Lang signs new contract – but who will be the next?

The announcement of a new two-year contract for the 19-year-old Callum Lang came at an opportune time. It left Wigan Athletic time to consolidate their investment in a player who has the potential to play in the upper tiers of English football. Lang is to be sent off on loan until January to Oldham Athletic, who were last season relegated to League 2.

It was in mid-May that the media reported that Everton were interested in signing Lang, who was in the Liverpool academy until he joined Latics at the age of 14. He made his Wigan debut in a League Cup game against Blackpool in August 2017 before being loaned to Morecambe for the season.

The 5 ft 11 in tall Lang had a successful loan with the Shrimps, making 14 starts, 16 substitute appearances and scoring 10 goals. Although regarded as a centre forward at Wigan, Lang would often play behind the central striker at Morecambe.

In modern football the majority of the clubs in the top tiers rarely give their young players an extended run in their senior team. The norm is that they are sent on loan to clubs in lower divisions, giving them first team experience in a competitive environment, thereby maximising their value in the transfer market. It is a minority who go back to their parent clubs and establish themselves as first team regulars. So, what are the chances of Lang becoming a major player for Latics?

Wigan Athletic has sadly been a graveyard for young players over recent years. The most recent success story was Leighton Baines and he left for Everton in 2007. So many youngsters have shown promise at youth level and looked destined for higher things, only to depart to clubs in the lower tiers. Latics managers, under pressure for results, have been reluctant to throw youngsters into the fray. But finding suitable loans for young players has never been easy for Wigan.

Last season saw Latics sending six homegrown youngsters on loan to non-league clubs. Three of those have since left the club. Sam Stubbs went to Crewe Alexandra until January, then to AFC Fylde. He too has departed the club. On the club website Callum Lang is listed with the development squad, but the 16-year-old Joe Gelhardt listed with the senior squad.  Gelhardt is clearly a bright young talent, already on the radar with big Premier League clubs.

Providing Gelhardt is not snapped up can we seriously expect him to contend for a place in the senior team? Admittedly, he came on as a substitute in the League Cup defeat at Rotherham, but would Cook even think of giving him an opportunity in a league game?

Lang clearly benefitted from his time in League 2, playing at a club that was struggling to avoid relegation. At the time it was at a level just one tier below where Latics were. Should he make a success in the first half of the season at Oldham, could he contend for a first team place at Wigan in January?

Latics currently have four centre forwards in their senior squad. Given that one is likely to leave there would remain three who would be above Lang in the pecking order. If Lang were to become a candidate for the number 10 role he would compete with Nick Powell, Gary Roberts and possibly Jamie Walker. The probability is that Lang would be sent off on loan again in January.

Given that Lang has been offered an extended contract, what will happen with the senior squad players whose current deals expire next summer? They include Nathan Byrne, Gavin Massey, Shaun MacDonald, Sam Morsy, Nick Powell and James Vaughan. Having already lost Dan Burn in the last year of his contract, can we expect more departures via the loan-to-buy route? Why are the futures of these players still left hanging?

Some fans will cite the change in the ownership as the main issue involved in the contract renewals, but it could amount to more than that. There is a possibility that at least one of those players will leave in the next couple of weeks, together with loans and loan-to-buy deals for those on longer contracts. Cook’s squad is currently unbalanced with a wealth of midfielders and forwards, but a lack of experienced defenders. He can be expected to rebalance the squad.

On the other hand, Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs were in a similar position this time last year. Both went on to sign contracts to bind them to the club until summer 2020, Grigg’s deal being announced in early September and Jacobs’ in mid-October 2017.

Offering Callum Lang, a new contract was a good move by the club. We can only hope they can be equally judicious in their dealings with those key senior squad players whose contracts are winding down.

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A Bolton Wanderers fan’s view of Antonee Robinson

 

The 21 year-old Antonee Robinson joined Wigan Athletic on a year’s loan from Everton on the summer transfer deadline day. The 6 ft tall Robinson is 21 years old.

Born in Milton Keynes of an American father, Robinson joined Everton as an 11-year-old.  He signed a professional contract for the Toffees when 17, after being awarded the Under 18s Player of the Season. Robinson missed much of the 2015-16 season because of a cartilage injury. Despite his injury he was offered a new one-year contract and went on to play three EFL Trophy games for the U23 side in 2016-17.

In August 2017 Robinson joined Bolton Wanderers on loan. He went on to make 30 appearances over the course of the season.

After playing for the US under 18 team he went on to make his full international debut in May 2018 against Bolivia.

In order to learn more about Robinson’s time at Bolton we contacted Chris Mann of the Burnden Aces fan site http://www.burndenaces.co.uk (@BurndenAces ).

Here’s over to Chris:

Following Andrew Taylor’s performances during our League One promotion season of 2016/17, Antonee Robinson arrived at Bolton as somewhat of a low-key signing and one many expected to provide nothing more than backup.

 A couple of Carabao Cup ties aside, Robinson had to wait for an opportunity with Wanderers but was thrust in earlier than anticipated when Taylor picked up an early-season injury.

 It would be a baptism of fire for Robinson, who was torn apart by Adama Traore on his first league start on an afternoon where we were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Middlesbrough at Macron Stadium.

 Many young players would have crumbled there and then but Phil Parkinson showed a huge amount of faith in Robinson, even as the club embarked on a run of eight successive defeats without scoring a single goal.

 As the season progressed, Bolton’s form improved and so did that of Robinson, who made the left-back position his own for the majority of the campaign and earned a first international call-up to the United States squad.

 The Everton loanee has undoubted potential, with his pace and ability to burst forward once making him a fans’ favourite in these parts, but his defensive capability needs some serious work if he is ever to make the grade at Premier League level.

 Robinson may have been handed a new three-year deal at Goodison Park, but I just don’t see him forcing a way through. The Toffees will cash in at some stage and a good season at Wigan will only increase his value. As is so often the case with loan deals though – as we have seen ourselves in this instance – just don’t expect any loyalty at the end of it.

 

 

 
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Five talking points following an exciting performance at Villa

Aston Villa 3 Wigan Athletic 2

 

It was a spirited performance by Wigan Athletic, another five-goal feast of entertainment following the Sheffield Wednesday encounter. Latics attacked Villa from the get-go and to lose to a goal in the 93rd minute was heart-breaking.

Let’s take a look at some points arising from the game:

Connolly preferred to Evans

With Darron Gibson ruled out by injury most of us would have expected Lee Evans to replace him in the starting line-up. Was Callum Connolly preferred because of his defensive qualities in an effort to contain Jack Grealish?

By all accounts Connolly impressed in holding midfield when on loan to Ipswich last season, more so than in his more regular role at full back. In the event Grealish went on to dominate the proceedings. Neymar was so heavily criticised for going down too easily in the World Cup, but in this game Grealish proved equally adept at falling to the ground and getting free kicks. The result was that Wigan players were reluctant to engage him. Villa fans might say that Grealish is a skilful player who should be protected by referees, but in this case, it went too far.

Evans came on in the 53rd minute and immediately fitted in to the style of play. Connolly was moved to the right wing and a couple of minutes later scored Wigan’s second goal meeting Nick Powell’s cross ahead of Alan Hutton.

Cook clearly rates Connolly and we can expect to see him in a variety of roles this season.

A rookie defence

Despite good individual performances the defence had looked all-at-sea on occasions against Sheffield Wednesday. It was a rookie defence composed of players who had never previously played together as a unit. Between the four of them the number of seasons played in league football totalled the same number, just four.

Before the game one wondered how that defence would cope with the experience and ability of Aston Villa’s attack. Not surprisingly they looked wobbly throughout.

Injuries to Dan Burn and Nathan Byrne have come at a difficult time. Burn appears to be out for some time, but Byrne seems to be taking a long time to get over what was originally referred to as a minor injury.

Cook recognises the need for defensive reinforcements having stated: “I think defensively, probably in the centre of the defence, we’re going to need something. Hopefully we’re going to look at and be able to address that before the loan window closes.”

In the meantime, he could look at the option of bringing in the experienced Alex Bruce and playing with a back line of three. The young full backs Reece James and Antonee Robinson would surely thrive in wing back positions.

Naivety or simply positive?

Once again Latics kept pressing forward in the final quarter of the game, rather than slow things down and look at securing a point. Most of the pundits we hear on television would probably lambast Paul Cook, call him naïve, citing a need for better “game management”.

But over the course of the season how many draws can be turned into wins if Cook continues to have his team play like this?

The Refereeing

In the Premier League years Latics fans would talk about facing the twelve men prior to going to support their team at Old Trafford. So many awful decisions were made in the home team’s favour, whether it were due to the roars of the large crowd or the manager at the time.

Now Steve Bruce is hardly a Ferguson. His teams have typically played with a physical approach, but not particularly cynical. But for some reason Latics got the rough end of the stick with the officials at Villa Park. It was not only allowing theatrics from Grealish, but so many decisions went the home team’s way.

How will Cook use Windass?

It was a surprise when Latics paid some £2.5 m for Josh Windass. But it was no surprise to see him come off the bench to replace Nick Powell after 67 minutes. Now Windass does not have the silky skills of Powell, but he is fast and direct.

A couple of minutes after Windass came on Lee Evans launched one of his trademark long diagonal crosses. Windass reached it with a diving header at the far post which went narrowly wide. What a pity it did not go in!

Rangers used Windass in a variety of positions. Will Cook use him as a winger, central striker or as an alternative to Powell in the number 10 role?

 

 

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A Rangers fan’s view of Josh Windass

On transfer deadline day Wigan Athletic announced the signing of Josh Windass from Rangers on a three-year contract. The fee is reported to be around £2.5 m plus add-ons.

 

On signing the 24-year-old Paul Cook stated: “Josh is an exciting player with an eye for a goal and he gives us further strength in attacking positions.

The 5 ft 10 in tall Windass was born in Hull. He spent ten years at Huddersfield Town until being released as an 18-year-old. After an unsuccessful trial at Bradford City he joined Northern Counties East club, Harrogate Railway Athletic, in December 2012 on a semi-professional basis. In July 2013 Windass joined Accrington Stanley in League 2. He made his debut against Tranmere Rovers in an FA Cup tie in November 2013, alongside new teammate Kal Naismith. Windass went on to make 77 appearances for Stanley, scoring 22 goals over three seasons.

Windass turned down the offer of a new contract at Accrington in November 2015, reportedly on the advice of his father Dean, who is well known to many Latics fans. On the termination of his contract he joined Rangers, with Stanley receiving £60,000 as compensation.

Windass went on to make 57 starts for Rangers, with 14 appearances off the bench, scoring 19 goals.

To learn more about Windass’ time at Rangers we contacted Stewart Franklin of Gers Net (https://www.gersnet.co.uk/).

Here’s over to Stewart:

First and foremost, Josh is a talented footballer. He’s quick, he can score goals, he can find space and he’s very good at being the link between midfield and attack, especially on the counter.

The problem at Rangers was his inconsistency. In his first season he kept picking up niggling injuries so he never really got going until his second season. Unfortunately, despite the impressive stats (13 goals and 6 assists in the league), his overall contribution split fan opinion. He’d go missing in games, he’d shirk out of tackles and he never really looked entirely comfortable in any position.

We used him deeper, we used him as a second striker and he played mainly right across the three attacking roles in our preferred 4-2-3-1 but he was unable to persuade our fans he could be relied upon. It seems Steven Gerrard was equally unconvinced as despite already playing two Europa League ties and our first league game, Windass struggled to stay a first pick ahead of Thursday’s transfer.

In closing, I’d imagine most Rangers fans will miss the undoubted threat the lad brought but we won’t miss his social media gaffes and we won’t miss his old man poking his nose in where it usually wasn’t wanted. Nevertheless, we wish Josh all the very best for the future and the same goes for Wigan!

 

 

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The transfer deadline day unfolds for Latics’ fans through the social media

We trawled the social media on the 2018 Transfer Deadline Day to get fan reactions on the comings and goings of players at Wigan Athletic.

Once again our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Facebook,  and also Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Let’s take a look at how the deadline day unfolded for Latics’ fans:

Adam O’Neill @adamONeillio tweeted:

Dan Burn been a brilliant player for us over last few seasons. Will be a huge miss but deserves a crack at the Premier League. Wish him all the best #wafc

Victor Moses on Latics Speyk commented:

Since we signed Kipre i’m not too fussed about losing Burn. Would rather we gained more money, but i think overall we will have a better player whos more suited to our system with far greater potential. Burn is suited to a deep defensive line that is focused on defending within the box. If we played that way he would be the better choice.

But it seems cook wants to play a high defensive line, which would suit Kipre far more. Dan lacks awareness, also gets caught out up the field with his positioning and lacks strength to dominate aerially. He’s better at attacking the ball with his head with forward momentum rather than being pinned 1v1 vs another player.

With a high defensive line the defenders will be exposed to a lot of 1v1 battles this season. The benefit is that our players will be higher up the pitch with the press and it will improve our general attacking play with players starting off higher up the pitch.

I like Burn, he’s been a quality player for us and wish him all the best, if he’s to come back here on loan i would expect him to be a backup unless an injury to Dunkley or Kipre. Watching Kipre gave me a lot of confidence in him, he stopped 4 or 5 1v1’s with the ball at the opponents feet and dominated a very high % of 1v1 aerial plays against Nuhiu and Joao. Two of the bigger forwards in this league.

Matt Jones @WafcMatt3 tweeted:

I absolutely adore Dan Burn and he deserves this move to the prem and I could see it coming but £3.5M surely it should be at least 5 need a replacement in summer considering he’s on loan to us this season #wafc

Peter Millward @PeteMillward79 tweeted:

Really puzzled Dan Burn’s loan back. I wonder if he’s going to be out injured until Nov and the loan from #bhafc point of view is that he’ll stay to get fit and playing before a Jan move. From #wafc point of view, we get a player for 2 months or so and the deal calms fan concerns

Studds40 on Latics Speyk added:

It’s a good deal for us. Good fee, good terms, if he returns on loan.

Personally, I don’t think he’s Premier League quality, so don’t understand what Brighton get out of the deal. Unless he’s a back-up for injuries or potential relegation.

Kipre still young and has a lot to prove. But it shows what kind of player you can pick-up around the £1m mark. Be interesting to see what moves we make in the next few hours.

Hindley Blue on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Good luck to the lad and I wish him every success as he was great for us and always gave 100%. I’m just really shocked a Prem team wants him, milk turns quicker and imo he’ll get found out.

Chris Stafford on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

Is it just me that thinks this Dan burn deal is a fantastic deal ?? He’s leaving at end of season anyway by the looks of it so would probably go for nothing but instead we are getting around £4 million for him and he’s being loaned back to us by all accounts ? We can now go and spend a bit of money today if needed

Duncan Holder responded:

 If anyone thinks we can survive financially without selling players each season they need to give their heads a wobble!! Got him on a free and sell him for decent profit.

Peter Millward @PeteMillward79 tweeted:

I’d be gutted if @mp_1825 left us. I really like the lad. Infectious enthusiasm. Seems so important to us he squad #wafc

Alan Farrimond @AlanFarrimond tweeted:

I also like him as a lad and there’s no doubt he likes us, but I do have concerns as to whether he can hack it in Championship. Also we have an abundance of CM players and we can’t keep them all happy, so good luck to the lad.

WillJones89210 on Latics Speyk commented:

I love max he’s my favorite player and I’ll be sad to see him go because of his passion and style of play. That said he has never been a fit for cooks system. His strengths are not as a holding midfielder never will be. He may be good enough for the championship but I don’t think he is in cooks system. With Connolly Gibson Morsy Macdonald and lopes we have pleenty of options 3 of which are probably as good if not better. From a footballing perspective purely it makes sense to sell if we get a decent fee.

Stuart Glover @StuartGlover tweeted:

Don’t forget Power wanted to leave last season and wasn’t all that effective in Championship year before (though few were). McDonald is better and may allow Morsy to get a little further forward.

C_Latic on Latics Speyk commented

Got no problem losing Power if the fee is right. We’ve upgraded in Connolly. The only worry I have is that Max is a great character and I’m guessing a key figure in the dressing room. Very much a Bullard type. It’s vital we don’t lose that togetherness as that group of players who have been with us since around 2015 start to dwindle.

MightyTics on Latics Speyk commented:

WIGAN. SHEFF U. Evans deal is on. Truly stunned by that.

 Martin @_MartinWAFC tweeted:

Very happy with midfield options of Morsy, Gibson, Evans and MacDonald #wafc

KingdeZeeuw06 on Latics Speyk commented:

I’m absolutely made up if we get Evans back – it was a huge mistake to not sign him when he went Sheff U. I’ll be over the moon if we do that deal. Wow!

Not sure who Joe Garner is but reading both the #wafc and #bwfc hashtags he may be about to become my favourite player.

HudWiganFan on Latics Speyk commented:

Kept all but one of the key players (even he’s returning on loan), signed some excellent players for our level and splashed some cash in the process as some had demanded – this window couldn’t have gone much better IMO.

Alan Nixon @reluctantnicko tweeted: