Joyce has gone – time to BELIEVE again

Do we BELIEVE that Latics can get out of this predicament? Table thanks to Statto.com

David Sharpe did the right thing today by dismissing Warren Joyce and his close associate Andy Welsh. Some might say the chairman deserves praise for swallowing his pride and realising he did the wrong thing in November. But Sharpe is pragmatic enough to know that if he had kept Joyce in charge, Latics would surely have been doomed to relegation.

One of the fundamental building blocks in Wigan Athletic’s rise from the fourth tier to mingle for so long with the elite clubs of English football was sheer BELIEF. It was the belief of Dave Whelan in his managers – Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez – that led to the club to an FA Cup, a League Cup Final and eight years in the Premier League. Whelan backed them, not only with his chequebook, but with his driving ambition to hold Wigan Athletic up there.

There were certainly sticky moments along the way, but there was always the hope that things would turn out alright in the end. They did apart from that fatal night at the Emirates, just three days after Ben Watson’s unforgettable goal had won them the Cup. But Whelan had chosen his managers wisely.

Jewell’s teams were built on solid defence, but always had flair players in attack. Whelan opted for continuity when Jewell left, giving the post to his assistant, Chris Hutchings. Sadly it did not work out and Hutchings was gone after barely three months in charge. Bruce came back to the club, Whelan backed him in the transfer market and he righted a foundering ship. His teams were based on a solid defence protected by a rugged midfield, but with a good smattering of flair players to provide balance.

Martinez was brought in to keep Latics in the Premier League on a much reduced budget. He went on to produce the best results in the club’s history, away wins at Arsenal and Liverpool, the club’s one and only victory at home to Manchester United, that epic victory on cup final day. Martinez was a great ambassador for the club, through his insistence that his teams compete against star-studded opposition by sticking to the principles of skilful possession football. The FA Cup victory against Manchester City was no fluke: Wigan had played the better football on the day, with not a hint of skulduggery.

Was Whelan just lucky with his appointments of Jewell, Bruce and Martinez or did he have a vision of what they would do? If he was lucky with those three, he certainly was not with his appointment of Owen Coyle. Neither was he in appointing Malky Mackay and his grandson made a similarly woeful appointment in Warren Joyce. None of those three names – Coyle, Mackay, Joyce – became synonymous with good football at Wigan Athletic. Indeed it was quite the reverse.

But Whelan did make a good appointment in Uwe Rosler, who picked up the mess left by Coyle and got Latics to the FA Cup Semi Final and the Championship playoffs. Sadly the going got rough in Rosler’s second season, but rather than showing faith in a manager who had achieved so much, Whelan showed him the door, bringing in the hapless Mackay. Sharpe did a similar thing with Gary Caldwell, who had only months before won the League 1 title. His replacement was the inept Joyce.

Sharpe has done the right thing for the moment. The odds are that Latics will not be able to avoid relegation, but without the shackles imposed by Joyce the players can make things happen. Few of us really and truly believed that Joyce was the right man for Wigan. To BELIEVE that Joyce could save the club from relegation was asking too much, given his obsession with the defensive side of the game and the hoofball we were witnessing.

Graham Barrow has been appointed caretaker manager again. Barrow is a survivor who has seen six managers come and go since rejoining the club in 2009. Barrow is not the kind of coach who will throw caution to the wind, but we can expect him to field line ups that are more balanced that we saw under Joyce. Due attention will be paid to the offence, as well as the defence.

With Barrow in charge we at least have a hope that we can BELIEVE our team can avoid the drop.

Courtesy of Statto.com

 

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The demise of good football at Wigan Athletic

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Malky Mackay’s team of scrappers was once again caught short on their home ground. Watford are by no means Barcelona, but they try to play good football and deserve to be challenging for promotion. A 2-0 win for the Hornets was never a surprise to the realists among the Latics support.

It is almost exactly a year ago since Wigan Athletic beat Watford at the DW Stadium, their ninth win in ten matches. Uwe Rosler had built a side that was hard to beat, with a solid defence and flair players who could make the difference. It was not always pretty to watch, but fans were happy with the results and “In Rosler We Trust” was the order of the day.

It was results that were of paramount importance when Owen Coyle had taken over the reins in the summer of 2013. His brief was to get the club back into the Premier League by the end of the season. The Scot brought in ten new faces, a necessary thing to do after the exodus of players following relegation. His challenge was to meld together a dressing room of players who had played under Roberto Martinez and his new signings.

Coyle was never going to be an adherent to the ’tiki taka’ style of football preferred by his predecessor. However, more than half of his squad had been weaned on that approach. It was in their blood. But what was Coyle’s preferred playing style? How would the ex-Premier League players adapt to it?

Coyle was quick to revert to a traditional back four, immediately scrapping the 3-4-3 that had been the hallmark of success in the Martinez era. In his first league game in charge at Barnsley he brought in five of his new signings. There was only one player from outside the British Isles in the starting lineup – in contrast to the ‘League of Nations’ lineups that Martinez had fielded.

However, that promising start was not to be continued and Latics stuttered through the next few games. The long ball – anathema in the days of Martinez – was soon to become a feature of Wigan’s play, led by the powerful kicking of new goalkeeper Scott Carson. Players who were used to the possession game under Martinez were now expected to adapt to the more direct and physical approach of Coyle. At times the players simply appeared that they did not know what to do in the absence of a clearly-articulated footballing philosophy from the manager.

The same could not be said of Coyle’s successor, Uwe Rosler. The German talked enthusiastically about high tempo, high pressing football. It gave us visions of Latics playing the exhilarating type of football demonstrated by the likes of Borussia Dortmund. Not surprisingly the players struggled to adapt to the style of football eschewed by their new manager. They could press high up the pitch for the first twenty to thirty minutes, but invariably ran out of steam.

In the early days of Rosler’s reign it was put down to the lack of fitness of the players under Coyle. However, that high pressing early in the game was to upset many opposing teams, providing a solid platform for obtaining improved results, even if the second halves of too many matches saw Latics massed in defence.

Despite considerable success in his first season – 5th place in the league, reaching an FA Cup semifinal – Rosler could not inculcate his vision into his players. As time wore on it appeared that he and the players became more and more out of tune in terms of what should be delivered on the pitch. As the new season wore on we were to see less and less of the commitment required for the high tempo, high pressing football he sought.

By November the dream of getting back into the Premier League had become almost unreal. It looked like it was not going to happen this season with Rosler. Dave Whelan stepped in, relieving the German of his job, bringing in Malky Mackay, stating his belief that the Scot was the right man to take the club back to the Premier League.

The harsh reality is that Mackay is taking Latics to League 1, rather than the Premier League.

During his tenure results have been awful, but the style of play has been even worse. Jettisoning thirteen players in a January fire-sale was clearly a collective decision, not taken by Mackay alone. David Sharpe must shoulder responsibility for this action, as too should Jonathan Jackson. The end result is a squad desperately short on quality compared with that of a year ago. Moreover the style of play is more akin to that of the club’s time in the Cheshire League than what we have been accustomed to over the past decade.

That the majority of fans are not demonstrating for the removal of Mackay is a reflection of the numbness that so many feel. His supporters – few as they may be – will say that he has got the players playing with the kind of passion that was lacking this season under Rosler. The fire sale and the threat of League 1 left him with little option but to sign loanees and players on short term contracts. He has been left to mop up the mess left behind by Rosler. Even the anti-Mackay brigade will grudgingly accept that there is some substance to such assertions.

However, how many fans have the confidence that Mackay can turn things around, given time? His management experience is at Championship level, together with a brief sojourn in the Premier League. The high probability is that Wigan Athletic are going to be in League 1 next year. Is he the right man to get them back out?

Mackay’s appointment was ill-fated to say the least. It has caused seemingly irreparable damage to the club. However, despite the media fracas it looked like Latics had appointed someone who could steady a sinking ship on the filed of play. He had successfully worked under pressure of relegation at Watford and taken Cardiff to the Championship title. On paper he looked the right kind of person to get the results to put the team back on track.

However, during Mackay’s reign we have seen the standard of football plummet to close to rock-bottom. The passing style of football that we have seen over the years has disappeared, with “hoof ball” coming to the fore. It could be said that teams in the relegation zone so often need to sacrifice good football to grind out results. The recent run of four consecutive away wins has been attained by following such a pattern. However, when the team plays at home it does not have the wherewithal to break down the opponent’s defence. The skliful approach is sadly lacking.

Mackay’s teams at Watford and Cardiff were not noted for their good football. The sad conclusion is that as long as Mackay continues at Wigan we are not going to see the type of dynamic football we saw from Paul Jewell’s teams or the skilful possession football under Roberto Martinez.

Mackay will almost certainly be in charge until the end of the season. It remains to be seen how much longer he will be at the club.

The brand of football that Watford are playing at the moment is close to what last season’s Wigan Athletic team were capable of at their best. With Mackay at the helm we are not going to see that from the home team at the DW Stadium.

Through the effects of relegation from the Premier League and some poor managerial appointments  we have witnessed the demise of good football at our beloved club.

Let’s hope the young chairman, David Sharpe, will have the foresight to make the kinds of decisions to bring it back.

FFP and Latics – should Whelan splash the cash?

2012-moneyball

Bournemouth has never had a team playing in the top tier of English football. They entered the Football League in 1923 and AFC Bournemouth play in a stadium that holds 11,700. They had 91% occupancy last season when they challenged for a playoff place, eventually finishing 10th in the Championship.

Owned by Maxim Demin, a Russian petrochemicals billionaire, they would like to see the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules changed. They claim that less than half of the clubs playing in the Championship now were present when current FFP regulations were agreed. In May their chairman, Jeremy Mostyn, said that “What we have is an ambitious owner who has a desire to take this club as far forward as he possibly can…….but what is wrong with having an owner who is determined to put his own money into a football club and take it as far as he can?

Demin wants to see his club in the Premier League. In gaining promotion from League 1 in 2012-13 they lost £15.3m. He is clearly prepared to put in the funds to launch them up another division.

Wigan Athletic fans know what it is like to have an owner who wanted to get his club into the Premier League. It cost Dave Whelan an awful lot of money not just to get Latics into the elite circles, but also to keep them there. If FFP had existed a decade ago it is highly unlikely that Wigan Athletic would have been able to climb up to the Premier League.

In their final two seasons in the Premier League Latics were among a small minority of clubs that actually made a profit. After years of Whelan pumping money into the club it was starting to look like it could become self-sufficient. But relegation meant that the parameters changed – breaking even in the Championship was to be a very different proposition to doing the same in the Premier League.

Last season Latics were due to receive £23m in parachute payments from the Premier League. With an historic Europa League campaign coming up the club decided to largely invest the parachute payments into maintaining a large squad. It is believed that the club had previously written into players’ contracts that their salaries would drop if they were to be relegated from the Premier League. Moreover a number of players left the club, several at the ends of their contracts, others for significant transfer fees.

The proceeds from the sales of Arouna Kone and James McCarthy to Everton probably amounted to around £18m, although the payments were to be staggered over a time period. Most fans expected a sizeable chunk of that money to be reinvested in signing players who could help get the club back into the Premier League. Owen Coyle came in and did a remarkable job in bringing in 10 new players in the space of a couple of months, some having been at the ends of their contracts, some loan signings and others for what appeared to be bargain prices.

With hindsight Coyle was to make one major blunder, paying around £2m for the 32 year old Grant Holt and giving him a 3 year contract. At the time Holt looked like a good signing, given his proven goal scoring record, although the length of the contract raised eyebrows at the time. However, Coyle paid modest fees to acquire Leon Barnett, Scott Carson and James Perch, who have proved to be good signings. He paid a little more to sign James McClean, who took a drop in pay to join Latics from Sunderland. Although the Irishman remains enigmatic he might well become a key player in the future. Coyle’s acquisition of Chris McCann, who had reached the end of his contract at Burnley, was by no means lauded at the time, but the Irishman was to prove a quality signing. Seven of Coyle’s signings remain Latics players, although Juan Carlos Garcia has gone to Tenerife on loan.

The sum total of the transfer fees paid by Coyle would approximate to that received through the sale of Kone. It is assumed that the sum roughly equivalent to that due to be received through McCarthy’s transfer will be allocated towards the development of the new training and youth development facility at Charnock Richard.

Latics actually performed relatively well last season in using their parachute payments to assemble a squad good enough to reach 5th place in the Championship. In the previous season the clubs who came down from the Premier League – Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves – finished in 13th, 16th and 18th positions, despite parachute payments of £16m.

With the parachute payment and funds gained from the Europa League campaign, together with prudent financial management, it is likely that Wigan Athletic at least broke even financially last season. The projected cost of the Charnock Richard facility has not been announced by the club, although Latics clearly made a bargain in buying the site, which was auctioned at a guide price of £650,000.

The accounts will make interesting reading when they are announced in a few months’ time.

Under the current financial regime at the club, Wigan Athletic are highly unlikely to incur penalties under FFP rules. The challenge is whether they can secure promotion back to the Premier League against clubs who are spending millions on new players. Fulham’s investment of £13m on Ross McCormack was staggering, especially for a player who has never played in the Premier League. Last season both Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers flouted FFP rules in gaining promotion. The London team is reported to have had a budget of £70m last year, exceeding that of Atletico Madrid, La Liga winners and Champions League finalists. They lost £23.4m over the season.

The rules for FFP for the Championship division differ from those of the Premier League and Leagues 1 and 2. For the 2013-14 season clubs were required to restrict any losses to £3m. However, it gave the owner of the club the option of converting up to £5m of any loss into equity, putting in cash to buy shares in the club. It cannot be done by borrowing money. However, if these were to be met and the losses did not exceed £8m there would be no penalty.

Clubs are required to submit their accounts for the 2013-14 season on December 1st. Any club that exceeds the limit will have a transfer embargo imposed until it turns itself around to reach FFP rules.

One club that appears certain to have a transfer embargo placed on it in January is Blackburn Rovers. They lost an incredible £36m in the 2013-14 season, wages alone accounting for 115% of revenue. The transfer of Jordan Rhodes for big money would help them to balance their books for the 2014-2015 season, but they face at least a year of transfer embargoes until the accounts are once more submitted in December 2015.

The Football League has a “Fair Play” tax in the case of clubs who overspend, but are promoted to the Premier League. The tax is on a sliding scale, but QPR are due to pay over £17m on their overspending last year. The Championship clubs voted overwhelmingly to impose the Fair Play tax, but the implementation of the scheme relied on the support of the Premier League, which has not materialized. At this stage it looks like QPR have got away with it, but it remains to be seen what will happen if they get relegated and return to the Championship.

Championship clubs continue to overspend in their ambitions to reach the Premier League, not only in transfer fees, but also in salaries. In the 2012-13 season only five clubs in the Championship made a profit. Leicester City lost £34m that season and if FFP rules had been in effect there is no way they would have avoided a transfer embargo, making it unlikely they would have been able to build up a squad strong enough for promotion the following season. It will be interesting to see if clubs fared any better last season, knowing that FFP was coming into effect.

Almost half of the clubs in the Championship are receiving parachute payments. This gives them a considerable financial advantage over the others who receive a “solidarity payment“of £2.3 million from the Premier League, one tenth of that of a club in its first year of parachute payments. The imbalance among the clubs has led to suggestions that clubs with parachute payments should have TV money withheld and that a salary cap be introduced for clubs.

Because of the financial support through the second parachute payment now is the time for Latics to really push for promotion. Over the next two years the payments will decrease and after that Latics would receive only the meagre consolidation payment that teams like Bournemouth are receiving. However, they are now competing against clubs who have just come down with bigger parachute payments plus other clubs who do not seem to be afraid to splash money on transfers despite FFP.

Latics desperately need another striker who can win matches by scoring goals. The question is how far is Whelan willing to go in the bidding wars that start up as the transfer window deadline day draws closer? Brentford sources are suggesting that Latics are going to have to pay more for Adam Forshaw than we previously thought. Moreover a good central striker is going to cost money.

Whelan will want to squeeze as much as he can out of any deal for James McArthur in order to finance the other two purchases. The hold-up in the Forshaw transfer might well be because Latics need to get the McArthur deal finalized first. There has been no news about other Latics players being sought by other clubs, but it remains a possibility at this late stage.

Whelan, Jonathan Jackson and Uwe Rosler deserve credit for the way the club is being run on a sound financial basis. Looking at the plight of near neighbours Bolton and Blackburn highlights the fact. Latics are likely to be one of the leaders in the division in terms of meeting FFP conditions.

However, whether Whelan will allow potential outgoings on transfers to exceed the incomings is a moot point. If he does not do so it will almost certainly jeopardise Latics’ chances of going up this year.

Dave Whelan is first and foremost a businessman. He will have some key business decisions to make over the next few days.

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Rosler ready for a good start to the season- Reading preview

This time last year Wigan Athletic travelled to Barnsley for the opening game of the season. The 4-0 triumph appeared to be the beginning of a successful campaign, as Latics’ class was too much for the Yorkshire side. The next match away at Bournemouth was eagerly anticipated by the fans, but was to be a damp squib, with Latics going down 1-0. Coyle’s side went on to take just 8 points from the first 6 matches.

Ten years ago Paul Jewell’s side made a much brighter start. Despite a disappointing 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest they went on to take 14 points from their first six matches. They were to go through their first 17 league matches unbeaten and despite a slump in November and December they went on to win promotion to the Premier League.

Over the years Latics teams have tended to disappoint in the opening matches. That start in 2004 was an exception and one that Uwe Rosler would love to replicate a decade later. Rosler’s team faces home games against Reading, Blackpool and Birmingham and away at Charlton, Cardiff and Blackburn. Can they emulate the record of Jewell’s side in their first 6 matches?

Away matches at places like Cardiff and Blackburn are going to be tricky, as is the home game tomorrow with Reading. Moreover last season’s team often struggled against lower placed opposition. Rosler’s oft stated target of picking up an average of 2 points per game would seem more realistic – can Latics get those 12 points from the first 6 matches?

Reading finished 7th in the Championship last season, narrowly missing out on the playoffs. Latics’ high pressing game undid them twice last year with 2-1 result at the Madejski and a 3-0 scoreline at the DW. Manager Nigel Adkins will no doubt have done his homework for tomorrow’s match and might well resort to a long ball approach to counteract the high pressing. Over thesummer Reading lost or released a swath of senior players including former captain Jobi McAnuff, who went to Leyton Orient, and Adam Le Fondre who went to Cardiff. Adkins expects the majority of the players on the pitch and on the bench tomorrow to have graduated from the club’s academy. Reading have a category 1 academy status and play in the Professional Development League 1.

Providing there have been no further injuries following the Paderborn game, Uwe Rosler will have a strong squad available. It is anybody’s guess which of Ali Al Habsi or Scott Carson will start in goal. He is likely to go with an experienced defence of James Perch, Emmerson Boyce, Ivan Ramis and Andrew Taylor. Don Cowie and James McArthur will probably be joined by either James Tavernier or Roger Espinoza in midfield. Oriel Riera will play the target man role, with Callum McManaman and Martyn Waghorn completing the front three. Should Rosler decide to opt for a 3-5-2 formation another centre back will come in and Waghorn could take that third midfield place.

Wigan have more than enough quality to see off a young Reading side. Rosler will be keen to get the season off to a winning start.

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Fyvie back on track

Fraser Fyvie

In the 14th minute in Wigan Athletic’s pre-season friendly game against TSV Havelse, Fraser Fyvie put through a defence-splitting pass for young winger Ryan Jennings to get Latics’ first goal.

Wigan went on to win 3-1, but the main purpose of the match was to provide playing time for a squad that had been involved in intensive training sessions over that past week. No less than 21 players got playing time, with only one playing the full 90 minutes. That was the young Wigan-born prospect, Tim Chow. However, the player who received the next largest amount of playing time was Fyvie, who went off to be substituted by Gary Caldwell after 75 minutes.

What is significant is that Fyvie appears to be back in the Latics fold after being seemingly on his way out of the club.

Last season was a nightmare for the 21 year old Scot. Snubbed by both Owen Coyle and Uwe Rosler he had been farmed out on loans, which just did not work out.

In mid-October Fyvie went to fellow Championship side Yeovil Town on loan. He soon made his debut against Brighton, but a shoulder injury forced him to be forced off after only 22 minutes. A month later he returned to the lineup against Doncaster Rovers, but in the 11th minute he gave the ball away leading to a goal for Rovers. He was substituted after 31 minutes. Before the end of the first half he had posted a tweet on Twitter: “Everyone has given away a goal in their career – learn from mistakes!” Fyvie was returned to Wigan in mid-December after making no more appearances at Yeovil.

In late January Fyvie joined League 1 club Shrewsbury Town on a one month loan. He started in four consecutive matches and it looked like Shrewsbury were going to request an extension of the loan period. However, a knee injury suffered in training was to scupper that plan and he returned to Wigan.

It looked like Fyvie was on his way out of Wigan when he went to train with Sheffield United in April, playing a game for their under-21 side. However, the Yorkshire team was not sufficiently impressed to take things further.

When Fraser Fyvie joined Latics as a 19 year old in July 2012 Roberto Martinez said: “Technically he’s very gifted, enjoys playing in the midfield where he can cover large areas, he’s very powerful off the ball and in possession is someone who can read the tempo of the game very well”.

Despite his tender age Fyvie had made 58 appearances for his home town club Aberdeen in the SPL. He was the youngest player to play for the Dons, making his debut against Hamilton at the age of 16, winning the ‘Man of the Match’ award. He was later to score a goal against Hearts that made him the youngest goalscorer in SPL history. Fyvie has represented Scotland at schoolboy, youth and under 21 levels.

In his first season at Wigan his appearances were confined to FA and League Cup matches. It appeared that he was being groomed to step up to regular first team action the following season. With the change of management that was not to be.

With Ben Watson and Chris McCann out with long-term injuries and James McArthur and Shaun Maloney struggling for fitness, Uwe Rosler is short on midfield players. The arrival of George Saville on loan from Chelsea is likely to be announced shortly, but in the meantime the absence of the senior players might well continue to give Fyvie the chance to prove that he still has a lot to offer.

Rosler prides himself on developing young players and in Fyvie he has a player with undoubted talent. The Aberdonian still has one year left on his contract. Hopefully it will be one in which we will see his potential being realised. It is an opportunity to get his stuttering career back on track.

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