Five talking points following a tired-looking performance at Charlton

Charlton Athletic 2 Wigan Athletic 2

The fight shown by Wigan Athletic’s players since the announcement that the club was going into administration has made the fans proud. They showed the same kind of fighting spirit yesterday at The Valley, but their legs were getting heavier and heavier as the second half wore on. It looked a matter of time before Charlton would eventually get the equaliser. It was to come in stoppage time.

After the game Paul Cook commented: “They’ve probably put more crosses into our box than any team we’ve played against for a long, long time, they kept asking the question. You can break down their equalising goal certainly, and we’re massively disappointed a striker can find himself in 10 yards of space in the penalty areas in the 92nd minute. We had three centre-halves on the pitch, they had two strikers, so that’s not right. But while we want to be self-critical, these players have been absolutely magnificent for our football club, that’s the brutal reality of the situation.”

Let’s look at some points arising:

It was another of those disappointing six pointer performances

Latics have been a revelation since February, moving from the relegation zone to what is a mid-table position until the 12 points are deducted. Much of the improvement has been down to relying less on the long-ball and building moves up from the back. Moreover, the whole team has played its role in developing a more solid defence, every player contributing to the improvement.

Since Paul Cook arrived Latics have not coped well with the “six pointer” games. Despite their dominance in League 1 they did not always impress against other teams in the promotion zone. Their record against clubs near the bottom of the Championship table has been mediocre. The win against Hull in midweek was welcome: it was a stunning performance and scoreline.  But the defeat at Luton and the insipid goalless draw with them at the DW together with two draws against a poor Barnsley side were certainly underwhelming.

What a pity the ghost of the 6 pointers could not have been laid to rest today at The Valley.

Would relegation to League 1 be so tragic?

Whether Latics stay in the Championship depends on results in the final games on Wednesday. It is by no means unlikely that Wigan Athletic will beat Fulham, but even if they did, they could still go down if other results do not go their way. But is it so crucial that Wigan stay in the second tier?

The bottom line for us too at Amigos is that we want the club to survive, whether it be in the second tier or the third next season. Despite the positive spin taken by much of the media regarding new owners coming in there remains a worrying possibility that the club will become defunct. There is validity in the comments made by several fans who ask who would want to take over a club with a wage bill that is more than 160% of its revenue and has made an operating loss in four of the last five years.

Should new owners be found could we expect them to pump in some £1m a month to keep the team competitive in the Championship? There clearly must be a rethink about matching expenditure with revenue.

Player salaries in League 1 are dwarfed by those in the Championship. To survive financially long-term, the club would be better placed in the third tier than the second. Granted, there is a difference of some £4m in broadcasting revenue for clubs in the Championship and League 1. Moreover, a potential owner would more likely be tempted to buy a club in the second tier rather than the third.

Were Latics to stay in the Championship for another season the outlook with a much-trimmed squad on a lower wage bill would be bleak. But the revenues for player sales would be higher.

What a blow for Rioch and the Academy

Perhaps the most welcoming sign for the future during the IEC reign was that they (through the chairman) had a plan to develop homegrown talent as a means for the club to be sustainable. Investments were made to improve academy facilities, leading to a welcome rise to Category 2 status.

For Latics to have young players making the youth teams of England, Scotland and Wales has been an indication of the progress made by Gregor Rioch and his staff. Reports of the 17-year-old Jude Bellingham about to be sold by Birmingham City for £40m are not far-fetched. But while Bellingham has made 31 starts and 9 substitute appearance in the Championship this season Wigan’s Joe Gelhardt has made just 2 starts and 15 as a substitute.

The impending departure of Jensen Weir to Brighton for £500,000 is a bitter pill to swallow. Weir was captain of the Scotland U16 team prior to switching to England at U17 and U18 levels. Although the funds to be received will be important in keeping the club afloat for the moment it is sad to see him go at such a low fee, although it is reported there will be add-ons involved. The transfer value was very much affected by the club’s financial situation, although the player had just one brief Championship appearance as a substitute.

It appears that 15-year-old prodigy Alfie Devine will be going to Tottenham, possibly Gelhardt too.

Given the wealth of young talent that has been coming through it is of paramount importance for the future of the club that Rioch and his key staff are retained despite the swingeing budget cuts that will be coming. The departure of likes of Weir, Gelhardt and Devine will hardly help their morale.

Is Paul Cook on his way out?

Reports of other Championship clubs’ interest in Paul Cook are certainly credible. Although his time at Wigan has been a rollercoaster ride his CV is looking impressive. On top of a wealth of experience in the lower divisions he kept Latics in the Championship on a relatively low budget. Only the 12-point deduction will prevent them from finishing in mid-table this season.

Should Cook stay next season he would almost certainly be facing an uphill task. Most of the players he has closely nurtured will most likely be gone over the summer. Put simply, Cook’s future career prospects would most likely be better served by a move to a bigger club, rather than stay and start a large rebuilding project.

Can Latics raise their game for Wednesday’s clash with Fulham?

Although history might suggest otherwise it is by no means unlikely that Wigan Athletic will beat Fulham on Wednesday. With victories over the top two teams in the table they have shown that they can raise their game against strong opposition.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

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