Nine reasons why Simon Wiles might just be a good fit for Fleetwood Town

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 19 January 2021, 08:39

After Fleetwood told Joey Barton to go his own way, Town need a new manager.

Australia legend Tim Cahill is the current favourite while Chris Beech and Derek Adams, who are doing stellar jobs in League Two with Carlisle and Morecambe respectively, are also on the betting list along with serial promotion winners such as Danny Cowley and Paul Cook.

With such appealing options in the mix, therefore, surely chairman Andy Pilley should not appoint the current caretaker who, a week ago, had never coached in senior football?

Think again.

EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton makes the case for why Simon Wiles could be the best man for the job.

1. He has Pilley’s backing

Pilley has spoken in glowing terms about Wiles as a coach.

That could be taken with a small pinch of salt given that the owner has an interest in building up the confidence of his employees, especially somebody who will be leading the team in forthcoming games.

Then again, this praise is by no means customary.

In most cases, when there is a change of manager, the club officially announces who will be taking charge on an interim basis, without the chairman giving the caretaker any sort of build-up.

Pilley’s comments to club media were:

“Simon has been on my radar for a long time now. We believe he’s an outstanding, young, intelligent coach, we think tactically he is very astute, very sharp, we think he has got all the attributes to be a really, really good manager.” 

Without context, one would think those words would come in a press conference unveiling a new manager and clearly there is a temptation from Pilley’s perspective to give Wiles a chance.

Most caretaker gaffers must fare brilliantly and oversee an immediate winning streak to give themselves a chance of getting the permanent gig over more experienced alternatives but Wiles, it seems, merely needs to perform well or in line with expectation to be a frontrunner.

2. He’ll promote youth

Fleetwood possess what appears to be a top six squad on the surface – and there is some truth to that given the quality available – but it is also a squad that needs freshening up.

The average age of their most frequent starting XI this season is 29.5, which suggests that previous boss Joey Barton has picked players who are the best in their position individually, rather than players who best fit the equilibrium of the team.

Pilley’s external backing means the Trawlermen can afford at least one proven, ready-made performer for each position, which can be a huge advantage.

That advantage, though, means that in each position, the obvious move is to pick the guy who has done well at this level or above before in his career, rather than the guy still cutting his cloth.

The problem with employing this logic in almost every selection, though, is that Fleetwood miss out on the qualities that younger players bring: pace, energy, stamina, dynamism and exuberance. 

The Lancashire outfit need two or three more of those types of players in their starting XIs to produce the leg work required to create space for the more seasoned operators.

Having been Youth Team Manager, Wiles has an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the kids on Fleetwood’s books.

Since he took charge on an interim basis, we have already seen defender Harrison Holgate recalled from National League Altrincham while winger Shayden Morris, midfielder Carl Johnston and highly-rated talent Cian Hayes have all signed long-term contracts.

This may have been down partly to the list of absentees, but on a broader level it may also reflect Wiles’ appreciation for the value that young players can bring.

3. Making Harvey part of the furniture

Following on from the above theme, we saw what a massive impact Harvey Saunders had on this Fleetwood side when he came in for a brief Autumn period.

Barton’s troops had endured a tough start to the campaign but, after an outstanding performance against an Aston Villa XI in the EFL Trophy, Saunders was given the nod to face Hull in front of the nation.

The Wolverhampton-born forward not only scored twice and assisted once, he also brought a frenetic energy to Fleetwood’s attacking play from the right of the attack, with his direct, penetrative runs opening the game up for more experienced forwards such as Paddy Madden.

Saunders had got into the game almost by accident, because he worked full-time at an Indian restaurant that won a football competition, which encouraged him to take up Sunday League football, earn numerous non-league stints including Darlington, whom he left for Fleetwood in 2019.

One could look at Saunders background and infer a lack of natural quality which makes him less appealing than somebody like Josh Morris, for example, who scored 19 goals at this level for Scunthorpe in 2016-17 and has more technical quality.

Saunders, though, is not only much quicker than Morris, he also appreciates working at this level far more and therefore plays every game as though it could be his last.

4. Rejuvenating the midfield

Under Barton, Fleetwood’s had a central midfield pairing of Glenn Whelan and Paul Coutts – a combined age of 69!

Whelan is a strong, combative midfielder who won promotion from the Championship with Aston Villa as recently as 2018-19, while Coutts was among the second tier’s best controllers, up until an injury in November 2017.

The rationale is not that Whelan and Coutts cannot make huge contributions to Fleetwood over the next 18-months, but that maybe they work better as individuals than as a partnership.

Whelan, for example, could go very nicely alongside midfield metronome Jordan Rossiter, who was highly rated as a youngster at Liverpool and is still only 23.

Coutts, meanwhile, could be paired by Jay Matete, who would rejuvenate the midfield with his infectious energy and driving forward runs.

5. Promoting defensive talent

Like Whelan and Coutts in midfield, Charlie Mulgrew is a fantastic asset at this level.

Not only is Mulgrew a fine centre-back in terms of the basics, having performed reasonably for Celtic before inspiring Blackburn to promotion from the third tier, he is also an excellent technician.

The 34-year-old can be an excellent goalscoring defender due to his threat from penalties and set pieces, while his ball-playing ability belongs at a far higher level.

What Mulgrew lacks, though, is pace, so there is potential for him to form a strong partnership with teenager James Hill, whose talents Wiles is already familiar with.

The same can be said of Ryan Rydel, who is another highly-rated academy star – the 19-year-old was handed a start at left-back in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth in the absence of the more experienced Danny Andrew.

The list of absentees also included goalkeepers Alex Cairns and Jayson Leutwiler plus defender Sam Stubbs as well as right-siders Wes Burns and Tom Edwards, despite which Fleetwood produced a spirited display against Pompey under Wiles’ guidance.

6. Knowledge of the youth circuit

While playing for Chorley, Wiles was appointed Under-10s coach at Blackpool in 2013 – the children he worked with and observed then will now be 16 or 17.

As Youth Team Manager, Wiles will have kept his head in the academy circuit and monitored the development of players he recognized at the beginning of his coaching career.

After building up knowledge over eight years, Wiles is in a fantastic position to identify the talent of the future and bring in players with the potential to elevate Fleetwood’s standing within English football.

The facilities at Poolfoot Farm are fantastic, arguably superior to other northern clubs like Crewe and Rochdale, who have done far more to produce teenage talent.

With a modern, attractive setup, Fleetwood are in an excellent position to pick up players who may have been rejected by elite clubs but still have huge potential in the game – and Wiles could play a part in helping them maximize that advantage more than they have recently.

7. Knowledge of the non-league circuit

Ignorance in football is an enemy.

Sometimes there is a temptation for managers, in their busy time schedules, to neglect research of certain divisions because they doubt they will find players of sufficient quality – especially when funds are available.

In League One this season, though, Remy Howarth is a first teamer at leaders Lincoln, Lee Brown and Sean Raggett are reliable performers in a Portsmouth side possessing an excellent defensive record, whilst Tom Anderson remains a key defender for Doncaster, for whom Fejiri Okenabirhie is in sizzling goalscoring form.

What do all those players have in common? They all played non-league football.

Fleetwood need a manager who will habitually finish training in early afternoon then, if there is not a game on that evening, head out to another part of Lancashire and watch a non-league match.

Certain managers are less likely to do that regularly but Wiles, who has played for Chorley and Bamber Bridge, already has contacts in the non-league scene and is more likely to have his eye on the market.

That, in turn, increases the chances of him finding somebody like Saunders, who can lift the standards of training and provide a fresh psychological perspective, which is vital in an otherwise expensive, experienced squad.

8. Suits financial climate

Appointing Wiles would also make sense for Fleetwood in relation to the current financial climate.

Fleetwood might not rely on gate revenue in quite the same way as other clubs due to the external investment Pilley provides, but going 18 months without fans will have an impact on their financial operations.

Pilley included the words “different direction” at the end of his tweet regarding Barton’s dismissal, which suggests an approach geared towards operating sustainably, whilst remaining competitive on a short-term basis.

If Wiles has ambitions of breaking into senior management, he would be delighted to get his first job at a League One club with a fantastic infrastructure.

For that reason, the 35-year-old might be available at modest wages and without the need to pay compensation.

Chris Beech or Derek Adams, by contrast, would need to be poached from Carlisle or Morecambe respectively, while Danny Cowley, Nigel Adkins or Paul Cook would likely require hefty wages due to their profiles within the game.

9. Positive attitude

The other strength Wiles could bring to Fleetwood is his positive attitude.

Barton is a forthright character who typically leads from a place of judgement: he makes swift conclusions then analyses events from the perspective he has already established.

The former Newcastle midfielder has created an “us against the world” mentality which can be an advantage in terms of motivation and helped him deliver a top six finish last season, but it also means he can assume bad intentions of others, sometimes inaccurately.

Wiles would approach the managerial role more cautiously and look to understand situations in full before taking action, which could make a refreshing change for the group after an intense two-and-a-half years.

Whenever the former Dunfermline man conducts interviews, he tends to have the makings of a smile on his face which underpins an infectious level of enthusiasm.

That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not true of every manager and Wiles’ different motivational approach could positively influence the mood around Highbury.

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