Steve Bruce signed Ben Watson for Wigan Athletic in January 2009. Watson scored what was considered a crucial goal in a 2-1 win away at Sunderland a couple of months later. But neither Bruce nor Watson could have guessed that the same player would score the most important goal in Latics’ history some four years later.
Ben Watson became a household name through his fantastic header from Shaun Maloney’s corner. He caught the attention of not only the media, but also of other football clubs. Watson’s contract ends in summer and there is a strong possibility that Latics will cash in on any reasonable offer that comes in.
It has never been easy for the likeable Watson at Wigan. In his early years with the club he was sent off on loan to both West Bromwich and Queens Park Rangers. His best season was in 2011-12 when he made 23 starts with 6 appearances from the bench. In the latter part of that season he was superb in the deep-lying playmaker role as Latics shocked the Premier League elite with amazing results.
Jordi Gomez’s contract is also up at the end of the season.
Gomez was pivotal in the cup run, scoring three goals and making four assists. His assist for Callum McManaman’s goal in the semi-final against Millwall will stick in the minds of Wigan supporters for years to come. In the FA Cup Final Gomez had played remarkably well in a midfield holding role, but as fate would decree, he was the one to go off after 81 minutes to allow Watson to come on.
Like Watson, Gomez has never had an easy time at Wigan.
Roberto Martinez brought him to Wigan in the summer of 2009, following excellent performances for Swansea. Gomez tends to polarize opinion at Wigan. His fans regard him as a skilful player who can dictate play and make a difference. His detractors would say he does not like” to get stuck in” and passes the ball sideways or backwards too often
Were either Gomez or Watson to leave Latics this month they would leave behind great memories of their role in the club winning the FA Cup. But why would Latics allow them to leave?
Financial considerations must clearly come into play. Latics have had a huge drop in their revenue through relegation from the Premier League.
A look at what happened to Bolton Wanderers a year before is chilling.
Last season Bolton spent their first year back in the Championship after 11 years in the ‘greed league’. They have recently released the financial figures for the year ending June 2013. It reveals a loss of £50.7m.
They had a turnover of £28.5m, compared with £58.5m the year before. Although they had cut staff salaries down around 33% from the previous year is still came to £37.4m, way beyond turnover. Gate receipts amounted to only £3.8m. It is the broadcast revenue that hit Bolton hardest, at £19m compared with £42m the year before.
Even with a parachute payment of around £16m, Bolton still made a huge loss.
Bolton continue to survive thanks to owner, Eddie Davies, to whom they are indebted by over £150m. However, financial fair play regulations will tighten the knot on Davies’ contribution in the future.
In Latics’ latter years in the Premier League Dave Whelan put them on a sound financial footing. Roberto Martinez worked wonders on a limited budget and won the FA Cup in the process.
It is now a period of adjustment. Wigan Athletic have to deal with the decreased revenues in the Championship and make best use of their parachute payments while they last.
Big money signings in the January transfer windows are unlikely. Latics need to continue to downsize their staffing costs towards Championship norms.
One thing is for sure. The financial gap between the Premier League and the Championship will continue to grow.
Wigan Athletic need to regain their place in the elite league or risk sinking down into the lower echelons when the parachute payments run out. Let’s look at playing the likes of Liverpool or Arsenal, rather than Rochdale or Macclesfield.
In order to maintain financial stability it will not only be the likes of Ben Watson and Jordi Gomez in the shop window for the January sales.
But both players will have a place in the hearts of Wigan Athletic supporters if they do depart this month.
Without them Latics would not have won the FA Cup.