Profiles from the archives: Part 4 – Grant Holt and James Perch

In April we stated our intention of republishing articles from our archives from time to time. It takes a long time for a fan site to get established and Amigos has been no exception. We are now in our third year. Our readership grew slowly in the first year, steadily in the second, but much faster in this third year. Given that we now have a wider readership we decided to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen.

The republishing of the  “Fan View”articles – perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs – went particularly well, according to the viewing stats.

We now plan to look back to some of the player profiles that we have have written and published over the past couple of years. Once again we ask our long-established readers to bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Click here for our previous player profile on  Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann.

Click here for our previous player profile on James McArthur and Ben Watson.

Click here for our previous player profile on Callum McManaman and James McClean.

 

How Good is Grant Holt? – published September 11, 2013

grant-holt_2635269bThe fans at Norwich loved Grant Holt. They did not want him to leave.

Owen Coyle’s signing of the big centre forward in July looked like the bargain buy of the summer. But why had Holt left a Premier League club where he was idolised to join an outfit that had been relegated to the Championship? Why were Norwich willing to accept a fee reported to be less than £2m for a player who had been so successful with them?

A couple of months ago most Latics supporters were excited about Holt’s signing. He had scored 78 goals in 168 appearances for the Canaries, helping them get back to back promotions. He was the goal-scoring, bustling centre forward who had come up the hard way, through the lower leagues. If anybody was going to get goals for Wigan Athletic in the fast and physical environment of the Championship division then it was Holt.

How times change. Already some are questioning his ability. At times Holt can look slow and cumbersome, more willing to get into physical tussles with defenders than focus on the footballing side of the game.

Some compare Holt with Arouna Kone, who sadly for the Latics faithful, departed to Everton for a fee well below his true market value.  Kone too was a big and strong central striker, but he was also mobile and skilful. Last season Kone started in 32 league games, scoring 11 goals, conceding 39 fouls and suffering 29. In comparison Holt started 28 times, getting 8 goals, whilst conceding 82 fouls and suffering 65.

The statistics emphasise the differing styles of the two central strikers. However, it would be a mistake to condemn Holt as merely a battering-ram centre forward. The big Cumbrian has a good football brain and can put delightful passes through for teammates. The style with which he dispatched the penalty against Middlesbrough – after Marc-Antoine Fortune has been pulled down in the box – was the hallmark of a player who has the technique to match his brawn.

Holt got off to a good start in the opening game at Barnsley, opportunistically deflecting a loose ball into the net. Up to this point he has scored two goals in four league games. He has been inches away from scoring more goals on several occasions. Although often double -marked he uses his strength and technique to hold up long balls until teammates arrive. Holt has already been denied at least three penalty decisions that a referee might have awarded were he not the player brought to the ground. At times his reputation as a physical player can act against him as far as refereeing decisions are concerned.

So why did Holt leave Norwich for Wigan? Although 32 years old, he joined Wigan on a three year contract. On signing for Latics he told BBC Radio Cumbria that “The Europa League was a massive pull for me. It’s something I’ve never done in my career and I’m hoping we can have a good spell in that.” Moreover Chris Hughton had adapted the direct style of play typical during Paul Lambert’s time  at Norwich.

Having a centre forward like Holt in your team is a double-edged sword. He certainly unsettles defences and does a superb job in holding up the ball, taking the pressure of his team. At the same time having him there as a target can tempt defenders into launching long balls, by-passing the midfield where Latics have so many technically-gifted players.

At 32 years of age Holt has almost certainly passed his peak. However, he is still going to score goals, especially if Latics play with two wide players. With Holt in the middle, Callum McManaman on the right and James McLean or Jean Beausejour on the left, Wigan have a well-balanced front three that will cause headaches for Championship defences.

Holt is a players’ player, who frequently sacrifices himself for the benefit of the team. It is this attribute, along with his goals, that helped him endear himself with the fans at Norwich. In March 2009 the FourFour Two magazine revealed that Holt covered an average of 4.8 km per match, more than any other player in Leagues 1 and 2.

The season has a long way to go. Holt is injured at the moment and Wigan are short in the area of central strikers, with only Marc-Antoine Fortune available in his absence. Given the physical nature of his game Holt is frequently going to pick up knocks. However, he managed to steer clear of major injuries in his three years at Norwich, appearing on a regular basis, largely in the starting lineup, sometimes coming on from the bench.

Providing he receives the necessary service and stays clear of major injuries, Grant Holt‘s name is going to regularly appear on the score sheet. He is physically and mentally resilient and his determination to succeed is going to rub off on his teammates.

Holt’s goals could well take Wigan Athletic back to the Premier League.

 

Perchinho arrival heralds in a new style – published July 5, 2013.

 

perch2Yesterday, a player known in some circles as Perchinho became the latest of  Wigan Athletic’s new signings. He could well become a key piece in the jigsaw puzzle that Owen Coyle is putting together to get Latics back into the Premier League.

Despite the nickname, Perchinho is not a flamboyant Brazilian who will help Latics maintain the style of champagne football that Roberto Martinez’s teams could produce on big occasions. Quite the opposite. He is James Perch, a fairly ordinary-looking footballer, given the nickname affectionately, though ultimately ironically, by Newcastle fans. His critics would say he cannot accurately pass the ball more than 10 yards.  So how  can such a player  play a key role  in a promotion-challenging team?

Born in Mansfield, Perch came up through the youth ranks at Nottingham Forest, making his league debut against Wigan in 2004 and amassing 190 appearances in six years before earning a move to Newcastle United. During this time, he had been used as a utility player, appearing in the right, left and centre of defence and as  a ball winner in midfield, and was eventually trusted with the captain’s armband.perchinho

Perch was to create an unenviable Premier League record on joining Newcastle after receiving consecutive yellow cards in his first five games at that level. Despite the rocky start, the ex-Forest captain went on to make 65 appearances for the north east club over the past three years, including promotion from the Championship and a Europa League campaign.

The signing of a player like Perch is something that Roberto Martinez would have been unlikely to contemplate. He just would not have fitted into the style of flowing football the Spaniard sought. But then again, this is a new era. Owen Coyle has a more pragmatic approach and we are not going to be seeing that mixture of champagne football, interspersed between periods of innefectiveness and defensive mediocrity, that we witnessed  in the Martinez era. So what kind of football will we see during Coyle’s tenure at the club? perch1

James Perch may not be the most skillful player around, but he is a great tackler and a consummate team player and professional. A recent posting on Squawka News offers an interesting insight into Perch’s capabilities, describing him as a “Toon cult hero”, with stats to back up their argument. Another interesting article on Newcastle fan site  Blog on the Tyne lauds Perch’s professionalism.

Wiganers have always appreciated players who are willing to battle for the club and Perch looks destined to become a fan favourite, as he was at Forest and Newcastle. Perch’s career has probably been held back by his ability to slot into different positions. Coyle might get the best out of the player by using him in one specific role.

With so many new players coming into the squad it is important that Latics begin the season with a backbone of last year’s players in the starting lineup. The mutual  understanding between players who have played together for a period of time should not be undervalued. The newcomers can be gradually weaned into the team. However, I would not be surprised to see James Perch’s name on the teamsheet for the season opener at Barnsley.

Owen Coyle’s team will not provide the silky approach we have got used to, but we can expect them to be attacking and entertaining. Professionals  like James Perch can be a really positive force in the club, as well as on the pitch. It will be the hard work of players like him that will enable team mates to get the ball and challenge the opposition.

The Martinez era is over , but Coyle’s squad is quickly taking shape and we can continue to look forward to watching good football, albeit in a different style.

 

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