It’s been an unsettling period at Wigan Athletic following the sacking Gary Caldwell by owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe. The dismissal was unexpected and most of Latics’ fans felt that the hierarchy had harshly treated Caldwell.
However, on Wednesday night Manchester United Under-21 manager Warren Joyce was installed as the new Latics manager on a three-and-a-half-year deal.
The 51-year-old former Bolton, PNE, Burnley, Plymouth and Hull City midfielder has made a reputation at United as a strong coach who has helped to develop young players.
He has overseen many young players as they progressed into United’s first team but also onto successful careers elsewhere.
Paul Pogba is the most famous of these but Joyce has been instrumental in the development of players such as Danny Drinkwater, Danny Simpson, Ritchie de Laet, Matty James, Michael Keane, James Chester, Robbie Brady, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
He was player-manager at Hull City where he helped to engineer a great escape from relegation from the Football League in 1998-99. He had a spell in Belgium as Royal Antwerp coach before being appointed as United’s reserve manager in 2008.
During Joyce’s tenure United have won three Premier Development League titles, two Premier League National play-offs and two Premier League North titles.
Despite his success with United’s reserves there is still a feeling that Joyce is a risky appointment for Latics. He is untried at Championship level having spent the last eight years in the relatively protected atmosphere of reserve team football.
It is fair to say that Under-21 football doesn’t have the same pressures as the Championship. He was successful at reserve team level partly because of the exceptional resources available to United.
Joyce’s team played entertaining football in the so-called ‘United Way’ but they have the choice of some of the best young players in the world and few managers are so lucky in that respect.
It will also require a big leap of faith for many of Latics fans to accept that Joyce is a better option as manager than Gary Caldwell.
The former Scotland captain transformed Latics last season, won the League One title, established the playing style and brought all the current squad of players to the club.
Joyce will have his own style and will want to make changes to a team that was just starting to click together into an effective force.
There are big challenges ahead for Joyce. He must familiarize himself with a new club, new players and a new division.
He will be expected to get results quickly and will certainly be expected to keep Latics in the Championship. Relegation to League One would be a disaster after last season’s promotion.
Now the appointment has been made the fans will have to give Joyce their backing, but the feeling remains that Latics would have been better sticking with Gary Caldwell.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 4th November 2016.