Wigan Athletic – strategy or catastrophe?

Over recent months I’ve been putting together various interviews with managers who, subjectively have the ability to manage at a higher level. It examines how managers attained the positions they currently hold asking, can they take the next step in their journey of football management.

The working title is “Are you good enough?” and the managers range from the Championship to non league and into the Women’s Super League.

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the positive, bounce in the step atmosphere at these clubs. A sense of moving forward, players, coaches and support staff, from receptionists to ground stewards. The next game can’t come fast enough.

One club which had all these attributes two seasons ago and now seem to be in free fall is Wigan Athletic. What is going on with “The Latics”?

May 11th 2013, was that the day Wigan reached their absolute pinnacle of success with an FA Cup win? Was that the day when, thereafter, there was only one direction, down?


The current Wigan line up doesn’t have one player who made up that Wembley team. (Emerson Boyce seems to occupy the bench these days). All gone in less than two seasons.

During the current transfer window Wigan have intentionally decimated it’s existing squad. Wembley goal scoring hero Ben Watson returns from a second leg break, is immediately made captain when fit, then sold to Watford.

Adam Forshaw last seasons Championship One Player of the Year, signed from Brentford, negotiations took over six weeks to complete. Four months, 17 games and one goal later, he has been transferred to Middlesbrough, fee stated to be £3 million.

Ivan Ramis was on the verge of signing for Crystal Palace during the summer transfer window for a tidy couple of million. The transfer collapsed on medical grounds. The club have now agreed to terminate his contract allowing him to join Spanish team Levante. Terminate his contract when Championship survival is paramount?

Callum McManaman who won man of the match at the 2013 FA Cup Final made a £4.5 million switch to West Bromwich Albion.

Scottish international Shaun Maloney said no thanks to Leicester City, but “yes please” to the “Windy City” as he signs for US Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer.

Roger Espinoza, a current USA international, also decided his time was done, allowed to terminate his contract, signing for US Sporting Kansas City, another Major League Soccer side.

Andy Delort signed in the summer’s transfer window from French side FC Tours Ligue 2, for a figure in the region of £3 million. He played 385 minutes this season, he’s about to go out on loan, it’s just a decision which club take him.

Oriol Riera signed on a three-year contract from Osasuna in June made 13 appearances, scoring once. He has been loaned to Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna until the end of the season.

James Tavernier another June signing, this time from Newcastle United, left the club last week on a loan deal with Bristol City until the season ends.

I’m sure I’ve missed out someone, plus the fringe players who have been released or loaned, this a culling process of epic proportions. Since Malky Mackay took over from Uwe Rosler in November 2014 he has delivered one win from 11 games.


Whatever is going on at Wigan was going on before his arrival. From 42 games the dwindling fan base have been treated to seven wins, 14 draws and 21 defeats.

Currently Dave Whelan is serving a six game ban handed down by the FA for his derogatory comments regarding Chinese and Jewish people, which means he cannot make statements on behalf of Wigan Athletic. The only message from the club is Malky Mackay saying the transfer dealings highlighted are in the best interests of club and player.

So what is going on?

Some would say this is Whelan preparing the club for new ownership. Revenues from TV games came to around £40 million when the club had Premier League status. The first season in Championship football there was a £16 million parachute payment, which was supplemented by the sales of James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to Everton.

Survival is the game this season not promotion as expected so next season is going to carry a heavy financial burden for someone. The introduction of Whelan’s 24-year-old grandson to the club’s Board of Directors adds fuel to the conspiracy theory.

Maybe Mackay came into the job of manager knowing unless promotion back to the top flight was achieved, those players still carrying Premier League wages would have to go. He has given the impression through cryptic comments over the months that players are seeing out their contracts and not putting in the graft required.

Is this why Rosler’s last six months in charge went so disastrously wrong? The players desire had gone but their salaries hadn’t?

Or, maybe this is just a rebuilding strategy, out with the old in with the new. By the time this transfer window closes the smoke will have cleared and the mirror will be reflecting a new business strategy and a whole bunch of new players.

Whelan has made many canny business decisions over the years. Whatever is going on at present, is it planned or a massive knee jerk reaction driven by loss after loss on the pitch?


Whilst putting the article together Jonathan Jackson Chief Executive of Wigan Athletic has completed a Q+A with a local journalist.

In summary the club are either resigned to relegation and are restructuring to satisfy Championship 1 salary criteria. Or the banks are no longer happy with loans versus business valuation. Or Whelan is about find a new owner, take his money and run.

If you’re not taken by the drama series Wolf Hall with the subterfuge and plotting of Cromwell, More, Henry V111, look no further than this modern day classic.

Are we witnessing Wigan Athletic in free fall? Or a footballing and business resurgence strategy which will be talked about for years to come?

One way or another we are watching history being made. Like any drama, the outcome is unknown, stayed tuned.

The Author

Owen Peters

2 thoughts on “Wigan Athletic – strategy or catastrophe?

  1. One poor decision has been the key…

    You’ve failed to mention Owen Coyle the man given the job to take us back to the Premier League what a joke! He came in after Roberto left ….
    Why he was brought in when we had money/players and influence is mind blowing and his short reign brought this demise into play,

    You bring in steve maclaren who we turned away for Owen Coyle and who knows where we would be now.

    Dave W got caught doing it on the cheap when all around him was ferraris,


  2. Hit the nail right on the head god knows we all love DW but he did it on the cheap with Owen Coyle 1 month rolling contract when he could of had McLaren on a 3year contract that’s where all the trouble stems from

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