Latics fans react to Villa defeat and reflect on club’s future on social media

Another home defeat and a step closer to relegation. But following the desolate reign of Warren Joyce there are signs that positive football will once again become the norm at Wigan Athletic.

Graham Barrow is by no means universally popular among Latics fans. His supporters will say he is “Wigan through and through”, someone they associate with the successes of the Martinez era, a lover of good football. His detractors identify  him as being the lowest common denominator in  the club’s slide from their heyday. But in any case, David Sharpe has told us that Barrow can keep the manager’s job if he can steer them clear of relegation. That is unlikely, if not impossible.

With relegation staring their club in the face, fans are wondering if Latics can get back up to the Championship if they once again find themselves in League 1 next season. Last time they had a huge financial advantage over the other clubs in the division, through parachute payments. Will we see a fire sale at the end of the season, with the best young players sold off to the highest bidder? Would enough good players remain to get Latics back up?

The financial gulf between Latics and most of the other clubs in the Championship was highlighted once again yesterday when Villa brought the £12 m Scott Hogan off the bench. Villa’s lavish spending contrasts with the austere approach of the Sharpe-era Wigan, where the player most likely to help the team stay in the Championship was sold off in January. Sharpe may yet come to rue the £7 m sale of Yanic Wildschut.

This is not to suggest Latics should splash money around like the bigger clubs in the division, but perhaps they should have made more investments over the summer. One of the players that Gary Caldwell wanted, but could not get, was Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane, who played against them for Villa yesterday. Given the so-often woeful deliveries we have seen from set pieces this season, someone with Hourihane’s ability to launch dangerous deliveries into the box could have made a huge difference.

What kind of financial backing will the Whelan family continue to give Wigan Athletic? Is there any possibility that they will sell the club in the near future? Would the club be a proposition for a willing investor, given the fact that it is the Whelan family who own the DW Stadium, not Wigan Athletic?

Once again we trawled the social media following yesterday’s result. 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.

Moonay on Latics Speyk responded:

…..Whittle …… you support a club who since breaking into the Football League in 1978 have reached the League Cup Final, spent 8 years in the top flight of English football, and put their name on the most famous Cup in Club football ……. you support Wigan Athletic.

‘Be reet ! ;o)

Laticsince1978 on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

What an improvement! As daft as it sounds we were so much better today took the game to the opposition and looked the better side.We took the game to the opposition and have now finally got something to work on. The points will come now with performances like that even if its to little to late we were relegated 2 years ago with a poor side if were relegated again we still have a very strong squad. And as for the villa fans good support pity they weren’t behind the team that much when they were mid table just in front of us in the premier league last time they were here half full away stand another example of big club we support when we want.

Stewart Hart @No1fan tweeted:

Most entertaining #wafc performance for a very long time. Villa quality told in the end, but shows what a wasted 4-5 months under Joyce.

Fathamp on Latics Speyk said:

 Whittle has a downbeat view, completely justified just now but the last few years have spoilt us and really we haven’t got the right to expect to be beyond the bottom 2 divisions. We are gravitating to where we belong so we simply should accept that, otherwise a world of pain awaits. I don’t see an Armageddon scenario unless the support drops off a cliff due to unfair expectations

 Adding:

 Or should that be doesn’t deserve one. The townspeople simply won’t back the club enough to enable latics to properly compete now. We have had our day in the sun at whelans expense, but now it’s back to our natural place with the support we have….old div 3 or 4. Forget whether the rugby town, too many other clubs nearby, poor area etc excuses/ reasons are legitimate, the fact is that a club with 7,000ish fans….and fewer next term, can only be competitive in the lower leagues.

 Vital Wigan @LaticsSpeyk tweeted:

#wafc so much better today despite the result pity Joyce wasn’t sacked 2 months back

 Tertsflan on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

That was a good performance. Awful decision by officials for first goal. Would have been a different game had we have got the foul on the keeper

 Jonny_SuffolkLatic on Latics Speyk added:

Sharpey is making mistakes, and whilst they are financially costly, I don’t think they are club threatening – not like something you’d see at a QPR or Pompey. The ownership are often accused of being tight, and taking the cheap options, but whilst I don’t see that to be the case, the fact that such allegations are made shows that we are far from the recklessness financial spending that comes round to spell a club’s doom. Might be being naive, but I just don’t see the current ownership driving us to a position where our very existence is in question.

On the pitch, I think there’s a good chance we may settle to our natural level for the size of the club in League One, but the right manager and squad can still change that. Problem is, Wigan Athletic have had a journey that other clubs can only dream of over such a short space of time of only decades; promotion through the leagues, Premier League survival miracles, Europe and an FA Cup win, and the problem is that adjusting to the slightly more mundane reality most clubs hold as the norm will take some getting used to. The idea that we may float along in League One for a number of seasons is so alien to us that questions about the future of the club can seem grave, but I imagine that even if we end up with seasons of obscurity in League One, we’ll still be striving for something, and there will certainly still be a Wigan Athletic.

Peter Millward @PeteMillward79 tweeted:

Barrow: ‘We want to try and throw all that caution out of the window – get out there and enjoy it’. And so say all of us! #wafc

Jocklatic on Latics Speyk summed up the performance:

I too came away from the Villa game with a better feeling than I have for a few months albeit with disappointment in not getting something out of the game. I could have taken where we are in this league now if we’d given the same sort of fight / determination we did today all season but sadly we didn’t thanks to the negativity / set up we had under WJ. Saying that tho we are still woefully lacking in any sort of goal threat / clinical finish despite the stats increase from today’s game. Had we this impetus a month or so ago then who knows…..might even have been sitting mid table safety by now….. . But hey as we know that’s not the LATICS way…till its mathematically impossible to survive then BELIEVE…. u never know.
I get what ur saying in that the stadium is too big for us but there’s nothing we can do about that & despite the lack of parachute payments next season I just hope upon hope that we can keep a good chunk of this squad if / wen we go down….if not then it cud be very Portsmouth esq. No doubt numbers will decline but we’ve hardly been blessed with a big fan based nor even a very vocal one despite the great effort today against a near capacity away end who for the first 10/ 25 min made us sound like the away support…..great atmosphere today btw & just shows how the crowd respond to positive play.

On a side note…. the fat lady ain’t singing yet

Leylandlatic4ever on the Cockney Latic Forum provided his perspective:

Yes can’t disagree. Much better performance and unlucky not to have scored given the number of chances (when was the last time we said that?). Downside….well that’s sadly obvious. Whilst we’re not technically down, and I won’t give up until it’s physically impossible, I think today was the end of the line. Now 7 points off safety…a minimum of 3 games.  Sorry but just can’t see us escaping from that, especially with the away games we’ve got. Even if we can win all 4 home games left, 46 points is very unlikely to be enough.. Upside…we’re going to Southend again to stand under that corrugated iron roof

Neil Eccleston @wiganlaticsgoon tweeted:

If Barrow can get a performance like that after only 4 days he will do for me , just luck the Difference today , still Fighting #wafc

YonMon on Latics Speyk gave his opinion:

I would say Wiganers will support a Wigan Football team. But only if they are winning regularly. Our rise up the leagues proved that from averaging around 1500 when Whelan took over to just under 20000 in our last Premier League season. Unfortunately we don’t have a large established fan base to fall back on like our Northwest neighbours. As attendances drop as we fall back down the leagues they will grow if we climb back up.

I still think though that the Barnsley performance and result last season had a negative affect on this seasons ST sales. A large expectant crowd left disappointed meaning some of our old fans not returning this season.

TrueLatic4ever on Latics Speyk  suggested:

Divisions 3 & 4 are full of skint clubs with no ambition and owners who refuse to invest.

We will fit in nicely.

Pskl on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

 Tell me why anyone wouldn’t buy us. Stadium runs 12 months a year weddings etc plus whatever we get from the rugby. It as a restaurant unlike alot of stadiums and a football team which will attract crowds in a region of 10000-12000 fans in the championship. All this could be sold if the whelans would include the stadium in the sale.

BickyMon on the Cockney Latic Forum concluded:

Really enough saying its manager fault ._..The fault lies directly at the top thats where our problem is.
We are owned by people that are stuck with the club and cant sell it and wont push the boat out anymore
Thats why we get likes of caldwell joyce and its not their fault ._.Yes we know they where not good enough the owners knew and took a huge gamble that has made us see the worst season in football i have seen in years
Worst of all not one of the owners have stood up and said anything to the fans about this tragedy of a season
And why they let it get into this sorid state. Whelan out

He also said:

Was not long ago whelan stated if a suitable buyer came along with good intensions for wigan athletic he would sell the club to them for just 1 quid. Has he did not want to burden his familly with wigan athletic if anything happened to him. Thing is nobody will buy wigan athletic for 1 quid because it would not include the stadium or any training facility
He wants to sell but own the stadium thats the problem what would any buyer be really buying ?

 

 

 

 

 

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Can Joyce avoid relegation?

tablefeb2012In mid-February five years ago Wigan Athletic looked to be on a slide out of the Premier League. They had hit rock bottom in mid-January and just could not seem to climb out of the mire. A month later they were still bottom, with just two wins out of their previous ten league matches. However, a win at Bolton and a draw at home to Everton in the last two matches had provided some hope. The fans had started to “Believe” and rallied behind their manager and team.

It was to take another month for Latics to climb off the bottom, following a 1-1 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. But the defence had been tightening up, with less “soft” goals being given away. Shaun Maloney had finally got a place in the starting line-up against Albion and he was to be the catalyst to revitalise the attacking side of Wigan’s game. By the end of the season Latics were in 15th place, 7 points clear of the relegation zone. They had won five of their final six matches.

A year later Latics were to find themselves second from bottom in mid-February. By the end of the season they were to rise one place, not enough to avoid relegation. Some attributed relegation being due to the FA Cup campaign, others cited horrendous injury problems. But few would have traded an FA Cup win for a continuation in the Premier League.

A couple of years later, in mid-February 2015, Malky Mackay’s Latics were second from bottom, nine points from safety. When the manager had taken over from Uwe Rosler in early November 2014, Latics had been third from bottom, but only one point from safety. But the fire sale that followed in January, together with a lack of investment in suitable replacements, led to Latics finishing second from bottom, seven points behind Rotherham who were safe in 21st place. The quality of football during Mackay’s reign had plummeted drastically.

tablefeb2017

Once again Wigan Athletic find themselves second from bottom in mid-February. They are five points behind the 21st placed team, Burton Albion, but with a game in hand. Wigan were in  exactly the same position when Gary Caldwell was dismissed in late October and replaced by Warren Joyce.

In terms of results the records of the two managers are remarkably similar. Caldwell’s league record reads W2 D5 L7, GF 13 GA 16 Pts 11 and Joyce’s is W3 D3 L9 GF 14 GA 22 Pts 12.

So despite the change in manager, results have stayed largely the same. However, in terms of quality of football there has been a major change. The possession football that typified the Caldwell era has been replaced by a more “direct” style under Joyce, reminiscent of the Mackay era. Caldwell’s team had started the season cautiously, with the manager seemingly reluctant to push men forward to support the central striker, for fear of counterattack. The caution has become even more evident under Joyce, with frequent use of a version of 4-1-4-1, leaving the lone striker isolated and too often fighting a lost cause.

In their successful fight against relegation in 2011-12 Wigan Athletic continued to try to play good football, even when the odds were stacked against them. Their famous late season victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United were gained on merit, through resolute defence and some inspired attacking. It looks unlikely to be the case this year, with Joyce in charge.

However, despite the poor quality of the football, Joyce appears to have made some progress. His insistence on a high level of fitness caused injury problems early on for players unused to the intensity he was seeking. But the players do look fitter now and willingly run themselves into the ground for the cause. There is no lack of effort.

Fans of Joyce will say that he has already improved some of the players and that he has filled gaps in the squad that needed attention. The departure of Yanic Wildschut has left the team short of pace on the wings, but nobody can argue with a transfer fee of around £7 million. The Dutchman certainly made progress under Joyce, not least in his level of fitness and being able to play the full ninety plus.

Dan Burn made a bad start in Joyce’s first game as manager, in  a 3-0 home reverse to Reading, the manager leaving him out for the next couple of games. But in recent weeks the big centre half has looked a much more assured and accomplished player. Joyce has fixed the problematic right back position with the acquisition of Callum Connolly on loan from Everton. Moreover he brought back Sam Morsy from his loan at Barnsley and the player has played consistently well since his return.

However, there remain questions over Joyce’s tactics. It can be argued that Joyce has tightened up the defence, although the goals against record does not reflect that,  albeit with three goals conceded against Reading, Fulham and Rotherham. Joyce’s critics will say that his emphasis is on trying not to lose, so often pulling back ten men in defence.

Latics were clearly unlucky not to save a point at Fulham on Saturday, going down to a last minute of stoppage time winner. But even with a 2-1 lead at half time were they really likely to come away with three points, given the way Fulham were dominating possession?

fulham-lineupOnce again Joyce operated the 4-1-4-1 formation. The stats revealed that Fulham had 73.3% of possession, Latics 26.7%. I simply cannot recall Wigan Athletic having such a small share of possession in a match.

Possession is a frequent talking point for Wigan Athletic supporters. Not everyone enjoyed the football served up by Roberto Martinez, despite his considerable accomplishments at the club. Neither was Gary Caldwell universally liked despite bringing home the League 1 title. At times the football served up by both managers could be sterile, with midfielders far too willing to pass the ball sideways or backwards. But at its best the possession football played by Martinez’s teams was enough to beat the top teams in the country in the Premier League and to win the FA Cup on merit, without resorting to over physical tactics. Caldwell built up a big squad, packed with players who had too much ability for most of the opposition in League 1. His football followed a similar style to that of his Catalan mentor.

Many long-standing supporters recall the days of 4-4-2 with Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts, a dynamic partnership in attack. Many still yearn for the more direct, but rarely negative, football of Paul Jewell’s heyday at Wigan.

However, neither Caldwell nor Joyce, managers of the modern era, are fans of the twin striker formation. There have been so many times this season, under both managers, when the centre forward has been lone in the true sense. There has been a reluctance to attack the opposition in the way that Jewell’s teams might have done. But that said, it was Wigan’s defensive record under Jewell more than anything else that propelled them up the divisions.

There are arguments on both sides, for and against possession football. Warren Joyce has support from many fans for his teams not playing in that way. However, when David Sharpe was in his early days as chairman he talked about wanting football played the “Wigan Way”. Whether that was a reference to the days of Martinez or Jewell is open to conjecture. But whatever way we look at it, the football served up so far by Joyce has come nowhere close.

What Latics fans want more than anything else at this moment is to avoid relegation. Joyce will be largely forgiven for serving up “ugly” football if he can keep the club in the Championship division. His followers will say that he has been working on tightening up the defence and the players’ fitness, that better football will follow once he has players he has signed himself, who can play the style he wants. His signing of no less than fourteen new players over the January transfer window suggests that this is what he is seeking.

Joyce’s problem with the new players is that so many have arrived short of match fitness due to lack of competitive football since the start of the season. Wildschut’s pace has been badly missed. Gabriel Obertan is a different kind of player, but has genuine pace. However, he lacks match fitness, his last appearance in Russia being on December 1. Moreover he had only made 6 starts and 2 appearances off the bench for Anzhi Makhachkala since August. James Weir too lacks match sharpness after not making any appearances for Hull City since his move from Manchester United in summer. Joyce appears reluctant to include Ryan Colclough, who was called back from loan at Milton Keynes Dons after scoring 5 goals in 18 appearances.

But then again, it is not so much the amount of attacking talents Joyce has on hand. It is more a matter of not withdrawing his midfielders into largely  defensive roles and fielding a lineup with more attacking intent.

Should Joyce wish to adopt a more attacking posture he will need a more creative player in advanced midfield. Josh Laurent made the bench on Saturday, but did not appear. Joyce also has at his disposal the 20 year old Jack Byrne, signed from Manchester City. Byrne was signed as a player for the future, but could play an important creative role this season.

The jury remains out regarding Warren Joyce’s abilities as a Championship manager. However, most fans feel he deserves more time in the job. Given the length of contract he has this is most likely. In the meantime we can only hope that he can focus on playing to win, rather than not to lose.

Wigan Athletic fans like to “Believe”. They will support Joyce in his fight against relegation.

But wouldn’t it be something if we did not go into games focusing not only on stopping the other team playing, but also stressing the importance of attack?

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