Wigan Athletic mid-season review: Europa campaign takes toll on push for quick Premier League return

By Colin Rhodes

There was an air of optimism about Wigan Athletic before the start of the new season in August despite their relegation from the Premier League.

The FA Cup victory over Manchester City had given the club huge boosts which even the prospect of Championship football did not seem to diminish.

With new manager Owen Coyle replacing the Everton-bound Roberto Martinez, the club seemed ready for their expected assault on promotion back to the top-flight. There was also the promise of the clubs first-ever venture into Europe with a place in the Europa League.


A pre-season tour of the USA gave new boss Owen Coyle his first opportunity to cast an eye over his new charges in a match environment and he must have been very pleased with what he saw.

They swept all before them on the tour, winning all three games and scoring 12 goals. They then won two more warm-up games back in the UK before losing 0-1 to Dundee United at the DW Stadium in the final match before the start of the season.


The season got off to a promising start for Coyle’s men with a 0-4 victory at Barnsley on the opening day with new £2million signing Grant Holt scoring on his league debut. The next game saw a return to the scene of their finest-ever 90 minutes.

Unfortunately they were unable to rekindle their FA Cup success and lost 2-0 in the Community Shield to Premiership Champions Manchester United.

After a decent start the rest of August petered out with a defeat away at Bournemouth before two home draws. The month ended on a high though when goals from Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez secured a first home victory of the season for the Latics when they beat Nottingham Forest 2-1.

On the transfer front Owen Coyle lost a number of key players. James McCarthy, Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz followed Martinez to Goodison Park with Maynor Figueroa and Ronnie Stam also heading for pastures new.

Owen Coyle bought in 12 new signings to freshen-up his squad including Grant Holt from Norwich, Marc-Antoine Fortune and goalkeeper Scott Carson. He also managed to secure the loan signing of Manchester United starlet Nick Powell until the end of the season.


The inconsistent start to the season continued into September as Wigan struggled to find their feet in the Championship. They started the month with an away trip to in-form Leicester City but the Latics were unable to overcome strong Leicester team and after going down to an early goal they struggled to level the match before a late penalty sealed the win for the Foxes.

Early September saw Wigan make their first ever foray into European football when they face Zulte Waregem in Bruges in the opening group game of the Europa League. In front of 2,500 travelling fans Latics gave a valiant performance to seal a well- deserved point against the Belgian top-flight side.

After their European adventure Latics returned to domestic issues in the middle of a run of five games in 14 days with a 2-0 victory at home to Ipswich Town. Goals from Ryan Shotton and Nick Powell help them secure only their second home win of the season.

The bounce for two fine performances did not last long, however, as they were put to the sword by a rampant Manchester City, going down 5-0 at the Etihad only two days after the victory against Ipswich.

The month ended in disappointment when they lost 0-1 to a late goal against in-form Watford in a game in which they deserved a share of the spoils at worst.


The month began with the DW playing host to its first ever European match with a tie against NK Maribor. Two goals from Manchester United loanee Nick Powell added to a Ben Watson goal to give Latics a comfortable 3-1 victory over the Slovakian side and hand them their first ever European victory.

There was no time to rest on their laurels however because Owen Coyle’s side had the small matter of a Lancashire derby against Blackburn Rovers three days later.

In a closely fought contest Wigan came out on top against 10 man Rovers when Emmerson Boyce scored an injury time header make it 2-1 and send Latics’ fans home happy.

The buoyant mood soon evaporated for the fans though with an away defeat in another Lancashire derby, this time against Blackpool. A Thomas Ince penalty snatched the three points for the Seasiders but Latics could so easily have won the match after hitting the woodwork and seeing efforts cleared off the line.

The rest of the month fizzled out in a series of disappointing draws which saw Wigan score only a single goal. Nick Powell continued his good form with another Europa League goal in a 1-1 draw against Rubin Kazan at the DW Stadium.

October ended with two goalless draws against Charlton Athletic and Queens Park Rangers to see Latics stuck in mid-table after a promising start to the month ended in frustration.


Wigan continued their inconsistent form as the season entered its fourth month and another frantically busy period for the team. It started positively with a 2-1 home victory against Huddersfield Town with goals from Leon Barnett and Nick Powell.

They followed this victory with a trip to Russia for a clash with Rubin Kazan in the Europa League. Despite a spirited performance Latics went down 1-0 to leave qualification from the group in their own hands with games against Zulte Waregem and NK Maribor still to play.

There was no time to dwell on the defeat though as they faced a trip to Yeovil less than three-days after returning from Russia. In a scrappy game which saw both teams waste good chances, a 78th minute goal by Marc-Antoine Fortune was enough to see Latics leave Huish Park with all three points.

It proved to be Wigan’s last win under Coyle’s management as they lost back-to-back games 2-1 at the DW against Brighton and Zulte Waregem. The latter result was a huge blow to Latics’ chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League.


Winter started in the same way as autumn ended for Wigan with yet another home defeat for Owen Coyle’s men. Derby County’s emphatic 3-1 victory saw the Latics slump to their fourth defeat in five games.

Even a spirited second half comeback was not enough to save Owen Coyle’s job. The Scotsman had only been in post for six months but the team’s lack of consistency and a poor run of results saw chairman Dave Whelan lose patience with the 47-year-old.

Things didn’t get any easier for Wigan as they faced a tough away trip to Leeds United for their first outing without Coyle.

Former manager and current assistant coach Graham Barrow, who managed Latics from 1994-95, took charge of the team.

It looked like a big ask on paper and so it proved to be when despite Wigan’s dominance of possession they lost to two Ross McCormack goals.

The search for a new manager was clearly top of Dave Whelan’s agenda and the chairman lost little time in securing his man in the shape of former Manchester City striker and Brentford boss Uwe Rosler.

The 45-year-old had agreed to take charge of the Latics but was forced to watch from the stands as they suffered a fifth successive defeat, this time 2-1 at Millwall.

His first game in the Wigan hot seat saw the Latics’ European adventure come to an end after a controversial 2-1 defeat against NK Maribor in Slovenia.

Wigan were one up after a Jordi Gomez penalty when a controversial sending off saw them reduced to 10 men before conceding from the resulting penalty. A second for Maribor sealed Latics’ fate and they finished bottom of Group D on five points.

Rosler’s first league game in charge couldn’t have been tougher than facing Lancashire rivals Bolton at the DW Stadium on the back of a six game losing streak.

In a thrilling clash Wigan won 3-2 with goals from Ben Watson, Nick Powell and a 68th minute winner Callum McManaman to give the new manager a huge home boost before the busy Christmas schedule begins.

Image courtesy of FATV via YouTube, with thanks.

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