The spectacular fireworks that followed Latics' 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Friday at Highmark Stadium in Pennsylvania provided a fitting finale for the first phase of Owen Coyle’s revolution at Wigan.
It is only around five weeks since the effervescent Scotsman took over at the club, but a lot has happened in that time.
To be honest, Coyle's appointment to the Wigan job did not initially go down well with the majority of supporters. It seemed Dave Whelan was doing things on the cheap, bringing in a manager whose Bolton team was relegated from the Premier League in 2012. To make things worse, he had worked with the auld enemy up the road at the Reebok Stadium.
It is remarkable what Coyle has already done in such a short space of time. He must have been working 24/7. His dealings in the transfer market up to this point have been very astute.
Coyle paid a reported 700,000 pounds to Bursaspor for ex-England goalkeeper Scott Carson, who is only 27. James Perch, 26, who promises to be a key central defender was acquired from Newcastle for only £750,000. The biggest sum went to Norwich for 32-year-old Grant Holt -- £2m -- but the big centre forward has a fantastic goalscoring record throughout his career and it could prove to be money very well spent.
Coyle has also picked up a swath of good quality players on free transfers – Stephen Crainey, Thomas Rogne, Chris McCann, Marc-Antoine Fortune.
Preseason tours don’t usually end in fireworks, and in reality only one of the three teams that Latics faced was capable of challenging them. Both the Riverhounds and the Dayton Dutch Lions play in the newly formed United Soccer League Professional Division -- the third tier of American football -- and the gulf between them and Latics was clear to see.
The more difficult game was at Columbus July 13, when Wigan won, 2-1. The Crew have competed in MLS since it started in 1996 and their Crew Stadium was the first "soccer specific" ground built by an MLS club. Crew typically average around 14,500 for MLS matches and the greater metropolitan area of Columbus has a population of more than 2 million. The team are currently in midtable in the MLS' Eastern Conference of the MLS. Latics’ performance against a team of that level in the full swing of their season was gratifying.
There is still a long road ahead for the Coyle revolution. The trip to the U.S. was little more than a training exercise, although it did provide good PR for a club that now has a global branding. Wigan had arrived in the U.S. as not only the team that won the FA Cup, but the one that won it in style.
Although playing at half-pace in the three matches, one could see that the general pattern of Latics’ play has stayed intact. From time to time we saw a few hoofs upfield from new additions to the squad, but by and large we saw that silky approach that was the hallmark of the Roberto Martinez era.
Coyle is wise not to make major changes to the team's style at this stage. As the Championship season progresses, Coyle will adapt it, in the same way that Michael Laudrup did at Swansea last season. The Swans stuck to their fundamentals of possession football, but became more flexible and pragmatic.
The next phase of Coyle’s revolution will be to bring in more quality players to boost the defence and attack. The sooner he can do that, the better. The newcomers will not have had the same opportunity to bond with the squad as did those who went to the U.S. However, the starting lineup for that first league game Aug. 3 at Barnsley is probably already in Coyle’s head, give or take a right back or central defender.
The video coverage of the matches in the U.S. made good viewing. Wiganers had the chance to see the new squad with their own eyes on Monday night when Latics play Atromitos at Leigh Sports Village. Last year, the team from Athens faced Newcastle in the Europa League, drawing 1-1 at home and losing 1-0 away. The match will help provide an indication of what to expect in the Europa League this season.
Coyle has already won over many doubters by his astute moves in the transfer market, his positive approach and his commitment to his work. He has made a really good start to his Wigan Athletic career.