The inevitable happened this week when Warren Joyce was dismissed as Latics manager. The former Manchester United reserve manager had struggled to come to terms with the challenges of Championship football and his negative tactics had alienated the Latics fan base.
Some people outside Wigan might think it was a harsh decision to sack Joyce after only four months but the Latics fans had had to endure some dreadful performances and the club was drifting towards relegation with him in charge.
Latics owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe made the right decision to part company with Joyce and have sensibly appointed Graham Barrow as interim manager for the rest of the season.
The board must now think carefully before appointing a new manager after a series of ill-advised managerial appointments over the last few years. The board need to adopt a thorough recruitment process and ensure that they do due diligence on the new manager.
In the meantime Graham Barrow has a massive task to keep Latics in the Championship. They are now five points away from safety with only nine games left to play. It would be one of the greatest of great escapes if they were to stay up but it is not impossible.
Fourth bottom Blackburn Rovers are unbeaten since Tony Mowbray took over as manager and have taken 10 points from his 6 games in charge. Latics will be hoping that Barrow can inspire a similar revival for Latics starting tomorrow against Aston Villa.
Barrow must quickly establish a new positive mentality amongst the players and give them the freedom to get forward. Under Joyce the players looked fearful and even the strikers seemed preoccupied with their defensive duties.
Barrow must set his team up to attack from the kick off. He must be prepared to select more players in attacking positions and encourage them to get into the penalty area.
Latics have lacked width under Joyce and he has often played wingers such as Gabriel Obertan in central positions. Barrow must correct this and ensure that they are attacking down both flanks.
They need crosses into the penalty area from wide areas and they need more midfield players to gamble to get on the score sheet.
The attitude of all the players has to be right – the defenders have shown great commitment – the rest of the players must now show a similar level of commitment if they are to stay up.
Barrow will know the players and the ones who are up for fight. He needs to select a team with the highest commitment but also with the creativity and attacking ability to get the victories.
The feeling of hopelessness, which pervaded under Joyce, has now gone. It’s a tall order to survive but it is now up to the players to show that they deserve to be in the Championship.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 17th March 2017.