Fan’s View 2017/18 (no.26) Wigan at home

Article by Paul Beasley

Wigan Athletic: Finances, Ownership and a bit of History

Wigan Athletic were only elected to the Football League in 1978. That’s a fair few years after some of us started watching Oxford United and yes that is “elected” and not won on merit. Southport were booted out. Wigan were the last team to be voted in. From 1987 onwards all this nonsense was done away with when automatic promotion and relegation was introduced between the top tier of non-league football and the bottom division of the Football league.

It was quite some rise they had. They’d made it to the top flight for the 2005/06 season and remained there for eight years. They only lasted in the Championship for two years and were in League One for 2015/16. That’s the period covered by their latest available accounts. They went straight back up as champions only to come straight back down again well adrift of safety to end up in our company today.

League One clubs relegated from the Championship have a very different financial set-up to those of us who have not experienced such heights for many a year, if at all. And that’s not taking into account the Premier bullshit parachute payment factor for those poor darlings who have plummeted and need a massive helping hand back up because it’s only fair in some warped world of very un-level playing fields.

Wigan’s latest accounts are to the year ending May 2016 and given where they’ve come from and where they were then, full accounts it is. Nothing abbreviated here.

The reports of the Chairman and the Chief Exec probably tell us all we need to know.

Chairman David Sharpe says:

“Following the disappointment of relegation to League One the principle objective was straightforward: promotion back to the EFL Championship at the first attempt.” (Well done, but…)

“A critical element of achieving success is player recruitment. Modern football clubs utilise extensive scouting and reporting resources to improve decision making that is involved in player recruitment and this is an area we identified as requiring significant improvement. Additional player recruitment staff were employed and a more structured reporting process was adopted to assist the Club in signing players that would improve the squad and potentially provide a future financial return.”  (All very sensible. Doesn’t that last sentence cover what our strategy appeared to be whilst under Mapp? What now though?)

“A number of players were deemed not suitable or expressed a wish to play at a higher level. We determined their replacements should possess attributes that would allow them to improve technically and adapt quickly to the style of play that we intend to implement. We also accepted that we had to achieve this with a reduced budget, albeit significantly higher than most of our competitors.”

“By the end of the August 2015 transfer window we had recruited twenty new players at a cost of almost £3m. Only six players from the previous season remained”.

“Before the end of the season, my family were able to purchase a modern and fully equipped training facility at Euxton near Chorley from Bolton Wanderers. This has allowed our existing training facility at Christopher Park to be exclusively used by our Academy.”  (No wonder that in many respects we’re behind clubs like this.)

“It is difficult for Wigan Athletic to compete financially with competitors who now have much larger financial resources. However, by being different, working smarter and harder we will always aim to reclaim our place in the top division and benefit from the most lucrative prize in world football – promotion to the Premier League.”  (Where would we be without dreams? Meanwhile back in the real world they’ve got to rub shoulders with paupers like us.)

Now extracts from the Chief Executive’s report.

“Financially the club benefitted from a third season of Premier League payment distributions which accounted for £11.7m – almost 75% of total turnover, however this source of income diminished and total turnover reduced almost a half compared to the previous season. The club had to reduce a total salary cost that had totalled £26m during the year ended 31 May 2015. Total wage cost was reduced by 54% to £11.9m.”

“Operating losses reduced from £11m to £4.2m and similarly earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation improved from a loss of £3.9m to a loss of £900k.”

A few other things of note.

“During the year the Company had been charged an amount of £865k (2015 – £977k) by a fellow subsidiary undertaking in respect of stadium hire for football matches and related match day expenses.”

Overall net liabilities were £16m.

Wigan were purchased by Dave Whelan, owner of JJB Sport, in Feb 1995. The football club is still his but he stepped down as chairman in March 2015 handing that position to his grandson David Sharpe.

Oxford United 0 WIGAN ATHLETIC 7 (SEVEN) – Yes SEVEN. That’s SEVEN. That’s HUMILIATION.

The next bit was written prior to the game taking place.

The above gives indication of what we are up against in the money stakes and as 2017 draws to an end Wigan find themselves back at the top of L1. They’re 17 points better off than we are. Away they’ve won seven, drawn one and lost two.

All the teams in the table above us have won more home games than us.

So realistically this all only points to one winner.

I look forward to all Oxford games to a greater or lesser degree and there’s something about a table topping team coming to town. If we’re right up there with them then it obvious it’s going to be a spicy encounter but usually it will be a case, as in this one, of us being the underdog. That being so, if we play well but still lose that’s no disgrace, but if we win, well one starts to think a tiny bit of just maybe.

For some reason I feel more optimistic than the stats indicate even though I’m no way confident enough to wager that there will be a home win. This may well be based on the only time I’ve seen Wigan play 90 minutes on TV this season: the FA Cup game away at Fylde on 1 Dec which ended in a draw. I wasn’t impressed. Statistically though that’s not a valid sample. More valid is the fact that they have only lost one league game since 23 Sept and all of the rest have been wins save for two draws.

Huddle

I hate to think how many we would have lost by if we had not done this pre-match motivational huddle. Photo, Simon Jaggs

Right, now onto the game itself and the state of my mind in the aftermath.

I’m someone who feels a manager should be given a sensible amount of time before a fair judgement can be made and up to now I’ve afforded that grace to Pep. I’ve also previously said that after Cheltenham and Port Vale there’s a lot in the debit column that needed to be cancelled out. But now this. Three strikes and out? This was a dark, sad day in the history of our football club and I can’t do much other than mostly put the blame on Pep.

I’m not going to start yelling Pep out but tbh if he was not in charge at Priestfield I would not be shedding a tear. What I saw was bad enough but then to hear the utter shite he spouted on the radio after the game was too much. Please don’t bullshit the fans. Or if that is what he genuinely believed he is living on a completely different planet to those of us rooted in reality. We can’t have people like that managing our football team.

I could come back with an angry / emotive / sarky / heart felt comment after almost everything he said but have resisted because this piece would then go on forever.

Instead I’ll just try and provide a transcript of the interview, almost word for word. People can judge for themselves, particularly those who were there for all or in many cases part of the game. The walk out started after the third goal went in and continued after every other conceding. At quarter past four the Ultras were removing their flags, presumably before heading for the exit.

It’s a very tough day. The players worked very hard to put things right, to play good. Despite today they’ve done lots of good things through bad moments as well because of injuries, because of the situation. We managed to get a lot of points in the first leg of the season and now we are looking forward and now we were looking forward to the start of the second leg to try and get more points than the first one.

These things happen in the game because even though we started well with a good mentality trying to get on the front foot against them and put a lot of intensity to them to try and give them a strong game with a lot of intensity to put on a good display and good football we made a few mistakes in the beginning. That cost us with the goals and that put us (on the) back foot and obviously we’re chasing the game against a really good side, very good going forward with a lot of space and an open game and they managed to score.

At the second half the team started well as well. Very similar, we made a mistake and they punished us. They’ve been very clinical. Wigan has been very good.

We can only say we feel hurt because we put a lot of work into that because at the same time I heard a lot of (??) and I’ve been there inside with the players and again I will defend them because they’ve put a lot of work into that. They took the game as a (??). They never put their hands down. They fought for the team until the end. They knew that was a really good team they were playing against and it was not easy to be out there and they’ve been there until the end.

We can only say that today didn’t go in our favour and we’re sorry for the loyal fans who were here as well. They wanted us to do better as we wanted.

But that’s another test we’re facing in terms of a test and challenge to our unity to try and be as united as possible and the way I see the locker room I see them very united and very focussed on getting through this stronger.

It was then put to Pep that he could not be happy after seeing his team go down to a record defeat.

No, no I can’t be happy. Of course I’m not happy but what am I going to say, to attack the players when I think the players did the maximum they could. It was not easy. You make those mistakes. I’m on the players’ side. I think they put the effort (in). It didn’t work out for us today and we got a top defeat and it’s about us to break other kinds of records as well.

He was then asked about eradicating mistakes.

Yes, obviously. Football is a game of mistakes. The only difference is when you play an opposition who is obviously a contender to go up to the Championship and is the strongest team in the league, those mistakes you normally end up paying a higher price. We’d been preparing very well to try and cut them (out). But still happen because football is a game of mistakes. They made mistakes as well and we tried to use those but we didn’t score from them. That’s obviously the difference between us and them. They’re expecting to win the league and get promoted. We can’t expect that for Oxford so that’s the difference when it comes to the difference in mistakes.

The next question concerned formations with it being point out that Wigan played 4-2-3-1 and it was asked whether they just do it better.

Athletically they are head and shoulders (above us). They were stronger, quicker than us. They are used to another intensity when most of them played in the Championship last year, so they have the experience as well and physically they are built for the Championship and obviously this is something I see in every game they play.

Then it is very difficult because we have to try to be better with the ball because we have a young side, apart from a few players we have a young side. And we try to develop a good way of playing to get those young players and make the club grow with the experience of those young players grow(ing) with the team.

I don’t think it is a matter of system it is a matter of in the end you facing individuals on the pitch and you have to do the best collectively to match individuals the other team has.

I like the team as well when we played with two strikers after the second half. I liked the team much better, we were able to put a threat as well, a little bit more than in the first half. I always like to play with two men up front but it changes as well a lot the way that we can control the games because you can have less control but sometimes a little bit more threat. So it is fair to say I really liked the fact that we created more and more problems with Jon and Wes up front but obviously it is tough when you only have Jon and Wes available ……………..

The mood in the dressing room is very simple, we’ve been through this all together. It happened to us all and we’ve got to stick together and work very hard. The team is in very good spirits. It is a strong team and they are angry because of what happened today and this one hurt. But I see strength in them …..

All we lost today is one point. We had one point before the game started at 0-0 and we lost it.

In the next game we have to fight to keep that point we have before starting and then try to win the three.

I’m a huge defender of those players and I see what sacrifices they make.

That’s about it but I have to make comment on the age of our team. Pep you really have lost it. The average age of our starting line-up was 28 years and 148 days. I would guess that is one of the oldest teams in L1 on the day if not the oldest.  The average age of Wigan’s eleven was 24 years 357 days. They had no players aged 30 or over. We had five. The two youngest players for us are nearly 23. That’s not young in footballing terms. Utter horseshit, Pep. Utter horseshit.

And perhaps if he’d not left players that are (kind of) proven in a yellow shirt on the bench we may have had a better chance of not looking like the biggest joke of an XI to have turned out in the Football League this season. Playing like a bunch of static training cones with a collective footballing IQ well short of 100 that’s the only award you’ll be in the running (or in our case should that be gentle jogging) for.

When Joe Rothwell came on last week at Rochdale we looked so much better. Why he did not start today only Pep will know. As fans that’s the kind of thing we want to know. What is it that we don’t get?  When he came on you could at last see something worth seeing. Wanting the ball, keeping the ball, looking to get the ball FORWARD, and playing some perceptive passes. But by then it was all too late. Shambolic chaos reigned.

Ryan Ledson hit some poor form before he was dropped but come on. He’s well worth a place in this team and that battling he brings is sadly lacking without him.  Rumour has it that he has fallen out with Pep and may be on his way in the window. I’d say it would not be difficult to fall out with Pep the way he is asking the team to play when it is often bloody clear what the end result will be, like it was here.

The way we played surely means that there is no belief that what the players are being asked to do will bear fruit. And when that happens confidence drops, individual performances dip badly and the team hardly exists as a collective.

Up to now we’ve been able to beat some of the sides that have not been near the top of the table and have had some handsome away wins but when we’ve come up against the very best we’ve been nothing. Blackburn and Wigan. At least go down with a fight and looking like you know what to do with the ball when you have it.

Yes Wigan were good but that’s no excuse. The Oxford United over 70’s walking football team would probably have looked good if they’d come up against us playing like that.

Where to start on what was wrong? (I’d written this before I listened back to the Radio Oxford interview in detail)

No pace. (Broken record)

Midfield battle lost every time.

Nothing in front of the defence to prevent the defence having to defend.

The defence couldn’t defend.

Xemi, can someone please explain.

Alex Mowatt, not great. Had an appalling start

Josh Ruffels had his worst game in an Oxford shirt.

If we closed down it was a one man half-hearted job.  Do it collectively and bloody mean it.

Didn’t show any positivity going forward until the second half after we’d made a couple of changes.

Wes Thomas our one up front where he is most effective making intelligent runs where he needs to be feed through on goal, spending a lot of time faffing about on the wing because we had not got anyone else operating effectively there.

Our most gifted player, Jack Payne’s energy being used up running around trying to close down to no effect instead of being in a position to put it to creative use such was the gormless way we tried to play. He even once in open play ended up just in front of a back two picking the ball up to try and get something going. Obviously he didn’t get anything going. For that to happen a team needs movement and the player with the ball needs options.

Our opponents looking physically stronger in every 50 / 50 challenge.

Our opponents being allowed to play unhindered.

Being given the run around (even though we don’t run very fast) meaning we’d spent all our energy well before the end of the game. James Henry’s legs had stopped working but he had to keep going because we’d brought our last sub on with 28 minutes to go. Such was the balls up in the original team selection.

I was going to go through each of the goals but can’t face watching them again and there were just so many of them. I recall lots of mistakes giving them the ball, little proper know how to stop them scoring when we’d done so. One was a run of the mill header from a corner wasn’t it and Max Power did what his name suggests for another. Truthfully though it is all a horrible blur.

Even if we’d shipped seven against Manchester City I’d be a bit miffed but Wigan are no Manchester City. The most the Latics had managed before they came here for their gentle training session was four in a game.

Gallows humour helps and by staying to the final whistle one can claim to have seen it through to the very bitter humiliating end. I was at the Manor in December 1998 when Mike Salmon in his one and only game let in seven against Brum but on that day we at least got one ourselves.

I let rip a couple of times during the proceedings which caused my brother to enquire of there was a defibrillator on the premises. Better for the health to let it all out than keep it in I’d say.

I wasn’t the only one though because from time to time random individuals just stood up and let go a tirade of anguished outpouring. It was pitiful to watch and I was part of it.

We’re amazingly still one point to the good compared to the half way stage in 2016/17 but it’s the direction of travel that is the grave concern. Mapp looked and learned and improved. Pep does not seem to be learning anything and looks to be out of touch with tier 3 English football, particularly when it comes to tuning in to the pace of the game. Some say he’s a not a manager but is a good coach. That’s hard to believe at the moment because against Wigan the only thing it appeared that we had been coached in was how to set up and play in a way that would result in a bloody good thrashing.

I’d purchased tickets for Gillingham and Bradford before 3 o’clock. If I’d not done so would I still be in Kent on Boxing Day? Of course I would, because that’s what I do. I’d like to see the team turn up too.

Merry Christmas.

P1060995

Oxford fans streaming out of the Kassam Stadium long before the final whistle