A Brentford fan’s view of Lewis Macleod

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of Lewis Macleod from Brentford on a one-year contract. The 5ft 10 in tall Macleod was a free agent.

Lewis Macleod was born in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. He joined Rangers as a 10-year-old, progressed through their academy and made his first team debut at 18 years of age in a Scottish Challenge Cup tie against Brechin in July 2012. He went on to make 26 appearances in the 2012-13 season when Rangers were in the Scottish League Division 3. A knee injury in January 2013 had kept him out for most of the second half of the season.

Macleod was a regular starter the 2013-14 season until a viral infection affected the muscles around his heart in January 2014. He recovered in time for the 2014-15 season and was a regular starter with Rangers now in the Scottish League 1. However, his season was once again curtailed after receiving a serious hamstring injury in a game against Alloa in December 2014. It proved to be Macleod’s last game for Rangers after making a total of 74 appearances, scoring 16 goals.

Macleod signed for Brentford on a three-and-a-half-year contract in January 2015 for a fee of around £1m. However, the hamstring went again in training keeping him out until May 2015 when he was an unused substitute in a Championship playoff game against Middlesbrough. Further hamstring problems plagued Macleod, until he made his debut as a substitute against Brighton in February 2016. However, in late February he suffered a medial ligament injury in training and did not appear in the first team squad for the remainder of the season.

Macleod returned to fitness for the start of the 2016-17 season, making 13 appearances before receiving a serious knee injury in a game at QPR at the end of October. In December 2016 he signed a one-year contract extension which would keep him with the Bees until the summer of 2019. Following the knee injury and further hamstring problems Macleod had to wait until December 2017 for his next appearance, coming on as a substitute against Fulham. He finished the 2017-18 season with 11 appearances. He was a regular starter in the 2018-19 season until suffering a hamstring injury in December 2018  during a game against West Bromwich Albion. He made only one more appearance, as a late substitute in Brentford’s 0-0 draw at the DW Stadium.

In order to find out more about Macleod’s time at Brentford  we once again reached out to Billy Grant (@billythebee99) who writes and makes podcasts for the Beesotted fan site (beesotted.com)

Here’s over to Billy:

Lewis Macleod joined Brentford in the Warburton era. For £1m reputedly which was a lot of money for us back then (still is). He was a highly reputed wonder-kid. Rangers fans were devastated he left but they were skint at the time. He was their young player of the year the season they won the Div 3 title.

 Macleod was signed injured. He didn’t play all season due to injury although he was on the bench for the playoff semi v Boro in May but never made it on.  Every time he was due to come back, he got injured again. Once he tripped on a twig in training and was out for a long time. Them he fell down a hole in training. Out for a while again.

 There were rumours about Warburton signing him back for Rangers, but these were unfounded. 

 He started the 2016 season and was looking decent – playing 12 matches before being injured at QPR. A bad knee injury. 

 The club backed him. They gave him a one-year extension on his contract and sent him to Philadelphia to get treated by a specialist. He had a couple of false returns but made a full league return 18 months later – scoring his first goal of the club against Boro. He finished the season intact which was a good sign.

 Summer 2018 was his first proper pre-season training with us. He came out fit. We had a great side – having kept hold of the bulk of our players with Ryan Woods the only player not to have been replaced. This gave an opportunity for midfielders Josh McEachran and Lewis McLeod to make their marks on the side.

 Brentford started the season magnificently beating Rotherham 5-1. We looked proper world beaters. We played Wigan a month later and played you guys off the park – winning 2-0.

 Then in October it started to go horribly wrong. Opposition teams got the handle of us. Pressed us hard and started to over-run our midfield. Macleod was showing flashes of real brilliance, but we were struggling when the going got tough.

 He scored his final goal for Brentford in the final minutes of an undeserved away point at West Brom. He got injured after that goal. Decided not to renew his contract. And that was it.

 He’s one of a handful of players Brentford signed since entering the Championship that we’ve lost money on. 

 What type of player was he? Potentially skilful. Tricky. But I’m going to be honest: I don’t really know. He played so few games in his four and a half years at Brentford it’s hard to piece together a pattern.

 His best period was August and September 2019 where he was very much part of our fluid football passing game.

 Maybe he needed a much tougher central midfielder to play alongside. Unfortunately, Josh McEachran isn’t your man when the going gets tough.

 There’s no doubt he’s an intelligent, skilful footballer who has had a lot of bad luck.

 Maybe a change of scenery in Wigan is exactly what he needs now. 

 

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In need of a transfer policy

In: David Marshall (Hull City, free)

Out: Devante Cole (Motherwell, loan), Shaun MacDonald (Rotherham, free), Callum McManaman (Luton, free), Nick Powell (Stoke City, free), Jamie Walker (Hearts, free)

The deadline for Championship clubs for all incoming permanent and loan registrations is due to close at 5pm on Thursday August 8, 2019. It leaves Wigan Athletic just under four weeks to complete their recruitment for the first half of the season. It appears that enough time remains, but nevertheless the fans are getting nervous. Five players out and just one man in up to this point. What is happening?

The concerns of fans are reflected in the social media and message boards. They see that other clubs in the division are streets ahead of Latics in their recruitment at this stage. The Bristol Post yesterday published a list of comings and goings among Championship clubs. It makes interesting reading. Latics rank among the highest in players leaving, among the lowest in players coming in.

At this time last year Latics had signed Leo Da Silva Lopes and Kal Naismith on permanent contracts and Reece James and Christian Walton on loan. Why is it taking longer this year? Some fans say that players will not be keen on joining a club that could once again be battling against relegation. Others say that Latics simply cannot or will not compete with other Championship clubs who are splashing money around like water. Reports suggest that Wigan were prepared to offer the 34-year-old free agent Alan Hutton a two-year contract but were unable to agree terms with him.

The fee Southampton want for Gallagher is rumoured to be around £5m. It was a surprise to many of us that Wigan Athletic were actively pursuing a player from a Premier League club, given inflated transfer fees and salaries in that division. The interest in Portsmouth’s Jamal Lowe was more predictable, although the £3m tag put on him by the south coast club seems excessive for a League 1 player who has never played above that level. The summer transfer activity will surely provide a litmus test for the IEC’s willingness to invest in player recruitment.

Chairman Darren Royle is hardly a David Sharpe in terms of communicating with the fans. But he is certainly addressing issues within the club. The DW Stadium needs an overhaul, the club needs to bring in more commercial revenue, the Academy needs upgrading to at least a category 2 level.  Royle may be less comfortable with the media than his predecessor but is tidying up things that had been left on hold.

IEC made it clear on buying the club that they were willing to invest but would do so judiciously. Investing in infrastructure is already underway. It is the club’s recruitment policy that is unknown. During Paul Cook’s reign the players coming in have typically come from the British Isles. The club’s homegrown players have been largely ignored with young loan players from big clubs brought in. The manager typically brings in veteran players who he believes will add to the dressing room climate and positively influence the younger players. Last season Cook splashed money on signing Josh Windass (around £1.8m), Cedric Kipre (around £1m), Leo Da Silva Lopes (around £800,000). Windass and Kipre impressed at times, but generally struggled to adjust to second tier English football. Da Silva Lopes was sent out on loan to Gillingham. Windass is now 25 years old, Kipre is 22 and Da Silva Lopes is 20.

Royle and the IEC are keen to develop the academy as a potential source of first team players. Latics have some fine prospects on their hands at the moment and it is to be hoped that the likes of Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir will not fall by the wayside as so many young players have at Wigan over the years.

 

Callum Lang is now 20 but has made 72 senior appearances in the past two seasons on loan at Morecambe and Oldham, scoring 23 goals. The loans have given him valuable experience. Now the time has come for the player to be given a chance in the Championship. Last season an under-pressure Cook was loath to bring in home grown talent.

Wigan Athletic’s recruitment policy has hardly been coherent in recent seasons. It contrasts with that of Brentford, whose data-driven approach helps them scout talent not only in the British Isles, but all over Europe. No matter that managers have come and gone they have stuck with a formula that has brought in significant funds from transfers, helping them stay solvent. They have shown that a small club can compete with the heavyweights of the Championship, finishing in the top ten in each of the past four years.

The 25 year-old Macleod is a free agent after letting his contract run down at Brentford. He has made 41 appearances for the Bees since signing from Rangers in December 2014. Macleod is a very capable player whose career has been riddled with injury problems, hamstring issues in particular. If he does sign for Latics will Cook and his medical team be able to get the best out of him and resurrect his career as they did with Nick Powell?

The next four weeks will certainly give us an indication of the recruitment policy to be supported by the new owners. Will the club continue to bring in young loan players from big clubs at the expense of home-grown talent?

A Cardiff fan’s view of David Marshall

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of goalkeeper David Marshall from Hull City. The 34-year-old was a free agent and joins Latics on a two-year contract.

The 6ft 3in tall Glaswegian is a product of the Celtic academy. He made his senior debut at 17 as a substitute in a Scottish Cup tie against St Johnstone in February 2003. In December 2003 he made his first start in a 3-0 win at Partick Thistle in the Scottish League Cup. Marshall went on to make 18 appearances in that 2003-04 season, including an outstanding performance in keeping a clean sheet at Nou Camp, knocking Barcelona out of the UEFA Cup. He made his Scotland debut in August 2004 in a friendly against Hungary. In the next month Celtic met Barcelona again, this time in the Champions League, Marshall giving an excellent performance in a home loss to the Catalan club, saving a Ronaldinho penalty. However, after conceding nine goals in the first two games of the 2005-06 season Marshall fell out of favour with new manager Gordon Strachan. In January 2007 he joined Norwich City on loan, although his season was curtailed following an ankle injury in a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea in the FA Cup in February.

Marshall joined Norwich on three-year contract in summer 2007, the fee being undisclosed. He went on to make 100 appearances for the Canaries until joining Cardiff City in summer 2009 for £500,000. Marshall was to spend 6 seasons with the Bluebirds, making 281 appearances, with 81 clean sheets. On August 30, 2016 Cardiff accepted an offer for Marshall adding up to £5m from Hull City, recently promoted to the Premier League. He went on to make 61 appearances for the Tigers.

With some 500 appearances in Scotland and England and 28 caps for Scotland, Marshall looks a fine signing for Latics.

In order to learn more about Marshall’s time at Cardiff we reached out to Benjamin James of the View from the Ninian fan site (http://www.viewfromtheninian.com/).

Here’s over to Benjamin:

When we signed David Marshall, we weren’t sure what we were going to get. All we hoped was that we signed a keeper who could stop the rot of a run of goalies who weren’t so great. What we didn’t anticipate is that he would become, probably, our best goalie for a few decades. 

 A truly fantastic shot stopper, there have been times where fans were reduced to awed gasps as he pulled out another world class saves. During our first, ill-fated, Premier League season, he kept us in many games with brilliant saves. He was vital in playoff semi-finals, stopping penalties brilliantly. He would pull last minute saves out of nowhere and if a ball was deflected, he’d find a way to get back to the ball.

 There was talk earlier this summer that we were going to sell Etheridge, our number one, and the only player I would have replaced him with is Marshy. He’s a brilliant, brilliant, keeper. Vocal, adept at crosses, shot-stopping, and decent distribution.

 

Some talking points following a good performance at Birmingham

Birmingham City 1 Wigan Athletic 1

 

After gifting a goal to Birmingham City with just two minutes gone Wigan Athletic fought back to gain a well-deserved point. But it could have been three points with more clinical finishing and more favourable treatment from the match officials.

Paul Cook made eight changes from the team that started against Preston, reverting to the 3-4-2-1 formation he employed at Bristol City. England Youth players, Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir, were on the bench, as was the 18-year-old Adam Long.

City’s early goal was a blow for Latics, but they took the game to the home team, carving out chances, with Nick Powell’s deflected equaliser coming in the 38th minute.

Following the game assistant manager, Leam Richardson, commented: “It’s a long season and you normally end up finishing where you deserve to. We did suffer with a few injuries in the middle of the season, but our lads have stuck at it and they’ve always believed that they’re good enough. They’ve stuck together and there haven’t been any fallings out. They’ve had their heads down every time they come back in after a game and worked hard to go again. We’re looking to finish our season strongly and the lads deserve great credit for sticking at it all year.”

Let’s take a look at some points arising:

Olsson recovers from early error. An improved display from Darron Gibson

As has so often happened this season Latics gave away a soft goal. With Jamie Jones rooted on his line Jonas Olsson failed to deal with Lukas Jutkiewicz’s run, the striker poking the ball home between Jones’ legs.

Olsson is 36 years old and his short-term contract is up in June. After making some 250 appearances for West Bromwich Albion he left them by mutual agreement in March 2017, returning to Sweden to join Stockholm club, Djurgardens.

It has been a tough return for Olsson who has not been able to claim a regular starting place. However, despite the early mix-up with Jones he went on to have possibly his best game to date for Latics. Cook wisely placed him at the centre of the back three where he could use his vast experience to help marshal the defence. The result was the defence held firm and limited the home team’s direct attempts on goal.

The 30-year-old Gibson too has had a tough time over recent months, but yesterday his performance was much improved in a holding midfield role.  His contract also expires in June.

In addition to Olsson and Gibson and the loan players there a number of others whose contracts expire shortly. They include Leon Clarke, Callum McManaman, Shaun MacDonald, Gavin Massey, and Nick Powell.

Gelhardt and Weir make their league debuts

The inclusion of the 16-year-old Joe Gelhardt and the 17-year-old Jensen Weir in the matchday squad was a welcome surprise, but we can scarcely have expected more than a brief appearance on the pitch for either. But Josh Windass’ injury led to Gelhardt being thrust into the action after the interval and he took the opportunity to impress. Despite robust challenges by Birmingham he was not deterred and showed a willingness to run at the home team’s defence. Naturally left-footed he was played on the right. Weir too came on after 81 minutes for Nick Powell, being employed in an attacking midfield role. However, with the game petering out in the closing minutes he was starved of possession and we did not get much of a glimpse as to what he is capable of.

Joe Gelhardt joined Latics at the age of 10. He made 6 appearances for the England under-16 side, scoring 3 goals, together with 7 goals in 12 outings for the England under-17 side. The Liverpool-born forward signed a three-year professional contract with the club in August after making his senior team debut at Rotherham in the Carabou Cup.

Jensen Weir, born in Warrington, is the son of ex-Everton centre half David Weir. He was captain of Scotland under-16s, for whom he made 9 appearances. Weir also played for Scotland at the under-17 level before switching allegiances to join the England under-17 team for whom he has made 6 appearances. Weir holds the record as the youngest player ever to play for Latics, having made his debut in a Checkatrade Trophy game against Accrington Stanley at the age of 15. He joined Latics at 8 years of age, leaving them when he was 11, returning when 12.

Adam Long is an 18-year old central defender from the Isle of Man. He began his career with local side St Georges, joining Latics in 2017. He made his Latics debut in an EFL Trophy game against Middlesbrough under-23s in October 2017. Although he did not come off the bench at Birmingham perhaps we will get a glimpse of him in the final game of the season against Millwall.

Powell’s last goal for Latics?

Nick Powell’s goal was his 8th of the season, making him Latics’ top scorer, despite having missed a considerable chunk of the season through injury. He also leads the assists with 6.

Over the course of the season there has been so much speculation on the message boards and social media about Powell’s future. There have been so many tweets urgng him to sign a new contract. He is Wigan’s most talented player and the catalyst behind most of the good football we have seen from Latics this season and last.

Although some fans still cling on to the hope that he will decide to stay the likelihood is that he will be leaving. The goal at Birmingham could be the last one Powell scores for Latics.

Has Cook turned the corner?

The manager has gone through a particularly tough part of his career over the past six months. His lowest ebb was probably after the defeat at Hull on April 10 when Latics once again gave away soft goals to throw away a lead. It left them with an away record of LLWLLLLLLLDLLDLLLDLLLDL with the manager seemingly unable to steady a sinking ship.

However, there were some rays of hope following a 1-1 draw in the next match with table-topping Norwich, Latics employing the high press and having the confidence to attack the Canaries. The next game at Leeds was the turning point as Latics managed to beat the second-placed team despite losing Cedric Kipre to a yellow card after 15 minutes and being a goal behind two minutes later. Despite being down to 10 men Cook insisted on keeping Leon Clarke and Gavin Massey forward, moving Kal Naismith into an unfamiliar role at centre back rather than bringing on specialist Jonas Olsson following Kipre’s dismissal. It was a brave move by Cook which was to pay high dividends.

Cook’s supporters will say that he was new to management in the second tier of English football and injuries to key players hit hard in those winter months. His critics will say that his team selections and substitutions have been poor, his approach away from home was too negative and performances against teams in the lower part of the table have so often been dire.

However, in recent games we have seen a  more dynamic and enterprising approach from the players with the manager being more positive in his team selections and tactics. The clock has seemingly been put back to August when the team started so well and played “without fear”. Cook has experimented with his tactical formations and now Latics look comfortable in both the 4-2-3-1 shape previously favoured by the manager and with three at the back in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

In the darkest of days of February and March it appeared that the manager was just not learning from his mistakes. Has the upturn in April been due to a change in “luck”? Or has it been due to good management?

The truth most likely lies somewhere between the two.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

 

Some talking points about Wigan Athletic staying in the Championship

Things were looking grim. A frustratingly predictable defeat at Hull, giving Latics an away record of LLWLLLLLLLDLLDLLLDLLLDL, with games against table-toppers Norwich and Leeds United coming up.

Even at the start of the season some of the more hardened Latics fans were saying that last game against Millwall could be crucial. They could well be right.

Spirits were low in midweek, but the gloom was lifted to some degree by a 1-1 draw with Norwich, even if Rotherham scored a late equaliser at Stoke.

Can Latics stay up? What will it depend on?

Over the past months the cushion provided through a good start to the season, coupled with poor results for teams in the relegation zone, seemed to be enough. But, despite having a solid home record, Wigan’s away performances have put them in severe danger of relegation.

There are now four games left. Latics travel to Leeds and Birmingham and have Preston and Millwall at home.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Let’s take a look at some talking points.

The display against Norwich gives hope

When Paul Cook named his starting line-up to face the division leaders eyebrows were raised. Bringing back Leon Clarke and Kal Naismith hardly seemed like inspired choices, let alone leaving Nick Powell on the bench and playing Lee Evans in the number 10 position.

In the event, the manager’s choices were vindicated, all three putting in excellent performances. Latics were unlucky not to beat the Canaries with a display reminiscent of those fighting performances in the days of “Believe”.

Cook commented after the game: “In the game, we have gone against a very good Norwich side who are excellent at what they do. We’ve took the game to them, we’ve pressed them at the top end of the pitch, I thought we were unlucky not to see the game out and win but we respect the opposition, that’s for sure. While there’s a touch of disappointment around the club and when you’re playing the teams that we do, we’re happy with it. Today we picked a team that was designed to do one thing and one job, which was to press teams high up and have the energy to keep doing it and I thought the lads who I drafted in to do that, implemented it absolutely excellently.”

Wigan’s pressing was key to the display on Saturday. It prevented Norwich getting into a rhythm which could have caused serious problems for the home team’s defence. Cook had his plan and the players supported him in its delivery, something that they have not always been able to do consistently this season.

In need of the Rub of the Green

Cook has so often talked about the fine margins in football. In the era when VAR is not employed in the EFL there will be contentious refereeing decisions that go unchecked. Had VAR been employed would the results at the DW and Bet365 Stadiums have stayed the same on Saturday?

Norwich fans will say Latics were fortunate with the penalty, but the offside decision to annul Clarke’s late “goal” was tight to say the least.

The bottom line is that football is unpredictable. So much can depend on getting “the rub of the green” from refereeing decisions. As in every football season we have seen a considerable number of controversial ones. The theory is that the ones for and against average out over the course of the season, but is there any scientific basis to suggest that it is the case?

Cook gets better

The manager has hardly won the plaudits from the fans for his team selections, substitutions and tactics over the course of a difficult season. But he has impressed recently. His 3-4-2-1 innovation brought a point at promotion-challenging Bristol City and his tactics at Hull were working until they were undone by individual errors.

Cook deserves commendation for his set-up against Norwich. It took courage on his part to choose the starting eleven that did such a fine job.

Cook’s supporters will say he is a manager who has been on a steep learning curve in his first season in the second tier of English football. His detractors will say that he should have been dismissed some months ago and that he is lucky to still have his job.

Cook’s past successes have so often been with clubs with modest budgets punching above their weight. Should Latics suffer relegation and severely-reduce their budget he would as good a bet as any to get them back up. Last time they were relegated to League 1 they had a budget around four times the average in the division, taking a financial hit over the course of the season. Under the IEC it is unlikely they would have such funding.

Should Latics suffer relegation it would not be easy to get out of League 1. Money talks.

In the meantime, we have some hope that Cook has learned from experience and can guide Wigan through this difficult period. Latics’ budget this season places them in the lower levels of the Championship, so it is not a surprise that they face relegation issues.

Should Wigan Athletic avoid relegation would we look back in future years and give Paul Cook due credit? The short-term goal is consolidation, with the club improving its marketing, increasing revenues, investing in facilities to bring its Academy up to Category 2 status. For the moment any final league placing above the bottom three should be regarded as successful consolidation in the Championship division.

But whether Latics are in the Championship or League 1 next season will we see youngsters at the club given opportunities at senior level? Callum Lang is the most likely to be given a chance and will most likely be a regular in the match day squad. The EFL rule that clubs must name at least one homegrown player, a role that was largely taken on by Callum McManaman this season. We can only hope that Lang will be treated better than McManaman was.