Another away defeat: can Cook stop the hoofball?

Fulham 2 Wigan Athletic 0

“We won’t sit off Fulham in any way, shape or form.”

So said Paul Cook before the match.

The manager’s statement of intent had a degree of credibility in the opening minutes when Latics attacked the home team. But Fulham were soon to take over the running of the game as any initial attempt to play football from Wigan was nullified as they resorted to the hoofball that has been all too typical in away games under Cook’s management. When Latics won the ball they so often gave it back to the home team by launching speculative long balls.

Wigan’s beleaguered defence did well to keep the home team at bay in the first half, despite Fulham’s dominance of possession. The game was goalless at half time, although it had looked like it was going to be a matter of time until Fulham scored. The London team had had twelve shots to Wigan’s one in that first half. Could Cook make some changes for the second half to nullify the home team’s dominance?

The manager did surprise us by making an immediate substitution. Michael Jacobs had once again been ineffective under the regime of hoofball and he was replaced by Kal Naismith.  But within a couple of minutes the seemingly inevitable happened, with Joe Bryan opening the scoring for Fulham.

Needing a goal Latics did at least try to play some football, although they did not convince, with Fulham still looking dangerous. Tom Cairney’s fine goal in the 83rd minute finished it off.

Few of us expected anything other than a defeat at Craven Cottage, given Latics’ miserable record there, facing a Fulham side full of players who played in the Premier League last season. There have been far worse away performances than this over the past twelve months. Neither of the Fulham goals was “soft”; the referee was weak and easily convinced by the home team’s writhing in apparent agony after tackles and he allowed himself to be mobbed by Fulham players pleading their case; the Wigan defence did not crumble and there was no capitulation.

But what is depressing is that Cook, his coaches and his players have still not learned that you cannot play hoofball in the Championship and get away with it for very long. It is “an unforgiving league” in that respect.

There has been a scarcity of discipline in Wigan’s play away from home, together with a lack of tactical awareness on the part of the manager and his coaches. Latics are one of the most physical sides in the division and the home teams are prepared for that. Combative players like Sam Morsy and Joe Williams can expect the referees to be looking out for them. This is not to say that it is right, but it is a reality. Such players need to show self-discipline, or they will soon find their way into the book.

The hoofball that we typically witness away from home is surely not something the manager instructs his players to do. It is more likely down to the lack of a footballing philosophy at the club. It is not only the player who hoofs the ball forward but those who should be helping him when under pressure by getting into positions to receive the ball.

The manager has his tried and tested playing formations and they can work well when the players are showing the kind of discipline required.

How much longer will this continue? We had hoped that the manager and his staff would have addressed these issues by now, but the kind of stuff we saw in the first half at Fulham would have been embarrassing for us when we were a non-league team, pre-1978.

It is simply not good enough for a team in the second tier of English football.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Barnsley fan’s view of Kieffer Moore

Barnsley FC yesterday announced the transfer of the 6ft 5in centre forward Kieffer Moore to Wigan Athletic. The 26-year-old has signed a three-year contract.

Kieffer Roberto Francisco Moore was born in Torquay and came through the youth system of Torquay United. After the club folded their youth team, he played in the South Devon league for a couple of seasons before going on trial for Truro City in the summer of 2012. Moore made 22 appearances, scoring 13 goals, for Truro in the Conference South before joining Dorchester Town in the same division in February 2013. He made 17 appearances for Dorchester, scoring 9 goals, before joining Yeovil Town then in the Championship in the summer of 2013.

Moore made 50 appearances for Yeovil, scoring 7 goals, before being released as the club were relegated to League 2. In the summer of 2015 season, he went to Norway and played for Viking Stavanger, making 9 appearances, before signing for Forest Green Rovers in January 2016. He helped them reach the National League play-offs, missing the final defeat by Grimsby Town due to a ruptured appendix the night after the semi-final second leg against Dover Athletic. In November 2016 Moore joined Torquay United of the National League on a 28-day loan, scoring 5 goals in 4 appearances.  In January 2017 he signed for Ipswich Town for a fee of £10,000. Moore spent the first half of the 2017-18 season on loan at Rotherham United, scoring 13 goals in 22 appearances. In January 2018 he signed for Barnsley for an undisclosed fee. He went on to score 21 goals in 51 appearances for the Yorkshire club.

In order to learn more about Moore’s time at Oakwell we contacted Barnsley fans CraigIsRed (@CraigIsRed) and FourFourTarn (@FourFourTarn) through Twitter.

CraigIsRed commented:

He’s an absolute workhorse upfront – never stops running. He does tend to have fouls awarded against him on a regular basis due to his 6’6 stature, though, which you’ll undoubtedly come to find quite frustrating because in most cases it’s a fair aerial challenge he puts in.

I could make a case for him being unproven at Championship level, but to be honest the games he played for us in The Championship a couple of seasons ago were under a god-awful manager who changed the line-up, formation, and system every single game, so in my view he can’t be judged on that.

 He’s always been a standout player in League One, though, and definitely deserves his chance to play in a settled Championship team. I believe a big reason we’ve opted to sell him is because he doesn’t quite fit the new style of play Daniel Stendel has brought to Barnsley FC, so he would have been a little wasted at Oakwell had he stayed this season. I think he’ll do well for The Latics this season. Be excited! You’ve gained a great player and a great personality.

 Look after ‘Big Kieff’, and all the best for this season!

 FourFourTarn said:

Most Barnsley fans will be sad to see Kieffer go, he was excellent for us in our promotion season last season but the reality is he doesn’t fit the way Stendel wants to play and the £3-4mill price tag is very fair.

 Despite his size Kieffer isn’t the most dominant in the air when playing direct however he’s excellent when the ball is played into his chest or feet. He’s also very quick for a big man when his legs get going. He’s excellent at getting himself good chances but also pretty good at missing them but by law of averages he bags a fair few. The biggest criticism is probably is engine, it’s not his fault but carrying that massive frame around can’t be easy and that’s probably why he’s moving on.

 Can’t fault his work rate, always works as hard as he can, fans absolutely loved him. He had a song within a couple of weeks and I think for now this is his level, I don’t think he’s good enough technically for the prem but could be a top Champ striker in the right system.

A Brentford fan’s view of Lewis Macleod

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of Lewis Macleod from Brentford on a one-year contract. The 5ft 10 in tall Macleod was a free agent.

Lewis Macleod was born in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. He joined Rangers as a 10-year-old, progressed through their academy and made his first team debut at 18 years of age in a Scottish Challenge Cup tie against Brechin in July 2012. He went on to make 26 appearances in the 2012-13 season when Rangers were in the Scottish League Division 3. A knee injury in January 2013 had kept him out for most of the second half of the season.

Macleod was a regular starter the 2013-14 season until a viral infection affected the muscles around his heart in January 2014. He recovered in time for the 2014-15 season and was a regular starter with Rangers now in the Scottish League 1. However, his season was once again curtailed after receiving a serious hamstring injury in a game against Alloa in December 2014. It proved to be Macleod’s last game for Rangers after making a total of 74 appearances, scoring 16 goals.

Macleod signed for Brentford on a three-and-a-half-year contract in January 2015 for a fee of around £1m. However, the hamstring went again in training keeping him out until May 2015 when he was an unused substitute in a Championship playoff game against Middlesbrough. Further hamstring problems plagued Macleod, until he made his debut as a substitute against Brighton in February 2016. However, in late February he suffered a medial ligament injury in training and did not appear in the first team squad for the remainder of the season.

Macleod returned to fitness for the start of the 2016-17 season, making 13 appearances before receiving a serious knee injury in a game at QPR at the end of October. In December 2016 he signed a one-year contract extension which would keep him with the Bees until the summer of 2019. Following the knee injury and further hamstring problems Macleod had to wait until December 2017 for his next appearance, coming on as a substitute against Fulham. He finished the 2017-18 season with 11 appearances. He was a regular starter in the 2018-19 season until suffering a hamstring injury in December 2018  during a game against West Bromwich Albion. He made only one more appearance, as a late substitute in Brentford’s 0-0 draw at the DW Stadium.

In order to find out more about Macleod’s time at Brentford  we once again reached out to Billy Grant (@billythebee99) who writes and makes podcasts for the Beesotted fan site (beesotted.com)

Here’s over to Billy:

Lewis Macleod joined Brentford in the Warburton era. For £1m reputedly which was a lot of money for us back then (still is). He was a highly reputed wonder-kid. Rangers fans were devastated he left but they were skint at the time. He was their young player of the year the season they won the Div 3 title.

 Macleod was signed injured. He didn’t play all season due to injury although he was on the bench for the playoff semi v Boro in May but never made it on.  Every time he was due to come back, he got injured again. Once he tripped on a twig in training and was out for a long time. Them he fell down a hole in training. Out for a while again.

 There were rumours about Warburton signing him back for Rangers, but these were unfounded. 

 He started the 2016 season and was looking decent – playing 12 matches before being injured at QPR. A bad knee injury. 

 The club backed him. They gave him a one-year extension on his contract and sent him to Philadelphia to get treated by a specialist. He had a couple of false returns but made a full league return 18 months later – scoring his first goal of the club against Boro. He finished the season intact which was a good sign.

 Summer 2018 was his first proper pre-season training with us. He came out fit. We had a great side – having kept hold of the bulk of our players with Ryan Woods the only player not to have been replaced. This gave an opportunity for midfielders Josh McEachran and Lewis McLeod to make their marks on the side.

 Brentford started the season magnificently beating Rotherham 5-1. We looked proper world beaters. We played Wigan a month later and played you guys off the park – winning 2-0.

 Then in October it started to go horribly wrong. Opposition teams got the handle of us. Pressed us hard and started to over-run our midfield. Macleod was showing flashes of real brilliance, but we were struggling when the going got tough.

 He scored his final goal for Brentford in the final minutes of an undeserved away point at West Brom. He got injured after that goal. Decided not to renew his contract. And that was it.

 He’s one of a handful of players Brentford signed since entering the Championship that we’ve lost money on. 

 What type of player was he? Potentially skilful. Tricky. But I’m going to be honest: I don’t really know. He played so few games in his four and a half years at Brentford it’s hard to piece together a pattern.

 His best period was August and September 2019 where he was very much part of our fluid football passing game.

 Maybe he needed a much tougher central midfielder to play alongside. Unfortunately, Josh McEachran isn’t your man when the going gets tough.

 There’s no doubt he’s an intelligent, skilful footballer who has had a lot of bad luck.

 Maybe a change of scenery in Wigan is exactly what he needs now. 

 

The importance of a Category 2 Academy for Royle and IEC

Last Saturday Wigan Athletic’s under-18 team strengthened their leadership of the EFL Youth Alliance Group B with a 2-0 win over Rochdale.

The first goal was scored by Scotland under-18 left back Luke Robinson with a beautifully struck free kick from well outside the penalty box. Another Scotland under-18 player, Kyle Joseph, got Wigan’s second with an opportunist tap-in. Wigan’s England under-17 striking sensation, Joe Gelhardt, did not play and his teammate at national level, Jensen Weir, came on after 88 minutes. Click here to see the highlights.

The Youth Alliance is effectively the third tier of U18 football. The Alliance consists of 49 teams divided into four groups on a geographical basis. The vast majority come from clubs in League 1 and League 2.

Although Gelhardt, Joseph, Robinson and Weir represent their countries at international level they are confined to the third tier of English youth football. They cannot play in the top tier Premier U18 League or in the second tier Professional Development League.

Over 23 years the Whelan family pumped in some £100m to keep Wigan afloat in the higher levels of English football. Like so many football clubs in the country, Wigan Athletic have rarely been able to accumulate enough revenue to exceed their outgoings. Put simply, the Whelans have had to constantly subsidise the club for it to punch above its weight.

Despite eight years in the Premier League and an FA Cup win, Latics still have a small fan base compared with most clubs in the Championship division. In order to keep the fan base that they have it has been necessary to keep ticket costs that a level that has been economically unfavourable for the club. Moreover, commercial revenues have been low compared with other clubs in the upper tiers.

The IEC, through the guidance of executive chairman, Darren Royle, will surely look at increasing commercial revenues. Royle will review season ticket prices in due course, but even a 20% increase in prices would not bring the club anywhere near to breaking even, let alone risk reducing the fan base. The club is basically a loss maker, as are the majority in the Championship with wages exceeding revenues. Barring significant sums coming in over the January transfer window Latics will lose in excess of £10m in the current season, in an attempt to consolidate in the division.

Royle has set his sights on a return to the Premier League for the club, although he has not given any kind of timeline for it. His strategy is based on building a strong academy which can provide a constant stream of players for the first team. The first step is investing in the kinds of facilities and programmes that can elevate the Wigan Athletic academy to Category 2 status rather than the current Category 3.

There are 7 Championship clubs that have their youth teams in the Premier U18 League, that which consists of clubs with Category 1 academies.  Another 12 of them participate in the Professional Development League from clubs with Category 2 academies.

Should Latics gain Category 2 status they would be largely joining clubs whose senior sides are in the Premier League or the Championship. But it is to be noted that League 1 clubs Barnsley, Charlton Athletic, Coventry City, together with League 2 Colchester United and Crewe Alexandra also compete at that level.

There can be no doubt that Wigan’s talented youngsters would benefit from playing at a higher level that of the Youth Alliance. The move towards Category 2 status is to be commended. However, so often in recent years the club has had exciting young players whose development has been limited by lack of opportunity within the club. So many have fallen by the wayside.

Critics will say that the club has so often nurtured young players on loan from upper tier clubs at the expense of its homegrown talent. It is something that Royle will need to look at in terms of not only developing homegrown youth, but as a part of overall recruitment policy.

Jensen Weir (left) and Joe Gelhardt.
Photo courtesy of skysports.com

 

Where will the likes of Gelhardt and Weir be some five years from now?

Let’s hope they too don’t fall by the wayside.

 

 

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Difficult times ahead for Paul Cook after the Sun’s news of a Chinese takeover?

The Sun newspaper’s revelation that Dave Whelan is about to sell much of his majority shareholding to a Chinese consortium does not come as a surprise. As far back as April we published an article regarding such a buy-out.

But if the thing actually does happen over the coming weeks will it affect the promotion push under Paul Cook and is it something that could prove beneficial in the long-run?

Cook is no stranger to such events. Indeed he found himself in a difficult situation at Portsmouth over summer with American billionaire Michael Eisner in the process of buying the club. There was talk about Eisner bringing in a Director of Football above Cook, but more than anything else the manager was caught in a situation of uncertainty. It was surely a major factor in his moving to Wigan.

There is speculation as to whether David Sharpe would continue if the takeover materialises, possibly with a minority shareholding in the club. Such a move would be welcomed by most supporters who would see it as a means of ensuring a degree of continuity.

The Sun’s report did not mention a particular critical item regarding a possible sale. The DW Stadium is not owned by Latics, but belongs to a company controlled by Whelan. It is unlikely that a consortium would want to buy a club unless it had a stadium to play in. Would a stadium sale happen concurrent with the sale of the club? Or would Whelan come to a long term agreement regarding the rental of stadium facilities?

In the meantime Latics play at Gillingham tomorrow night and Blackpool on Saturday. It is to be hoped that the news will not upset the positive mood among the players and Cook and his staff.

Assuming that Cook stays promotion is a strong possibility. It is to be hoped that any possible ownership changes will not upset the momentum that Latics have gained on the field of play over these recent months.