A Motherwell fan’s view of Cedric Kipre

 

On Friday Wigan Athletic announced the signing of Cedric Kipre from Motherwell on a three-year contract. The fee was not disclosed but reports suggest it could reach £1m including add-ons. The 21-year-old is the third Motherwell player to sign for Latics in the last 20 years following on from Lee McCulloch and Steve McMillan.

On signing the 6 ft 3 in tall player Paul Cook commented: “Cedric is a strong, powerful and athletic defender, who we have been monitoring some time. He is at a great age to develop his game after a really good season with Motherwell and I am looking forward to working with him.”

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson opined: “Although it’s with a heavy heart that we lose Cédric, his progress over the last year has been remarkable and it’s little wonder English Championship clubs have been circling. He has the potential to go all the way to the top in my opinion and we very much wish him well in his future career. He will always be welcome back at Fir Park.”

Kipre went on to make his Latics debut against Sheffield Wednesday the following day, looking calm and assured at the centre of defence.

Cedric Kipre was born in Paris of Ivorian parents and played youth football at Paris St Germain. At the age of 17 he joined Leicester City, playing for their U18 and U21 teams in his first season. He next played for the U23 side but could not break into the senior squad. In September 2015 Kipre went on a month’s loan to Corby Town in the National League North, making an impressive debut against Boston United. Manager Tommy Wright commented “Cedric looked the real deal. He was strong, powerful, very good technically on the ball and he was a breath of fresh air.”  Kipre went on to play two more games for the Steelmen.

In the summer of 2017 after being released from Leicester Kipre went to Motherwell for a trial, impressing enough to be offered a one-year contract. He became a regular starter for his new club, which had a successful season in finishing in 7th place and reaching the finals of the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup. Kipre made 49 appearances for the Steelmen, together with a debut for Ivory Coast U-23 side in March 2018 against Togo.

In order to learn more about Kipre’s time at Motherwell we contacted Andrew Paterson of the Steelmen Online site (https://www.steelmenonline.co.uk).

Here’s over to Andrew:

We knew it would happen.  We knew he would go.  We just hoped we’d have him with us for a little bit longer.

 If that reads almost obituary like it kind of feels like it is.  Our Cédric. Gone!  If only to pastures new thankfully rather than the big fitba pitch in the sky.

 So what can I can tell you about Cédric? 

 Well, in truth when he lined up on trial in pre-season last summer it was his compatriot Bira Dembele who actually impressed more and there was a tinge of disappointment when he elected to return to France rather than join us.

 How much truth there was in Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson’s claim some months later that he was always going to sign Cédric I don’t know, but there’s more than one of our support who think back and breathe a sigh of relief that Motherwell couldn’t meet Dembele’s financial demands.

 It would be fair to say that Kipré’s rise in prominence was rapid. 

 The thought was that he would settle into life in Scotland in Motherwell’s U20 side and perhaps as the season progressed he might breakthrough with the odd appearance here and there. In fact he played more minutes in domestic games in Scotland than any other top flight player.

 Initially signing on a one year contract it was immediately apparent that the club had to tie him down on a longer deal and just weeks into the 2017’18 season he had signed an extension on better terms.  It would be extended again in April 2018.

 But why?

 Cédric settled into Scottish football instantly.  From the minute he was given his opportunity against Queen’s Park at Hampden in the League Cup he never looked back.

 His stature meant he wouldn’t be outmuscled by anybody but there is more to his game than just physicality and bodying opponents.  He has pace too and applied it occasionally to get himself and his team-mates out of trouble and also when demonstrating his willingness to bring the ball forward whenever an opportunity arose. 

 At just twenty-one there are still flaws in his game of course. He was on occasion susceptible to a losing track of a long aerial ball hit over the top but over the piece it was incredible to think we were watching a player that hadn’t played a single first team game before signing for us.

 It was more than just his footballing ability that endeared Kipré to the Motherwell support though.  We are fortunate that the media team at Fir Park are absolutely terrific in bringing us insights about our team.  Over the course of the season we warmed to a young guy who was quiet, unassuming and humble. A boy who could laugh at himself and was never slow in getting involved in team bonding activities.

 He quickly became a huge fans favourite and it’s sad to think that never again are the Motherwell Bois likely to launch into a rendition of the Kipré, Kipré” war cry. A chant he even sang himself when he featured on “Up the ‘Well” a club song reproduced by local band The Banter Thiefs to mark Motherwell reaching the Scottish Cup Final.

 Memories?  Plenty.  It remains a travesty he was red-carded in the League Cup Final against Celtic and his further red-card against the same opposition was equally ridiculous.  We’ll remember fondly his single goal for the club against Dundee where the celebrations amongst supporters were going on a good few minutes after the game had re-started. He had threatened to score a few times so when he did everyone was just ecstatic to see him finally do it.

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Five talking points arising from the Sheffield Wednesday game

Wigan Athletic 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2

Wigan Athletic rarely start the season with a victory, but this one was an exception. Not only did Latics pick up the three points, but they did it in style.

There were concerns about the back four, with three debutants starting alongside Chey Dunkley. Other than that Paul Cook had kept faith in the players who had performed with success last season, with the exception of Darron Gibson who was preferred to Max Power.

Entertainment returns to the DW Stadium

After last season when so many teams tried to “park the bus” at the DW this was refreshing. Wednesday had come to play an attacking game and Wigan more than matched them.

Latics had been 3-1 up when the Argentinian, Fernando Forestieri, finished off a slick move in the 67th minute. But rather than close the game down by packing their defence Latics continued to attack. There were some nervy moments for the Wigan defence with the 6 ft 3 in Wednesday substitute Lucas Joao causing problems after he joined the combative 6 ft 5 in Kosovan battering-ram Atdhe Nuhui up front. But at the other end Latics’ enterprising football caused constant problems for the Sheffield defence.

As the clock counted down one wondered whether we would see Cook’s team hold the ball in the corners, time-waste and keep possession in the manner that is so prevalent in the modern game. But to the manager’s great credit they did not do that, but continued to hone in on the Wednesday goal at every opportunity.

How many managers are there in the modern game who would do that?

Gibson silences his critics

Darron Gibson has had a frustrating career after starting at a young age for Manchester United. Niggling injuries and off the field issues have led to him not being able to realize his full potential. He had his critics among Latics fans even before he signed a short term contract with the club. But yesterday he surely silenced his critics.

The 30 year old played a key role in holding midfield, his vision and the precision of his passing adding an extra dimension to Latics’ play.

Jacobs and Massey excel

Michael Jacobs scored two opportunist goals, hit the woodwork with a cracking shot and played a key role in the third goal. Moreover he worked hard on the defensive side of his game, tireless in his harrying of the opposition.

There have been questions about the player’s ability to truly succeed in the second tier.  He was not an automatic choice at Derby or Wolves.  Although he was one of the first names on the team sheet under Gary Caldwell and Warren Joyce he struggled to dominate Championship defences in the 2016-17 season. But so often under Joyce he was chained to defensive duties at the expense of his attacking forte.

Yesterday he played at probably his highest level since he has been at Wigan. His intelligent movement and ability to find space made him a constant threat to the visiting defence. When he came on after the interval he received a great ovation from the crowd in the east stand following a sparkling first half. He looked like a player on a mission to show us that he can be a force in the Championship division. He went a long way towards proving that yesterday.

Gavin Massey too has had his doubters, but yesterday he looked a class act, showing blistering pace and a fine touch on the ball. Perhaps the second tier will be more to his liking, away from the up and tumble of League 1?

Two Dunkleys in defence?

The signing of Cedric Kipre from Motherwell was a surprise to most of us who had never heard of him before. On first sight some wag in the crowd suggested we have two Chey Dunkleys playing, likening the two players not only in their physique, but in their rugged defending. Another likened him to Arouna Kone who sported a similar hair style.

When Dunkley was signed from Oxford United he had only played one full season in league football. Dunkley proved himself to be a very capable player at League 1 level, although there were questions as to how he would cope in a higher division. He had a fine game yesterday dealing with Nuhui who has been a thorn in the side for previous Latics teams.

Kipre too has only had one season of league football, that being in the SPL.  But he looked a force to be reckoned with yesterday, with not only an imposing physique, but pace to match.

Is Dan Burn leaving?

The signing of Kipre raised concerns among fans that Dan Burn might be leaving. This was backed up today by reports suggesting that Brighton have offered £3m for him.

Once again it may be mere speculation but Latics fans will be hoping there is no truth in it. Burn is a prize asset with a wealth of experience in the Championship, a key player in Cook’s team.

However, Burn is not the only one who could be gone in the coming week, with the club still having not tied down contracts with so many of its top players.

The uplifting start to the season could soon fall flat if Burn or other such pivotal players depart. But we have become accustomed to the wheeler-dealing that happens as the transfer deadline approaches. If one of more of those players does leave we can surely expect more new arrivals.

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Change is in the air at Latics

The Liverpool Echo article, published on June 18, told us that the IEG would appoint Joe Royle as Director of Football at Wigan Athletic were a takeover to take place. The 69-year-old would use his experience and contacts to recruit new players for the club.

But six weeks have since passed, the takeover has not yet happened and the EFL transfer window closes on August 9. Paul Cook remains tight-lipped in his comments about the takeover, although Alan Nixon’s tweet gives us an inkling as to the climate in which the manager is currently working.

Nixon remains the main source of titbits about the current situation at Wigan Athletic. He is particularly active on Twitter, where his accessibility gives fans the chance to ask him for information on their clubs.

If Nixon is correct about the takeover being likely to happen in mid-August, what does it mean for recruitment up to August 9?

Up to this point Cook has signed three players on permanent contracts over the summer. Kal Naismith was recruited as a free agent from Portsmouth. Callum McManaman took a pay cut to come back to Wigan from Sunderland. Although the fee is “undisclosed” it could well be minimal, as the north east club look towards slashing their costs following relegation to the third tier. However, Cook was allowed to splash cash in acquiring Leonardo da Silva Lopes for some £750,000-plus from Peterborough. But given the uncertainty regarding the ownership of the club, will funds be made available for him to compete on an even keel in the transfer market?

Given the norms over recent seasons at the club and the continued tenure of David Sharpe as chairman the likelihood is that Cook will have to recoup funds from transfer fees before spending further. Both Ryan Colclough and Devante Cole are likely to be leaving soon, whether on permanent transfers or loans. James McClean has moved from West Bromwich to Stoke for some £5m, with Latics reportedly due to receive a sell-on fee amounting to somewhere between 15% to 20%.

Rumours have suggested that Cook has been interested in signing Bradford City centre forward Charlie Wyke, with the Bantams asking for £750,000. However, the player has a knee injury which may deter current interest.

In early May reports told us that Everton were interested in signing the 19-year-old Callum Lang, whose contract is due to expire next summer. There has since been no news from Wigan about an extended contract for the player who was not in the squads for the pre-season games at Tranmere, Chesterfield and Rangers. Should a reasonable offer come in for Lang in the next 10 days it will be interesting to see if Latics are willing to let go a young player of significant potential.

But Lang is not the only player in the last year of his contract. The list includes last season’s regulars Dan Burn, Nathan Byrne, Gavin Massey, Sam Morsy, Nick Powell and Max Power, together with Jordan Flores, Shaun MacDonald and James Vaughan. No news has been forthcoming from the club about new contracts being signed and the transfer deadline approaches. The Whelan family policy in the past has typically been that players can leave if Latics are offered what they consider the right price. It is in the club’s interests to tie down contracts to those that Cook wants to keep, rather than have them leave as free agents next summer. The worst-case scenario is key players leaving close to the transfer deadline, with no replacements in hand.

The EFL brought forward the closing date of the summer transfer window from September 1 to August 9 for the 2018-19 season. However, the deadline for signing loan players and free agents is August 31. The Sun newspaper suggested on Sunday that should the Wigan takeover happen in time then Callum Connolly, Kieran Dowell and Antonee Robinson might be loan targets. Connolly is known from his previous spell at the DW where he was used as a right back. Dowell is an attacking midfield player and Robinson a left back, both with successful experience on loan in the Championship. Of the three it is Robinson who would most likely to the main target for Cook, given his problems with the left back position. However, a return for Callum Elder from Leicester cannot be ruled out, whether on another loan or a permanent transfer.

Matthew Pennington is a 23-year-old central defender for whom Leeds United paid a reported £500,000 loan fee to make 24 appearances for them last season.

Meanwhile we await a decision on 30-year-old midfielder Darron Gibson’s future at Wigan. Cook already has McDonald, Morsy and Power vying for holding midfield positions, but Gibson’s experience could be useful. The other trialists, James Perch and Ross Wallace, are reported to have left the club. Perch is an old fan favourite at Wigan and many were hoping he would be signed. His versatility in being able to play anywhere in the defence or in holding midfield must have been a plus. Some fans suggested Cook might have had him in mind for the left back position but given the way the manager employed his full backs last season it was unlikely. Moreover, the player had injury problems last season and made only 6 league starts for QPR.

Change is certainly in the air at Wigan Athletic, with ownership issues clouding recruitment policy. The interaction between the Whelan family and IEG is not known to the public. Rumours have been circulated that Joe Royle has attended recent games and together with Nixon’s tweets about Everton loan players it appears that there have been efforts to provide a smooth transition in the control of the club. Moreover, the implications are that it is IEG who have been providing financial support over the summer rather than the Whelans.

Ownership issues apart, we have learned that activity increases as the transfer deadline approaches. Latics fans will be hoping that Cook can keep hold of the players who formed the backbone of the successes of last season. Many will say that Gary Caldwell lost momentum by not keeping faith in the players that were in his League 1 winning squad. Cook has already made it clear that he believes in loyalty and we can expect most of those players to make the starting line-up against Sheffield Wednesday. He has also made it clear that he needs more new players.

Following the defeat at Ibrox we have seen some gloomy comments on the social media and message boards. However, Rangers were always going to be a difficult proposition, playing in front of a large home crowd and being ahead in their physical preparation having already played three matches in the Europa League qualifiers. One of the key features of last season was the solidity of the defence, aided by having a consistent back four. Following Dan Burn’s departure at half time, Latics had only Chey Dunkley present from the back four that finished the season. The defence will surely tighten up when Cook finds a competent specialist left back to play with Burn, Dunkley and Nathan Byrne.

In the meantime, we need to prepare ourselves for the rollercoaster ride that comes as the transfer deadline approaches. That deadline has been brought significantly forward, but did the EFL have to agree on the same dates as the Premier League, whose season starts a week later? The result is that managers at EFL clubs continue to be vulnerable to losing key players when the season has already started.

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A Peterborough fan’s view of Leonardo da Silva

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of the 19 year-old midfielder/winger Leo Da Silva from Peterborough United for an undisclosed fee. The 5 ft 6 in tall player has signed a four-year contract.

Although the Posh owner refers to a seven figure fee, the Wigan Post reports that it was not so high.

On signing Da Silva, Wigan manager Paul Cook was enthused stating that:

“Leo has been one of the best young players in the EFL over the past couple of seasons, this is a really strong addition to our squad. I am looking forward to working with Leo and believe he will embrace the challenge of Championship football here at Wigan Athletic. Everyone has to remember Leo is just 19 and has his best years ahead of him but he certainly has the foundations to become a top level player.”

Leonardo Da Silva Lopes was born in Lisbon and moved to England at the age of 12. He joined the Posh as a 14 year-old, making his first team debut at 16 starting in a home game against Crawley Town in April 2015. He made another start the following week in the last game of the 2014-15 season at Oldham. The following season he made 4 league starts, with 4 appearances as a substitute. However, in 2016-17 Da Silva became more established, making 32 league starts, 6 appearances off the bench, scoring 2 goals. Last season he made 28 league starts with 11 substitute appearances. Although still only 19, he made over 100 appearances in all competitions at Peterborough. He has also been called into the Portugal under-21 squad.

To learn more about Da Silva’s time at Peterborough we contacted a couple of Posh fans through Twitter:

Nathan Brown (@NathanBrown_95) commented that:

His strengths were his speed, pace, athleticism, his versatility as well. His weaknesses would be confidence, his reliance on trickery.. his upper body strength.

He wasn’t popular with many fans and that’s hampered his development at the club, but of the fans who did like him, we felt he had potential and just needed proper coaching and a confidence boost, an arm around the shoulder really.

James Bloodworth (@Jamesb17_)  gave an overview:

 I’m going to assume that the vast majority of Wigan fans reading don’t know a great deal about your shiny new million pound signing, beyond the fact he’s come from a bit of a naff 3rd division club and has a big reputation. If you want a basic outline of what you’ve got on your hands in terms of playing style, I’d say if I was building a 5 a side team from last season’s squad, LDSL would be my first pick. However, if I was choosing a full XI the youngster would be near the bottom…

 Don’t get me wrong, he has an excellent dribbling ability; some tricks and flicks he has in his locker are beyond the average league 1 player’s imagination, let alone their skill set. A terrific engine too: he’d probably cope just as well at the local athletics club doing 10,000m as he will do at The DW. But that, unfortunately is where the positives end. If Leo has a grade A in trickery, he has an F in footballing intelligence. His spatial awareness is poor, and his knack of making the wrong decisions or executing the right ones poorly didn’t help endear himself to the Posh faithful. Neither did his overly laid back style. Nor his below average final ball. All of this accumulated to Leo’s final stats for us: 108 games, 6 goals. For an attacking midfielder, that is poor. What is even more concerning is that in spite of playing over 50 games in the season just gone, Lopes scored 0 goals and got one assist. He did not contribute in a positive way at all.

 I do have sympathy for the 19 year old, who was spotted playing in the Peterborough and District Junior league five years ago. We first heard of a ‘special talent coming through the youth ranks’ in 2014. A free scoring attacking midfielder with an eye for a spectacular goal. What’s not to like?

 Throughout his first two seasons, he was slowly inducted into the first team squad. 3 managers came and went in that time, and none of them gave Leo more than a token appearance here and there. Then, in the summer of 2016, Posh legend Grant McCann took the reins, and Lopes was thrust into the limelight. From the reserves to first eleven virtually overnight, Leo was no longer a kid that we wanted to do well, he was a first teamer who had to do well. Lopes was a virtual ever present throughout the latter stages of that calendar year, and it became clear it was all too much too soon. He needed a break, his career had accelerated far too quickly and it was clear he was not ready for such responsibility. Unfortunately, Peterborough United have become a club forced to sell to survive, and in the age of Dele Alli and Ademola Lookman moving from League 1 to the Premier League, Lopes was seen as our golden ticket. He continued to play, regardless of his countless poor performances, as we could not afford to let an asset go unsold.

 But he did. Despite *ahem* ‘interest’ from Tottenham and Arsenal, Lopes started 17/18 at London Road. Curiously though, as a wingback. Grant McCann’s tactical shift saw Lopes shoehorned into the side, and he struggled. His weak defensive skills were exploited, and before long, he was playing as a “number 10”. Then a winger. Then a defensive midfielder. I do have sympathy, as McCann’s poor management- which resulted in his contract being shredded in February- has hindered Lopes. His neat touches and engine are still his only assets, when he should have improved other fundamental skills to make him a genuine attacking weapon.

 As has been alluded to, Lopes became somewhat of a political pawn. He was that much of a mainstay in the team when it was clear he didn’t belong there, that some speculated he was being played on instruction from the boardroom. A frustration that should have been aimed at McCann and the hierarchy ended up being centred on Leo, and the weight of expectation from the club and lack of patience from the fanbase hindered him. The bottom line though has to be, Lopes was not good enough for us last year, and was being played in the hope somebody bought him. Some fans thought he is good enough to reach the Premier League. Others were rather harsh in saying that LDSL would look out of his depth in a pub side. I’m in the middle: he’s currently operating at League 2/ Conference level,and should really have had a loan spell before he became such a polarising figure.

 

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A Portsmouth fan’s view of Kal Naismith

 

Wigan Athletic have announced that Kal Naismith will be signing a three year contract, commencing July 1. The 6 ft 1 in Naismith had decided to leave Portsmouth at the end of a three year deal. Although usually employed as a winger he can also play in the number 10 role or at centre forward.

The 26-year-old Kallum Naismith was born in Glasgow and is a product of the Rangers youth system, representing Scotland at U-16 and U-17 levels. In September 2010, at the age of 18, he and fellow ‘Gers player Kyle Hutton were abducted and robbed in Edinburgh, but fortunately suffered no injuries.

Naismith was sent to Cowdenbeath for the first half of the 2011-12 season and made his debut in senior football in early September 2011 in a 3-2 home win over East Fife. A couple of weeks later he scored both goals in a 2-1 home win against Albion Rovers. Naismith left Cowdenbeath in January 2012 after making 9 appearances, moving up a level  to Scottish Division 1 on loan at Partick Thistle. He made 4 starts and 4 appearances off the bench for the Jags by the end of the season.

Following that season away on loan, Naismith returned to Rangers who were then in Scottish Division 3. He made his senior debut in July 2012 in a League Cup victory over Brechin City. Naismith went on to make 4 starts with 13 substitute appearances in the 2012-13 season, scoring one goal.

After leaving Rangers in the summer of 2013 by mutual consent, Naismith went on trial at League 2 Accrington Stanley, subsequently signing for them. In mid-October 2104 he suffered the tragic loss of his childhood sweetheart who died of a long-term illness. He went on to make 54 league starts, with 19 appearances off the bench, scoring 14 goals in two seasons at the Crown Ground.

In May 2015 Naismith joined previous manager, Paul Cook, at Portsmouth for an undisclosed fee. On signing he commented that “It’s brilliant to be here. I was at a massive club before in Rangers and this place has a similar feel to it. Just walking around gives me a buzz and I can’t wait to move down here properly and get started. I knew that the gaffer liked me, so I always had the move at the back of my mind when he took charge.”

On September 1, 2015, Naismith made his Pompey debut as a substitute in a Football League Trophy defeat at Exeter. During a three year stay at Fratton Park he made 51 league starts, with 31 substitute appearances, scoring 18 goals.

To learn more about Naismith’s time at Portsmouth we contacted Jim Bonner (@FrattonFaithful) of the Fratton Faithful fan site.

Here’s over to Jim:

Whilst it was no surprise Naismith joined Wigan, most Portsmouth fans believe it’s a step too far for him as he was Pompey’s most disappointing player last season.

 Kal is capable of taking a quality set-piece and can deliver some excellent crosses into the box when he is on form. However, despite being given plenty of opportunities to prove himself last season, he scored a paltry two league goals (one against your team and the other an absolute gift from Plymouth) and doesn’t have the pace to beat players on the wing. Championship defenders should also be too clever to be fooled by his tricks and should be able to predict what he is going to do. 

Pompey fans will always thank Kal for the huge role he played in the League Two title winning season and if Wigan fans want to see this as a positive signing, then Paul Cook may be able to get the best out of him as he did in the second half of the 2016/2017 season when he ended up as Pompey’s top scorer. 

 But he struggled to make any sort of impact whatsoever in the third tier and there’s simply no evidence to suggest he will cut it in the second, especially if he plays as a centre forward which clearly isn’t his best position as he is most likely to do some damage on the wings.

 Kal’s greatest contribution to our season was his stint in goal against Doncaster. He produced a superb instinctive save at the end of that game to ensure we didn’t lose.

Naismith may have the potential to get better but it’s unlikely and my prediction is that he will be sent on loan to Accrington Stanley or Coventry come January.

 

 

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