Man U duo for Wigan?


Two of Manchester United’s championship winning trio to Wigan Athletic?


The Manchester United duo of Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen are the bookmakers’ current favourites for the vacant manager’s job at Wigan Athletic.

What chance them both being appointed as a double act? Presumably with Phelan as manager and Meulensteen as assistant/coach?

The bookmakers still consider experienced managers, Owen Coyle and Steve McClaren,  being in contention, together with Karl Robinson. Interestingly the odds on Gus Poyet have been steadily lowering.

A return for Steve Bruce has not been ruled out by the bookmakers, although he has just got his Hull City side back in the Premier League. On Tuesday the Daily Mail reported that Bruce has been contacted about a return to the DW Stadium, but Hull deny any official approach having been made.

Graeme Jones’ future at the club remains unclear. Given his four years as Martinez’s assistant at Wigan he surely deserves consideration for the manager’s position. However. we will have to wait and see if Roberto Martinez will lure him away to Everton. Less than a year ago Jones was a hot favourite for the manager’s job at his previous club, Swansea.

One recalls that Martinez’s unveiling as Latics new manager had to be delayed until a wrangle over compensation for Swansea ‘s loss of Graeme Jones and Kevin Reeves was resolved. Would Whelan request the same for Jones and/or Reeves to leave Wigan for Everton?

It is a nervy time for Latics supporters. All the candidates have their strong points and there is not one who stands head and shoulders above the rest. It will not be an easy decision.

It is understood that Whelan is due to start interviewing tomorrow, expecting to make up his mind by the end of next week.

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Go for two, Dave


The classic double act was that of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor working in tandem. Together they won the First Division and two European Cups with an unfashionable club. What a duo!

As expected Roberto Martinez’s move to Everton grows closer and closer, despite the denials of the Liverpool club.

Rene Meulensteen and Karl Robinson are the bookmakers’ favourites. Either one would be a gamble, but an exciting one. It is refreshing to note that Dave Whelan is open to looking at alternative talent.

Experienced and very capable managers are available with the likes of Steve McClaren and Owen Coyle remaining in the running.

When Martinez goes he will almost certainly take Graeme Jones with him.

My message to Whelan is simple – appoint a duo from the applicants.

Agreed that this would be a burden on the wage bill, but compared with what players earn the salary of another senior manager is not so hard to afford.

The prospect of a Meulensteen/Mike Phelan or Meulensteen/Karl Robinson combination is mouth watering.

However, this columnist would ask Whelan to consider Gus Poyet. For me he is the natural successor to Roberto Martinez. The Uruguayan is not so skilled at public relations as the Spaniard, but his Brighton team have played champagne football this season. Moreover he has a fine pedigree as a top Premier League player.

In 1995 Dave Whelan signed the Three Amigos – Diaz, Martinez and Seba – to help Latics play more skillful football.

Now is the time for him to make another bold move.

The bonus is Whelan staying at the club – managers come and go, but his continuing presence is paramount to the club’s success.

Wigan Athletic would be languishing in the lower levels without Dave Whelan. He has made great appointments in the past and one hopes he can make another inspired appointment- or double appointment.

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Robinson for Latics?

Karl Robinson

Karl Robinson

What a frustrating time it is for Wigan Athletic and their supporters – stuck in limbo.

Roberto Martinez has not gone yet, but it looks like he is going whether it be to Everton or somewhere else. But until he does go his replacement cannot be named and the process of rebuilding cannot commence.

Whoever the new manager is he is going to have a busy summer.

According to transfermarkt Latics have 10 players leaving at the end of their contracts . They are – in order of deemed “market value” – Maynor Figueroa  (£4 million), Antolin Alcaraz (£2.2 m), Ronnie Stam (£1.8), Joel Robles (£1.8 m, on loan from Atletico Madrid), Paul Scharner (£1.3 m, on loan from Hamburg), David Jones (£1.3 m), Albert Crusat (£1.3m), Emmerson Boyce (£875,000), Adrian Lopez (£475,000), Mike Pollitt (£200,000). They do not include Ryo Miyaichi who has been on loan from Arsenal.

One continues to hope that Dave Whelan will avoid a fire sale of  star players remaining under contract. However, the sale of James McCarthy seems inevitable and Arouna Kone’s name is already being linked to various clubs.

When Martinez left Swansea he brought with him assistant manager Graeme Jones , chief scout Kevin Reeves, coach Dennis Lawrence, and goalkeeping coach Inaki Bergara. It would be no surprise if they followed him to his next move too.

Given the situation Dave Whelan will be hoping for a resolution of Martinez’s future as soon as possible. In the meantime he tells us that over fifty people have expressed interest in the position, including “some very high profile names”. Included in those will be ex-England manager, Steve McClaren, who is a front runner together with Rene Meulensteen. There have even been rumours of  an ex- Manchester United tandem of Meulensteen and Mike Phelan taking over.

Every time I look at the Oddschecker site I find the odds for Latics’ new manager have changed. The latest up and coming name is that of Karl Robinson. The 32 year old MK Dons manager played non-league football for teams that would be familiar to the more  senior of Latics fans, including  Oswestry, Rhyl and Prescot Cables.  He was a bustling centre forward. However, at the age of 29 he was the youngest ever to get the UEFA Pro coaching licence. His Dons teams are known for their good football.

In the past Dave Whelan has made inspired recruitments in managers who have taken Latics so far. Paul Jewell did an amazing job in getting them in to the Premier League and the League Cup final, Steve Bruce saved a sinking situation and kept them afloat, Roberto Martinez did a great job against the odds.

The short-lived appointment of the unfortunate Chris Hutchings, assistant to Paul Jewell, might well have put Whelan off promoting from within. Graeme Jones certainly deserves due consideration and one hopes that previous history will not count against him.

There are experienced managers up for the job – Steve McClaren and Owen Coyle topping the list. But then again Whelan took a gamble with the young Roberto Martinez and it significantly extended the club’s time in the Premier League and won them the FA Cup.

Tony Pulis is also a candidate according to the bookmakers. There are Darksiders among the Wigan Athletic faithful who would not be averse to his appointment. However, the majority of Wigan fans are unlikely to want to see his kind of football at the DW. Wigan have built up a reputation for good football and it is something that people would want to continue.

The next manager will have a hard act to follow. Let’s see if Whelan will play the wild card again and appoint somebody like Meulensteen or Robinson. However, it is still early days and the likes of Roberto Di Matteo and Gus Poyet still remain possibilities.

One thing for sure is that Wigan Athletic have never before had such a strong field of managerial candidates.  We might all have our preferences, but Dave Whelan will make the final decision. Let’s hope he can keep us his record of good appointments and put in someone who can lead the club to even greater glories.

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Evolution and Rene Meulensteen


The writing was on the wall following that FA Cup victory. How much further could an ambitious young manager go at Wigan? Four years working on a shoestring budget, developing players keen to leave at the ends of their contracts. It was an uphill task for Roberto Martinez.

One thing is for sure – if Martinez goes to Everton we will see the Toffees playing better quality football next season. They will not be as dogged and hard to beat, but they will be more admired for their style. But there is an outside chance that Martinez will not leave Wigan. For the purposes of this article I am assuming he is going.

Despite being relegated, Wigan Athletic now have a reputation for playing good football. Martinez has built a club culture around his methods and philosophy. It has taken four years to produce and will serve the club for years to come, providing Dave Whelan can find the right man to continue build on this strong base.

Every manager has his own ideas on how his team should play, but the danger is that someone could come in with a diametrically opposed philosophy, ripping everything apart in the rebuilding process.

Latics need evolution rather than revolution. Swansea provide the prime example of how that can be done.

Roberto Martinez built up a culture of good football at the Welsh  club, taking them from League 1 to 8th  place in the Championship. Martinez was replaced by the Portuguese, Paolo Sousa, who imparted  a similar footballing style, even  if the ex-Juventus player was more defensively minded than his predecessor.

After a year Brendan Rodgers came in and built on what was already there, taking his team into the Premier League playing good football. When Rodgers went to Liverpool, Michael Laudrup brought in exciting talents such as Michu to boost the squad. The result was a mid table league finish and a League Cup final victory, achieved playing that same brand of skillful football.

So who is the man going to be who can continue the evolutionary process at the club?

The Oddschecker site shows Rene Meulensteen to be the favourite, followed by Graeme Jones, Owen Coyle, Gus Poyet and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

I must admit I had never heard of Rene Meulensteen since yesterday. It appears he is leaving his current position as first team coach at Manchester United and is keen to get back into management.  He is a 49 year old Dutchman  who spent 18 years managing teams  in Qatar. He went to Old Trafford as “skills development coach” in 2001, then moved up to reserve team coach, being first team coach since 2008. In between he had a brief spell at Brondby In Denmark in 2006-07.

Wigan Athletic have a huge commitment towards improving their youth system. Meulensteen is impeccably qualified to oversee the transition needed. His coaching skills cannot be doubted. However, there are going to be question marks as to his ability to manage a club desperate to get back into the Premier League.

Meulensteen is clearly a wild card and Dave Whelan could be taking a big gamble if he recruits the Dutchman

He could also represent  another exciting chapter in the continuing evolution of Wigan Athletic.

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