Regaining a winning mentality

Can Caldwell instill a winning mentality into his squad?

Can Caldwell instill a winning mentality into his squad?

Those initial waves of optimism crashed ashore yesterday as Wigan Athletic were beaten 3-0 at Blackburn. Suddenly that trip to Coventry next week is not as appealing as it was a couple of days ago.

But did people really expect Latics to get a good result at Blackburn, which has so often been a graveyard for them? It was goalless up to the 73rd minute, with “expert commentator” Neill Rimmer getting constantly frustrated by the football he was watching. Rimmer has tried to be positive in the past, but it was depressing listening to him yesterday. He was clearly not happy with Latics’ slow build up from the back and Will Grigg being unsupported up front.

However, if Lee Nicholls had done better with a speculative long shot a minute later maybe the result would have stayed 0-0. But once Blackburn had scored the first goal they were to grow in confidence. Their second goal came after Latics had already substituted two of their three starting central defenders.

Perhaps Caldwell’s most difficult task in his early days as a manager is to help his team regain a winning mentality. The last time Latics had it was through February to mid-March in 2014 when they went on an unbeaten run of eight games in the league and knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup. Even if they were not playing that well they were able to grind out results. Since then they have far more often lost than won.

It was perhaps predictable in that the pre-season was not going to help in regaining that winning mentality. A 1-1 draw at Altrincham was followed by a 2-0 win at Southport, a 1-1 draw at Partick Thistle and defeats at Dundee and Blackburn. Winning came secondary to using the games  to get the players fit for a long, grueling season ahead. Caldwell was able to induct his new players into playing football in the style he prefers. But with so many new players there was no way that any lineup that Caldwell put out would be able to effectively able to gel together. Yesterday’s starting lineup against Blackburn had only one player who was at the club last season.

The starting lineup at Blackburn will surely provide indicators for the side to face Coventry. A back three of Daniels, Morgan and McCann is highly probable, with James at left wing back. A decision will need to be made soon whether Kevin McNaughton will be offered a contract. If not, Caldwell will be looking towards acquiring an experienced right back/wing back to challenge Jonjoe Kenny for a place.

In the games in Scotland the wing backs were pushed well forward, proving support for the central midfield and the forwards. However, against strong opposition with good wide players Caldwell will employ his wing backs more conservatively. Interestingly yesterday Caldwell once more gave Andrew Taylor a role ahead of Leon Barnett. It was perhaps another indication that Barnett’s time at Wigan is drawing to a close.

Caldwell will also have to decide which formation to employ in central midfield. Both Francisco Junior and David Perkins can play the holding role just in front of the back three. Caldwell has the option of playing one of them in that position and the other pushed further forward with Max Power. The alternative is to play the two of them in front of the back three, with Power more advanced in a creative role. Midfield trialist John Lundstram was noticeably absent yesterday. Although he did not play badly in his two appearances in Scotland, he was unable to impose himself on the games. It remains to be seen if he will be offered a contract.

As expected Caldwell gave Michael Jacobs his debut yesterday alongside Will Grigg. Jacobs has pace and trickery but does not possess the physicality of someone like Craig Davies. Neither does Billy Mckay, who was noticeably the one substitute who did not get game time yesterday. Once again, an indication that a player is on his way out of the club? Sanmi Odelusi remains another option up front, physically strong and fast, but has his game evolved sufficiently for him to challenge for a starting place in the lineup?

Caldwell has already talked about the exciting possibility of a Grigg-Davies striking partnership, but the big Welshman has still not managed more than 30 minutes during a match so far. Getting him to peak fitness, free from the hamstring problems that dogged him last season, is the priority. Caldwell will be unlikely to risk him as a starter at Coventry.

Regaining a winning mentality is the key to Wigan Athletic’s promotion hopes. It is something that can happen, but if it does it will take time. Moreover younger players now dominate the squad. Seven of the starting lineup yesterday were under 25. Young players need time to progress – so often it can be two steps forward and one step back. They will make mistakes that will cost points.

Some of the more savvy fans are quietly saying that a mid-table position this season, giving the young players time to develop, would not be a bad thing. The team would not have gained a winning mentality, but it would have shed that losing mentality that was the hallmark of last season.  It could provide a strong base for a promotion push in 2016-17.

However, such a scenario is unlikely to satisfy the demands of a young chairman who wants to “smash” League 1. However, if Latics were to occupy a mid-table position around Christmas, the players would have better knowledge of each other’s games and would have learned to play the way that the manager seeks. A promotion push in the second half of the season might then be a more realistic expectation.

In the meantime Caldwell will continue to trade in the transfer market. There are likely to be several more departures and arrivals. At the same time he will identify the players who will form the core of his team, week in, week out. The type of rotation policy adopted by Uwe Rosler is unlikely under the Scot.

Shedding that losing mentality is the first step towards gaining a winning one. Despite criticism of leaving his centre forward isolated, Caldwell will look at building a solid defence first and foremost. That means his wing backs not being pushed permanently forward as they were in Scotland, leaving the back three exposed.

If Caldwell can build a strong, well organized defence that does not give away soft goals it will be a step forward. An emphasis on defence, as the new players continue to gel together into a working unit, might well be the way he starts off the season. To push men forward gung-ho without the advantage of mutual understanding between the players could be a recipe for disaster.

As fans we will need to be patient. Turning a disparate bunch of footballers into a team with a winning mentality is something that will take time.

An important pre-season


Jason Pearce

Jason Pearce

“He wants us to train hard and well in order to be ready to take that onto the pitch in matches. Clubs I’ve been at before haven’t got the footballs out so quickly and there has been lots of running but I’ve enjoyed the balance this year and it’s been really beneficial because you get your touch back quicker.”

Jason Pearce was commenting on the pre-season preparations up to this point. It will be the 27 year old Pearce’s eighth pre-season as a first team squad player with 356 first team appearances under his belt for Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Leeds United and Latics. Given his wealth of prior experience, Pearce’s comments surely carry some weight.

Pearce is one of the pillars upon which Gary Caldwell will build his team. He is a player more largely defined by his physicality and commitment, hardly seeming to typify the type that Caldwell needs to build a team that can play a brand of football akin to that of the Martinez yesteryear. However, looking at the signings so far, it is clear that Caldwell’s teams will have the steel necessary to scrap it out with the more robust sides of League 1. A central defensive trio of Pearce, Craig Morgan and Donervon Daniels will pose a stern physical challenge to any opposition forwards.

Pearce’s  positive comments about Caldwell’s approach to the pre-season will be welcomed by Wigan Athletic supporters. A year ago a disaster was on its way to happen. A Latics squad that was buoyant from the reaching the Championship playoffs and the FA Cup semi-final was to be brought to its knees by its pre-season training regimen. There are those in football who will say that players cannot be “overtrained”, but whatever happened in those training camps in Germany got the season off to a disastrous start.

One game in Germany had to be postponed because Latics did not have enough fit players. By the start of the season so many players were carrying knocks or niggling injuries or were just not fit. Caldwell and his staff will have learned from that and will surely not let it happen again. A focus on ball skills and stamina conditioning is surely the right approach at this stage.

Latics started last season by going 1-0 up against Reading, only for their legs to go in the second half and having to be rescued from defeat by James McArthur’s late equalizer. It was a pattern that was to repeat itself over the weeks that followed. Being unable to physically compete on an even keel against the most moderate of Championship opposition meant the superiority in terms of skill and flair that Latics might have possessed was nullified. So many players were unable to produce their best form as the “movement” necessary for good team work just did not happen.

Caldwell will be looking at launching a frontal attack on opposing teams when the season commences, going in with guns a blazing. A good start is crucial for a new team of players who will not be weighed down by the psychological consequences of what happened last season. The pre-season is even more crucial this year with so many new players coming in. Moreover many of those players will not have been playing the Caldwell brand of football at their previous clubs.

However, a little over six years ago Roberto Martinez’s team won the opening game of the 2009-10 season with a 2-0 victory at Aston Villa. The brand of football was poles apart from that of Steve Bruce’s team the previous season. Martinez had produced that change in just a handful of weeks of training. Caldwell will clearly believe he can do the same.

Reports tell us that Latics played a friendly game against Queen of the South in La Manga, Spain, this week. Only Ryan Jennings played in both halves of the game. However, one can only speculate on how many of the 21 players who took the field that day will be at the club when the season starts. Caldwell’s challenge is to move on most of the players who are on Championship division salaries.

Owen Coyle signings Leon Barnett, Chris McCann and James Perch remain at the club, but it would appear a matter of time before players of their experience are snapped up by Championship clubs.

Of the Rosler signings there have been rumours linking Martyn Waghorn with Sheffield United and James Tavernier with Rotherham. Should both Perch and Tavernier both leave then Caldwell will be looking at least one more right back. Don Cowie still has one more year to go on his contract, but did not appear in the Queen of the South game. Andrew Taylor did appear, but rumours suggest that ex-Hull City full back Joe Dudgeon has been training with Latics with a view to signing. Given the added presence of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair it could be a sign that Taylor is going to move on. Rumours have surfaced about Burnley wanting to sign Emyr Huws, but Latics need the kind of midfield creativity he can provide.

In order to recruit new players Caldwell has to move others on. Up to this point five under contract  senior players have left the club –Andy Delort, Scott Carson, Rob Kiernan, James McClean, Oriol Riera – and seven have been signed – Donervon Daniels, Craig Davies, Craig Morgan, Sanmi Odelusi, Richard O’Donnell , David Perkins and Max Power.

Caldwell has been trying hard to get the 20 goal per season striker that David Sharpe has talked about. They made a £1 m bid for Nadir Ciftci, which was accepted by Dundee United, but the player declined the offer to come to Wigan. Latics are currently bidding for Brentford’s Will Grigg, underused by Uwe Rosler in his time at Griffin Park, but scored 20 goals in 43 appearances for MK Dons last season. Latics have offered slightly less than the £700,000 being reported, but with add-ons. Brentford are asking £1m.

Reports tell us that ex-Fleetwood Town forward David Ball has been training with Latics in Spain. The ex-Manchester City youth player is now 25 years old and has made 98 appearances, scoring 26 goals, for Fleetwood.

A fascinating article on compares Ball with Eric Cantona quoting that “the crucial parallels are: flair, unpredictability, magic from out of nothing, unique running style, goals from all over the pitch and a hatful of assists” . Ball has left Fleetwood because of their inability to meet his contact demands. He is clearly a flair player and could prove a key asset for Latics if they can secure his services.


Gary Caldwell and his recruitment team have done a fine job up to this stage in recruiting useful players through the bargain basement. They have not yet been successful in their quest for a potential 20 goal per year striker. That could well prove to be Will Grigg.i

But it is not so much the ability of each player in a striking partnership to score goals on his own, but more the ability to complement each other in style and approach. David Ball can offer the kind of unpredictability and spontaneity that Latics have lacked upfront over the past couple of years. Moreover his style of play could fit in very well into the brand of football that Caldwell seeks.

Latics’ first league match is at Coventry on August 8th, four weeks from today. Caldwell has already made good progress in reshaping his squad, but there remains much more to be done. The sooner he can do it the better.

In the meantime he will work on getting his players fit and inducting them into the style of play he seeks.

A good start of the season is something that Latics have struggled with over these past years. Given the turnover in playing staff it is going to pose a tough challenge to Caldwell, but it is surely something he will be up for.

Dreaming big


Ally MacLeod

Ally MacLeod

“You can mark down 25 June 1978 as the day Scottish football conquers the world.”

It was Ally MacLeod’s most famous quote. The date was that of the World Cup Final in Buenos Aires.

MacLeod was nothing if not optimistic. After successful stints at Ayr United and Aberdeen he was appointed Scotland manager in May 1977. He introduced himself to the squad by saying “My name is Ally MacLeod and I am a winner.” Within a few months he had beaten England at Wembley and he was to lead Scotland to qualification to the Argentina World Cup.

The more rational of Scotland supporters had their doubts whether MacLeod’s team could win the World Cup. But MacLeod had a kind of buoyant enthusiasm that lifted people along with him. He really believed his team could bring back the trophy. True it was the most gifted Scotland squad in living memory, which included the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Joe Jordan, Graeme Souness and Archie Gemmill.

Spirits were high before Scotland left for Argentina. Comedian Andy Cameron’s rendition of “Ally’s Tartan Army” reached number 6 in the UK singles chart and 25,000 people turned up at Hampden Park to see the squad parade around in an open-top  bus. Prestwick airport was packed with well-wishers as they went to catch their plane. When asked what MacLeod would do after the World Cup, his answer was “Retain it”.

Sadly MacLeod’s motivational powers were to prove not enough to help Scotland succeed. They lost their first match 3-1 to Peru, then drew 1-1 with Iran. Needing a victory by three clear goals against Holland they ahead 3-1 before the Dutch pulled a goal back. It finished 3-2 and Scotland were knocked out in the group stages on goal difference. Needless to say, MacLeod’s popularity rating immediately plummeted. He lasted one more game in charge before he resigned.

Despite the final outcome MacLeod certainly lifted the spirits of the Scottish public and is remembered with affection by many.

“When I get the key players in I believe we’ll have a side you will be proud of that will be champions in May.”

Gary Caldwell exudes positivity and a determination to succeed. He wisely qualified his ambitious statement at the recent Fan Forum with the proviso of “when I get the key players in”.

David Sharpe certainly set the parameters by saying things like:

“I don’t just want to win this league. I want to smash it and get 100 points.”

“I guarantee we will have a goalscorer who scores us 20 goals next season,”

Some fans are already saying that the young chairman is setting himself up to have egg on his face. But then again weren’t similar comments made about his grandfather when he said that Latics would be a Premier League club within ten years? Sharpe certainly cannot be accused of lacking ambition for the club, even if he can tend to stick his neck out too far at times.

Having a young rookie chairman and a young rookie manager can be viewed as both a recipe for disaster and as a new broom coming in to herald a new era.

Given two relegations in two years a more experienced chairman/manager partnership would be more likely to look for consolidation in that first season in League 1. A mid-table finish would halt the slide, with building a promotion side being viewed as something to be achieved over two seasons. Rather than talk about “Smashing League 1” it would be more like “There are good teams in League 1 and we aim to be amongst them.”

However brash Caldwell and Sharpe might have been so far in their public statements to there can be no doubting the uplifting effect they have had on the club’s support.

Wigan Athletic fans have had the most miserable past twelve months, during which there have been three managers and performances on the pitch that have beggared belief. The club seemed to be drifting, without clear direction. Perhaps the most shocking of all was in January when the club started to plan “just in case” relegation happened. The net result was thirteen players leaving and the resultant squad lacking in quality.

David Sharpe took over as chairman in March, but the hapless Malky Mackay continued as manager despite an horrendous record of results. While Mackay was manager relegation was getting closer and closer. When Sharpe finally removed Mackay there were only five matches left and Caldwell could not work miracles with a weak squad.

However, it was clear from Caldwell’s very first match in change that good football was returning to Wigan, if not the results, in what remained of the season.

Caldwell will play possession football, but looking at his signings so far, one can see a combative edge will be present. The players signed up to this point have been bargain basement. However, there is already a sense that Caldwell’s vision will come to fruition. Latics have a considerable advantage over their competitors in the division through the parachute payments, highlighted by Sharpe’s assertion that their budget will be will be “five times higher than anyone else’s”. They are therefore able to offer salaries well above par for the division, attracting end of contract players looking for a better deal.

The news that Latics have made a bid of £1m for Nadir Ciftci of Dundee United is no surprise in its magnitude. Sharpe had already stated that “I was brought up on Ellington and Roberts scoring every week. To have that you have to pay good money and I’m prepared to do that”.

Latics will face competition from Celtic in securing Ciftci. The fact that they are in League 1 and Celtic are champions of the Scottish League is going to make it difficult to persuade the young Turkish player to come to Wigan. Can Latics offer a salary well beyond that of Celtic to induce the player to come? One doubts that.

Transfer money will largely be spent on strikers, although there is a clear need for a creative midfielder who can provide the strike force with the right ammunition. Nicky Law of Rangers has been mentioned and he is a possibility.

When Paul Jewell was at Latics he made the famous comment to the effect of “I can’t get anyone to come here”. Latics were the new kids on the block at the time and nobody knew how long they would be able to stay in the top echelons. Players were cautious about joining the club in those days. But times have changed. Together with Sheffield United, Latics are the “big clubs “of League 1. They can more than compete with the other clubs in the division for players. However, competing against clubs like Celtic and those in the Championship is going to be difficult, a “big sell “for Caldwell and his recruitment team.

Both Sharpe and Caldwell are to be commended for their optimism and lifting the spirits of the fans. They have set themselves high targets. But there is a lesson to be learned from the past.

Owen Coyle was appointed in the summer of 2013 with the brief of getting Latics back into the Premier League in a year. It proved too big a challenge. Working under the pressure of such an expectation would not have been easy for either him or his players. Sharpe and Caldwell and the new Latics squad will face a similar risk.

Only time will tell if the young duo can deliver what they promise. Like the Scotland supporters in 1978, the Wigan Athletic fans’ spirits have been lifted. We can only hope that Sharpe and Caldwell will have more luck than MacLeod had in Argentina.

Ally MacLeod sadly passed away in 2004, but there are still Scots who remember him with affection as the man who really believed in his country and the ability of its footballers.

It takes courage to stick your neck out and you might well fail. But then again you can lift others through your belief and you can succeed.

Sharpe and Caldwell are certainly not afraid to stick their necks out. Let’s hope things go better for them than MacLeod.


Rebuilding on free transfers


Caldwell will be checking out the availability of good players at the ends of their contracts.

Caldwell will be checking out the availability of good players at the ends of their contracts.

On this same day two years ago, Wigan Athletic were suffering from the pain of relegation from the Premier League. Six players from the senior squad had already found other clubs after being freed from their contracts. Speculation was mounting about the futures of others whose contracts had run down and when the big clubs would come in and snatch prized assets still remaining.

Owen Coyle had been appointed manager just ten days before with the brief of getting Latics back into the Premier League. Given the prospect of more players leaving, plus the necessity for a large squad because of Europa league involvement, Coyle clearly had a lot of recruiting to do. However, he was to resist going for big money transfers, instead relying on picking up players at the ends of their contracts or those available at discount prices.

On June 27th he made his first signing, Chris McCann from Burnley. The next day he picked up Stephen Crainey from Blackpool, then three days later Thomas Rogne from Celtic. All were on free transfers. During the month of July he was to pick up two more free transfers in Marc-Antoine Fortune and Juan Carlos Garcia, paying transfer fees for Scott Carson, Grant Holt and James Perch. With the new season approaching he paid transfer fees for Leon Barnett and James McClean. However, the total transfer fees paid by Coyle were modest compared with the incoming funds from the sales of James McCarthy and Arouna Kone.

By the start of the season Coyle had signed ten players, five on free transfers and five more for relatively modest transfer fees. In early September he was to sign Nick Powell and Ryan Shotton on loan.

Gary Caldwell too is currently facing a challenge putting together a squad that can challenge for promotion, albeit from League 1. Following a similar timeline to that of Coyle in his early days, he has  signed three players, all on free transfers. He has also been linked to signing players whose contracts have terminated, but whose clubs will be due some compensation as a consequence of their youth. John McGinn (20) of St Mirren and Max Power (21) of Tranmere Rovers , despite their youth, are experienced midfield players. They could prove to be valuable long term acquisitions, should Caldwell manage to acquire their services.

Caldwell has already managed to bring in probably around £2m in transfer fees through the outgoings of Scott Carson, Rob Kiernan and James McClean. He will gain more in his coffers as soon as James Perch is sold off. Reports suggest that he made bids for Sam Clucas of Chesterfield, but the competition from other clubs has driven the player’s value up beyond that Latics should pay. For the moment he will concentrate on finding clubs for the highest wage earners, meanwhile scouring the market for young, up-and-coming talent.  The likelihood is that he will be stuck with a significant number of players that he would have liked to move on, simply because no other club is willing to offer them the kinds of deals they seek.

Coyle has been criticized for his signings, particularly those of Holt and Fortune, who were both 32 at the time. Although he did not pay a huge transfer fee for Holt, offering him a three year contact became an issue. On the other hand, it was remarkable that given the limited time he had available, he put together a squad good enough to challenge for promotion.

Coyle’s problem was always going to be one of melding together two disparate groups, the ex-Martinez players from the Premier League, together with his mish-mash of ex-top  flight players and proven players from lower divisions.  But more than anything else with Coyle it was the lack of a defined style of play that crippled his teams. Too often the long ball would prevail, anathema to the Martinez disciples. It was to prove his undoing.

Caldwell has already clearly enunciated the style of play he expects. Players may be coming in from other clubs where the long ball has been the norm, but they will be required to play in the style the manager requires. Clubs have already shown that they can get out of League 1 playing good football, even if the majority rely on more traditional methods.

Up to this point one could say that Latics’ signings so far have been somewhat underwhelming, but these are early days. Like Coyle, Caldwell will pay fees for potentially key players, providing he can stay within his budget.

Not only does Caldwell face a challenge in signing a sufficient number of the “right kinds” of players, but he faces a bigger challenge in helping them gel into a functional unit. The training camps over the next month or so are likely to see a changing spectrum of different faces as players come and go. With so many players to move on, and so many to bring in, it is unlikely that the camps will be able to provide the “gelling” that they are primarily aimed to produce. Caldwell will have to deal with players who want to move on, but cannot, and their effect on morale. Not an easy prospect.

Given the sheer number of players that Caldwell is going to need to bring in and his budgetary constraints it is likely that more free transfer men will be brought in. However, one recalls the fine form of Chris McCann until he fractured his kneecap in the FA Cup win at the Etihad. Good players sometimes let their contracts run down in the hope of finding something more lucrative, as did Antolin Alcaraz, Franco Di Santo and Maynor Figueroa a couple of years ago.

It appears that Max Power is now on the verge of signing and Oriol Riera is staying with Deportivo. Press reports from Spain about the Riera transfer saga have been plentiful, but the figure for the fee has varied according to the source. The bottom line is that Latics will take a significant loss in terms of transfer fee originally paid and that to be gained in the coming days. Significantly Andy Delort did not show up for training, suggesting he is heading for new pastures, once again at a major financial deficit.

As July approaches the transfer activity is going to hot up. The sooner he can get all his squad in place, the better it will be for Caldwell. Players coming from other clubs will have to adapt to the style of football the Scot will dictate and the process will take time, as will the process of gelling as a team.

The advantage is that this time around the players will know what is expected of them, as they fit into a well-defined style of play.

One can only reflect on where Latics would be now if that had happened just a couple of years earlier.

Keeping your key asset

Emyr Huws

Emyr Huws

With less than a week to go to the first training session of the new season the summer sell off at Wigan Athletic is starting to gather momentum. Scott Carson has already gone to Derby and it looks like James McClean is off to West Bromwich and Rob Kiernan to Rangers. The latest rumour is that James Perch will be joining McClean and Callum McManaman at West Bromwich.

The demand for ex-Premier League players like Carson, McClean and Perch was always going to be there. They were to be the three most likely to attract transfer income  for the club, as meanwhile it will ease its wage bill by some £20,000 per week or more for each of them. Keeping the three of them would have entailed using up around £3 m of an anticipated wage bill of £8- £10 m.

Behind them in the domestic transfer pecking order come Leon Barnett (29 years old), Don Cowie (32), Chris McCann (27) and Andrew Taylor (28) who have played in the Premier League, but are also experienced Championship division campaigners. Although their potential transfer values may not be high, the club will try to move on most of them, given their Championship-level salaries. Transfer fees will be waived as necessary.

The pairing of Andy Delort and Oriol Riera cost a total of around £5m in transfer fees last year. Sadly Delort was not able to regain his old goalscoring form after rejoining Tours on loan in January. He hit the back of the net only twice in fourteen starts. Reports from the French press suggest that there are Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs interested in him, but it is doubtful whether they would be willing to pay the kind of transfer fee that Latics paid last September. Reports from Spain suggest that Deportivo La Coruna would like to keep Riera, but are unwilling to match the kind of transfer figure that Latics would like.

Latics face a dilemma with the two players. Sell them off for maybe a combined transfer input of  £1m, signifying a £4m loss, or bring them back and have to use up 20% or more of the total wage bill for a squad of around 24 players, on their salaries alone. The option remains of a further loan period for each, relieving wage bill costs, but leaving the door open for the future.

However, media reports suggest that Latics are actively seeking strikers from other English clubs. It therefore looks like they will take the first option and sell the two players off at a significant loss.

All of the players mentioned so far are those for whom salaries are an issue for a club facing a change from a £30m wage bill to one of around a third of that within a year. However, there are also the cases of the younger players such as James Tavernier (23), Martyn Waghorn (25), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (23), whose salaries will also have to be taken into account, together with the Malky Mackay signings Billy Mckay (26) and Jason Pearce (27), whom one assumes will be staying.

David Sharpe talked some time ago about needing up to fifteen new players. The implication is that the majority of the players signed prior to 2015 will be encouraged to move on.

However, if players are to move on they need a club not only interested in their services, but willing to get close to matching the salaries they have been receiving. In Grant Holt’s case the options seem slim. Ostracised by Uwe Rosler, Holt faded out of the Latics’ scene.  He was sent off on loan to Aston Villa and Huddersfield, where he received an anterior cruciate knee injury that kept him out of action for the second half of last season. Holt is 34 years old and with that ACL injury he is unlikely to attract the interest of clubs who can afford to pay a salary probably well in excess of £20,000 per week.

Critics will say that Owen Coyle should not have been allowed to offer a three year contract with a lucrative salary to a 32 year old. At the time it appeared to be not such a bad bet, getting a player with proven goalscoring pedigree for a relatively low transfer fee. Little did we know that just two years later the club would be in League 1 and the player’s salary would be like a millstone around their necks.

Injuries certainly affect the marketability of a footballer. Holt’s injury while playing on loan at Huddersfield will most likely prove to be the factor that will mean him staying at the club. At 34 and past his best, recovering from injury, but playing in a lower division can he be a key player? Can he win back the fan support that he lost before he was dispatched to Villa Park?  The likely scenario is that Gary Caldwell will have to find ways of motivating a player who has had a difficult time at the club, into being part of a successful set-up.

The injury to Holt did Latics no favours, but the ankle problem that prevented Emyr Huws playing in the second half of last season might well prove to be a blessing in disguise.  The 21 year old Huws was initially signed on loan from Manchester City, but Rosler signed him for a fee in excess of £2m last September. Not long after Huws injured his ankle while playing for Wales and suffered a series of niggles with it that prevented him reaching top form.

However, it was an incident in training in early February that caused Malky Mackay to report that “Emyr’s rolled his ankle badly, we’ve had it looked at and he’s going to need operating on. He’s going to be out for three or four months, and that’s a real disappointment. He came back in for a couple of games, he grabbed his chance and did really well, and it’s a real blow for us and him.”

Mackay clearly rated Huws and the young Welshman was one who avoided the huge January sell-off. Midfield was to prove a problematic area under Mackay and one can only speculate what might have happened had Huws been fit.

Because of his injury Huws might well avoid the cull that will happen in the coming weeks. Big clubs will bide their time and see if he can overcome his injury and realise his full potential. Moreover Caldwell might consider him a key player, well worth paying a salary above the League 1 norm.

Huws showed what a quality player he can be when on loan at Birmingham in 2013-14. He has shown flashes of his quality at Wigan, but niggling injury has held him back. However, he has all the attributes needed to become a top midfield player. He is combative in the tackle, has a cultured left foot, good dribbling skills and the technique to score spectacular goals from distance.

In League 1 Huws is capable of being the kind of imposing midfield player that Latics have lacked since the departures of the Jimmy Macs, McCarthy and McArthur. Moreover in shedding players who have played at higher levels there is a danger of a lack of class in the team. Huws can provide that.

Who knows how many of the players from Coyle and Rosler’s days will be at Wigan come August? So many will be shed because of economic necessity.

But Emyr Huws could prove to be the asset most worth keeping from that 2014 squad.

Only time will tell if Gary Caldwell thinks the same.