A Reading fan’s view of Jem Karacan

 

It appears that Wigan Athletic are about to sign 27 year midfielder, Jem Karacan. Karacan is a free agent, having been released from his contract at Galatasaray by mutual consent.

Jem Karacan was born in London to a Turkish father and English mother. In his early teens he played at Wimbledon, declining an offer to join Galatasaray, his father’s favourite club in Istanbul. He went on to join the Reading youth system.

Karacan signed  a professional contract with Reading as an 18 year old in the summer of 2007, but spent most of the 2007-08 season on loan at Bournemouth and Millwall. He went on to make 155 appearances for Reading between 2008 and 2015, scoring 11 goals. This included 21 appearances in the Premier League in 2012-13.

In September 2013 Karacan had been badly injured in a game against Leeds, suffering damage to his anterior cruciate and medial ligaments. The injury kept him out of action for a year. He returned to first team action in January 2015, but received another injury set back that put him out for a couple of months. He went on to make 8 appearances in that 2014-15 season.

On the expiry of his contract in the summer of 2015, Karacan joined Galatasaray. He made one start and one substitute appearance for Gala before being sent on loan at Bursa, some 2 hours drive from Istanbul. Karacan went on to make 6 starts and 3 substitute appearances for Bursaspor after joining them in February 2016.

Should Latics sign Karacan it will be a gamble, given the player’s past injury problems. However, Karacan was held in high regard at Reading and if he could regain the form of those earlier years could prove a shrewd signing.

In order to learn more about Karacan we asked Dan Wimbush, editor of Reading fan site The Tilehurst End Blog (@TheTilehurstEnd) to respond to a few questions. Here is Dan’s response:

1. What type of midfield player is he?

He’s great at a variety of roles but ideally he’s the terrier in a pair or a three through the middle. Jem brings real energy and passion to the side but he’s more than just a dogsbody to do the running as he’s got a tough tackle in him as well as being able to grab the odd goal. 

I wouldn’t have him sitting in front of the defence or in a 10 role but in old-world terms he’s a perfect No 8. 

2. Strengths/weaknesses

Strength wise, his energy and passion are certainly up there. He formed a great partnership with Mikele Leigertwood between 2010 and 2012 that saw us reach a play-off final and win the league and if you can find the right partner for him at the DW he’ll do really well. As mentioned he’s not to be ignored creatively either and in his final seasons at Reading he was just beginning to show what he could do when given more freedom, until a horrific injury against Leeds nearly ended his career. 

Weakness wise and he’s not amazing in the air, and his recent injury struggles can’t be ignored. However, as he told us himself, he never picks up small niggles, it’s always big nasty injuries, so I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing!

3. Effort/Popularity with the fans

Jem was well loved by the Reading fans and was a popular choice for Captain despite being injured at the time. He came through the Reading Academy and always gave 100% for the club. He had a few minor moments in his youth where he rubbed fans up the wrong way on social media but that’s very much in the past, he’s grown up and has a very mature outlook for someone still in their late 20’s. He’s happy to engage with fans on social media and always spoke well in the media. 

4. Why did he leave Reading? Effect of injuries?

Injuries and finances really. He’d been out for 15-months and Reading were waiting to test his fitness before offering him a significant long-term deal. By the time they were convinced, one of his boyhood teams, and his Dad’s team, Galatasaray had offered him a big deal he just couldn’t refuse. The two sides parted on good terms though and fans understood his decision to take financial security and the chance to play in the Champions League.

5. Would you re-sign him for Reading?

In a heartbeat, though I’d be wary of a long-term deal until he’s got some regular game time back under his belt. If he gets back to the level of play we saw just before his injury in 2013 then he’ll be one of the best in this division but after injuries and barely any game time in Turkey it might take him a while to get back up to speed. 

 

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Is it Caldwell’s fault?

blame

There are various views on why Wigan Athletic are in their current predicament. Some say that Gary Caldwell should have been given more time to get things right in the Championship. Others point to a woeful start by his replacement, Warren Joyce, with puzzling team selections and tactics.

But a view that has been gaining more and more ground on the social media is that it was the recruitment over the summer that is the principal reason. Put simply, some people say that the players just are not good enough.

In May 2015 Wigan Athletic chairman, David Sharpe, announced a change in the club’s player recruitment structure. He considered it “crucial for long-term benefit of Wigan Athletic”. We were told that the new recruitment team was to be led by the Head of Football Operations, Matt Jackson, who together with Chief Executive, Jonathan Jackson, and Academy Head, Gregor Rioch, had been involved in reshaping the club’s Academy.

As stated in an article we published last week “A mental amount of movement”, in the  2015-16 season, Latics had 31 incomings and 44 outgoings of players, loans being included. The figures for the first half of the 2016-17 season were 14 coming in and 20 leaving. Since the article was published there have been two more outgoings, with Craig Davies having joined Scunthorpe and Nathan Byrne sent off on loan to Charlton. There has been one coming in, goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard.

The figures alone provide food for thought and debate. Is the huge turnover in players over the past couple of seasons an indicator of recruitment strategies that just have not worked or is it an indication of a chasm between recruitment and coaching? More crucially, why is the club that won the League 1 title struggling in a position below the other two clubs that were promoted? Is the recruitment team capable of making the right kinds of decisions? But crucially, how does the manager fit into the scheme of things?

It has been said that at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s influence is total. According to an article in the Guardian, Wenger “… is the lord of the kingdom he has built over the past 19 years. His influence extends into every pore of the club and where transfers are concerned, the manager’s authority is total. Wenger always has the final say. The board have attempted to put support systems in place around him, such as their purchase of StatDNA, the football data analytics company, which can help to identify potential signings. But Wenger continues to rely on his own eyes, together with those of his scouts.”

A comparison of Liverpool in the Brendan Rodgers era makes interesting reading. The Guardian tells us that Rodgers, the head of recruitment Dave Fallows, the chief scout Barry Hunter, the head of performance and analysis Michael Edwards, the chief executive Ian Eyre and FSG’s president Mike Gordon comprised the group that decided Liverpool’s entire transfer strategy.

There is clearly no blueprint for successful recruitment at any club. The top clubs in England have recruitment teams, whose composition tends to vary, using an increasingly data-driven approach. Some managers have more autonomy than others in determining the players they want, although the chairman tends to have the final word on the financial side.

At the end of May 2016, Gary Caldwell told us Latics were looking at bringing in four or five new players. That did not happen. By the end of the transfer window 14 new players had been brought in. However, 20 had gone.  The inference is that Caldwell had realised between May and the end of August that many of the players he had were not up to Championship standard. But was this solely Caldwell’s call? What say did the recruitment team have in that higher than expected turnover of players in summer?

Caldwell surely had a say in the players who left. His decisions to break up the successful central defensive partnership of Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce and send midfielder Sam Morsy off on loan were certainly controversial. But the overriding criticism has been that the players who were brought in were no better than those the club already had. Whether that is down to Caldwell, the recruitment team or financial matters is something that as onlookers we cannot say. However, we can take a look at the players who were brought in over summer to make assessments.

Nathan Byrne was signed from Wolves near the end of the summer transfer window for a fee reputed to be around £400,000. Caldwell signed Byrne essentially a right wing back, although he can play on the wing. Although he has only been at the club for around 4 months he has been sent off on loan to Charlton. Byrne made 6 starts with 8 substitute appearances. Joyce has not yet shown any inclination to use a back three with wing backs.

Goalkeeper, Adam Bogdan, was brought in on a one year loan from Liverpool, after a tough time at the Merseyside club. Being an ex-Bolton player hardly endeared him to the Wigan public. Neither did taking the place of fan favourite Jussi Jaaskelainen, as he had done before at the Macron. Bogdan had been a fine keeper at Bolton, but despite often making excellent saves and keeping his side in games when the defence was under pressure, his high profile error at Brighton and a hesitancy to leave his area  were problematic. When injury curtailed his season many fans were not unhappy to see him go. Jaaskelainen regained his place after Bogdan’s injury but he too made an error which led to a home defeat by Huddersfield. The Finn was replaced by Jakob Haugaard last Saturday. In the meantime rumours suggest that Joyce is also trying to sign Rangers keeper, Matt Gilks.

Luke Garbutt was signed on a half season loan to provide cover for the left back position, with Reece James being unavailable due to long term injury. Garbutt had had a reputation as a player for the future at Everton, but had come to Wigan after an indifferent spell on loan at Fulham in 2015-16. Playing as a wing back, Garbutt started against Nottingham Forest and QPR in late August. However, he was substituted after 59 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday on September 10 and did not appear again until Joyce took over as manager. Garbutt was used in midfield or at right back before returning to Everton at the end of his loan period in early January. Although he showed considerable expertise in taking set pieces, Garbutt’s all round play often failed to convince.

Reece Burke was signed on a season-long loan from West Ham, following an outstanding stint at Bradford City last season. Given the departure of Jason Pearce and the marginalisation of Craig Morgan by Caldwell, it appeared that Burke would be a strong contender for a position in the centre of defence. However, Burke was used in the right back position and made 8 appearances before returning to his parent club due to a hip injury in December. We surely did not see the best of the 20 year old playing out of his best position.

Dan Burn and Jake Buxton were signed from Fulham and Derby County respectively. They have become the regular central defensive partnership. Burn had a difficult start riddled with hesitancy and occasional major errors, but has shown much more consistency in recent games. Buxton’s start to the season was punctuated by a suspension following a red card in the League Cup tie at Oldham. But since then he has shown himself to be a consistent, reliable performer. Neither Burn not Buxton is at his best passing the ball out of defence, a key aspect of play under Caldwell. However, under Joyce it is not so crucial.

Whether their partnership is better than that of Morgan/Pearce is open to conjecture. The question that remains is why the latter partnership was not given a chance at Championship level, allowing a more gradual transition as needed. But the way that Pearce was hastily dispatched to Charlton and Morgan stripped of the captaincy suggests that there were more than footballing issues involved.

Sam Morsy’s recent return to Wigan has opened up the debate as to why he was sent off on loan. Under Caldwell, Morsy played the holding midfield role in front of the back four, but on Saturday he was pushed further forward with Shaun MacDonald behind. MacDonald arrived without  a big fanfare. He had been instrumental in Bournemouth’s rise up the divisions, but his career had been stifled by limited first team appearances in the Premier League. Moreover he was taking over the Morsy role, inevitably inviting comparisons.

Like Morsy, MacDonald is strong in the tackle, and although he does not reveal the range of passing that Morsy possesses, he rarely wastes the ball. However, at 6 ft 1 in, MacDonald is strong in the air and has the ability to step back and become a third central defender. Like Buxton, MacDonald has become the kind of unsung hero whose name will be among the first on any team list. Should Joyce be able to persuade Morsy to stay, the two together would provide a ring of steel in midfield.

The 22 year old Alex Gilbey was signed after impressing for Colchester United and has shown himself to be a technically skilled player, willing to work hard. Gilbey was making a successful transition between League 1 and the Championship until an injury against Fulham in mid-September. A recent tweet from the player suggests he could be back in action by the end of this month.

When Jordi Gomez was signed on loan from Sunderland, hopes were high that he could repeat the kind of form that made him Latics’ Player of the Season in 2013-14. Although we have seen flashes of the true Gomez on occasions we have not seen him play with the same kind of consistency that we saw in his time under Uwe Rosler. Joyce will be hoping that the play-maker’s form will improve, his ability to keep hold of the ball in midfield being so important when the defence is under pressure. Moreover the Catalan has the ability to drift in from midfield to score goals.

Caldwell’s biggest gamble over summer was in signing the injury-riddled Nick Powell on a three year contract. It is a gamble that has not yet paid off. Powell has been unable to get any consistency to his game, being constantly niggled by injury. The hamstring tear received on Saturday looks set to keep him out for the rest of the season. Powell’s career continues to hang over the abyss, a sad situation for such a talented player.

Rumours suggest that Cardiff are to cut short Adam Le Fondre’s loan period at Wigan in order to sell him. Given that Bolton are one of the clubs who apparently want “ALF” it seems unlikely that Cardiff will gain much in transfer revenue. But Le Fondre has been given few opportunities during his time at Wigan and the player himself might well want to move on. The 30 year old has made just 3 starts, with 8 appearances off the bench, scoring 1 goal.

20 year old right back Kyle Knoyle was signed on loan from West Ham but suffered an injury in pre-season that kept him out for months. His only appearance so far has been as an 89th minute substitute at Cardiff at the end of October.

Kaiyne Woolery, 22, was signed from Bolton Wanderers for a small fee. His sole appearance has been as an 87th substitute at home to Derby in early December.

The summer signings involved a relatively small financial outlay. Five players were brought in on loan, four on free transfers (Burn, Gomez, Powell, Warnock), Byrne for around £400,000, MacDonald for reputedly £125,000, Gilbey for a compensation fee, Buxton and Woolery for small fees.

Wigan Athletic may have even made a profit on their summer transfer dealings, having recouped around £1m for the sale of Emyr Huws to Cardiff plus small fees for Tim Chow and Jason Pearce.

In hindsight should David Sharpe have given Caldwell more financial support in the summer market? Were Caldwell’s hands tied, to some degree, in making the kinds of quality signings he would need to strengthen his team to compete in a higher division?

The well-publicised signing that did not come off over summer was that of Hearts right back, Calum Patterson. Wigan’s bids fell well below the Scottish club’s evaluation. Latics went on to pay a significant amount to sign Nathan Byrne, but the player did not have the defensive qualities to play as an orthodox full back. In retrospect, would the extra money that would have been needed to secure Patterson have been well spent, given that the right back position has been so problematic this season?

However, another factor facing the club was the prospect of the parachute payments running out at the end of the season. An immediate return to the Premier League would be ideal, but to mount a promotion push would have involved a major financial outlay in terms of transfer fees. Moreover should the bid not be successful Latics would be left with players on big contracts without the financial support of parachute payments.

In fact the summer transfer activity suggested that Latics were looking for consolidation, both in terms of league position and in finances. In order to compete for players, free agents included, the club has had to offer salaries commensurate to the division. However, other than the case of Nick Powell, the highest earners are largely on loans or contracts that expire at the end of the season. They include Adam Bogdan, Jordi Gomez, Adam Le Fondre and Stephen Warnock. Should the unspeakable occur once again – relegation – the club would sell off its prime assets and drastically reduce its wage bill.

So, is it Caldwell’s fault that Wigan Athletic are in relegation mire?

Many would fault Caldwell for the premature departures of Morsy and Pearce at the beginning of the season. Some would say he should have preferred Jaaskelainen to Bogdan, although the Finn is now 42 years old and well past his best. Perhaps he should have kept the backbone of his League 1 title winning team in place, phasing in the newcomers. Momentum was probably lost as a result.

However, in terms of recruitment Caldwell was at the mercy of both his chairman and the recruitment team. Burn, Buxton, Gilbey and MacDonald are by no means bad signings. Gomez has struggled to impose himself, but he has enough quality to do so in the second half of the season. Whether Woolery will ever achieve his potential remains to be seen. The management will be praying that Powell can rid himself of the hamstring problems that have dogged his career in recent years. At his best he is one of the top players in the division.

Caldwell used the loan market to good effect last season, but the rules governing loan signings changed, stays of less than half a season not now possible. Summer’s loan signings have been largely disappointing.

Latics are in relegation dog-fight partly because of mistakes made by both managers, Caldwell and Joyce, but the incomings and outgoings of summer transfer market may have had a more major effect.

If anyone or anything is primarily to blame for Wigan’s current position it has been a lack of ambition on the part of the club. Let’s hope Sharpe will back his latest manager in the January transfer window. That means not selling off his most saleable assets and bringing in more quality.

 

 

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Latics fans react on social media to win over Forest

griggfire

Will Grigg scored his first goal in thirteen games yesterday to put Wigan Athletic ahead against Nottingham Forest as the half time whistle approached. After being written off by too many fans as a League 1 striker, Grigg showed the kind of opportunism that we had come to expect from him in the past. Providing he is not sold off in the transfer window we can expect more goals from a centre forward keen to show that he has the qualities to become a force in the Championship.

Warren Joyce commented after the game that:“I think Will has been great in general play and he works hard for the side. His all-round commitment has been good and he is doing a job for the team. It’s the hardest thing in football to score, that’s why strikers get paid the most money and he did his job very well today.”

Yanic Wildschut continued his impressive recent form, scoring his fifth goal of the season in the 57th minute. Danish goalkeeper, Jakob Haugaard,  made an eventful debut, saving an 80th minute penalty, Joyce commenting that:“I’m really pleased for Jakob. He didn’t have a lot to do thoughout the game but he had to keep his concentration and be there to save the penalty. Great for him, good confidence booster.”

However, the Man of the Match award went to Sam Morsy on his return from a loan spell at Barnsley. His performance was impressive enough to have fans lobbying for a permanent return to the club for Morsy, although the Yorkshire club have the option of signing the player providing they pay Wigan the agreed transfer fee and can agree personal terms with the player. Joyce commented that:“I’m delighted for Sam. I met him for the first time this week after talking to him on the phone and he’s impressed me, I’ve told him he’s my type of player. The situation is out of our control slightly so we’ll see how that develops.”

After a run of disappointing results, spirits have been lifted, the only real downer of the day being a sparse attendance of 5,163, with some 1,500 coming from Nottingham.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Garswood_Latic on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Haugaard signed on loan and straight in the team. Sam Morsy back and in the team. Craig Davies off to Scunthorpe. I think it looks like Joyce is starting to forge what he wants.

Noel Wards Leg on Latics Speyk appraised Sam Morsy’s contribution:

I really enjoyed Sam Morsy’s performance today. His ability to play accurate forward passes and maintain the momentum of our play was a joy at times. Forest were very poor but still, I don’t think we’ve got anyone else who can play like that. If, as seems likely, it’s basically up to him whether he joins Barnsley now, then we can only regret whatever happened previously. However, as much as it appears on today’s performance that he would improve our current squad, it’s unlikely that he would play that well every week. Forest put him under no pressure when he had the ball and as we saw last season, he can fold very quickly when he is pressed very intensely. In the hurly-burly of an average Championship match, I fear he wouldn’t contribute as much as he did today. As to whether he will stay, Joyce said in his post-match interview that he’s told Morsy that “he’s my kind of player”. That, and a start today, may lead him to think that he will play more often for us than for them although he has played in his last six games for Barnsley. As ever it will probably come down to money. I can’t see us offering him a better contract but it may well be that he’s already earning more here than Barnsley can offer. If that’s the case, he may still be our player this time next week. He could make a difference and give the fans a lift into the bargain.

Paul Kendrick @PKendrickWIG tweeted:

May only be short-lived, but good to see Sam Morsy back in a Latics shirt. Mistake to let him go in summer. But only my two-penneth.

JamesSaintLatic  @JamesSaintLatic said:

Great, that. Midfield 3 superb. Showing what we are capable of. Morsy needs to stay if possible. Huge game next week now. Come on!

JimmyC on the Cockney Latic Forum talked about Haugaard:

This keeper from Stoke looks good jr. He didn’t have a lot to do today but looked comfortable coming for crosses, and saved a pen…

Rob G @robgibson82 praised Morsy’s performance:

I’m with the internet experts on this one. I thought Morsy was brilliant yesterday, maybe, just maybe he could have made a difference

CLatic on Latics Speyk commented:

Feel sorry for David Sharpe, he’ll take the pelters from the fans if Morsy goes when all he was doing was backing his manager at the time’s awful judgement. Having said that, I hope the young man has learnt a serious lesson regarding permanent fees inserted into loan contracts following this debacle. If Morsy decides to stay and helps keep us up, then for me he’ll become an instant cult hero at this club and deservedly so.

Phil Crompton @ptc23 tweeted:

@LaticsSpeyk#wafc    Worst PR ever. Loan Morsy out, recall him, play him in one match and sell him. Who thinks these things up ?

NuneatonLatic on the Cockney Latic Forum surmised that:

But why pick a player for one game knowing he’s off the week after. Imagine your the player stood down for him. Not gonna make for a happy squad is it? I think Joyce must rate him and I would hope he’s had a word with the lad and convinced him that he is an integral part of his plans. Sometimes that’s all is needed its what the great man managers do .

GrimReaper87 on Latics Speyk checked out a Barnsley view:

Just been looking on the Barnsley Forum and their fans don’t seem confident in signing Morsy, They’re saying that personal terms are the stumbling block they’re saying that Barnsley can’t and won’t offer the same money that we’re paying Morsy.

Murf @RobertRobmurphy added:

waiting “Grigg and Yanic only doing it for a transfer out of here”#wafc

Mark Ashurst on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

Wonder how many of the folk moaning about the club spending no money will not be going today as it’s a tenner to get on and not in your season ticket …..

Tez H on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

What a shame there was only 3500 Latics die hards there to see it. Embarrassing that so called fans can’t put their hand in their pocket for a tenner.

TrueBeliever on Latics Speyk opined that:

The problem for me Tl4e is that we are not attracting pay on the day fans. We are only bringing in the season ticket holders and hence a game that has to be paid for as an extra is not appealing. I’m not saying this is the only reason but Wigan fans are fickle and have proved that over the years, until we start playing consistent and attractive football and start moving up the league I fear we will not see the floating “fans” back. Its a sad state of affairs I know but sometimes you have to take off the blinkers and see the truth of things.

 

 

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A mental amount of movement

nixon

Alan Nixon is not every Wigan Athletic supporter’s favourite journalist. But he is very active on Twitter and seems to get hold of inside information on what is going on at the club. Sometimes his prophesies come to fruition, but not always. Since tweeting the above message he has let us know that Bolton are interested in Adam Le Fondre and that Nathan Byrne and Craig Davies are on their way out to League 1.

Nixon’s phrase a “Mental amount of Movement around Wigan” seemed to strike a chord. There has been an extraordinary turnover of staff over recent years. Since the summer of 2015 we have had six managers – Roberto Martinez, Owen Coyle, Uwe Rosler, Malky Mackay, Gary Caldwell and Warren Joyce. Coaching staff have come and gone, with the exception of Graham Barrow who is in his eighth year since re-joining the club in July 2009.

When Warren Joyce was first appointed there were rumours of him being joined by ex-Manchester United stalwarts, Paul McGuinness and Jim Ryan. Since then there have been no announcements from the club, but yesterday a photo of McGuinness involved in Latics’ training appeared on Twitter.

mcguinnessRavel Morrison appears with Nick Powell, with another ex-United player, Cameron Stewart partially hidden behind Dan Burn.

So, the turnover at Wigan continues. McGuinness looks set to come in, but whether that would mean a departure for Barrow remains to be seen. Nixon could well be right about the possible ins and outs over the January window. The numbers might be well short of those of fire sale of January 2015, but could match those of last January.

The club itself has published details of the ins and outs of players at the club since May 2015. There has been a huge influx and outgoing of players since then. The stats cause one to question the club’s recruitment policies. Why has there been so much turmoil and when will it stop?

According to the figures released for 2015-16, there were 31 incomings and 44 outgoings, loans being included.

The stats for 2016-17 up until the summer transfer window show 14 coming in and 20 leaving.

The critics will say that the huge turnovers have been caused by poor recruitment, players being brought in but released within months. Indeed, if the rumours of the impending departures of Nathan Byrne and Adam Le Fondre prove to be the case then a couple of players acquired at the end of August 2016 will be gone in January 2017.

In some cases, such players have been recruited as free agents or for nominal transfer fees, although in others the quantities will have been more substantial. So many players have been given away at knockdown prices in efforts to bring down the wage bill and clear the way for new ones coming in.

Changes of manager have exacerbated the situation, with the newcomer typically wanting to bring in his own men, supposedly to fit into the style of football he prefers, although one remains to be convinced that has always been the case.

People have expected an influx of ex-Manchester United personnel since Joyce arrived. It could well be that Ravel Morrison and Cameron Stewart will be the first contingent to join Reece James, Andy Kellett and Nick Powell who worked with Joyce in Manchester.

Wigan Athletic’s recruitment policy continues to be a cause for concern, both in terms of causing instability and coming with a heavy financial burden that the club can ill-afford. The agents’ fees alone for all those incomings and outgoings would make interesting reading.

It has indeed been a “mental” amount of movement.

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Another fire sale, another relegation?

   firesale2

The January transfer window was approaching and Wigan Athletic had just lost their fifth game out of the seven they had cahmp-table-2014-15played under their latest manager. Their line up in that match against Sheffield Wednesday was studded with ex-Premier League players. They were playing a mid-table team with the lowest goals-for record in the division. Sadly it was not to be and Latics went down 1-0.  Callum McManaman’s sending off after 68 minutes surely being a contributory factor. The New Year of 2015 saw Latics second from bottom of the Championship with just 20 points from 24 games played.

There are clear parallels between the current New Year period in 2017 and that of a couple of years prior. Latics are once again second from bottom and their new manager yesterday suffered his seventh defeat in nine games in charge. Rumours are already floating around the social media of another fire sale of players, as happened in 2015. But surely the club has learned from recent history? Is another fire sale the answer to turning around the team’s fortunes?

But the fundamentals of the situation of a couple of years ago and that of now differ. In January 2015, the club did it as a means of drastically slashing its wage bill. Malky Mackay was the hapless manager who had to oversee it and patch up his squad, largely with young champ-table2017loanees and free agents on short term contracts. There was surprisingly little uproar from the fans at the time, with the likes of cup final heroes Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman and Ben Watson being dispatched at bargain prices. People had been so disillusioned by a perceived lack of effort from the players that many did not question that a big shake up was required.

The rumours of the next departures are already floating around the social media. Nathan Byrne to Charlton, Sam Morsy to Barnsley on a permanent deal, Will Grigg to any club willing to pay £2m for him, Adam Le Fondre’s loan from Cardiff to be cut short, currently linked with Scunthorpe. We will doubtless see many more rumours flying around the message boards in the coming weeks. Some will have substance, some not. Once again many fans will welcome a shake-up, with so many players in the current squad being labelled as League 1 players, not of Championship standard.

A current poll on Vital Wigan indicates that 56% of fans believe that Warren Joyce can turn things around if given time. A significant proportion cast the blame for the club’s current predicament on Gary Caldwell and his recruitment team. Others cite Joyce’s inexperience as a manager and the woeful tactics and team selections we have seen over the past couple of months. But how much longer will David Sharpe be willing to wait if Joyce cannot deliver over the coming weeks? Sharpe will hopefully have learned from two years ago when he left it too late in the season to rid the club of Malky Mackay.

Rumours suggest that Joyce is trying to sign 34 year old Dean Whitehead, an experienced higher leagues player, although his better days are behind him. The big question is whether Sharpe will back Joyce with the funds needed to bring in quality reinforcements, a task complicated by the fact that Latics are currently on track back to League 1. Given the recent pronouncements of Jonathan Jackson on the club’s finances it seems more likely that Latics will sell off their prime assets – certainly Will Grigg and possibly Yanic Wildschut – and bring in loannees and experienced players of the ilk of Whitehead on short term contracts. With the prospect of a return to League 1 looming, Jackson and Sharpe will be unwilling to speculate on big money and long term contracts to tempt quality players to come in.

The fire sale of two years ago led to relegation. Repeating such actions this month will surely lead along the same path.

There are dangerous times ahead in the coming weeks.

 

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