Latics face former manager Uwe Rösler’s Fleetwood Town tomorrow at the DW Stadium. Rösler’s team have had an indifferent start to this campaign and are in 11th position in the table but they are still hoping to be amongst the challengers at the end of the season as they are only eight points off a top six spot.
Rösler did very well last season taking the Cod Army into the play-offs but they narrowly lost out in the semi-final to Bradford City.
The former Manchester City and East German international striker has led something of a nomadic lifestyle, managing in Norway with Lillestrom, Viking and Molde before coming to England with Brentford, Latics, Leeds United and Fleetwood.
Rösler has had good times at Brentford and Fleetwood but the nearest he has come to full-blown success was during his time with Latics.
When taking over from Owen Coyle he made an impressive start to his managerial rein and immediately improved results. He transformed the club by improving fitness levels, tactics, organisation, team selections and team spirit.
He introduced a high tempo pressing game similar to the successful German teams like Borussia Dortmund. His football philosophy was comparable to his famous countrymen Jürgen Klopp and Joachim Löw, with the emphasis on quick transition, and based on quick counter attack.
Rösler’s team had a brilliant season and could have won a second FA Cup and been promoted to the Premier League if circumstances had worked out slightly differently. He masterminded a superb FA Cup quarter-final victory at Manchester City.
As at Wembley in 2013 they outplayed the massive favourites in what was probably the biggest double giant-killing in FA Cup history. The manager had prepared his men to perfection and they deservedly progressed to the semi-final.
In the semi-final against Arsenal they were agonisingly just eight minutes away from reaching a second consecutive FA Cup final, but they ultimately succumbed 4-2 in a penalty shoot out. Latics choice of penalty takers on the day was strange, with some players unfamiliar with the art of the spot kick, and no doubt in retrospect Rösler would have chosen differently.
In the Championship Latics finished fifth and qualified for the play-offs. In the play-off against Queens Park Rangers they might have won it after taking the lead through James Perch, but Rangers equalised from the penalty spot through Charlie Austin and went on to the play-off final with Austin’s 20th goal of the season in extra time.
Latics played more games than any other English team that season and fell just short of creating some special football history. Injuries to key players and a poor start to the campaign meant Latics were always playing catch up.
If Rösler had been in post prior to the start of the season it is likely that they would have been promoted. A repeat FA Cup success and promotion via the play-offs would have been a unique achievement.
It all turned sour for Rösler at the beginning of the 2014/15 season when he was sacked in November and replaced by the disastrous Malkay Mackay. However, the overriding impression was that he had the potential to become a top manager who could have been successful with Latics for many years to come.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 8th December 2017.