadium, including salaries, maintenance and local taxes are significant. In the past Warriors have perhaps had the better of the deal they made with Dave Whelan before the stadium opened in 1999. Warriors were given a long-term lease and it has been reported that they were to pay 10% of their gate receipts for the use of the ground.

Alan Nixon reported that the “French American team” and Lenagan “couldn’t agree on numbers between them”. If the deal were to go through and Lenagan were to take on the considerable costs of stadium ownership he would need incoming funds from the football club to avoid making heavy losses. Put simply, it would not be in Lenagan’s interests not to make a deal with Latics’ new owners.

Now Nixon is talking about an auction for the stadium. Are there other parties ready to bid against Lenagan?

The work of the Wigan Athletic Supporters Club through these tense and difficult months has been admirable. The ‘Save Our Club’ Crowdfunder currently stands at over £634,000 which is a terrific response from all associated with Wigan Athletic. Moreover, they have been involved in discussions with the administrators and parties interested in buying the club.

In their announcement on September 4 they stated that they “…have already met with one of the interested parties who have put in a bid to the administrators. They are very positive about working with us should their bid be successful, and they are keen to ensure that they have local partners working with them to make the Football Club a future success. We are also continuing to work with the council, the Community Trust, Jonathan Jackson, and other partners to ensure that there is a solution to the survival of our Football Club.”

The announcement makes no mention of the stadium but does indicate that the prospective new owners of the club appear to want to work together with them for the future benefit of the club.

However, Nixon’s comment about an auction for the stadium might suggest that there are other interested parties as well as Lenagan.

The prospect of the DW Stadium being owned by another party, especially one associated with the rugby club, is a bitter pill to swallow for Wigan Athletic supporters. However, at this moment in time it appears to be the best option to ensure the survival of the club.

Already there are people suggesting that Latics might eventually build their own new stadium with a smaller capacity. Much would depend on any agreement made between the new owners of the club and the current stadium. Were no agreement to be reached Latics would be forced to seek an alternative venue. Leigh Sports Village has been touted as a possible alternative.

When Dave Whelan built the stadium, he was ambitious for Latics to become a Premier League club able to attract attendances approaching its 25,000 plus capacity. In their first season in the top tier Latics attracted the highest attendances they have ever had, with an average of 20,160 per home game. In the first five years in the Premier League home attendances averaged between 18,000-20,000. Warriors at the time averaged between 14,000 and 16,000. Wigan Athletic could have increased their home attendances during that period had they allowed more away supporters, but they would have run the risk of being outnumbered in their own stadium.

Since then attendances have plummeted for both football and rugby clubs. In the 2018-19 season Latics averaged 11,663, dropping to 10,614 last season. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons the Warriors averaged 11,528 and 12,060.

In early July David Sharpe was interviewed on TalkSport. He gave an honest and realistic appraisal of the club being able to survive:

“If you look at what my granddad achieved, that makes people feel that Wigan is a bigger club than it is.  If you strip away the fact that we were in the Premier League for so long, we got to Europe and we won the FA Cup, it is really not a huge football club.

In reality, Wigan’s population is not huge, under 100,000 people, it’s surrounded by big football clubs, it’s a working-class town, the stadium for our fanbase is probably too big, it should only be around a 10,000.

So I feel, just for the football club to survive with a lower wages bill in League One I would very much be happy with that. As much as I’d love the team to stay in the Championship, with the wages they have in the Championship you have to be a very, very wealthy man to afford the running of that football club.

So, for me, the best person would be somebody who isn’t going to come with grand ambitions to say Premier League and European football, because that’s been and gone. As a Wigan supporter we’ve got to leave those days behind us and just concentrate on the club surviving.”

Over the past months Latics supporters, as a whole, have become more realistic about the club’s place in the football ladder. Most realise that the days of a benevolent owner in Dave Whelan are gone and that future owners are unlikely to put in the kind of funding that kept the club in at a level beyond what could have ever have been dreamed of.

For the moment we have to accept that selling off assets and bringing in new owners is the only way for the club to survive.

More players will depart as the administrators continue to get wages down towards those at a level appropriate to a League 1 club with the prospect of limited revenues in the coming season. Funds raised from transfers will be needed to defray the considerable costs of the administrators and legal fees.

Once the ownership issue is decided new players can be brought in. There are a lot of free agents out there, with so many clubs not renewing their contracts with the prospect of much decreased revenues coming in. Latics must build a team incorporating the fruits of the club’s excellent academy with the experience of senior professionals brought in to provide the backbone.

From a personal point of view, I just want the club to survive, albeit in much-changed circumstances. On the playing front the goal would be to avoid relegation to League 2. Anything more than that would be a bonus.

 

The social media reaction to a game of two halves at Fleetwood

Fleetwood 3 Wigan Athletic 2

Following the tension of the past week surrounding the continued ownership vacuum it was a welcome change to be able to watch a Latics team take the field at Fleetwood.

Leam Richardson made a bold move in his team selection by putting Emeka Obe and Adam Long, both 19 years old, in the centre of defence. It was a surprise, given that the experienced and capable Kal Naismith could have been slotted in there. Instead Naismith was employed in wide midfield, with Viv Solomon-Otabor on the other flank. Sam Morsy was not in the squad and the 21 year old Chris Merrie played with Lee Evans in holding midfield. Joe Garner was captain for the day.

Latics started off well with Garner finishing with power after an excellent run and cross from Tom Pearce came his way after 2 minutes. The good football continued with the ex-Latics academy players looking comfortable on the ball and Solomon-Otabor looking fast and powerful on the flanks. Latics were awarded a soft penalty when Joe Garner went down in the box on the half hour mark. The captain converted with ease. Latics were 2-0 up but Fleetwood had looked dangerous at the other end and it was no surprise when they scored after 41 minutes, the experienced Ched Evans beating Obe in the air. The 36 year old Gary Roberts had a superb curling effort hit the woodwork soon after.

The good football of the first half was not replicated in the second, with Latics reverting to the long ball mode that was all too prevalent in the first half of last season. Fleetwood were deserved winners in the end.

Following the game Leam Richardson commented: “I’m a bit disappointed because we started the game ever so well. We were going into half time at 2-0 up and had a few good chances to make the score line a little bit healthier, but they grabbed one before half time and it gave them a little bit of momentum.

There wasn’t too much in the second half, it went back and forth a bit, but fair play to them. They’ve got some good attacking players, as we do ourselves, which made for a good game of football, but we’re disappointed to lose.

“I’ve said all along, I’ll manage the lads with respect as long as they give it back with their hard work and focus. The players are doing that to the utmost. I’ve got to compliment the group of players and the staff because they’ve worked tireslessly every day to bring a positive outcome in the situation we’re in.”

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Griggs goals on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

I think after today’s performance we do have the base of a good team for this league. If we can get new owners soon and bring in a few free transfers. I think we could have a decent season. We just need this takeover business to be sorted asap.

SprinGy1960 on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Fans have got to accept that our Championship team has been shredded by the Admins, we are down to bare-bones to our previous teams and we
are building a team from scratch and with no money.

Kingde_Zeuww06 on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Had the chances to kill the game before Fleetwood scored but we were all over the place defensively throughout but I guess that isn’t that surprising considering our def mid and both centre backs haven’t a senior start between them. Think we have only ourselves to blame for throwing that away.

Fleetwood were in the play offs last season so it shows L1 standard is nothing to fear but admins bargain basement fire sale has left us short in key areas.

Cupwinners on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

You have to commend the players under the testing circumstances. I’m just glad to see a team put out there and in a new kit.

I tip my hat to the team, well done and thank you.

 On Loan from Enfield on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Decent start and a few sitters missed. Those would have put the game out of reach in the first half. Viv Solomon-Otabor had a fairly decent game …. although he should have used his left foot to score.

The two young centre backs needed the experience and will improve if given more game time. I did think that if the game had to be won, Kal Naismith would have been slotted in at the back.

 Moonay on the Latics Speyk Forum opined:

In the first half, both centre halves looked really composed, and played the ball really well, while Chris Merrie partnered Evans looking very combative and with a decent touch. Granted, Fleetwood should have probably scored, but the youngsters did themselves proud.

In the second half, Fleetwood obviously had to come at us, and it was Ched Evans coming on that changed things.. He’s a decent player, and gave the two centre halves a lot more trouble than they’d had in the first half.

Crankshaw didn’t have much time to impress, but again, he was combative and prepared to get stuck in.

Both new lads looked OK too…….. Solomon-Otabor looked very strong, and should have scored.

To be honest, the one who impressed the least was probably Naismith. He tailed off really badly in the second half.

He later added player ratings:

I’d go:
Excellent – Pearce
Very well – Solomon-Otabor, Evans, Garner
Well/OK – Byrne, Roberts, ………………. and the 3 young lads. ………..and the 2 subs
Poor – Naismith, Jones

The Egg on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Thought we played well today in parts, but the goals we conceded were poor.

Hopefully this isn’t another season of throwing away leads, but there were definitely some good signs.

Oscarbon on the Latics Speyk Forum stated:

I watched the game a feel we could and should have been 4 or 5 up by 30 minutes. Thought we had a repeat of the Hull game.

Evans coming on was the huge difference. Obi could not cope with him and their equaliser saw 2 of our defenders look as though they jumped under the ball to give him a free header.

The winger was dangerous on the ball but needs to be more confident to shoot. Pearce got one or two good moves going in the first and early second half but then their timing went pear shaped and they started tripping over each other. For me nothing lost and enough positives for look forward to.

SwindonLatic on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

We can’t start the league season with the two young lads at centre half. Obi is a big, raw imposing player but he was too timid for his size and that is just inexperience playing against men. He needs a big no nonsense centre half next to him who will teach and coach him. I’m sorry but although Jamie Jones is a lovely fella, I can’t have him as our number one. Too error prone. I thought he should have done better for two of their goals.

Lee Evans is very good for this level and we need to keep him if we can. Naismith went missing today and Byrne was quiet. All in all though it was encouraging. Fleetwood were much better than us in the second half but they had a lot of very experienced players at this level and it ultimately showed. I wouldn’t mind Josh Morris and Duffy in our side. Viv looked good in flashes but his end product needs a lot of work. This is why he has just signed a one-month contract with us.

Fingers crossed we can get this takeover sorted so we can begin to move forward.

 

“The UK owners that I am dealing with have got a history in football”

What an under-reaction there has been from Wigan Athletic fans on social media to the Daily Mail’s news. Why is that so?

For weeks we have been waiting for news of fresh buyers for the club. They have been stressful, difficult weeks for us fans, worrying about the continued existence of the club. The lack of consistent news coming from the administrators and the media has hardly helped to ease an atmosphere of unease.

Gerald Krasner’s interview by a Channel 4 reporter did not go well initially. After having previously suggested a preference for a British buyer he over-reacted to the interviewer’s questions about it. The clip from Channel 4 news can be accessed here. The interview with Krasner appears at the 2:35 mark. Lisa Nandy’s comments on the administrators’ slowness of acquiring new ownership can be found at 3:26.

Reports this morning suggest that Frankel and Kalt have now dropped their offer from £4m to £2m following news of these players’ transfers.

Krasner had stated on the Channel 4 news that:

“The UK owners that I am dealing with have got a history in football. That’s why it would be better.”

My understanding was that the administrators are obliged to accept the highest bid and cannot discriminate between bidders. Does Gerald Krasner have the right to select a buyer based on their history in football? Have these potential UK owners been bidding a higher price than the Americans?

As the process of finding a new owner has dragged on so have the costs to be applied by Begbies Traynor. In mid-August Latics shareholders received an 89-page document entitled “Wigan Athletic A.F.C. (Limited): In Administration”. It contained a series of proposals related to the administration process for the club.

The document contained details of the charges that Begbies Traynor would levy and an estimate of the administrators’ fees:

At an hourly rate of some £358 for the duration of the administrators’ involvement is key. Put simply, costs will continue to climb very steeply as long as the process is not completed.

Rumour suggests that 36-year-old Joe Sealey, son of ex-Manchester United goalkeeper, Les Sealey is making a bid to buy the club. Sealey was involved in a bid to buy Macclesfield Town from Amar Alkahdi in January.

The other option working towards Latics’ survival continues to thrive and get nearer and nearer to the half million pound target: a terrific effort.

Meanwhile the preparations for the coming season continue to get better: