In anticipation of the opening league game of the season we were approached by www.undertheprem.co.uk to respond to some questions from them. The following article will shortly appear on their site.
HOW DID YOU FEEL THE 14/15 SEASON WENT FOR YOUR TEAM?
From my perspective, last season was the worst in Wigan Athletic history. Everything went wrong. From Uwe Rosler’s initially promising transfer dealings, to the appalling appointment of Malky Mackay, Dave Whelan’s subsequent defence of it, to the loss of identity on and off the pitch, and ultimately, relegation.
The atmosphere at the club was as dark as it has ever been, with a dressing room that had seen greater turnover in a year than any other in the country. For a period of time, it felt as though the club had lost its direction and the strong ethos that had guided it so successfully for so many years prior.
The darkness was finally lifted, however, when Gary Caldwell was installed as manager with a handful of games to go. Though he couldn’t steer us to safety, his impact was immediate – we saw a welcome return to the footballing values, both on and off the pitch, of his former manager and mentor, Roberto Martinez.
HAVE YOU BEEN IMPRESSED WITH THE ADDITIONS MADE DURING THE SUMMER BREAK?
It’s hard to assess them at this stage – there are so many of them. On paper, and in theory, yes. Will Grigg is exactly the type of striker we have been unable to secure for years, a tricky all-rounder with a proven goalscoring record in the league we’re in, and experience playing in a lone role.
Craig Morgan appears an excellent signing in the defensive department, with important leadership skills and experience to build an organized unit around. Michael Jacobs will hopefully provide the much needed flair to unlock defenses, while Max Power looks a cultured player. Reece James from Manchester United sounds well-suited to the tactical systems likely to be employed by Gary Caldwell, seamlessly switching back and forth from traditional full-back to wing-back roles. Richard O’Donnell should be a reliable keeper and is accomplished in this division.
ARE THERE ANY AREAS YOU FEEL STILL NEED STRENGTHENING?
I feel we need another flair player or two, be that a winger or a second forward capable of playing in the hole behind Grigg. Another dribbler. At the moment we look a bit reliant on Jacobs producing a moment of magic. Craig Davies, the most likely to partner Grigg up front, has a bad injury record, and Billy McKay hasn’t quite come off yet at Wigan – I’d also be on the lookout for another striker, perhaps on loan until Grant Holt makes his comeback.
ARE THERE ANY FIXTURES THAT YOU’RE PARTICULARLY LOOKING FORWARD TO?
Coventry City, today. While we need to be patient with what is essentially a brand new squad and rookie manager, I think most of us Latics fans just can’t wait to get the new season under way and banish the demons of yesteryear. There is a real feeling of goodwill and optimism around the club – a fresh start for everyone – and we just want to start enjoying watching and supporting our team again.
WHICH OPPOSITION TEAM DO YOU HAVE HIGH HOPES FOR THIS SEASON?
Sheffield United sound like the team to watch after their near miss last year. Even more so after signing ex-Latic Conor Sammon! He may have only scored one goal for us in thirty-ish appearances, but it was a good ‘un! Sparked the comeback against West Ham which kept us up for another glorious season of Premier League play. He should be quality at League 1 level.
WHICH PLAYERS AMONG YOUR SQUAD SHOULD WE BE LOOKING OUT FOR THIS TERM?
The obvious ones are Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs – proven performers in this division with goals and flair respectively. But I’m personally really hoping one of our loanees from Everton, Francisco Junior, takes advantage of the fresh start we’re giving him and fulfills some of his huge potential in midfield. Roberto wouldn’t have sent him to us if he didn’t think he had something to offer.
One massive question mark is Grant Holt. His signing two years ago has been an unmitigated disaster, with injuries, loan spells, differences of opinion, and managerial changes combining to keep from making any impact other than draining the club’s coffers on his big wages. But if, and this is a big if – he can make a full recovery to a serious knee injury at age 34 – he could be something of a wild card in this division and mend a strained relationship with the club’s fans. It’ll be fascinating to see.
WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’LL END UP AT THE END OF THE SEASON?
A slow start to the season as the team beds in. Mid-table by Christmas and playoffs all things told.