Promotion And Ambition - The Club Strikes Back
Vital Latics member Pete Reece, aka Noel Wards Leg, reports back from the fans reps meeting with Latics boss Uwe Rösler:
At a well-attended meeting with supporters' representatives yesterday, Wigan Athletic laid their ambitions bare for the rest of the season and in doing so issued a rallying call to all Latics fans. Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson and Manager Uwe Rösler said they were '100%' behind a promotion push and Uwe set out his case for why he believes that Latics will reach the Championship play-offs.
Supporters Club officials, website moderators, bloggers and fanzine editors were invited to the DW Stadium after club officials recognized the concerns of some fans that the club's heart is not in promotion this season. Other fans have been less than awestruck at the lack of goals scored and some of the away performances and so the club decided to act at a crucial stage of the season to set the record straight on their ambitions and give Uwe the chance to explain his policies on team selection, rotation, fitness and style of play.
Clearly, this was an important event for the club as several staff gave up a large part of their day to attend and the question and answer session with Uwe went on much longer than planned. Head of Media, Ed Jones, put everyone at ease and set the tone for an informal and friendly session in which Uwe took the opportunity to congratulate Latics on being ahead of the game in organising these events, something he'd tried to do at previous clubs.
Uwe was open to all questions and gave a very assured performance of a manager with distinct ideas and the ability and confidence to achieve them. He was very clear that he wants the team to play with quick transitions between attack and defence and a high line to close down space and press the opposition defence. Very clear guidelines have been set for his players. For example he has a rule of three that when winning the ball back in the final third there should be an attempt on goal after four seconds, in the middle third after seven seconds and after ten seconds if the ball is won in the defensive third. He confessed to a lack of interest in his teams 'passing the ball 540 times' which he believes is often a defensive mechanism when what we need is to attack to win games and get promoted.
However, he recognises that while progress is being made fans have not yet seen the final product depending as it does on the willingness and fitness of the players to carry out those instructions. He was diplomatic at all times, not going into detail about individuals while praising their attitude and the quality and intensity of their training but appreciates that without a summer of his fitness training their fitness levels this season are probably not at the level he would like. Playing matches twice a week gives them time only to play, rest and recover and not work on their fitness to any great extent.
In terms of the willingness to take on his methods, he had only praise for his players while leaving it open to interpretation that some may be more open than others. He emphasised the use of rotation to give players chances to show what they can do and that they are willing to take on his ideas. When questioned on his rotation policy, he gave a number of reasons for doing so. 'You need legs...you need freshness' he said, particularly with his intense, pressing, style of play. He wants to use the whole squad as much as possible so everyone has the chance to contribute and players can win a place in the team by their effort in training as well as their performance on match day. 'Sir Alex Ferguson only kept the same team once in four years', he told the meeting and obviously regards SAF as a role model. Put simply, if the most successful manager ever rotated his squad so much then it's okay for Uwe to do it too although he was adamant that he doesn't believe in rotation for its own sake.
An impression was created of a serious and very focussed individual who nevertheless has a sense of humour. He took his time answering some questions as he thought over his response which added to a slight air of mystery around the man who confesses to wanting to be the first German manager in the Premier League. Thoughtful and analytical, he pointed to his points per game ratio until now and suggested that should that continue it would be enough to reach the play-offs. (It would actually give us 75 points which has been enough in each of the last ten years.) Our big-game experience at Wembley may then be enough to help us reach our goal of promotion, he suggested. Jonathan Jackson also reassured the fans on this point. Referring to the Chairman, he said that his ambition for the club has only grown in the time that Jonathan has been in post and that there is only one place to play football and that is in the Premier League.
Jonathan also attempted to explain the situation with the James McCarthy transfer fee and what happened in the January transfer window. He suggested that Owen Coyle was under the impression that £13m had been deposited in the club's bank account after the sale and that it was all there to be spent. He tried to explain that actually the money will be paid over a few years and intimated that, even when parachute payments are taken into account, in order to keep the club solvent, some of it may have to be used to meet the huge wage bill the club is carrying this year. He also suggested that the funding for the new training ground and academy is not yet in place (work hopefully to begin next year after planning permission, surveys and preliminary work have been undertaken and the work should be completed in 2-3 years) and therefore left the question hanging as to whether any incoming transfer fees may be used for that project. It is clearly a huge ambition for the club to invest something in the order of £10-15 million in these facilities but Uwe explained how they were needed with too many pressures on the existing ground, as the first team, U21s and U18s all share Christopher Park.
In other news, Ivan Ramis has been independently assessed by a consultant in London and there are no long term problems with his knee. The travelling back and forth for medicals has delayed his return to fitness but we may be seeing him again soon. Gary Caldwell is already training on grass and his return is quite advanced while Shaun Maloney is likely to be training on grass sometime in the next ten days although it's too soon to talk about when he's likely to be playing again. Uwe also said that his policy of giving players a chance also extends to his backroom staff, who have also displayed an excellent attitude and he has no plans at present to change anything in that regard.
While not dodging questions about the young players at the club, Uwe did admit that he felt it difficult to comment on their progress as his priority, after coming in mid-season with a clear brief to get into the play-offs, has been the first team. However, he wants to try Lee Nicholls in first team action soon and Rob Kiernan is a player who he rates very highly as a centre-back but who may need a bit more development time out on loan. The number of first-team games has also hampered their development to some extent as well since their development relies on more training time on the pitch and that has just not been possible recently.
The supporters present were shown a presentation by Jonathan on the work of Wigan Athletic in the Community, a major commitment by the club on which they are spending £600,000 this year and includes the ground-breaking project at Wigan Youth Zone which is attended almost every week by some of the players. There was much agreement in the room that this is something of which the club and its fans should be justifiably proud. The meeting ended on a very upbeat note with photos with the manager and the club's jewel in the crown, the FA Cup.
Uwe and Jonathan left a distinct impression with the gathered supporters. With its plans for the future and adherence to Financial Fair Play, this club is still on the up and is not finished with the big league yet. The owner and chairman has unfulfilled ambitions to return to the Premier League, the staff are right behind him and in Uwe, they have found a man with a plan.
This week the PWU podcast team have released two episodes.
There is a Podcast Special featuring Latics manager Uwe Rösler who met with representatives from the Podcast, Cockney Latic, Jesus Was A Wiganer, Vital Latics and the Mudhutter Fanzine, this episode was recorded on Wednesday 12th February at the DW Stadium.
There is also the normal studio episode looking back on the Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday games and looking forward to the FA cup 5th round tie away at Cardiff City on Saturday, this episode contains an exclusive interview with club captain Emmerson Boyce that was recorded at the clubs training ground at Christopher Park.
Both episodes can be accessed via the embedded player below or by visiting our hosting site www.buzzsprout.com where they can be downloaded from to listen at your leisure.