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Wigan Athletic 1 v 1 Ipswich Town
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 11th December 2021 Kick-off 15:00
McGreal: You Can Now See the Guys’ Shackles Breaking Off
Saturday, 11th Dec 2021 18:30

Interim manager John McGreal says you could see the Blues’ quality coming through as they finished their 1-1 draw at Wigan strongly and be believes the players are starting to enjoy getting on the ball again.

McGreal was in charge of Town for the second time following Paul Cook’s sacking last Saturday and says the display against the second-placed Latics was in stark contrast to the performance in the 2-0 loss at Charlton on Tuesday.

“I think it was a little bit night and day, to be fair,” McGreal. “I thought for 20 minutes again, we started OK but then gave away a little bit of a sloppy set-piece goal, things that we’ve been working on.

“It’s been tough to try and get the work on the grass, a lot’s been in the room to try and get the details on the tactical side.

“It just shows you that when players do knock off, there are opportunities for the opposition and that proved to be the case because just after that they had another corner and we defended it well. It was just one lapse I felt in that first half, in a tight game.

“You’re coming in and you’re thinking ‘We have to play’. Tons of endeavour, lots of effort. Again, a little bit of quality needed and I thought, especially in the second half, we saw a lot more of people taking a pass, taking a ball under pressure and you could actually start seeing the guys’ quality coming through and we finished the game really, really well, to be fair.”

Speaking after the Charlton game McGreal said there was a need to show character against a very good Wigan team.

“Their stats are ridiculous for their second half goals,” he continued. “It’s off the scale. You wonder then whether they’re then going to up the tempo, but our guys were there standing toe-to-toe with them.

“The goal came at a great time for us. I thought we’d just started to get into good positions, but weren’t overly showing quality.

“It was a great time to score a goal for us and I thought afterwards we sat ourselves in, it was a great shape throughout the game, we protected Christian [Walton] really, really well, the back eight as such, but knowing we had on the counter the two lads that can run the channels, and if not hold the ball up. And I thought we were able to do that.”

Asked about moving to two up front, Macauley Bonne and Joe Pigott, he said: “I said that the other night, they needed a bit of a shock. The fans coming down and not having to see only one shot on target, it’s criminal for a team of our quality.

“So I had to shake the pack to go two boys up top to get the balls in the box if we could. In the first half we didn’t but you’re thinking ‘OK, tons of endeavour, a lot more hard work’, but I thought in the second half, I think Kyle [Edwards] had a brilliant chance where the lad blocked it when we would have gone 2-1 up.

“It just shows you when you get the ball in the opposition’s box, there’s a little bit of panic and we were able to do that. I was really pleased with the way the boys finished.”

What did he make to the front two’s performance? “I thought they were a little bit sloppy in the first half. Things we had worked on, little round the corner balls from JD [Janoi Donacien]’s side that he was putting in to the main striker just bounced off one or two times and we weren’t able to gain the territory.

“I thought the guys started the second half well, to be fair, but you’re just getting towards 55 minutes, 60 and we still hadn’t got towards the goalkeeper, so we had to make the change.

“And I thought the two changes [James Norwood and Sone Aluko], they came on and it was a fitting reward to get the boys the result. They came on and, again, added more value, added more quality and finished the game strongly.”

Regarding Norwood, returning after his spell in the Town wilderness, scoring the goal, McGreal admitted it was inevitable.

“It had to be, he told me straight away, ‘I’d told you I score goals’,” he said. “I said ‘I know that, son!’. He’s been telling me all week.

“I only know what he does on the pitch. I’ve come up against him numerous times at Colchester and he’s always been a thorn in my side, he’s always seemed to score against me. And he’s said to me all week ‘I’ll score at the weekend’.

“I said, ‘Relax, let’s get you in training first, see where you are in training’ because other than a couple of U23s games but I think his last game was Gillingham [at the start of October].

“We had to look after him but I thought half an hour was there for him to come on and he’s been able to do that.

“It just gives us something different. We felt that we could get at their back four, that was the main when we looked at the tapes. We were here the other night, we felt we could get at the back four, and it proved the case.”

On Norwood he added: “He’s just sitting there as calm as you like. He does what he does. He scores goals, he tells me his record is really good. Now it’s up to the other guys. We need goals, not just from that forward line because if Macca [Macauley Bonne] doesn’t score then we’re looking at who else is going to bring goals to the team.

“That’s another part of what we’ve been working on. We’ve been working on set plays because set plays are a big chance to score goals and I thought we were unlucky at one or two occasions from set plays. We need goals from other members of the team, not just the strike force.”

Asked whether it was important to get the point on the board and also that his period as interim manager didn’t start with two defeats, the former centre-half said: “It’s not about me, this is not about me whatsoever at all, looking after the football club while they’re making decisions. I’ve stepped in, I wasn’t going to turn the club down for what they’ve been for me.

“I live in the area, I’ve got builders in and out the house who are massive Town fans, so I’m not going to turn my back on the Town, there’s not a chance.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the club. We need to get the club in the right position. You can now see the guys’ shackles breaking off, they’re now landing on the ball and taking a touch and getting their heads up and stuff. Brilliant.

“So when the next guy comes in, I’m trying to get the team, me Kieron [Dyer] and Reg [Rene Gilmartin], get the team to a level where they’re fearless, they can now go on and dominate the game and dominate the play because there are tons of games left to make things happen.

“All we’ve gone in to do is to try and steady the ship, try and get a couple of good results, which I did say at the very beginning. It didn’t work Tuesday, but they’ve reacted in a brilliant way, that’s all I can say. The guys have been brilliant.”

Does he expect to be in charge at Barrow on Wednesday? “I’ll speak to [CEO] Mark [Ashton], Mark’s always in contact and until that goes I’ll try and prep the team the best I can, but you just don’t know.

“A day in football is a long time in football and a lot of things can get done in 24 hours, as we all now know with Zooms and different things. We’ll just have to wait and see to see what Wednesday brings.”

Did McGreal believe Town should have been awarded a penalty in the first half when Kyle Edward was tripped in the box? “From where I was, it looked it but it looked as if he was running towards the touchline. I need to look at it again. You think it was, do you. There were bodies in front of me and I just couldn’t see, so I’d have to look on the tape.”

Regarding the first-half incident involving Conor Chaplin, he added: “I spoke to the ref, he said he tripped him up or something, so the referee was about to give him a yellow card but the linesman over that side went ‘No, it was literally a coming together’ and he said ‘What I did was I took my yellow card away and I didn’t book him, I listened to my linesman’.

“I think it was literally as they were walking he tripped him over because something was going on with the number three, [Tom] Pearce, and there was a little bit of mouthing off.

“Especially when you’ve got the Wigan fans in that corner and you’ve got our fans right next to it, there’s going to be a bit of noise and a. bit of volume. So I thought the referee handled that decision really well.”

At the end the Town fans warmly applauded the Town fans, again in contrast to the Charlton match.

“I totally agree and I thought we finished the game with a bit of quality, which was lacking hugely on Tuesday,” he said.

“The endeavour was there, the work-rate was there and they’re now in a position where they’ve scored a goal away from home against a top-two team.

“They’re a top-two team, Wigan, we’ve got to try and get to that standard but the pleasing thing for me now is that the noise levels have raised throughout the week, now they’ve continued that throughout the week and now after the game, there’s a bit of noise in there, which is great.

“It shows you they’re now starting to enjoy getting on the ball, playing football because that’s what the club’s about. We’ve got things to do, so we can’t stand still, we’ve got to keep ourselves moving.”

Regarding centre-half Toto Nsiala’s absence from the 18, McGreal says that had nothing to do with the incident at the Valley: “No, just my decision.”

Wigan boss Leam Richardson felt Will Keane’s disallowed goal ought to have stood and claimed Chaplin should have been red-carded for a stamp in the incident towards the end of the first half.

“I think on reflection of the week we've had - going through in the FA Cup, winning in midweek, and not getting beat today - it's been a good week,” he told Wigan Today.

“We're obviously disappointed we didn't win, but the lads have been going well. I'm disappointed we conceded from a set-piece, because that's so unlike us.

“In the first half I thought we controlled large parts of the game. In the second half, it was more even, but all the big chances fell to us.

“Will Keane's goal, we obviously get to see it afterwards, and it is onside, which is disappointing.

“We know the officials have lots of decisions to make, but we do feel they've got the big ones wrong today.

“Their lad should be sent off, we all know that, and I'm sure the FA will look into it. It's a tough job, I certainly wouldn't like to be a referee, but it is disappointing.”

Photo: TWTD

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itfcserbia added 18:41 - Dec 11
While still early to judge McGreal at least seems to show better match awareness than Cook. Wonder what Penney did wrong, he wasn't great but definitely wasn't our biggest problem.

BlueBoots added 18:43 - Dec 11
Whatever happens regarding the appointment / non-appointment of a new manager, delighted that we've got John McGreal in the building. If a new man does come in soon, I hope McGreal isn't just relegated to the U23's (or worse) and he has some input in First Team matters because I think he has a lot to offer...

NITFC added 18:49 - Dec 11
I didn't think we showed loads of quality today but deserved the point. Unfortunately we are so far away from the top now that we needed to beat Wigan. It's not too bad though. Just starting a night out in Wigan and it looks surprisingly promising! 😜

ArnieM added 18:56 - Dec 11
So is this a dig at Paul Cooks approach by JM… “ you can see the players throwing their shackles off”

warfarinman69 added 19:02 - Dec 11
It must be a tough job coming in on a temporary basis, but McGreal has done nothing but reinforce what we saw of him as a player. Top man. Maybe no Pep, but at least he cares. As I think does Norwood. And wow, 4-4-2 away from home. I remain unconvinced by some of Cooks' signings but if the man in charge cares about the club you always have a chance. Let's get this appointment right. COYB.

Orraman added 19:10 - Dec 11
After at least 10 years of listening to McCarthy, Hurst, Lambert and Cook spouting verbal garbage in their post match interviews, it was so good to hear John McGreal give a fair and sensible interview which was not only understandable but also honestly answered the questions put to him without any attempts to evade the point or make ridiculous comments

Sospiri added 19:10 - Dec 11
Massively impressive interview with McGreal. He just has the right balance of leadership and low-key personality. I can see all the players enjoying working with him. Hope he stays working with the first team when the new guy comes in.

cat added 19:12 - Dec 11
If JM can make us “fearless, dominate the play and the game” then he’s a contender for the job. That in it self is going to be a big ask as mental fragility has been our downfall this season. Switching off for periods in games, only turning up for one half and not taking big moments (at either end) are where the problems are. The players have shown on more than a few occasion what they are capable of doing when we have destroyed decent teams. The ability is clearly there and needs unlocking.

1960H added 19:13 - Dec 11
With the underwhelming list of candidates why not give Mcgreal a chance till the end of the season

markchips added 19:15 - Dec 11
Some good decisions by Mcgreal already. Nsiala out of the 18. Penney Behind KVY at left back. Norwood in. Good result and roll on Barrow

pennblue added 19:24 - Dec 11
If the rest of the 1st team has James Norwood confidence and belief in themselves we would be a top two side. We have the quality we just need the belief. Need another 10%-15% from a few more players. Bonne, Piggot, Chaplin, Edward’s, Aluko and Celina can run riot in this League, they just need to take to the pitch knowing they are better and just boss the games. Good to see James Norwood back today, he definitely gives us those defenders a torrid time and knows where the back of the net is. We need a set of strikers that have different attributes so we have options.


Linkboy13 added 19:34 - Dec 11
With nearly half the season gone it's obvious this squad is not strong enough to gain promotion. The squad is overloaded with lightweight ball players and not enough ball winning players who are prepared to mix it in midfield. Don't know if Pigott is unsettled but ive yet to see one game where he's shown any aggression or work rate to warrant a run in the side.

Gforce added 19:39 - Dec 11
Nicely summed up John ,a very accurate and honest assessment. Nice touch giving Norwood another chance,which proved a correct one.

blue86 added 19:57 - Dec 11
A point away to Wigan is a good result. We didnt play that well, which makes it even better. I'm glad we went with a front 2 which we have been crying out for. I would actually be happy to see McGreal given until the end of the season to see what he can achieve, if were not showing signs of improvement or miss the playoffs we can then make a decision in the summer. Listening to Alex Mathie on iFollow he got it spot on, we need more support from the midfield in an attacking sense. If we played 352 we could have an attacking mid behind two strikers, Bonne and Norwood as a front two with Chaplin behind them. Also when Burns is fit, he could play as a wing back, think that would be potent! I'm not that inspired by some of the managers we have been linked with, give it to McGreal until the end of the season, say to McGreal get us in the top six and the job is yours. Big ask but worth a go.

markchips added 20:11 - Dec 11
Would like to see Fraser in the midfield but suspect he will be off to Swansea . Mcgreal and Dyer have certainly done themselves no harm with today’s result. Realistically a draw at Sunderland and charlton would have been deemed good results. Against Rotherham we were second best no doubt. Therefore one streaky win against a contender and I still say play offs here we come.

Unhinged_dynamo added 20:34 - Dec 11
Give him the job

Reusers_Tash added 20:49 - Dec 11
My vote is for giving JM the chance. It’s heart we need, and pride. He can get that out of players in spades.

ImAbeliever added 21:10 - Dec 11
Good to see that Edwards got a 90 in. Point away at top two opposition is good at any time. ‘We go again’ to coin a phrase.

ImAbeliever added 21:11 - Dec 11
Let’s hope the Tractor can harrow Barrow.

Suffolkboy added 21:11 - Dec 11
JMcG showing us again what a cool head he has on his shoulders,AND reinforcing his absolute loyalty to and belief in ITFC !
Quietly but obviously rather successfully he’s turned more than a few things round in a very short space of time ! It’ll take a little longer to iron out the creases ,get rid of doubts in the players minds but this is a solid start and good evidence of what is possible !
Well done ,well spoken and congratulations to JMc G — and all today’s players !

davetheblue added 21:33 - Dec 11
After seeing the candidates for the job.
Give Mcgreal a chance until end of season.
We are not gonna be nowhere near promotion this year so let’s see if he can bond these players least he seems willing to try a different formation.


Karlosfandangal added 21:36 - Dec 11
Bet if JM gets the job and don’t win for 5 games the fans will turn on him.

Bazza8564 added 21:47 - Dec 11
Literally just back after driving the 430 mile round trip from Bury and as much as im encouraged by the positivity above, this was not a good performance at all, and with Town fans after the game having a quick beer there was almost a unanimous feeling of "get the new man in really quickly".
Wigan were poor, they created very little and the ranked below Shrewsbury for me in terms of how they threatened us.
Our selections once again were a little baffling, i can only assume Clements and Penney are both injured because playing KVY ahead of them limited us with our distribution and support in wide areas, although Burgess had a good game and we looked more assured defensively through the core.
Morsy and Evans did better, both were more advanced, although the 442 meant narrower wide players and a lack of fluency.
Again, Bonne and Pigott split the field in half and looked wholly ineffective together, and when Walton kicked long one peeled left, one right and there was 45 yards between them, and nobody supporting.
Thankfully, and although JM somehow decided Bonne was playing better and yanked Pigott (again fans are getting rather fed up with Bonne being played because of goals he scored 2 months ago - their words afterwards), Norwoods arrival completely changed the tone, and it was fitting he should score the goal.
NITFC above nails it, no quality but we deserved a point, Wigan will fade im certain but the football we played today, although we got something from the game, was miles behind some of the passing football we played under Cook, and with respect to the comments above, only one or two saw it first hand.
Make no mistake, this was not a good performance in footballing terms and although we got a point, the feeling afterwards was one of inadequacy, urgency in getting a new manager and resignation that we will still be in this league this time next year.


blue86 added 21:47 - Dec 11
Karlosfandangal, I'm willing to give McGreal until the end of the season. It's a win win, if he makes an impact and we finish in the top six give it to him permanently. If we fall short and were inconsistent then a new man comes in. I'm just not inspired by the managers we have been linked with, and would prefer a foreign manager if McGreal doesn't do the business. McGreal would have my backing from now until end of season anyway. Coyb

Calderboy added 22:03 - Dec 11
Personally I would let him take the team till the end of the season as for the need for an attacking midfielder see Teddy Bishop got a couple of goals for Lincoln in my opinion there was no need to get rid of 2 or 3 of last season’s players Downes was always going to go but Bishop Dozzell and Will Keane I would have kept

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