“He is the man to lead us back into the Premier League, I am convinced of that having met him and discussed the demands of the job ahead of him.”
So said Dave Whelan on November 19th when he announced the appointment of Malky Mackay.
Some seven weeks later the chairman’s judgement is looking decidedly suspect. Rather than leading Latics onward and upward the Scot has led them in the opposite direction up to this point in time.
Mackay’s record so far reads W1 D1 L6. Latics are in 23rd place in the Championship and the threat of relegation is growing increasingly real.
However, who is to say that Whelan will not eventually be proved right? Should Latics avoid relegation who knows what will happen next season?
Should Mackay succeed in doing the improbable – taking Latics back to the Premier league – what kind of football can we expect?
Mackay will base his team on solid defence, with goals from set pieces the order of the day. There will be a strong team spirit and they will not be afraid to get a result by playing ugly. The squad will consist largely of players from the British Isles.
Mackay has talked about the margins. In fact, the five league games lost under his charge have all been by a single goal margin. He clearly believes he is close to making the breakthrough.
The Scot inherited a squad at a low ebb in terms of self confidence. He will bring in fresh faces to provide uplift, even if those new players are potentially no better than those he has already had at his disposal.
He has stated his desire to recruit hungry British players. His first signing is Liam Ridgewell, a combative defender with a wealth of Premier League experience. Ridgewell knows what it is like to play ugly from his time at Birmingham where he played in a ruthless defence with Roger Johnson and Scott Dann. However, that defence provided the foundation for them to win the League Cup.
Whether Ridgewell is “hungry” is up to debate. He will only be at Wigan for six weeks but Mackay will hope his presence will bolster a defence that has let in too many “soft” goals.
Reports suggest that Latics have made a £150,000 bid for Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven and that the bid has been rejected by the “Arabs”. The 24 year old is a fine prospect and can play on either wing.
However, there are other clubs interested and Latics will have to up their bid considerably if they are to compete.
Mackay is also reported to be interested in two English centre forwards who have played for a total of 18 different clubs.
Danny Graham is 29 years of age, currently at Sunderland. He has a career record of 102 goals in 346 league appearances, although he has enjoyed most of his success as a goalscorer playing as a twin striker. Graham played well at Watford under Mackay where he scored 38 goals in 91 league appearances. Heioar Helguson and Marvin Sordell were his main striking partners there. If Mackay can secure Graham’s services it will be on loan until the end of the season.
Ishmael Miller is now 27 years old and has had his ups and downs. The 6 ft 3 in Mancunian is now at his seventh club in Blackpool. He has a career record of 33 goals in 173 league games.
Mackay will hope that the comings and goings in the January transfer window will help provide a different dynamic in his squad. Put simply, the players need to shed that losing mentality.
By the end of February we can expect to see the kind of football that Mackay seeks. By then he will have had time to sufficiently bolster team spirit and get the kinds of results that the fans expect.
The style of football is not going to be sexy, but the priority is to get out of that relegation zone and build up a squad good enough to challenge for promotion next year. At this stage things look bleak, but Mackay still has the time to do what is necessary to get Latics back on track.
I thought everyone and everything in Wigan was ugly anyway according to certain tabloids. OK, all of the tabloids. Having walked down Wallgate a few times I’m inclined to agree. We may as well play ugly as well, eh.