Phoenix 2021 declare their intent with long contracts for Lang and Aasgaard

Chairman Talal Al-Hammad and Chief Executive Mal Brannigan have set such a positive tone since their arrival at Wigan Athletic. Their shrewd running of the club has been underpinned by a skilful and sensitive approach to human resources and PR. The have not only brought the club back on to an even keel, but they have given supporters so much hope for the future. Their recruitment has been particularly impressive, bringing in the experienced and savvy James Beattie and Rob Kelly to support Leam Richardson and showing real shrewdness in the transfer market.

From the get-go the representatives of Phoenix 2021 stated their intention to continue to develop the Latics Academy. Over the past seven days they have secured the long-term services of academy products Callum Lang and Thelo Aasgaard through new contracts. The length of the contracts is stunning. The 22 -year-old Lang’s new contract goes to summer 2025, that of the 19-year-old Aasgaard to summer 2026.

Both players joined Wigan Athletic as 14 -year-olds. However, their career trajectories differ.

After being a key player in the Latics youth team Lang was sent on a season-long loan to Morecambe in League 2 while still only 18. He went on to make 30 appearances, scoring 10 goals. The following season saw him continue to do well in League 2 with 13 goals in 42 appearances for Oldham Athletic. The next loan was at League 1 Shrewsbury where a metatarsal injury limited him to 16 appearances, scoring two goals. Last season saw him score 3 goals in 17 appearances for Motherwell before being recalled by Latics in January. He proved to be a key player in the fight against relegation, his 7 goals in 17 appearances being crucial.

Lang’s form this season has been sensational. Despite usually playing in a wide position he is the leading goalscorer with 10 goals and 4 assists.

Aasgaard’s passage through the Academy to the first team squad was by no means easy. In his own words:

I had a tough journey with the Under 18s because I was growing so much, I was missing games through injuries and the staff really helped me all the way, from sports science to the physios and analysts. 

Gregor Rioch has really looked after me from the development phase to stepping into first team football and Leam Richardson had his trust in me last year to perform on the pitch and hopefully, I can continue to do that.

With the issues we had last year, it was a tough time for the Club but for me, it was a chance to prove that I am up for the challenge. It was up to me to take advantage of the opportunity and luckily I did.”

Aasgaard too played an important part in helping Latics avoid relegation last season.  Although his natural position is as a number 10, he showed his versatility by appearing in various midfield roles. He made 13 starts in League 1, with 20 substitute appearances, scoring 3 goals.

The confirmation of the prolonged contracts for Lang and Aasgaard has brought a sigh of relief among Latics fans. Following the raiding last season of Alfie Devine, Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir by Premier League clubs and Kyle Joseph by Championship team Swansea, for fees way below market value, the club has made a statement. It will resist efforts by elite clubs to poach its young talent. Should Lang or Aasgaard eventually leave, the club will receive compensation around market value.

Lang is a key player in Leam Richardson’s promotion-seeking side. His name is among the first on the team sheet.

Aasgaard has only had one league start this season, with four appearances off the bench. His appearances have been somewhat curtailed by injuries, plus he has had to compete with a bunch of capable and experienced pros to even gain a place on the bench. What Aasgaard needs to develop further is regular game time and given the current situation at Wigan he is not going to get it. Richardson faces the choice of sending the player out on loan in January or retaining him as a fringe member of the senior squad. There is no doubt that should the player stay injury-free and get regular games under his belt, he will be a force to reckon with. He has always had that sublime skill, but now has the physique to resist the rough and tumble of the third tier.

Decisions will also need to be made about Adam Long and Luke Robinson, who made major strides last season in stepping up to the senior squad. With a large senior team squad packed with experience they have fallen way down the pecking order. Long is only 21, Robinson is 19.  

Phoenix 2021 have made a major statement about investing in their young talent though the long contracts offered to Lang and Aasgaard. Elite clubs take note!

Amigo and Social Media reaction to an entertaining draw against Wycombe

August 17, 2021: Wigan Athletic 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

“Results don’t always match performances” is an old adage in football, but it could certainly be used in the context of this match. Wigan Athletic played some scintillating football and would have won the game with a canter had they put their chances away. But they did not and tired legs in the last quarter invited Wycombe pressure, resulting in a 91st minute equaliser as Kell Watts was outjumped at the far post from a corner kick.

The game was so different to that we saw on Saturday against Rotherham. That dour encounter was won by a late, late header from Will Keane. This was an entertaining affair.

Leam Richardson had retained the back four that completed the previous game, with Tendayi Darikwa  at left back and two specialists for that position on the bench. It proved to be a successful move as Darikwa had one of his better games. Jordan Jones was brought in on the left wing and his running and accurate crossing promised much for the future. Latics had gone ahead after 47 minutes from a thunderbolt finish from Callum Lang. The goal rattled the visitors and Latics were looking dangerous but were unable to add to their lead.

Keane’s header had hit the crossbar in the 69th minute with Jones taken off soon after, being replaced by Gavin Massey. Massey had looked more like his old self coming off the bench against Rotherham, playing on the right. However, this time he was placed on the left where, time after time, he has failed to deliver. Richardson is a wonderful motivator of his players, but his substitutions can be unimaginative and ill-timed. Gareth Ainsworth had made two substitutions for Wycombe in the 59th minute, the third being the huge Akinfenwa after 73 minutes. It signalled an aerial bombardment from the visitors who looked full of running at that stage compared with Latics.

After the game Richardson commented:

“I thought in the first-half we were excellent, and we were worthy of going in at half-time in-front. With the quality and the energy levels that we show, and the entries into their final third, we’ve got to be pleased.

Wycombe are a fantastic, well-drilled football team, and they are a threat from any dead-ball and set-piece, as well as from open play. If you do not put the game to bed, you obviously succumb to what we did.

I thought we were worthy to go in front and we started the second half where we left off. If we were going to be disappointed, it would be for the result, and possibly the last 15-20 minutes where we came off the page a little bit and started trading blows with Wycombe which is what they want.”

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

Zeb2 commented:

Football eh ?…..probably got two more points than we deserved on Saturday ….and got two less than we deserved tonight.
not conceded from open play in 3 matches but two direct from corners.

Went way too deep last few minutes (a long standing trait with us) and invited waves of attack which caused us to crack in the end, but we should have been out of sight by HT….maybe we ran out of gas in that last ten/fifteen minutes ….unfortunately they didn’t.

C_Latic stated:

The positive is that we’ll play a hell of a lot worse than that this season and win. That Wycombe side are a very good team who like Rotherham will be right in the top six equation and we’ve absolutely pummelled them.

I’d say if we can get one more win from our next two, we’ll be a good spot heading into the international break. Then the fixtures will ease up and we can look at putting together a run.

JockLatic added:

Best I’ve seen us play in some time….shuda been 2/3 nil up at half time & thoroughly deserved our goal, such a shame we couldn’t have got a second as that would have seen out the game. Unfortunately we sat back & had little possession the last 10 mins or so n it just seemed like they were gonna equalise….didn’t think it was a corner n possibly a free kick to us beforehand. If we play like that for a good chunk of the season we won’t be far off so long as we convert the chances. Disappointed coming away from the ground tonight but only because we should have been out of sight in 1st half…..

Made in Wigan opined:

Disappointing ending but will look at the bigger picture. It’s a brand new team and we have some decent players. We can only improve as the season progresses if McLean doesn’t upset the apple cart.

We really do need to start taking our chances. Miss of the season contenders in consecutive games and today its cost us two points. Whilst Wycombe were okay I thought Rotherham looked a tougher opponent. That said I don’t think we’ve much to fear in this league though the time it will take the team to gel and for LR to find his best team and tactics means we’ll have to come from behind to make any impact of the league table.

Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com

John Sheridan: the right appointment to keep Wigan Athletic in League 1?

I first saw John Sheridan play in March 1987 when second division Leeds United visited Springfield Park for a 6th round F.A. Cup match. Under the management of Ray Mathias third division Latics had knocked out first division Norwich in the previous round. However, on a wind-swept day, in front of a crowd of 12,479, they were beaten 2-0. The Leeds side was workmanlike with Sheridan adding class in the centre of midfield.

A year later, after seven years at Leeds with 230 appearances and 47 goals under his belt, he moved to join Brian Clough at first division Nottingham Forest for a fee of £650,000. Sheridan only made one appearance for Forest before he joined Sheffield Wednesday, where he was to spend seven years making 199 appearances, scoring 25 goals, including a scorcher which helped the Owls beat Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup final. After spells at Bolton and Doncaster he completed his playing career at Oldham Athletic where he spent six years, retiring in his fortieth year. Born in Manchester, of Irish parents, Sheridan made 35 appearances for the Republic of Ireland.

It was at Oldham where Sheridan began his long managerial career.

Stats courtesy of Wikipedia

John Sheridan has not been the kind of manager to take charge at a club high-flying in its division.  His relationship with Oldham Athletic has been remarkable, spending different five spells there, so often steadying the ship. He won the League 2 title with Chesterfield in 2010-11, followed by the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy in 2012, but so many times he was brought in to help a struggling club.

After leaving Chesterfield he joined Plymouth Argyle in January 2013 on a short-term contract until the end of the season. Argyle were two points off the bottom of League 2 and had only won one of their last 16 games. Sheridan helped Argyle to avoid relegation by winning 8 and drawing 4 of their last 19 games.

In October 2015 he took over at Newport County who were bottom of League 2, with only 5 points from the first 10 matches. They got only one point from his first three games, but then went on a 10-game unbeaten run. They finished in 22nd place, nine points clear of relegation.

In February 2016 he joined Fleetwood Town who were 20th in League 1 having lost their last eight games under Uwe Rosler. By the end of the season they finished in 14th place seven points above the relegation zone.

Sheridan has certainly had his ups and downs as a manager. But he has experience of working under relegation pressure and producing results.

There will be Wigan Athletic fans who are less than enthused about his appointment. But given the instability of recent months at Wigan it is important to steady the ship and avoid a further relegation. Sheridan will work on a low budget, his team likely to be a mixture of youth and experienced professionals who have become free agents in the era of Covid-19.

Although the majority of last season’s squad has departed it would be no surprise to see more of them leave over the next couple of weeks as the club continues to cut back its wage bill. Sheridan will then have the opportunity to bring in some of his own players.

John Sheridan may not be a marquee appointment, but he could prove to be just what Wigan Athletic need at this moment in their history.

Grayson, Sheridan, Leigh, and the Grievance Society: what is going on at Wigan Athletic?

These are turbulent times for all those concerned for Wigan Athletic.

Yesterday was a particularly depressing day when we heard that the departures of Nathan Byrne and Sam Morsy are nearing conclusion. Should the two stalwarts be gone by the weekend only Kal Naismith will remain of the team that started the final game of the season, providing he does not depart in the meantime.  A team that might have challenged for a play-off place has been dismantled for paltry financial gains.

Although most fans understand the reasons why the team has been dismantled there was an anger and frustration airing itself in the general direction of Gerald Krasner and Paul Stanley.

The possibility of  Latics playing their home games at Leigh Sports Village has caused consternation and outrage among the fan base. If the stadium were to be sold separately to the club it would be necessary for the new club owners to negotiate a rental agreement for a stadium. Were the terms offered by the DW Stadium owners to be unacceptable to the club they would seek alternative arrangements. The option of a move away from the DW is unpalatable to most Latics fans, but may be more of a bargaining chip to be used in negotiating a deal acceptable to both sides.

The situation was soon to be exacerbated when The Sun published an articleSimon Grayson set for shock return to management with crisis club Wigan with administrators drafting in experienced boss”. In it Alan Nixon stated that Grayson was to step in to help and should be in the dug-out at Ipswich on Sunday.

Were the administrators really going to bring in a new manager before the club had been sold? Or was the sale about to go through to new owners who favoured Grayson for the position?

Today’s tweet from Nixon stirred the waters even more. Like Grayson, John Sheridan is a very experienced manager and would merit consideration. But if it is true it asks questions about the administrators’ role and what is happening with their search for new owners.

The Wigan Athletic Grievance Society consider that “From the minute the administrators entered the club on 1st July, we have had nothing but false promises, contradictory statements, a fire-sale of players, and what appear to be worrying signs of growing mistrust between Begbies Traynor and everyone else involved.” They outlined their concerns about the actions of the administrators in the article published on The Pie at Night site. They are arranging a demonstration outside the Begbies Traynor headquarters in central Manchester tomorrow.

Opinion will be divided as to whether the demonstration will help get the club back on an even keel. There are concerns that the picketing could get out of hand and that the demonstration could provoke a negative reaction from the administrators that could be seriously detrimental to the future of the club. However, as the Grievance Society quote in their statement “Wigan Athletic is dying, we cannot sit back and let that happen.”

In the meantime we can only hope that the club can back on track and these turbulent times become a thing of the past.

BREAKING NEWS:

Ready for Brentford? The challenge for Paul Cook and his squad

What a tempestuous week it has been.

A wonderful performance by the Latics team in blowing away Stoke City raised our hopes of at least a mid-table finish, with lots of optimism for the coming season. Then it was all turned upside down by that stunning announcement of the club going into administration. The Wigan Athletic community is still reeling from that news.

Brentford away is hardly the fixture that one would choose following the turbulence of the last three days. They outplayed Latics at the DW Stadium in November to the tune of a resounding 3-0 scoreline. They have won their last four games and still have a chance of automatic promotion.

Latics were on the crest of a wave following the Stoke game on Tuesday evening. Hopes were high that they could go to west London and give the Bees a run for their money. But now we learn that the players, who had deferred 30% of their salaries in the lockdown period, will only receive a fraction of their salaries today. Paul Cook must somehow lift his players to concentrate on the here and now, despite the uncertain futures at the club that they all now face.

Sam Morsy’s rallying call was admirable and we can only hope that captain, manager and coaches can maintain morale in this difficult hour.

The news and social media have been awash with stories about what has happened to the club.

The EFL’s prompt notification that there will be an automatic 12-point deduction did not go down well with Latics fans. Questions abound how their “Fit and Proper Persons” criteria allowed a shady change of ownership leading to administration within a month of Next Leader Fund taking ownership.

The reasons for NLF opting for administration remain unknown although there is no shortage of conspiracy theories being put forward.

Fans have been putting forward their views on the social media and message boards. Some fear for the very existence of the club. Others are concerned that the points deduction will lead the club back to League 1, although there are optimists who believe the team can gather some 13-14 points from the last 6 games to avoid that happening.

In the meantime, Latics must find the funding to help them complete the season, by no means an easy matter with no money coming into the club from the owners and minimal revenues available from playing behind closed doors.

Should the club manage its way to complete its fixtures and somehow gather enough points to avoid relegation it would be a big step forward. A Championship club is more attractive to a prospective buyer than one in League 1. Moreover, the broadcasting revenues and larger away supporter attendances make it financially more viable, even if the club were going to run on a shoestring budget for a period.

My concern is that the very survival of the club is at stake. After following them to places like Congleton, Winsford and Oswestry I can deal with the likes of Rochdale and Oldham should the club manage to get through this sticky period.

It is a stressful and difficult time for us all who care so much for our club. The game at Brentford tomorrow pales in comparison with the mountain the club must climb to stay in operation. However, a win could really lift our spirits and give us a little more hope for what lies ahead.