Lifting the gloom and doom against Wolves

A win against Wolves can dispel the doom and gloom among Latics fans.

A win against Wolves can dispel the doom and gloom among Latics fans.

Who would have thought that Wigan Athletic would be bottom of the Championship table by the end of September? The League 1 title had given the club back the momentum it had lost in the dark days of Malky’s reign. But now, once again, that prevailing atmosphere of doom and gloom has returned. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

But then again, it isn’t yet the end of September. The home game against Wolves is only a couple of days away. A win would not only propel them off the bottom, but could conceivably lift them out of the relegation zone too. But more than anything else it would lift the doom and gloom that is once again rearing its head. Is a win over Wolves likely to happen?

Football is a game of fine margins. The average number of goals per game in English football hovers around the 2.6 mark. It means that whichever team scores the first goal has a statistically good chance of winning the match. Sadly the authorities who run football remain staunchly conservative. Too many fine margins are determined by erroneous refereeing decisions as the sport continues to bury its head in the sand and resist the kind of video technology that has been invaluable in cricket and rugby. Those who oppose the use of video will say that the law of averages means that by the end of the season the number of dodgy decisions for and against even out.

Gary Caldwell would not necessarily agree. Sometimes those decisions just don’t balance themselves out. He was entirely right about the refereeing decision that led to Preston’s goal on Friday. He was also right about the incident at Bristol where a player who had already been booked should have been sent off a minute before he scored the match-winning goal. But such complaints from a manager tend to be looked upon as sour grapes and Caldwell needs to desist in making them if he is not to open himself up for criticism.

It could be argued that referees have not done Latics any favours so far this season. Many of us hoped that we would see better officials in the second tier than we saw last year in League 1. But if there is a difference in quality, is it so great?

But refereeing has not been the main factor in the poor results so far this season. Fitness has proved to be the overriding issue, exacerbated by the sheer number of new faces coming in. Once again the pre-season did not provide an adequate basis for the kind of physical competitiveness needed at the start of an English league season. Before the warm-up games started Caldwell already had long term injured players in Reece James and Andy Kellett, but he was soon to lose Donervon Daniels and Kyle Knoyle for several months too. For the game at Preston Caldwell was denied the services of at least seven of his squad through injury.

Given the injury situation Caldwell rightly boosted his squad size. He now had 27 players in the senior team squad. However, circumstances were to dictate that so many of the new signings he had brought in were well short of match fitness. It had taken some weeks to get the backbone of his team to a competitive level of fitness, but now he had to ease in new signings, some of whom had not had much game time in pre-season with their previous clubs.

Latics went to Preston to face a physical battle against a team whose style of play is reminiscent of the worst times of Sam Allardyce at Bolton. It was always going to be a difficult game, but the controversial, fortunate goal scored by the home team after just seven  minutes was a hammer blow to Wigan. To their credit they withstood that early onslaught and dominated possession thereafter. But a goal was not to come. The front three of Jacobs, Grigg and Wildschut all had poor games. Grigg had become a father for the first time just a couple of days before. Whether that affected his play on the day is up to debate, but the reality is that Latics need a sharp central striker when playing at places like Preston. The current North End team will never win an award for an aesthetically pleasing style of play, but their manager Simon Grayson has made them into a mean defensive unit.

Norwich City went to the top of the Championship division yesterday and with the strength of their squad they will surely be challenging for an automatic promotion place as May approaches. Despite an awful opening ten minutes at Carrow Road, Latics had gone on to match their rivals, coming so close to a result. The quality of Wigan’s play in the second half more than matched that of the Canaries. It showed that there is sufficient quality in the squad to at least consolidate in the Championship division.

Individual errors such as Dan Burn’s bad back pass at Bristol and Adam Bogdan’s howler at Norwich have been particularly frustrating. But most of the goals conceded have come from slack marking from defence and midfield. Much of it can be put down from a lack of continuity in the starting lineup, the players not “gelling”. The right back/wing back position has been a big headache for Caldwell. With Knoyle and Daniels out long term he has used no less than six players there in his starting lineup. Moreover he has yet to establish the kind of consistent pairing in the centre of defence that we saw last season with Morgan and Pearce. Burn and Buxton has been his recent preference.

So can Latics get off the bottom by beating Wolves?

Well there is one factor that has been missing this season that all teams need to be successful. Most people would call it “luck”, maybe like that goal scored by Preston. It could be said that Preston were “lucky” that the referee ignored the linesman’s flagging for a foul on MacDonald. Moreover there was a strong element of “luck” involved as McGeady’s shot was going harmlessly wide before it hit his own player, changing its direction to beat Bogdan.

Given Caldwell’s luck up to this point he would quite happily settle for not having a controversial refereeing decision against his side. Going one behind in the first half against any Championship side makes things very difficult. Caldwell will recall the Birmingham game when Donaldson was at least a yard offside when he raced ahead to gain a penalty for his team that almost won the match for them.

Put simply, Latics are not bottom because of refereeing decisions or luck being against them. But a controversial decision going their way or a scrappy goal could be enough to see off Wolves. But then maybe their key players will sparkle at the same time bringing the best performance of the season to date?

A loss on Tuesday would not be the end of the world, but would be a further disappointment in a frustrating return to the Championship.

A History Lesson

history

“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
Winston Churchill

Uwe Rosler was the toast of Wigan in the summer of 2014. But within three months he was gone – his prior achievements counting for nothing. Dave Whelan had sacked him, in the hope that a strong Latics squad could still get promotion back to the Premier League. Little did we know what a disaster the German’s dismissal would turn out to be.

Had Rosler not been dismissed, would Wigan Athletic have been relegated? Granted, they were not playing well and Rosler’s new signings were taking a long time to gel with their teammates. Whelan had backed his manager in the transfer market. Hopes were high when he made the signings. Despite losing three of his best in Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and James McArthur, Rosler had apparently strengthened his squad, bringing in a host of players who had good reviews. Not least of those were two exciting strikers from Europe.

Andy Delort and Oriol Riera were never bad players. The former has recently joined Universidad de Nuevo Leon, known as Los Tigres (the Tigers) for a fee over £6m, of which Latics received a portion, having put a sell-on clause in his contract when he was returning to Caen. Riera returned to La Liga and continues to enjoy the top division in Spain with Pamplona side, Osasuna, after time with Deportivo La Coruna. Neither player was given an extended run at Wigan, nor were they played as twin strikers. Marc Antoine Fortune had thought his first team chances were limited when the two arrived, but he was to see them off in January. MAF went on to score just 2 league goals in 37 appearances under Rosler and his successor, Malky Mackay.

We can only speculate about the futures of other Rosler signings. Midfielder Adam Forshaw is now playing in the Premier League after a slow start at Middlesbrough. James Tavernier and Martyn Waghorn have had a wonderful time at Rangers, albeit in the lowly standards of the Scottish Championship division. Emyr Huws has gone to Cardiff, his undoubted talent overshadowed by a consistent ankle problem and questions over his commitment to the club. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair’s time at Wigan was marred by injury: he remains at League 1 Doncaster. Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor, both signed from Cardiff, were to become the scapegoats of a relegation season. They had been successful in Wales but it was not to be in Wigan. Free agent signing William Kvist was captain of his national side, but could not reckon on a place in the starting lineup, Kvist went back to Denmark, where he continues to play for FC Copenhagen.

Like Rosler, Gary Caldwell also felt the need to bring in a swathe of new players to meet the demands of the Championship this season. Most are struggling to adjust to their new club and their manager’s preferred style of play.  Caldwell had brought in even more last season, when it took months for the sum of the parts to approximate to the whole. But in the end the quality of the players he could bring in gave him the divisional title.

Latics currently have 5 points from 8 league games. At the same stage two years ago Rosler’s team had 8 points. However, expectations differ greatly. Rosler was looking at promotion, whereas Caldwell will surely be looking at consolidation. But is Caldwell under the kind of pressure that prevailed upon Rosler at this time a couple of years ago?

Both managers had excellent records in their previous seasons. Caldwell’s achievement of winning League 1 is more than matched by Rosler’s success in revitalising his squad into reaching the playoffs and the FA Cup semi-final. But, given Rosler’s precipitous fall from grace, could Caldwell suffer a similar fate?

Looking back on the 2014-15 season one can only reflect in what might have happened. When Rosler was dismissed we continued to think about promotion. Perhaps we were being overoptimistic, but the woeful appointment of Malky Mackay put paid to that. He oversaw a January fire sale, including elements who had undermined his predecessor, leaving the squad threadbare. Relegation was the consequence.

Much has been said about Rosler being dictatorial with his players, that he brought in too many new faces, leading to discontent. But he was faced with an old guard from the eras of both Martinez and Owen Coyle. Modern football managers recruit players who will be loyal to them, rather than those whose fealty lies with predecessors. If Rosler made a key mistake, it was that of bringing in too many of his own men, bruising the egos of the status quo. Moreover his squad got so large that he had too many discontented players starved of first team football. Is Caldwell heading the same way?

There is a viewpoint that Caldwell should have stayed loyal with the players who helped him win the League 1 title. The departures of Sam Morsy and Jason Pearce were certainly controversial, the loaning out of Ryan Colclough was a surprise, and the stripping of the captaincy from Craig Morgan, following an abortive move to Sheffield United, suggests he will struggle to claim a place in the starting lineup. Moreover goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, another key element last season, is now playing second fiddle to Adam Bogdan. It had been the introduction of the big Finn, in place of Richard O’Donnell who was struggling to meet Caldwell’s demands of a goalkeeper, that coincided with an upturn in performances. Jaaskelainen provided an aura of confidence to his defence and his ability to distribute the ball became an important cog in Caldwell’s possession football.

However, although Pearce has gone to Charlton on a permanent transfer, Morsy and Colclough have been sent out on season-long loans. Caldwell has inferred that Colclough remains in his plans although his lips have been sealed regarding Morsy. Colclough has already made three league starts for MK Dons, whereas ex-Latics goalkeeper Lee Nicholls and Jack Hendry, on loan until January, have not made any. One of the criticisms of Colclough’s loan was that it meant he was going back to League 1, whereas Morsy was going to a Championship club in Barnsley. In fact Morsy has made just one appearance so far with the Tykes, as a 65th minute substitute.

Long term injuries have robbed Caldwell of Donervon Daniels, Reece James and Andy Kellett from last season’s squad.  Moreover both Craig Morgan and David Perkins have recently been unavailable through niggles.

As it was during the second season under Rosler, new players brought in have been under the spotlight. None more so than Dan Burn and Shaun MacDonald, seen by some as replacements for Pearce and Morsy. Burn’s fateful error at Bristol saw him warming the bench for a couple of matches, but he has performed well in the last two games since his return to the starting lineup. Moreover MacDonald, who has played little first team football over the past two seasons, inevitably started slowly, but showed his worth on Saturday with a good display against Fulham.

It was bad news for Caldwell to see Alex Gilbey stretchered off the field on Saturday, after being an ever-present in league games up to that point. The ex-Colchester player has already made the transition from League 1 to the Championship, his fine technique providing him with a solid foundation. Jordi Gomez, back after a two year stint at Sunderland, has already showed what class he can bring to the team in three appearances to date.

Jake Buxton’s sending off in the League Cup led to a three match suspension and he has made just three appearances in the league so far. However, by naming him vice-captain Caldwell clearly expects Buxton to be a mainstay in the centre of defence. Reece Burke, arriving with the highest of recommendations following last season’s loan at Bradford, will most likely compete with Burn for a central defensive position, although he was employed in the troublesome right back position at Norwich. Nathan Byrne has looked lively in his two appearances off the bench so far, although there are questions about his defending skills as an orthodox right back. Byrne will best employed as a wing back in 3-5-2 or a winger in 4-3-3.

Nick Powell’s signing was a gamble by Caldwell, following a couple of seasons bereft of first team football and niggling injuries. Powell showed his exciting capabilities as a midfielder in the 3-0 defeat of Blackburn, but fitness concerns continue to dog him. At his best, Powell is a top player in this division, but he clearly has a long way to go in terms of achieving match fitness.

Adam Bogdan was an excellent goalkeeper at Bolton, but his difficult experiences at Liverpool will surely have damaged his confidence. At times this season he has looked dominant in his box and has made fine saves that kept his team in the game. However, his fatal error at Norwich shows that he is still coming to terms with Caldwell’s requirement for a goalkeeper to use his feet to build up moves from defence.

Luke Garbutt has not shown his best form yet. He had an indifferent loan spell at Fulham last season, not being helped by an injury early on. Garbutt’s loan is up to January, when he will most likely return to Everton where expectations were that he would be the successor to Leighton Baines. Caldwell will be hoping Reece James will regain fitness by the time that Garbutt’s loan is due to end.

On Saturday, Caldwell withdrew Will Grigg after 71 minutes, bringing on Adam Le Fondre. The manager’s dilemma will be in giving Le Fondre sufficient game time to keep him sharp. His preference for a lone central striker means that he is unlikely to play the two together, except near the end of games where his team needs to pull a goal back. Craig Davies already knows what it is like to be the backup striker, having had to be content with late appearances off the bench.

Caldwell’s starting lineup against Fulham contained six players signed over the summer. Moreover three more made appearances off the bench. Caldwell is familiar with the challenges of bringing in new players and weaning them into playing his style of football. He did it successfully in the past, but at this stage last season his team had 13 points, having won half the league games they had played. Caldwell’s current team has a solitary victory so far.

It is to be hoped that David Sharpe will heed Winston Churchill’s warning. His grandfather’s decision to dispense of Uwe Rosler’s services in November 2014 was compounded by the jettisoning of so many newly recruited players a couple of months later. The result was horrendous.

As with Rosler’s new recruits, Caldwell’s latest signings need time to adjust and to gel with their teammates. Caldwell himself will need time to get his squad up to speed. Sharpe needs to back the manager, who in turn needs to back his players. New players need time to adjust and to buy into Caldwell’s style of play.

There are testing times ahead. Latics are currently in the relegation zone, but as the new players gel results will surely improve. The question is when this will happen.

It could be later, rather than sooner.

 

Gomez already in tune

Will Jordi Gomez be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin Latics?

He started slowly at Norwich, but in the 37th minute he ghosted into a centre forward position to meet Michael Jacobs’ cross, only to be thwarted by a superb block from Martin Olsson. As the second half progressed he became the orchestrator, receiving the ball under pressure, spraying passes out to the wings. It was no big surprise when he opened Latics’ account in the 72nd minute with an opportunist goal when Will Grigg’s flick opened up space in the Norwich rearguard. Just a minute later he was to go inches wide with a crisply taken free kicked curled around the defensive wall.

Wigan Athletic were unlucky not to have come away with a point from Carrow Road after all had seemed lost early in the proceedings. In the second half they had played to the Caldwell tune, with Jordi Gomez the orchestrator. Back at the club after a two year absence he looked consummately at ease with the style of football his team was playing.

Jordi Gomez is not everybody’s cup of tea. He had four years of Premier League football under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, but only started in some 40% of the games, scoring a total of 10 goals. However, the manager always kept faith in his fellow Catalan, whose style of play many would say epitomized the Martinez era. The names of the two became practically synonymous, so much so that elements of the crowd, frustrated at the slowness of build-up play would so often vent their fury on Gomez.

But the build-up play in the second half at Norwich was not so slow and Gomez was clearly enjoying it. In his final season at Wigan prior to leaving for Sunderland Gomez suffered for months under a manager who considered him a “luxury player”. It was when the inept Owen Coyle left and Uwe Rosler took over that we saw the best of the player, who provided inspiration for a surge in the second half of the season that took Latics into the FA Cup semi-final and the Championship playoffs. Gomez scored 2 goals under Coyle and 9 under Rosler.

Gary Caldwell’s style of football bears a strong resemblance to that of Roberto Martinez, if a little more pragmatic. It is therefore no surprise that he can achieve harmony so quickly with the totally new faces around him in the Wigan Athletic team. Knowing Jordi as we do, we can continue to expect the kind of frustrating back passes that have typically marked his play, but at the same time we know that at Championship level he is a player to be reckoned with.

Gomez is already in tune. Despite having just a 22 minute appearance off the bench against QPR and very little pre-season game time, he went the full 90 at Norwich. Some have labelled him as lazy, his languid style betraying the yardage he covers during a game. There was no sign of laziness at Carrow Road: more that of a player committed to becoming a vital cog in Gary Caldwell’s machine.

Gomez will continue to divide opinion among supporters, but he fits into Caldwell’s style of play like a glove. At his best he can orchestrate the midfield, scoring goals and putting through slide rule passes to his forwards. He will surely be looking forward to a successful return to Wigan.

 

 

A turning point at Carrow Road

Will the display at Carrow Road be the turning point for the season?

Will the display at Carrow Road be the turning point for the season?

I was looking forward to a pleasant visit. Norwich is a delightful city, having a centre with beautiful old buildings, remains of its medieval times and an impressive modern riverside development. On late Tuesday afternoon it was awash with supporters wearing the yellow and green of its local football club.

The visit to the city, and the fen areas surrounding it, was clearly something to look forward to. But the trip to Carrow Road was cause for trepidation. The Norwich team was going to be laden with ex-Premier League players, backed by a big partisan crowd. It was a Wigan team in transition, with so many new faces taking time to adjust to Gary Caldwell’s way of playing, its displays being littered with defensive errors. The portents were ominous.

When the results don’t come a football manager will always get flak from fans.

Vitriol was already flowing from the keyboard warriors on the social media prior to this game. Opinions were voiced in no uncertain terms. Caldwell had brought in too many new players, many of whom were no better than those of the League 1 title winning team. His team selections had left much to be desired and he had been out thought by opposition managers, particularly in his use of substitutes. There had been little defensive continuity and it showed. The defence was porous, with a lack of protection from midfield making things worse. The midfield or attacking players Caldwell had used in the problematic right wing back position had looked ill at ease. The 18 year old Luke Burke had done well when given the chance, so why was he not chosen for the position? Moreover Nathan Byrne had been signed to play there, but had not even made the bench at Sheffield. Why was the manager sticking to a 3-5-2 system that was clearly not working? Would he continue to stubbornly stand by it?

After going two goals behind in the first ten minutes things were looking bleak. Another defensive error had led to the softest of goals after just two minutes. The defence looked very suspect. The locals were baying for a 5 or 6 goal haul. Was it going to be one of those low points, a Championship equivalent to that horrendous 9-1 defeat at Tottenham in the Premier League? Or did this new Latics team have the character to fight back?

But Caldwell had changed the team’s shape from the start, opting for 4-3-3. Young loan signing Reece Burke and Stephen Warnock had been moved over to orthodox full back positions, with Dan Burn and Jake Buxton at centre half. Jordi Gomez was back, forming a midfield trio with Shaun MacDonald and Max Power. Yanic Wildschut had been left on the bench, with Alex Gilbey and Michael Jacobs on the wings, Will Grigg at centre forward.  Seven out of the starting lineup were new this season.

Caldwell is nothing if not brave.  Despite poor results he has continued to insist that his team build up from the back, even when things have gone awry. Some will blame Adam Bogdan for his lack of concentration in not looking to his right when Jacob Murphy took the ball from his feet, catching him unawares. Others put more blame the manager for putting the goalkeeper into a role where quick footedness is as important an ability as it is to catch the ball. But despite being on a hammering to nothing Latics continued to build from the back.

As the game progressed they got better and better and could have snatched at least a point in the closing minutes. This time Caldwell got his substitutions right. Despite taking off midfield anchorman MacDonald and bringing on Wildschut the midfield became dominant as the back four pushed further forward. When Byrne came on for Burke most of us expected him to play at right back, but Gilbey was moved there with Byrne playing as a right winger. But the result was Byrne and Wildschut adding much needed pace to the Latics attack.

Whether the players brought in are better than those who were already at the club is up for debate. Would the presence of the departed Sam Morsy and Jason Pearce have provided more defensive security? Only time will tell if Caldwell made the right decision in bringing in 14 new players.

Last season showed us that new players at Wigan need time, not only to settle into the club and to get to know their teammates on and off the field, but also to learn to play the “Caldwell Way”. Moreover so many of the new signings, despite previous records of success in the Championship or above, arrived short of first team experience over the previous season. Nick Powell had not made a league start in two seasons, Shaun MacDonald made none last season for Bournemouth, Jake Buxton none for Derby. Adam Bogdan made just two  for Liverpool, Jordi Gomez only five for Sunderland. Both Adam Le Fondre and Nathan Byrne made ten league appearances for Wolves last season.

For those players it is not only a matter of adapting to new teammates and a demanding style of play, but also for them to gain the match fitness and the sharpness that cannot have been aided by their lack of playing time.

The display at Norwich might well prove to be the turning point in a season of transition. There were signs in that second half that Latics are enjoying the style of play the manager demands. Moreover they showed real fighting spirit with their backs against the wall.

Caldwell has had a difficult time back in the Championship division.  Injuries have deprived him of important players and errors of individual players have punished him. However, the Scot is not easily deterred and has that same kind of belief that Roberto Martinez possessed in the abilities of his players and in his style of play.

So often things get worse before they get better. That was the case at Carrow Road. But although the performance there might ultimately prove to be a turning point there are going to be lots of ups and downs over the coming months.

It has been a frustrating time for us as fans up to this point. Even those most who are the most supportive of Caldwell are likely to admit that he has made mistakes this season. However, he must learn from them.

Players need to be played in their most suited positions and the manager needs to show the level of tactical awareness we saw last season. The right back/wing back position is likely to be resolved by playing either Reece Burke or Luke Burke in an orthodox back four, with Byrne being used as a wing back or winger.

Alex Gilbey was a central midfielder at Colchester, but has been pushed further forward by Caldwell. At times he has looked comfortable in a wide attacking midfield role. But to play him on the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation and to leave Yanic Wildschut on the bench was not a successful ploy. Gilbey is neither winger nor full back. He is a talented young central midfielder with a lot to offer.

Caldwell has some difficult decisions to make regarding the centre of defence. Craig Morgan has been out of contention due to injury, but was close to leaving the club during the transfer window. It remains to be seen how much he is in the manager’s plans. Dan Burn was dropped after his gaffe at Bristol and played quite well at Norwich. At his best, Burn forms a solid physical presence in the back four, but is the manager going to keep faith in a player who has a tendency to switch off at times?

Jake Buxton has been brought in on a three year contract at the age of 31, a clear indication that Caldwell sees him as a key defender. Stephen Warnock has often been pushed into a back line of three, although lacking height and physique for such a role. Caldwell will have high hopes for Reece Burke in the centre of defence. Despite his tender age is Burke going to be a key player this season?

A settled defence, with a midfield that provides due protection, is something that Caldwell will surely be looking to put in place. In the meantime, despite the poor results, his players have shown the resilience to fight back under adverse conditions.

Such qualities will be needed to rise out of the relegation zone over the coming months.

 

 

 

Fan views – Part 6 – Jake Buxton and Dan Burn

We  occasionally republish articles from our archives, that some may not have seen. We ask our long-established readers to bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Our site stats have shown that our readership has been particularly interested in perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs. Thanks to contributions made by bloggers on the fan sites of those clubs for these articles.

A Derby County fan’s view of Jake Buxton

Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

 

Fan view by: Ollie Wright at the @derbycountyblog

Published: July 27, 2016

 

 

No sooner had Jake Buxton signed for Wigan Athletic but he made his debut last night at Oldham. The 31 year old central defender, who is 5 ft 11in tall, has joined Latics on a three year contract.

On acquiring Buxton’s services Gary Caldwell said that: “Jake adds great experience and competition to our defence and I am delighted to be able to bring him here, Not only will he be an asset to us on the field, but Jake will also add to the great character within our dressing room and I feel he will fit into our group perfectly. He’s a top professional with over 300 Football League games to his name and he’s chomping at the bit to add to his tally.”

Jake Buxton was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, a Nottinghamshire market town. He started his career four miles away in Mansfield coming through the youth ranks, making his first team debut as a 17 year old in a Football League Trophy game against Crewe in October 2002. Buxton was to made captain at the age of 21 in the 2006-07 season and was to spend 6 years at Mansfield Town, making over 160 appearances.  However, on the club’s relegation to the Football Conference in 2008 he left by mutual consent.

Following a trail at Crewe, Buxton joined Burton Albion and they went on to win the Football Conference title under Nigel Clough. Buxton was voted Player of the Year for the Brewers in that 2008-09 season, after making 40 appearances.

Clough was to join Derby County the following season, taking the out-of-contract Buxton with him. Buxton went on to make 139 appearances over 7 seasons for the Rams, scoring 11 goals.

Here’s over to Ollie:

Jake Buxton arrived at Derby County from Burton Albion in 2009, following his manager Nigel Clough in transferring from the Brewers to the Rams.  Given that Derby had not long been relegated from the Premier League and Burton had only just been promoted to the Football League, the signing was met with widespread incredulity – but Clough had faith in Buxton to make the jump, based on his work ethic and character.

 Clough was big on character.  In the same way that his father would have no truck with ‘sh..houses’, Nigel prioritised and was loyal to men that he could trust.  Buxton proved to be worthy of Clough’s faith.  

 He is not tall for a centre back, nor is he particularly quick.  He is, however, rabidly competitive, blessed with a street fighter’s determination and not above using a few of the ‘dark arts’, at times. Raised in the lower leagues, he loves to fight for every ball.  It would be unfair to write him off as a rudimentary clogger, because he can pass, but it’s undeniable that his game is based on the simple core virtues of ‘heading and kicking it’, to quote Clough.  

 Buxton continued to play regularly under Steve McClaren, who also extended Buxton’s contract. He was a key member of the side which reached the play-off final in 2013/4, but that season proved to be his peak at Derby, with injuries and the arrival of Jason Shackell reducing him to the role of bit-part player in the past two seasons.  

 This is the right time for Buxton to move on from Derby, but at 31, he has plenty of time left.  And a cursory scan of Twitter will reveal the real affection most Rams fans have for ‘Bucko’, who will be missed by all of us. 

 

A Fulham fan’s view of Dan Burn

Dan_Burn

 

Fan view by: Peter Grinham through Facebook

Date: July 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Wigan Athletic have announced the signing of 24 year old Dan Burn. The 6 ft 7 in central defender was out of contract with Fulham.

Gary Caldwell is clearly pleased to have signed Burn and the club’s web site reports him saying that “He fits our profile exactly, young, hungry and with experience at this level and the desire to progress with us. He is a powerful defender, but he likes to play as well and adds tremendous competition to the squad.”

Dan Burn was born in Blyth but came up through the youth ranks at Darlington, making his first team debut at the age of 17.  He went on to make 14 appearances for the north east club before moving to Fulham in the summer of 2011 for a fee of around £350,000.

In September 2012 Burn went on an initial short term loan to Yeovil, but the loan period was to be extended to the end of the season. He made 41 appearances for the League 1 side, scoring three goals. Burn was to be sent off on another loan in July 2013, this time to Championship club, Birmingham City. He made 28 appearances for the Blues, scoring one goal, before being recalled to Fulham in January 2014. He made his debut for the Londoners on January 4th 2014 in an FA Cup tie at Norwich.

Burn went on to make a total of 69 appearances for Fulham scoring two goals.

Here’s over to Peter:

Your fanzine editor asked on a Fulham Supporters website about Dan Burn and a view on him. I am a Fulham supporter of many years going back to the days of our legend Johnny Haynes (Fulham and England captain) and been part of the roller coaster ride during those years, so no Johnny Come Lately! I watch every Fulham 1st team home game, a few aways and every home U21 and U18 game, so I have seen a lot of Dan Burn.

Dan is a product of the North East and came to us from Darlington. He is about 6’ 6” tall and has always played centre back for us. He is left footed and, unsurprisingly, prefers to play left centre back. He had 2 loan spells at Birmingham and Yeovil respectively. I don’t know about his Yeovil experience but the Birmingham management thought well of him and were interested in extending his loan at the time with a view to signing him.

Dan is full of enthusiasm and has admirable leadership qualities but only in respect of drive and determination. He is said to train hard. He takes the game seriously and nobody could ever accuse him of not giving 100% in every game. This alone made him popular with many Fulham supporters. He is physically strong which is what you expect in a centre back. However, some of his decision making is questionable and if players run at him his legs buckle with fast jinky players, as his reading of those situations is poor and he is often left floundering on his backside.

His aerial ability is somewhat mixed. From a defensive point of view he is strong in the air at defending crosses but often he does not get good purchase on the ball and in some situations the ball seems to loop of the top of his forehead when it needs to be powered away. This rather poor technique can be attributed to the fact that, like some tall players, he does not jump highly and has probably never had to at junior levels because of his height. This puts him at a disadvantage if a forward builds up a head of steam on the run and can either rise above him or equal his height. He should have scored more goals from set pieces but the same heading restrictions impede that part of his game too.

I always thought that Dan would benefit from better coaching because unless he is a slow learner – and I have no reason to believe that – he could improve a lot on his technique and decision making. However, Fulham have not been blessed with decent coaching since the destructive Magath arrived and decimated our club, Kit Symons followed but was not allowed experienced coaching staff, having to make do with U21 coaches (NB: A big step up without a mix of 1st team experienced coaches). We now have some decent 1st team coaches but they obviously don’t fancy Dan.

Whilst I have never met Dan, everyone Fulham fan that has likes him immensely. One thing that I do know is that when he signed the Wigan contract he will be genuinely devoted to the cause and not be false in the usual footballers speak of ‘great to be here’. If he sad that he would mean it and give all for the cause. I genuinely wish him all the best in his career and I hope that he is a late developer who will prove some people wrong.

Hope this insight helps. Good luck with the new season.