Blackpool writer: Wigan are getting a Mr. Consistent in Stephen Crainey


As the Owen Coyle revolution continues so too does our coverage of Wigan Athletic’s new signings. This week’s guest writer is Dan Bennett of Vital Blackpool (, who kindly shares his insight on Scottish left-back Stephen Crainey — a man he dubs Mr. Consistent:

Although not one of the most exciting footballers to admire, Stephen Crainey certainly is one thing — consistent.

In total he has made 295 club appearances and had played for four different clubs before joining Wigan. He started his career at Celtic where he was never really first choice left back, and made 58 appearances over five years at Celtic Park before moving on to Southampton.

Crainey never truly found his feet at Southampton and only made 5 appearances for the club before a swift transfer move to Leeds United. It’s fair to say he did well at Leeds, his solid performances at left back won him many fans and in the 2005-2006 season made a total of 30 appearances for the club. This was the season Crainey had made the most appearances for any of his clubs until that point. 

However this was soon set to change as Crainey made his move to Blackpool, a club where his talents were truly appreciated. His ability never looked in doubt, and in the first season he spent with the club he made 43 appearances. His excellent work ethic and fantastic defensive play pleased many Tangerine fans and he soon became a favourite.

Crainey was part of the famous team that secured promotion to the Premier League with Blackpool, and featured many times the following year in the top division. Blackpool’s defence often came under scrutiny whilst Ian Holloway was manager of the club, and although Crainey was not the ‘perfect defender’ he rarely performed badly in a Pool shirt.

He’s certainly a player that Blackpool fans wanted to see back at the club next season; he was offered a fresh deal at the club but took the opportunity to move on. If he features frequently for Wigan next season, he’ll be a player that will always give his all in every game he plays. Even if he’s used as a squad man, Crainey’s performances are still likely to impress Latics fans.

He is certainly the solid and decent championship standard player that many of the clubs in this league desire. Luring Crainey to the club away from other potential suitors was certainly a great bit of business on behalf of Wigan Athletic. Latics fans will surely hope his championship experience can help you bounce back first time of asking.

Many thanks to Dan for his insights and to Vital Blackpool editor Jon Pearcy for his help.

Celtic supporter sheds light on Thomas Rogne, Wigan’s new signing


In light of the much-needed flurry of transfer activity Owen Coyle has orchestrated in recent days, we thought we’d re-visit a special feature approach and ask more informed writers about who exactly the club is signing.

Twenty-three year-old Norweigan centre-back Thomas Rogne became the third free transfer in less than a week to join the club after some promising, but injury-strewn years at Celtic. He joins former teammates Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell in the Wigan locker room and has hopefully spent enough time in Scotland to understand what James McArthur, Stephen Crainey are on about as well.

In an effort to learn more about his Celtic years and the circumstances under which he is joining our club, we reached out to the writers of Celtic  blog, Lost Bhoys, who helped us with a similar request when Shaun Maloney signed for us two years ago. Their take on the little Scot has proven thoroughly accurate — if he could regain fitness and sharpness, they wrote, he would go on to be a hit. After a six to eight month period of adaptation and fitness work in his first season, Maloney’s impact has been spectacular. Lets hope the arrival of another ex-Celtic player can help keep him at the club.

Without further ado, here is Liam Power, aka Brummie Bhoy of Lost Bhoys, dishing on our new centre-back Thomas Rogne:

Hail Hail to Ned and all the Wigan supporters who Los Three Amigos website. Ned had asked David Harper to produce a piece on Thomas Rogne after he did something similar when Shaun Maloney joined Wigan back in August 2011. Unfortunately, Harper was unavailable so he asked me if I would pick this up which I was more than happy to do.

I think it is reasonable to say that Wigan were not one of the more glamorous Premiership clubs during their spell in the top league so they would generally slip under the radar of most Celtic fans. However, this changed in recent years as we have seen a number of ex Celts and SPL players move to the club under the tenure of Roberto Martinez.

My former boss is a Wigan season ticket holder so we have had many amusing conversations over the last few seasons when discussing the contribution of Gary Caldwell and more serious chats about the continued development of Maloney, McArthur and McCarthy as they become integral to the Wigan team in the last season, culminating in your magnificent FA Cup victory.

Wigan now also has lifelong Celtic supporter Owen Coyle in charge and have just acquired the services of Celtic’s out of contract defender Thomas Rogne.  As a season ticket holder for most of the last 9 seasons and as a weekly blogger for the LostBhoys on I can provide an insight into Rogne’s time at Celtic, what sort of player he is and what you can expect from him in the seasons ahead.

Rogne turned 23 last week but still features regularly for the Norway under-21 team despite being capped at full International level. He joined Celtic as a 19 year old on the 20th January 2010 and was described by former Celtic favourite Vidar Riseth as the hottest young talent in Norway.

Rogne was signed by Tony Mowbray whose single season in charge at Parkhead can most politely be described as a disaster, culminating in a 4-0 defeat to St Mirren that signalled the end of his reign. Rogne only managed 4 appearances during the second half of season 2009/10 but would have been encouraged by the appointment of Neil Lennon who has always been happy to give young players opportunities within the team.

Rogne didn’t start a game in the following season until 30th October 2010 as an injury interrupted pre-season prevented him from establishing himself in the manager’s plans. However, he then featured 15 times in the following three months, including an outstanding performance at Ibrox in a 2-0 win over our former rivals.

Further injuries took him out of the team and he only featured intermittently during the rest of the season. This was to become the story of his time at Celtic as he could rarely muster a run of games in the team without picking up knocks that would require spells on the sidelines. As an 18 year old Rogne damaged his cruciate ligaments and missed the entire 2008/09 season, which may explain his continual injury problems.

The following season 2011/12 saw a depressingly similar pattern as injury disrupted his pre-season and he didn’t make his first start until 26th October 2011. He played 3 times before injury sidelined him again but once back in the team in December Rogne managed to establish himself and struck up a good partnership with Scottish Player of the season Charlie Mulgrew.

He featured in 17 league games during the remainder of the season and was considered as a first choice pick for the first time in his Celtic career, keeping out new signing Kelvin Wilson who had experienced a difficult start to his Celtic career.

This should have signalled better times for Rogne at Celtic but the signing of Efe Ambrose and the re-birth of Kelvin Wilson produced a solid partnership that was not going to be split up. This partnership, added to more niggling injuries for the player meant that he had drifted out of the first team picture.

He only made 8 league starts last season, a situation that was not helped with his ongoing contract dispute with the club. Rogne was looking for a deal that would put him in with the high earners at the club but he had done nothing during his 4 seasons to justify such a position.

The club expressed their desire to keep him but no compromise could be reached so the player allowed his contract to expire and today he becomes a free agent meaning that Wigan will not have to pay any compensation to Celtic.

There is no doubting the ability of Rogne as a footballer. He is a tall player who enjoys doing the basics of good defending.   He is good in the air and reads the game well which enables him to win a fair amount of challenges staying on his feet without over committing himself.

He has reasonable pace and his positional sense is good although he can suffer from lapses in concentration. He is not a ball playing defender and is happy winning possession and giving the ball to his more talented colleagues.

What he desperately needs is a run of 20-30 games in a side without injury so that he can establish himself as a first choice. He is easily good enough to play in the Championship but needs to contribute much more in terms of appearances. As a free transfer on relatively modest wages he fits the bill for Wigan’s transfer policy and would be deemed as a low risk signing.

Wigan have the best chance of promotion from all the three clubs who were relegated as they should manage to retain a decent nucleus of last seasons squad, unlike QPR who have huge financial implications to deal with.

Providing he can stay fit then Rogne will be a good addition to the squad and should be a success at Wigan. He is familiar with British football and knows Caldwell and Maloney well from his time at Celtic, so his transition to Wigan should be relatively straight forward.

Good luck to you for the forthcoming season and I will definitely continue to keep an eye on our former bhoys

Hail Hail

Brummie Bhoy

McCann arrival kicks off Coyle revolution at Wigan


The first signing of the Owen Coyle era has been confirmed in the shape of 25-year-old Irish midfielder Chris McCann, who will join Wigan Athletic upon the expiration of his contract at Burnley, where he spent the past nine years.

The transfer virtually confirms Wigan’s intentions to cash in on their prize asset and fellow Irish midfielder, James McCarthy.

Though not a household name, McCann looks an astute signing. At 25 years of age (26 in July), his best years are in front of him yet he boasts an impressive seven seasons of Championship football. He is the type of player Wigan were never able to afford in the top flight: someone established who knows the division well, entering his prime years as a footballer. Today’s three-year deal should see him turn 26, 27 and 28 in a Latics shirt — peak years.

And while Coyle has a technically gifted midfield with players like James McArthur, Ben Watson, Jordi Gomez, Roger Espinoza, Fraser Fyvie, it is the athleticism of the likely-departing McCarthy that he would have struggled to replace internally. At six-foot-one and described as a powerful box-to-box player, it appears McCann is the man to do it.

Interestingly, the year McCann made the most appearances for Burnley was the year they achieved promotion to the Premier League. He then suffered a bad injury and was limited to seven appearances in the Premier League campaign. He has worn the captain armband for Burnley and having spent nine seasons with them, appears to be a loyal and committed player. His comments upon arrival at the club make for encouraging reading.

The hope now is that a McCarthy transfer will bring in at least 12 million pounds. Those who have watched his development over the last few years would likely value him at closer to double that amount, but realistically, 12 million would still be very good business. Potentially, Coyle could buy five good Championship players and still have money left over.

In a related note, news sources had suggested that McCann’s former teammate and striker, Martin Paterson, could be ready to follow. But earlier today, it was confirmed that Paterson had opted instead to join Huddersfield Town.

The other rumour doing the rounds at the moment involves a move for goalkeeper Scott Carson, who has made more than sixty appearances for Bursaspor in Turkey over the past two years but may fancy a move back to England. He seems to have been around forever but is only 27 and would be an excellent signing for the 400,000 pounds that are being mooted. With Ali Al-Habsi apparently set to miss the beginning of the season to injury (along with Gary Caldwell and Ivan Ramis) — Latics supporters will be hoping there is some truth to that nugget.

It’s Coyle or McClaren for Wigan


Coyle or McClaren to replace Martinez? The two main candidates are as different as chalk and cheese.

“I have tried to stay away from managers who are in work at the moment because there is a fee involved with those.”

So said Dave Whelan, according to a report from a national newspaper on Wednesday.

It seemed a strange thing to say, but maybe the comment was taken out of context.

True that having to haggle with another club about compensation could delay the appointment of a manager. True that haste is a necessity with Wigan needing to get things moving again, with so many players leaving the club. But then again, is Whelan seriously baulking at paying maybe a couple of million to get the right man?

If this is the case it rules out young, exciting prospects such as Karl Robinson and Gus Poyet, together with alternative candidates like Rene Meulensteen if he remains under contract. Given reports saying that Whelan will be naming the manager before the end of the week, the field now seems to have to narrowed down considerably.

It is probably for such reasons that the bookmakers currently rank Owen Coyle and Steve McClaren as the prime candidates. Both are experienced managers who can do a good job, given the right resources and the backing of the chairman. However, like any other experienced football manager, each has has ups and downs in his career.

Appointing an ex-Bolton manager, known for his “uber confidence”, might not go down well with some Latics supporters. Owen Coyle was released by Bolton in October 2012, after a roller-coaster ride with them. He had joined Bolton in controversial circumstances, leaving Burnley mid-way through the 2009-2010 season.

After doing a good job at St Johnstone, helping them reach the Scottish Cup final, Coyle had taken Burnley back into the Premier League. Burnley were playing some exciting football and it looked as though they would finish around mid-table. Sadly Coyle’s untimely exit led them to be relegated that same season.

When Coyle arrived at Bolton in January 2010 they were in relegation trouble, but he managed to get them into 14th place by the end of the season. The 2010-2011 season saw Bolton rise up the Premier League, seemingly challenging for a Europa League place in the early  months. It was even said that his team were playing good football, despite the legacy of the previous regimes of such as Sam Allardyce and Gary Megson. However, there were those who could provide statistics to suggest that this was not the case.

Ironically it was Coyle’s success in helping his club reach the FA Cup semi final that was to lead to his eventual demise at the club. After losing 5-0 to Stoke at Wembley in April 2011 results took a steep downturn, Bolton once again finishing in 14th place, despite their early season promise. The poor form continued in the 2011-12 season, leading to them being relegated. It had been a very difficult time for the club, with Fabrice Muamba suffering a heart attack during a match in March 2012.

Despite relegation, Coyle continued as manager until October 2012. Around the time of his departure from Bolton a Guardian article, relating to Coyle’s tenure there,  quoted a fan as saying “(His)signings haven’t worked out, some of his team selections are hard to understand and he often sends out sides that are set up to attack rather than stop the opposition playing, but if you had to name one principal failing it is that he doesn’t appear to know how to set up a defence or stop leaking goals.”

While Owen Coyle might be regarded as a manager who espouses attacking football, Steve McClaren’s approach has tended to be more conservative, based on solid defence. After being Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford for two years, McClaren did a wonderful job as Middlesbrough manager from 2001-2006, winning the League Cup, reaching the UEFA Cup final and two FA Cup semi finals.

Despite his considerable success at the north east club, McClaren was never well loved there. A WSC article from September 2006 entitled  “The anonymous man” provides a fascinating insight into the connection between the man, the club and its supporters.

McClaren took over as England manager in August 2006. It turned out to be a poisoned chalice. He was mercilessly attacked by the public and the media after poor England performances, including the failure to qualify for Euro 2008. He lasted 16 months in the position.

McClaren took over as manager ofl Dutch club FC Twente in June 2008. FC Twente was based in Entschede, a town of around 150,000 in population. They had never won the Dutch league since their formation in 1965. In his first season they finished second in the Eredivisie and progressed to the latter rounds of the UEFA Cup. In the following 2009-2010 season they won 16 of their 17 home games and lost only two away. They were to win the Eredivisie, finishing a point ahead of Dutch giants, Ajax Amsterdam.

McClaren then went on to brief spells at Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest before returning to Twente in January 2012. However, despite a good start things did not work out as well second time around and McClaren left in February 2013.

Both Owen Coyle and Steve McClaren are experienced and accomplished managers. Their approaches are contrasting.

Following four years of shaky defences under Roberto Martinez, Dave Whelan might look towards McClaren to provide the kind of defensive stability required to get Latics out of the Championship Division. On the other hand he might stick his neck out and go for the more effervescent Coyle.

Coyle and McClaren are as different as chalk and cheese, not just in personality but in footballing terms.

Only time will tell if Whelan makes the right decision in finding the right kind of personality and football manager to guide Wigan Athletic back into the Premier League.

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Has Roberto really gone this time?


Just as the dust had settled on another unforgettable and emotional season of highs and lows, an official statement went up on the Wigan Athletic website confirming Roberto Martinez has been given permission to talk to another club, believed to be Everton.

While most sources have taken the statement — in conjunction with some Dave Whelan quotes elsewhere — to confirm beyond doubt that Martinez will definitely leave Wigan, the carefully worded statement actually suggests that he remains the club’s manager despite opening talks over a move.

In terms of what has actually been confirmed by either club, circumstances are pretty similar to those at this time last year, when Martinez carefully considered an offer from Liverpool before using the offer to negotiate greater investment in youth and training facilities back at Wigan.

Reports last Friday suggested that discussion during the first meeting between Whelan and Martinez had focused on the Spaniard’s continued demands for investment in said facilities — and probably in a larger squad to cope with Championship and Europa League football next season — rather than his desire to work elsewhere. Four days, ago, Whelan was confident his manager would stay.

It is therefore not unfeasible that Martinez could return from his talks with Everton, or Malaga for that matter, and push Whelan once again to give him the financial support he believes necessary for an immediate return to the Premier League and continued long-term strengthening. The fact that we have not heard a peep from Martinez himself, confirms that he has not yet left the club.

Realistically, however, it is hard to ignore how appealing the Everton job must look to Wigan’s former midfield maestro, on various levels. Though a much larger club that the Latics, Everton has been run in the same close-knit manner as Latics, by a chairman-and-manager combo built on trust and loyalty similar to that of Whelan and Martinez at Wigan. He would have more money, better players, some stability, and the attractive challenge of taking Everton to the next level following Dave Moyes’ departure. He could do a fantastic job there — particularly given the defensive strength that already exists there.

Then there are Dave Whelan’s comments, confirming that his manager has asked to leave, and most recently claiming he is tailor-made for Everton — a dramatic u-turn from his recent statements about Goodison not being a big enough club for him. They all seemingly point to a vacancy at the DW, but we’ve learned over the years how shrewd a businessman Whelan can be. It cannot be discounted that he is playing the media as he has been known to do. Martinez may, after all, not get the Everton job. If he then were to come back to Wigan, Whelan would be able to welcome him back without giving in to all the demands Martinez made of him.

Early rumours for the potential Wigan vacancy include Brighton manager Gus Poyet, who is also apparently a candidate at both Everton and Stoke, and Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen. Both fit the continental, good-football mould, though the former has had issues with his chairman at Brighton over transfer funds, while the latter has very little managerial experience despite top pedigree as a coach. Plenty of other names have been and will be mentioned, but the issue is probably best left untouched for now — as Martinez has not yet, per the club, resigned.