A Macclesfield fan’s view of Danny Whitehead

Whitehead

The 22 year old Danny Whitehead became a Wigan Athletic player in early January. On signing from Macclesfield Town,  Whitehead was loaned back to them for the rest of the season.  Given that his experience is largely in non-league football, are Latics taking a gamble in offering Whitehead a 30 month contract?

The 5 ft 10 in tall Whitehead was born in Stretford and joined the nearby Stockport County when 15, making his senior debut at the age of 17. He went on to make 60 appearances, scoring 6 goals. Whitehead signed for West Ham in the summer of 2013, following a trial period with them. Sam Allardyce, then Hammers manager, commented that:

He was recommended by Didi Hamann – who managed Stockport – as he felt he was an emerging talent that needed nurturing. I asked their current manager Ian Bogie about his talents and he allowed us to take a look at him last season and like every young player he’s got talent. He’s very capable of handling the ball and he’s able to create with his passing. Danny is very slight, which we’ll work on, but the question is can we create that potential into a Premier League player?”

Whitehead made his debut for the Hammers in January 2014 in a 5-0 FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest. It proved to be his only game for West Ham and he was released in January 2015. In March 2015 he joined Accrington Stanley on as short term contract.

Whitehead joined Macclesfield Town last summer. In order to learn more about Whitehead’s time at Macc we contacted Voice of Reason through the Wragg’s to Riches Macclesfield fan site.

Here’s over to him:

Danny Whitehead was a regular trialist in our 2015 pre-season friendly programme and was one of our star performers. The qualities I remember from pre-season were skill, creativity and time on the ball. Although we already had quality in midfield, both the club and the supporters were very keen to add Danny to the squad, and while it was evident that the budget was under pressure, Danny was the one trialist whom we signed in the final days before the start of the season.

Our competitive season started slowly for a number of reasons, and I would say that Danny did not carry his form fully into the early season, appearing not to adapt well to the more physical nature of competitive non-League football.

After starting in the first 2 games, he only managed to start one of the next 6, but remained involved coming off the bench in all the other games. When an injury to our skipper, Paul Turnbull , let him back into the team in early September, he went on a run of 18 straight starts.

He was voted Man of the Match on the fans message board in our 4-1 win against the League leaders Forest Green Rovers in September, but our away game to Aldershot at the end of September seemed to be a major turning point. Due to injuries, Danny combined with his near-namesake Danny Whitaker in a lightweight-looking central midfield. We needn’t have worried as Whitehead, Whitaker and our two wide midfielders ripped Aldershot apart to the extent that we were 3-0 up away from home after about an hour, and our manager John Askey was able to rest players and to bring on 3 subs, two of whom were getting their first game-time of the season.

Danny Whitehead has not looked back since that match, as we also went on a very good run. He looked more ready for the fray and used his particular qualities more effectively in central midfield. His run of 18 starts was only interrupted by injury from a very physical game at Southport, and he contributed fully to high scoring wins against Woking, Wrexham, Guiseley and Altrincham.

After signing for Wigan, he described his playing style very well – energetic, covering lots of ground, getting forward and chipping in with a few goals. He’s also quick, but my abiding memories of Danny will include some quality finishing (he’s got a great shot on him), his darting runs into space and his willingness to chase the ball down when the opposition get it. He’s played equally well in central midfield in a 4-4-2, or when there have been 3 in the midfield. Following another quality performance on Tuesday night, he has now been voted Man of the Match 4 times outright and once on a shared basis.

Wigan fans might find entertaining an interview with Garry Hill, the Woking manager, after we won 5-2 at their ground with Danny opening the scoring with a cracker – he almost spits out the names of our central midfield players before saying “we never got a kick” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRTmCr8E850 at 3 minutes and 20 seconds).

Danny goes to Wigan with the best wishes of the Macc faithful. I get the impression that his attitude is “spot on” and having already had a spell at West Ham, he has bags of skill and potential. He will need to step up again from his current level to succeed in League 1 or the Championship, but he has progressed at Macc and, at 22 years old, who’s to say that he won’t establish himself at Wigan or indeed go on to a higher level.

In an interview in November, Danny talked about how much he was enjoying playing regularly, after 2 seasons where he didn’t get many games, and observed that he had to play games to improve – he will need to do the same again and your manager will have to show faith in him to give him the chance to make that step up.

 

 

Winning with kids

Gary Caldwell continues to lower the average age of his squad.

Gary Caldwell continues to lower the average age of his squad.

“You can’t win anything with kids”.

So said Alan Hansen after a young Manchester United side had been beaten by Aston Villa. United’s lineup had featured an 18 year old Phil Neville, plus 20 year olds David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, together with the 21 year old Ryan Giggs. They went on to win the Premier League that same season. Hansen’s comment became infamous in English football history.

As did Alex Ferguson twenty years ago, Gary Caldwell too has put a considerable amount of faith in young players. In fact three of them rank in the top four this season as far as appearances are concerned. That trio of Donervon Daniels, Reece James and Max Power are all 22 years old.

Over the January transfer Caldwell has continued to lower the average age of his squad. Don Cowie (32) and Grant Holt (34) left the club by mutual consent. In came Ryan Colclough (21), Conor McAleny (23), Sam Morsy (24) and Reece Wabara (24). Goalkeeper Dan Lavercombe (19) replaced Richard O’Donnell (27), although for the moment he is back at his previous club, Torquay. Midfielder Danny Whitehead (22) was also signed and loaned back to Macclesfield Town. Yanic Wildschut (24) was signed on a permanent contract following his loan spell from Middlesbrough.

Caldwell and his recruitment team have done a fine job, bringing in no less than 29 new players since summer. Moreover there are signs that the players are starting to gel and the team is starting to approach the point where the whole is at least the sum of its parts. Hopes for automatic promotion have been raised, although it remains a difficult task given the consistency of the teams above them.

Wabara has filled the problematic right wing back position, with Kevin McNaughton now back in training. A few weeks ago losing Michael Jacobs to injury would have left the team short of creative input. But the emergence of Haris Vuckic and the arrival of the confident and accomplished Colclough have helped allay concerns. Morsy has come in to add some steel to the midfield, potentially the replacement for David Perkins, who is now 33. The squad now has a better balance than it did a month ago.

Whether Latics will achieve automatic promotion remains to be seen. But with the talent at Caldwell’s disposal they will pose problems for any team in League 1. The least Latics are currently heading for is a place just below the top two, but  getting promotion through the playoffs is a precarious business where confrontations can be tight and so easily effected by unexpected events. The worst case scenario is at  least one more year in League 1.

Next season Latics will receive around £12 million in parachute payments, the final instalment. If they remain in League 1 they will be able to continue operating a budget three times higher than most clubs in the division. However, if promotion is achieved they will face fierce financial competition from Championship clubs, some boosted by much larger parachute payments, others buoyed by funding from benefactor owners. Moreover when their own parachute payments run out they will be faced with competing on an uneven keel against almost all the clubs in the division.

It is for these reasons that having a quality recruitment programme is key to the club’s long term future. Scouting for bargains in younger players coming from clubs in lower divisions or those released by big clubs will be the order of the day.

At the same time the club will need to be able to attract top teenage talent into its academy. Gregor Rioch came with a fine reputation in building up an academy at Coventry and he has already produced results at Wigan. The under 18 team breaking a club record by reaching the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup and taking Manchester City into extra time is an indicator of how much progress has been made. As in previous eras many of the youngsters recruited have come from the greater Manchester and Liverpool areas, often after being at a Premier League club. The recent loan moves of the 18 year old Adam Anson and the 19 year old Louis Robles, both previously in the Liverpool academy, to Macclesfield continue to show that the club seeks to toughen up the younger talent it is nurturing by sending them to clubs in physically competitive leagues. Sam Cosgrove, 18, previously at the Everton academy, has already had loan spells at Barrow and Chorley.

Over the years Alan Hansen might have come to rue his assertion that “You can’t win anything with kids”. But Premier League stats suggest that there is some degree of validity in his statement. When Manchester United won that title in 1995-96 they had six players under the age of 23 who played in 10 games or more. But nothing of the kind has happened since. In fact the average number of under 23s playing regularly in Premier League title winning squads over the last 20 years is less than three.

The success of Manchester United’s young players those two decades ago was clearly exceptional. But perhaps more importantly those players were to stay at the club, providing the backbone of the team for years to come.

Gary Caldwell will be hoping that this will prove the case for the majority of the young players he has recruited over recent months. He and his recruitment team are striving to build the backbone of a squad to serve the club for years to come.

 

 

A Crewe fan’s view of Ryan Colclough

Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of 21 year old Ryan Colclough from Crewe Alexandra. Although the fee is undisclosed it appears that the basic amount could be topped up, based on appearances, with Crewe receiving a proportion of any future transfer fee.

Given the torn calf injury suffered by Michael Jacobs, Colclough would seem an almost ideal replacement, nominally a winger but scoring his goals from more central positions behind the central striker.

On signing for Latics he told the club’s official site that “I will play anywhere across the front three.  I like to get on the ball, go one v one against a defender and I also like to have a shot and score a goal as well.” Colclough has already scored 8 goals this season in a struggling side.

Gary Caldwell, like many Latics fans, will have been impressed by Colclough’s displays against his club this season.  He is clearly a talented young player with much to offer.

The 6 ft tall Colclough was born in Burslem in the City of Stoke on Trent. He joined the Crewe set up at the age of 7 and progressed through their renowned academy, signing his first professional contract as a 17 year old. He made his senior debut as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient in September 2012 soon after.

However, Colclough’s career was to be upset by injury. He spent 16 months out of action with a groin injury.

In October 2014 he had told the Stoke Sentinel that:  “It’s been really hard, it played on my mind a lot and I’ve had a lot of down days, but I’m just happy to be back training. Obviously I have got dreams and want to get back to playing, and when I do I’m sure I’ll get back to doing what I was doing before, if not even better. “I’ve overcome my injury now, it’s just a matter of getting fit and I will prove myself, it’s not a matter of if, I will.”

In March 2015 he made his return for the under 21 side, when he won and scored a penalty against Colchester United.

Last summer Colclough had a trial at Wolves, but he went on to sign a two year contract for the Railwaymen. This season he has put the injury worries behind him and been a star performer for Alexandra. He made 40 starts at Crewe, with 28 appearances off the bench, scoring 13 goals.

In order to learn more about Colclough we reached out to Crewe fans on Twitter.

TimT (@Tants_88) comments that:

Wigan have bought a player with great potential in Ryan Colclough. Unfortunately for Crewe Alex fans we haven’t seen as much of him as we liked due to some serious injuries that he’s done very well to overcome.

Colclough can play on either wing or very effectively as a front man and enjoys taking players on and using his skill and pace to beat them. He’s capable of some stunning strikes but as with all younger players learning their trade, be prepared for some shots to be way off the mark when passing could have been the better choice.

I’m inclined to say you’ve got a bargain as the fee is undisclosed. This usually means one party has overpaid or sold too low, in this instance I think Wigan have approached Crewe at the right time but hopefully we’ll benefit from a sell on when he does well for you. He has had some off the field incidents in his life but hopefully those, along with his injuries are behind him now. All in all you’ve bought a good all round attacking player that will only get better with time.

James Tait )

Ryan Colclough. Call him Coco. A few close run-ins with the law involving an assault and a taser. On the pitch, he is inconsistent, raw and frustrating, but he’s also maturing every game and cooling his head.

He’s selfish, but a good kind of selfish, excellent dribbling, pretty quick and I’d always back him score in any game. Injuries have been a concern but he seems past that now. He really has carried us (Crewe) all season and is the only reason we aren’t already relegated.

DavidM (@David Morris26) says:

Ryan has the ability and skill to be a match winner.

Has a good eye for a goal and the pace and tricks to worry defenders. Decision making can be a little wayward and sometimes forgets his defensive duties.He will certainly be a good asset to your team wish him and Wigan all the best for the rest of the season.

This article from the Stoke Sentinel taks about Colclough leaving Crewe.

 

 

A Chesterfield fan’s view of Sam Morsy

Sam_Morsy_2014Reports suggest that Sam Morsy is about to sign for Wigan Athletic. The 24 year old Chesterfield captain is out of contract at the end of the season and Latics have surely negotiated a bargain fee to secure his permanent transfer. Morsy might well prove to be the type of midfield enforcer that Caldwell has been looking for.

The 5 ft 9 in Sami Sayed Morsi was born in Wolverhampton of an Egyptian father. He played in the Wolves academy until he was 16 when he joined the youth ranks at Port Vale. A year later he was in the senior squad, making his debut in February 2010. By the end of the season he was named Youth Player of the Year and given a professional contract. Morsy went on to make 71 appearances, scoring 4 goals, for Vale over four seasons.

Morsy joined Chesterfield in the summer of 2013 after a fee had been agreed for him as an under 24 player. Ex-Latics player and Chesterfield manager at the time, Paul Cook, said that “When we found out that he may be available, we moved heaven and earth to get him here.”

Morsy went on to make 39 appearances in that 2013-14 season when the Spireites won League 2. He was voted Player of the Year, also providing the assist for Eoin Doyle’s goal in the Football League Trophy final when Chesterfield were beaten 3-1 by Peterborough United.

Last season Morsy became club captain and led Chesterfield to the League 1 playoffs where they were knocked out by Preston North End.

A couple of weeks ago another ex-Latics player, Mark Grew, who had been Morsy’s coach at Port Vale told the Stoke Sentinel that:

“I’ve known Sam Morsy since he was 16 and he can’t wait for this game to come. I still speak to him on occasion and I think this is the fixture he is looking for. I am sure other clubs must be looking at him now because every time I watch him he is quality. Ever since I got him from Wolves I always thought he could play at a higher level. Whether he could reach the Premier League is another question but I think he is definitely a Championship player.”

In his time at Chesterfield Morsy made a total of 97 appearances, scoring 6 goals.

In order to learn more about Morsy’s time at Chesterfield we reached out to Keag Lytham (twitter @KLytham), a Spireites fan.

Here’s over to Keag:

Obviously as a Chesterfield fan I’m really sad to see Sammy go as in my opinion he’s the best central midfielder in the league!

He’s a real leader on the pitch leading from the back all the way to the top. Sammy always gives his all and has endless energy. As a defender it must be a blessing to have him in front of you because technically he really is gifted.

He fights for every ball looking for that killer pass; he cuts up play and gives defenders reassurance! Going forward Sammy can be very dangerous and very unpredictable, for a small man he can move! His only trait is his mouth which as a captain he should use but he talks his way into the book a lot.

That being said he is an aggressive player but that’s what being a centre midfielder is about! The fans at Chesterfield really adored and worshipped the ground he walked on. He was the first on the pitch and the last off.

A small club like us was always going to struggle to keep hold of a gem like Sammy, he really does put 110% in each game! It’s really sad to see him go, but he was destined for bigger and better things!

Good luck Sammy and congratulations on the move, I’m sure you’ll be a great success there !

 

 

Getting the best out of Yanic

Wildschut

Just a couple  of weeks ago most Wigan Athletic supporters were hoping and praying that the “New Era” duo of Gary Caldwell and David Sharpe would find a way to make Yanic Wildschut a Latics player.  The Dutchman had made an impact comparable to that of Amr Zaki in the Steve Bruce era or even Keith Gillespie a long time before that. But unlike the other two who were also on loan, Yanic Wildschut signed a contract with Wigan Athletic some 12 days ago.

Caldwell and Sharpe made a major investment on the part of the club to invest in Wildschut. The best case scenario is that the player will play a major role in Latics’ promotion push and that his transfer value will soon rise above the fee reputed to be £600,000 rising towards £1m with add-ons.  The worst case scenario is that the duo bowed to fan pressure to sign a player who does not fit into Caldwell’s tactical system.

Since his permanent signing Wildschut has not made the starting lineup. He came on as substitute for Haris Vuckic on 62 minutes with Latics already 2-0 up against Sheffield United, but the game eventually finished 3-3. Then he came on for Jordy Hiwula after 80 minutes against Chesterfield. So why is one of the most expensive and the most spectacular players in the squad not making the starting lineup?

Yanic Wildschut is still only 24, with the potential to become a top player in any of Europe’s leagues. He is lightning fast, has tremendous power in his right foot and has a left foot that his fellow countryman and big money signing, Memphis Depay, does not seem to possess. But he has been the frustration of so many of his previous managers who have not been able to help him become the finished article.

Wildshut started his career in the Ajax Amsterdam academy but moved on to second division FC Zwolle before joining first division VVV Venlo, where he made 68 appearances, scoring 11 goals over two years. He left for Heerenveen when Venlo got relegated.  But halfway through his first season he was sent off on loan to Ado Den Haag. From there he went to Middlesbrough for a fee reputed to be around £300,000.

Wildschut has been a frustration for so many managers. A throwback to the past when wingers were primarily attackers, with less defensive duties. Defence is not his forte.  But could a player run with his kind of intensity if weakened  by the defensive duties?

He certainly did not fit into Aitor Karanka’s plans at Middlesbrough.  Mourinho’s ex-assistant expects wingers to tackle back and help their full backs. He has made Albert Adomah  a more complete player in that respect, as did Mourinho with Joe Cole.

But Karanka has not been negative with the media about Wildschut. He recently commented that:

“I don’t have any doubt that he is a Championship player and why not a Premier League player? He has everything but sometimes it was difficult for him to play here. I don’t have any doubts though that he is a really good player and when he matures he is going to be a really good player because he is talented, he is strong, he is fast, so he is going to be successful.”

So how can Caldwell get the best out of Wildschut? Is he going to be the super-sub who causes devastation when the opposition tires? Or will he be a regular starter offering a consistent input, both offensively and defensively?

Much will depend on the formation that Caldwell puts out. Wildschut’s preferred position is on the left wing. But how can that fit into Caldwell’s preferred 3-4-3? In recent games the 3-4-3 has really been a 3-4-2-1, with a lone centre forward and two “number 10s” playing behind him. The system has worked well with Michael Jacobs and Haris Vuckic flourishing in their forward/midfield roles.

But in Roberto Martinez’s time he operated 3-4-3 with Callum McManaman in a fairly orthodox right wing role, despite having an Emmerson Boyce at right wing back. Before that Victor Moses enjoyed a similar, if more mobile, role.

Wildschut’s preferred position is on the left wing, from where he can cut in and shoot with his right foot. He can also operate as an orthodox right winger. But could Wildschut play in other positions?

Some fans have advocated playing him as a central striker. Given his ferocious shooting that does not sound such a bad idea, but would his electric pace be wasted playing as a target man so often with his back towards the goal?

Others advocate giving him a free role in attacking midfield where he can use his pace to run at defences.

On completing Wildschut’s permanent transfer to Wigan Caldwell told the club’s official site that “On his day, he has already shown us what he can do and how devastating he can be. He’s not the finished article yet, he will be the first to admit that, but his potential is huge and we are delighted that it is here in Wigan that we can both work together for the long-term.”

Can Caldwell unlock that potential in the big Dutchman and help him become the finished article? Other managers have tried before without great success. Caldwell must first define exactly how Wildschut fits into his tactical planning, with the possibility of using the player in a variety of roles.

If Caldwell can get it right in the more immediate future it could well propel Latics back into the Championship division.