It is now 12 months since David Sharpe took over the reins as chairman of Wigan Athletic and what an incredible transformation has taken place during that period.
The young chairman has had to make some big decisions during his early tenure but appointing Gary Caldwell as manager is surely his best.
Caldwell was always a good organiser on the pitch and was captain of Scotland, Celtic and Wigan, but it was a risky strategy to give the untried Caldwell the job after the disastrous appointment of Malky Mackay.
But Caldwell has learned well from his previous managers, which include Bobby Robson, Gordon Strachan and Roberto Martinez.
Caldwell had a spell as a teenage player under Bobby Robson at Newcastle. The young Scot was impetuous and demanded to get a game in the first team but Robson believed he wasn’t ready and when Caldwell asked the question too often he was sold to Hibernian.
But it was a formative experience for the young defender and he has subsequently admitted he learned much from Robson’s advice.
Gordon Strachan was Caldwell’s manager at Celtic and he won two Scottish titles with him in charge. Strachan gave him the confidence to accept his weaknesses and to build on his strengths.
His experiences at Celtic have helped instil a winning mentality and he is now passing this onto his own players at Wigan. Strachan was renowned for his fiery temper and Caldwell has also learned to read the riot act when necessary.
But Martinez is his biggest influence and Caldwell has adapted the Spaniard’s style of play to League One. Caldwell speaks regularly to Martinez if he needs advice. Both managers believe in possession, building from the back and trying to play football on the ground.
Caldwell has a good team of coaches around him with ex-Latics’ players Graham Barrow, Joe Parkinson, Peter Atherton and Mike Pollitt all involved in the decision-making process.
Latics progress has been founded on a scientific approach to recruitment with every player targeted, thoroughly researched and watched in different conditions before signing.
The club has targeted mainly young, up and coming players who are comfortable on the ball and capable of playing at a higher level.
Ironically Caldwell’s oldest signing has proved to be a masterstroke.
40-year-old goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was out of contract at West Ham United and the manager was looking for cover for Richard O’Donnell, but the big Finn has become first choice and been a revelation. Latics have only lost 2 in 27 games with Jussi between the sticks.
Latics have recruited constantly since the summer with 29 players joining. The new players inevitably took time to gel but they have improved week by week.
The January transfer window provided a huge bonus as Caldwell was able to add strength in depth with the signings of winger Yanic Wildschut, midfielder Sam Morsy, defender Reece Wabara and forwards Ryan Colclough and Conor McAleny.
Tactics, man management, motivational skills and bringing in the right type of players have all been crucial to Caldwell’s success, but it may be his ability to make use of the best advice from his past managers which could prove to be his greatest asset.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 4th March 2016.