As Wigan Athletic moved into the League One top spot at the weekend, Laura Jones looks at how the club have moved past navel-gazing.
Navel-gazing – it’s a lovely term for spending too much time narcissistically contemplating yourself at the expense of looking around you at a wider perspective.
I suppose the modern day equivalent to gazing at your navel would be walking along a street staring at your smartphone; eventually you end up walking into a lamp post.
Some football clubs are guilty of staring at their belly button for too long. Wigan Athletic is one such club but since they’ve hit a metaphorical lamp post by getting relegated to League One, the club appear to have looked up from their lowered position and taken stock of what needed to change.
There was a certain level of schadenfreude about The Latics fall from grace. There was little sympathy for the club after they decided to appoint Malky MacKay in November 2014, who at the time was a pariah for his textual ‘banter’ through every ‘ism’ you could think of.
The cause wasn’t helped by Wigan’s Chairman Dave Whelan attempting to defend MacKay’s appointment by using the old ‘I have many Jewish friends so I can’t be racist’ argument.
The situation was a long way from the FA Cup winning coverage in 2013 where Wigan were every underdog’s inspiration. Relegated from the Premier League only weeks after their FA Cup win and subsequently relegated again from the Championship last season, Wigan failed to take stock of what was happening around them.
So when you’re flat on your backside looking up from two leagues lower down, life suddenly has a difference perspective and what a difference a year has made for Wigan Athletic.
So what’s changed?
MacKay was sacked on 6th April last year after an Easter and tenure to forget. Less than 24 hours later the club appointed their 32-year-old former captain Gary Caldwell. Although the circumstances meant that Caldwell couldn’t save Wigan from the inevitable drop, the appointment turned out to be a shrewd one.
Wigan’s form is incredible. They haven’t lost a game since 12th December 2015 when they were defeated at home to Lancashire rivals Blackpool. That equates to a 19 match unbeaten streak. Their 1-5 drubbing of Shrewsbury Town at the weekend saw them leapfrog Burton Albion into the League One top spot.
It took a long time for The Latics to find their feet in League One. It wasn’t until they thrashed Colchester United 5-0 in October 2015 that there seemed to be any belief in the team. As a former player and captain, Caldwell came into the manager role without expectation but most importantly a connection to the club. He was invested in making it work at Wigan.
Navel-gazing is also used in yoga as a form of meditation called Omphaloskepsis. Taking a number of cleansing breaths, Caldwell has had a calming effect on the Wigan team.
Take Caldwell’s astute signing of striker Will Grigg. After helping MK Dons get promoted into Championship in 2015 with 22 goals in 50 appearances, Grigg has equalled that goal tally already this season. Only Swindon Town’s Nicky Ajose has scored more goals.
Wigan play Burton Albion later this month and are looking to seal promotion as Champions. Time to keep their heads up and eyes away from their midriff.
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