I would imagine that it comes as no surprise to most Wigan Athletic fans that the five month tenure of Warren Joyce came to an end yesterday. The former Manchester United youth team coach was by no means a fan favourite, and many Wigan fans will be delighted to see the back of him. The early signs are that Graham Barrow will take charge for the foreseeable future, but given his poor record as caretaker in the past, fans hope that a replacement is named soon.
What went wrong?
I think it’s more of a question of what went right? Defensive football, no goals, dour home games and, most importantly, bad results, are what Joyce’s reign will be remembered for. From day one the sceptics raised their eyebrows at the appointment. A man who had never managed a first team, let alone in one of the most topsy- turvy leagues in the world, was given the opportunity to lead a team who had already made a poor start to their Championship campaign.
Few Wigan fans had even heard of Joyce before he was appointed by chairman Sharpe. His reign started with an abysmal home 3-0 defeat by Reading, when the side were 2-0 down before the game had reached the twenty minute mark. Despite an excellent win over Huddersfield away, albeit in rather fortunate circumstances, coupled with respectable wins at Wolves and Birmingham, results were not positive often enough. It is not a surprise that the home defeat by relegation rivals Bristol City proved to be the final straw for the board.
Home form is a problem that Wigan have experienced throughout their reign at the DW stadium, and their tally of a measly 3 home wins all season suggests that this is one of the major problems for the team. It has always been thought that Wigan achieve most of their best results away from home and this season has been no different. If Latics are to stay up, one would imagine that all of the remaining home games need to be won given the extremely difficult nature of the away fixtures. Home games such as Aston Villa on Saturday and Rotherham in mid- May are must wins, no matter who is in charge.
Who is likely to replace Joyce?
Well there is never a shortage of managers linked with jobs in the managerial merry-go-round of the Championship. Amid a sea of uncertainty, it seems that Barrow has been officially given the job until the end of the season. However, some fans believe that he is something of a stop-gap to give the board more time to find a reasonable replacement. Many fans are sick and tired of Barrow, and believe that a back room shakeup is vital if Latics are to hit the ground running next season. Barrow appears to be deadwood and it would be beneficial to remove all memories of this shocking season for a club who were aiming for a mid-table season.
From my point of view, if the realistic relegation happens, the club needs to appoint a more passionate manager who has the hunger and drive of someone like Gary Caldwell. Caldwell, who was harshly dismissed at the start of the season despite leading the club to the League 1 title last season, showed passion and a clear tactical aim, which was very successful for the majority of his reign. Joyce seemed to struggle to identify himself with the fans and was never a popular figure, despite attaining more positive results in January.
Keith Hill, current manager of Rochdale, is a manager who has always been underrated in my eyes. He is a man who would definitely endear himself to the fans, and he boasts an excellent record in the lower leagues on one of the smallest budgets in the Football League at Spotland. A northerner and proud, like most Wiganers, and with a passion for modern attacking football, he would seem like an excellent fit for the club.
Uwe Rosler, who has worked miracles with Fleetwood Town guiding them to an improbable second in the table, would most definitely be welcomed back to the DW stadium. After leading a resurgence at the club in 2013/14 following the disastrous tenure of Owen Coyle, he was again harshly sacked after a poor start to 2014/15. Many fans enjoyed his professional style, on and off the pitch, and many believe that his sacking was a huge mistake by then chairman Dave Whelan.
If the club manages to secure a miracle survival like in years gone by, then the club will look towards someone of Steve McClaren’s calibre. Although unpopular in England, due to his awful period in charge of the national team, he would represent a solid pair of hands, who would probably consistently lead the club to mid-table Championship finishes, which would satisfy most Wigan fans.
Whatever happens it is going to be a tough end to what has been a very tough season for the Lancashire club. Many fans will be happy to see the season end, and start afresh next season, hopefully with one of the aforementioned names.