In a recent interview the likeable Latics talisman Ben Watson was asked who was the best player he had played with during his five years at Wigan. The names of Antonio Valencia and Charles N’Zogbia soon rolled off his tongue, and he said he had to mention his friend and teammate James McArthur. But above all stood Shaun Maloney.
At the start of the season things were looking bright for Owen Coyle’s Latics. Coyle had made some good summer signings and the exciting talent of Maloney and Callum McManaman remained at the club. The disappointing results during Coyle’s tenure could at least partly be attributed to the loss of Maloney through injury after only five league games, together with the lack of form of the young McManaman.
Maloney was clearly enjoying playing in the Championship where his skills shone like a beacon. He scored four goals and made two assists in those five matches. Although he had dropped down a division Maloney was still first choice for his country and played in two friendlies and three World Cup qualifying games for Scotland over those weeks.
Uwe Rosler would most likely prefer to bring in Maloney gradually as the season progresses. Were Latics to secure a playoff place the Scot could well prove to be the ace in the German’s pack. He will clearly be a marked man – 13 fouls were committed against him in those five matches – and Rosler will hope to get Maloney back to full match fitness and free from further injuries, during the month of April.
Given his current predicament with so many matches coming a short period of time Rosler might have to risk fielding Maloney more frequently than he would prefer. But the German will be delighted to have him available.
Maloney has had a long convalescence period from major surgery and given those circumstances it would be unwise to expect too much from him too soon.
However, Leicester City could be the first team to suffer when the little magician reappears at the DW Stadium tomorrow.