Any Wigan Athletic fan who cares to look back on the first few months in charge of past managers will know that they will have to dig deep into the history books to find a manager who won ten of their first fifteen league games in charge. If they do find someone, they can ask themselves whether that person also drew three further games while inheriting someone else’s team half-way through a season. Will that manager also have taken the club to the FA Cup semi-final with virtually no money to spend in the January transfer window? No-one with access to the Wigan Athletic archives has suggested a manager who has accomplished such a feat so it can be assumed that Uwe Rösler is the proud owner of a wonderful Latics record.
Of course, no-one is kidding themselves that if the results don’t keep coming such a record will be worth keeping. Herr Rösler’s challenge is to get us into the play-offs and while the team looks to be set fair to meet Dave Whelan’s demands, there is an awfully long way to go yet – another fifteen games to be precise. The players are looking tired at times, injuries have recently robbed the team of two important players and the recent experiences of Derby County show how a winning streak can quickly turn into a where’s-the -next-goal-coming-from run.
There’s something about this team though and there’s definitely something about our manager. Some might say it’s a magic touch, given the results since he arrived. Others that his style of play suits our players. After the win at Manchester City on Sunday, many commentators have praised his tactical acumen. However, there’s something less tangible about Uwe, something a little harder to put your finger on.
Our rapidly growing, mystical statistic of being almost invincible after taking the lead in a match (only Maribor in Rösler’s first match in charge and MK Dons in the FA Cup have gone on to take something from a game after Latics have scored the first goal) says something about our ability to hold a winning position. Last minute wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley say a lot about determination. Fantastic away wins against play-off rivals Derby, Reading, Brighton and Forest show how the players believe in their ability to win in meaningful games. Wonderful cup victories over Crystal Palace and away at Cardiff and City show that this new era in the history of Wigan Athletic is being heralded with a new form of sin miedo. Even when the players get tired during a game (or in the next match after a tough game as we saw on Wednesday), the determination and will to win are personified by the likes of James Perch and Emmerson Boyce with Boyce’s extraordinary tackle against Edin D?eko set to become as legendary as his lifting of the FA Cup itself.
This might not be the tika taka that the fans enjoyed under our erstwhile manager Roberto Martinez but he must now be watching (as he surely will be) and enjoying the enthusiasm, grit and intensity of Latics’ play. It’s not so much about possession and passing but about something that has perhaps never been seen in Wigan to the degree it is now – a sheer will to win football matches. Intangible it might be, but, at times, like in the last few minutes against Barnsley, away at City and Forest, you feel you can almost cut it with a knife.
In German there is an expression Siegermentalität, or winning mentality, which is not often used because, quite simply, there is no other mentality. As Germany legend Paul Breitner has said, in Germany you’re brought up to play to win, not to enjoy playing the game.
Of course, clichés of nationality may have nothing to do with it, but you can’t help wondering if just a little of this winning mentality that he grew up with has rubbed off on our manager.
The word may not be needed much when speaking German but Latics fans rapidly running out of ways to describe the Uwe phenomenon may do well to remember Siegermentalität. Come the end of the season it may be the only word to explain what they’ve experienced since the 9th December.