Gary Caldwell was sacked as Wigan Athletic manager on Tuesday last week after just two wins in 14 games this season. Last season’s League One title was not enough to save the Scot, for whom the Championship has proved a much tougher test.
WiganToday ran a Twitter poll, which shows the general consensus of the fans, myself included – that Caldwell should still be in charge. Caldwell has spent over seven years at the club and probably deserved more time to realise the ambitions that he and the club had.
As Caldwell mentioned in his statement, Wigan have not lost a game by more than one goal this season, and we are one win away from escaping the relegation zone. Add to this our fairly impressive defensive record, as well as the host of injuries that we have had to deal with, and it really isn’t as disastrous as it seems. Caldwell was the man that steadied the sinking ship and has put us back on the right path.
All of this discussion is futile however as Caldwell has indeed been sacked, as knee-jerk a sacking it may be, and David Sharpe is currently looking for a replacement. The man who is looking increasingly likely to take over is Manchester United U21 manager, Warren Joyce.
Joyce’s playing career included stints at Preston, Burnley, Hull, and Bolton (which I’m sure we can look past), but it is his success as Manchester United U21 manager that is important here. In his eight years in charge, United’s U21s have won five Premier League titles, including back-to-back titles in the last two seasons. The other appealing factor on Joyce’s CV is his relationship with world-class youth players such as Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
David Sharpe said “We need to identify a new manager who can have an immediate impact and deliver success in the long term” and it looks, on paper, like Joyce’s title-winning record and knowledge of youth setups could deliver what Sharpe is looking for.
There is of course scepticism concerning whether or not Joyce is going to be the right candidate in what looks like becoming a Championship relegation scrap. I am inclined to agree with said scepticism as the only evidence we have of Joyce’s relegation battle experience is his time as player-manager of Hull City. He kept Hull in the Fourth Division against the odds but that was in 1998, and a completely different league to the Championship.
I am hard-pressed to counter the argument that Wigan need a manager with real Championship experience – primarily to keep us in the division before even dreaming about promotion back to the Premier League. The issue with this is that there aren’t many managers of that ilk currently available – a fact that makes the timing of Caldwell’s sacking even more puzzling.
The other issue is that Wigan may not be a hugely attractive prospect for potential managers. Facing a relegation battle and being financially outmuscled by most other Championship teams, the Latics may well be overlooked by managers aiming higher. Indeed this looks to be the reason that Ryan Giggs won’t take charge at the DW (though that may well be a blessing).
The decision that Sharpe now faces looks to be one of the biggest in the club’s recent history, and whoever replaces Caldwell faces an uphill battle to keep Wigan in the Championship and build on that vital achievement next season.