When managers change clubs they often take with them players from their previous club. Roberto Martinez is a prime example in taking Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone, James McCarthy and Joel Robles from Wigan.
It was therefore no surprise when Owen Coyle’s first signing was one of his former players. Most Wigan Athletic fans would have expected it to be someone from Bolton, but it turned out to be a tall Irishman who had played under the Scot at Burnley.
Not many of us had heard much about Chris McCann, who had spent nine years at Burnley after being signed from Dublin club, Home Farm. When we found out more about him, it looked as if maybe Coyle had made a mistake.
McCann’s best season with them was in their promotion year, 2008-09. A cruciate knee injury early in his first Premier League season proved a severe blow for McCann. He made only eight appearances that season and four in 2010-11, being plagued by injury.
However, the Irishman was to come back to start in 83 Championship matches over the next two seasons.
Owen Coyle had taken over a fragmented squad at Wigan following Martinez’s departure. There was shortage of players in various positions, particularly the centre of defence and up front. But central midfield was the one area where Latics were well supplied – with James McArthur, Roger Espinoza, Fraser Fyvie, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – plus James McCarthy, who was to be sold.
McCann’s performances in his early starts for Latics at home to Doncaster and Middlesbrough and at Zulte Waregem were solid, if uninspiring.
Cynics said that Coyle had brought in an ex-player who was not up to par, but who was ahead of both Espinoza and Fyvie in the pecking order. It looked like Coyle was snubbing players from the previous regime to bring in his own men.
However, McCann was to come back to the starting lineup with a fine display against Rubin Kazan. That night he was tireless in defence and his cultured passing when under pressure helped Latics keep possession. He followed that up with a fine performance at Charlton, being unlucky with a flick header that hit the crossbar. In the subsequent match against QPR he once again put in a hardworking stint, being denied by the woodwork with a far post header. On Sunday against Huddersfield he once again put in solid defensive shift and this time saw a fine long range shot palmed over the bar by the keeper.
Coyle has so far relied heavily on McArthur and Watson in the midfield holding roles. They bring Premier League quality to the Championship. Both have excellent technique and work tirelessly to win the ball back and support their defence.
However, McCann has already shown that he too is a player of such attributes and will be challenging them for a place in the starting lineup. He too has a touch of quality. At 6’1” he also poses an aerial threat to opposition defences.
Chris McCann has already silenced most of his critics through a series of good displays. He is still only 26 years old and could prove to be a key player for Latics for years to come.