The financial side of keeping a nucleus for League 1

“Que sera sera…..whatever will be will be….we’re going to Shrewsbury….que sera sera

So sang a group of Wigan Athletic supporters. It certainly took the wind out of the sails of the “going down” taunts of home fans at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday.

Shrewsbury is certainly a pleasant place to visit. Its football team has competed in each of the three EFL divisions. Their New Meadow stadium holds 9,375. Shrewsbury Town met Manchester United in the FA Cup in February 2016. They lost 3-0, which is not surprising given the fact that the Shrews had a wage bill of £2.5 m compared with £210 m of United.

In fact the Shrewsbury wage bill is typical of many clubs in League 1. According to an interesting article on the Daily Mail site, the average salary of a League 1 footballer in 2014-15 was £69,500. It compared with £324,200 in the Championship. The ratio of the average salaries is 1 to 4.7.

There are strong arguments to suggest that the league positions of clubs in the Championship division correlate to their wage bills. In their first season back in the Championship Wigan Athletic finished in a playoff place. The wage bill was around £30 m. Clubs in mid-table would typically have wage bills averaging £20 m.

Latics’ reputed wage bill for the current season is around £17 m. Assuming they were to trim next year’s wage bill according to, say, that previous ratio of average salaries between the two divisions, it would give a figure of around £3.6 m. In 2015-16, still buoyed by parachute payments, Latics had a wage bill of around £6 m in League 1, reportedly second highest after that of Sheffield United.

So at what level will David Sharpe pitch the wage bill for the coming season? As in the Championship there is some degree of correlation between wage bills and success on the playing field in League 1. If the club is to break even financially next season what kind of wage bill would be realistic? Moreover will the club be able to slash its wage bill as successfully as it did in the summer of 2015, when faced with a drop down to the third tier?

In 2015-16 Latics finished top of League 1 with an average attendance of 9,467. Shrewsbury Town finished in 14th place with an average of 5,407. The average attendance for the division was 7,163. Wigan’s cheapest adult season ticket cost  £250 while Shrewsbury’s was £285.

David Sharpe took a bold step in reducing season ticket prices for the club’s return to the Championship. Renewals were pitched at £179, with a price of £199 for new purchasers. The levels were uneconomic compared with those of competitor clubs, but Sharpe was clearly hoping to not only hold on to the core support, but to attract others. With just one match to go in the Championship season Wigan’s average home attendance is 11,560 up by more than 2,000 from the previous season in League 1. However, the bigger clubs in the Championship have brought sizeably larger away support than had those in League 1.

Rumour suggests that the club will maintain the levels of season tickets prices for the coming season. If this is so the £179 price would be almost 40% less than the figure of £295 to be offered by Shrewsbury Town for the coming  season. Moreover should Latics not be as successful as they were last time in League 1 attendances will surely fall. The match day revenue differentials between Wigan and Shrewsbury could merge closer.

Put simply potential match revenues for Wigan Athletic will in no way suffice to give them a competitive advantage over most of their rivals. Some would say that under Gary Caldwell Latics had bought their way out of League 1, having a wage bill twice that of most of their rivals. That was made possible by the parachute payments they were receiving at the time. However, now that the parachute era has come to an end, how can Latics get a financial advantage over most of their competitors in League 1?

One solution is to sell off assets. The second is for the ownership to provide the necessary funding.

The saleable assets Latics have are their players. The club’s main asset, Yanic Wildschut, was sold in January for a hefty premium. Early in the season Will Grigg would have been another major asset: he was scoring goals and looking comfortable in the higher division. It was sad to see how the player later found himself either warming the bench, playing as a lone centre forward with a derisory lack of support, or being played out of position. A player who could have probably drawn a transfer fee in excess of £5 m is now not such an attraction on the transfer market. Better to keep Grigg who has a superb record of goalscoring in League 1.

Nick Powell will surely be on his way. After months out through injury he roared back with spectacular performances as a super sub. In doing so, Powell put himself in the shop window. Dan Burn is another player who has caught the eye and will surely be of interest to Championship clubs. Burn was already an experienced Championship level player when arriving on a free transfer from Fulham. He has since developed a level of self-confidence  previously lacking. Between the two, Latics could possibly raise around £5 m on the market.

Omar Bogle was the most exciting of the January signings. Having scored a lot of goals for Grimsby he arrived brimming with confidence and style. But after a promising start Bogle was to wilt under  a horrible burden put on him by Joyce: that of being the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Injury too was to hold him back. Like Grigg, his potential transfer value has plummeted. But the likelihood is that either Grigg or Bogle will be sold, albeit at a discounted price.

Max Power was almost sold to Birmingham City in January. Although he did not have the season he would have liked, Power remains one of the more saleable assets. Sam Morsy too is a player who could be sought by Championship clubs.

Last weekend Jonathan Jackson stated that “There will be some changes in the squad, but we want to keep the core there.”

Goalkeeper Matt Gilks and ex-captain Craig Morgan will be two of those core members who continue. Gilks was only signed in January on an 18 month contract and Morgan recently signed a two year extension to his contract. The long-term injured players – Donervon Daniels, Reece James, Andy Kellett and Shaun MacDonald – will also be staying. Alex Gilbey is another who has not been able to play in recent games after coming back from long-term injury. Latics will be hoping at least some of those players will be available for the beginning of next season.

It is difficult to predict who else will stay to provide a core for the coming season. The club is going to have to slash its wage bill some 60-70% to be financially viable. Put simply more than half of the players currently under contract are likely to depart over summer, many on free transfers. Others will be sent off on loan.

The players currently under contract for the coming season are:

Goalkeepers: Matt Gilks, Dan Lavercombe

Full Backs – Luke Burke, Reece James.

Centre backs: Dan Burn, Jake Buxton, Donervon Daniels, Jack Hendry, Craig Morgan.

Midfielders: Jack Byrne, Alex Gilbey, Andy Kellett, Josh Laurent, Shaun MacDonald, Sam Morsy, Max Power, Danny Whitehead.

Forwards: Nathan Byrne, Omar Bogle, Ryan Colclough, Will Grigg, Michael Jacobs, Mikael Mandron, Sanmi Odelusi, Nick Powell, Kaiyne Woolery.

The amount of turnover at the end of the 2015 season was remarkable, with 31 incomings and 44 outgoings, including loan players.

Latics currently have seven whose contracts are due to expire – Jordan Flores, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Billy Mckay, Gabriel Obertan, David Perkins, Andrew Taylor and Stephen Warnock. There are another eight players whose loans are coming to an end.

In 2015 Gary Caldwell had already been installed as manager to oversee the massive turnover that took place over the summer.

At this stage we do not know who the next manager is going to be and there have been mutterings about taking the time to choose the right man for the job.

But given a mountain of a task ahead we might well see an appointment made sooner rather than later.
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Warnock – a great signing for Latics

Warnock

The “New Era” recruitment team at Wigan Athletic already had an impressive record, but the announcement of the signing of Stephen Warnock is really the icing on the cake. Warnock turned 34 in December and his loan signing might be short term, but with over 200 career appearances at Premier League level he will surely have much to offer in League 1.

The long term injury to Reece James and a two game suspension  for Chris McCann left Gary Caldwell short of options at left back/left wing back. Against Peterborough on Saturday he moved Reece Wabara across from the right to play there, while McCann was rested on the bench.  The 22 year old Andy Kellett had been signed as the back-up left sided defender, but in most of his appearances he has been played further forward. Moreover Kellett has been dogged by injury. His last first team appearance was against Gillingham in early January.

Warnock was born in Ormskirk and has two caps for England. He came through the Liverpool youth system, going through loan spells at Bradford City and Coventry City when in his early twenties. He went on to make 40 Premier League appearances for Liverpool before moving on to Blackburn and Aston Villa, subsequently dropping down to the Championship in 2012 with a loan move to Bolton. He was then to move on to Leeds United before signing for Derby County in January 2015.

Warnock has made 30 appearances in the Championship for the Rams, but the arrival of a new manager in January has seen his first team opportunities become limited.

With James still injured and McCann serving a two match suspension we can expect Warnock to go straight in the team for the visit to Colchester on Saturday. Moreover his arrival gives Caldwell more flexibility in being able to use McCann in the centre of defence or midfield.

The performance on Saturday was surely affected by losing three players to injury by half time. Jussi Jaaskelainen and Jason Pearce are key players in the promotion push and Caldwell will be hoping they will be back for Saturday. He will also hope that Conor McAleny will be back soon, although he has an obvious replacement in Haris Vuckic. Kevin McNaughton is getting closer to full fitness and will surely challenge Reece Wabara and Donervon Daniels for the right back position over the coming weeks. A back four of McNaughton, Craig Morgan, Pearce and Warnock would rank among the most experienced and accomplished in the division.

When Michael Jacobs was in injured at Crewe at the end of January it looked like Latics would be short on creativity, although the signing of Ryan Colclough has certainly helped. However, Jacobs was one of the main driving forces in the new era side until his injury, one of the best attacking midfielders in the division.

The return of Jacobs, apparently still a couple of weeks away in terms of fitness, together with the advent of Warnock could be crucial in the bid for promotion.

Warnock is a terrific addition to the squad, albeit with just 11 league games to go.

Fan views – Part 2: Andy Kellett and Haris Vuckic

Given that we now have a wider readership than in our earlier days we will occasionally republish articles from our archives, that some may not have seen. We ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Our site stats have shown that our readership has been particularly interested in perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs. Thanks to contributions made by bloggers on the fan sites of those clubs for these articles from our archives.

Click here for our previous fan views on Yanic Widschut and Jordy Hiwula.

 

A Bolton fan’s view of Andy Kellett

Date: September 2, 2015

 

The lasting memory of transfer deadline day from times gone by usually hindered around Harry Redknapp talking to reporters from his car, or crowds gathering at stadiums and training grounds with indescribable adult-themed objects.

A new trend seems to have been set, however, and that is ‘Transfer Deadline Day = Andy Kellett is on the move’.

Having spent the early part of last season on loan at Plymouth Argyle, Kellett had looked set to return to Home Park only to become one of the country’s biggest talking points when he sealed an 11th-hour switch to Manchester United back in February.

United were short of options at full-back, but the move baffled supporters of both clubs. As predicted, though, Kellett’s time at Old Trafford was consigned to the development squad that would eventually go on to win the Under-21 Premier League title.

Kellett signed on at Wanderers as a seven-year old and, having impressed at youth level, made his senior debut in April 2014 – making a total of three appearances before the end of the 2013/14 campaign.

Hopes were high for the hometown boy, but a change in management seemed to put the brakes on his progression and it quickly became obvious that he just wasn’t rated by Neil Lennon.

His big chance arrived in a game at Rotherham United in January, prior to his United move, but a shambolic performance from the entire team saw Kellett sacrificed after 51 minutes – at 3-0 down – and he hasn’t been anywhere near the first-team since.

Kellett was a popular figure amongst the Bolton fans, many of whom believe he should have been given more of an opportunity. But Lennon has granted chances to the likes of Zach Clough, Josh Vela and Tom Walker, while a group of other names are also on the verge of breaking through, so the manager has shown he will put his faith in youth if he deems them good enough.

It’s a shame to see him leave, but Kellett had entered the final year of his contract and wasn’t being considered for what has been a position lacking in cover. Lennon hasn’t made many mistakes in terms of player recruitment so far, so we’ll trust his judgement and wish Kellett the best of luck down the road.

A Rotherham Fan’s view of Haris Vuckic

Vuckic

 

Written by: It’s Millers Time @millerstimerufc)

Date published : September 3, 2015

 

 

Vuckic has good experience of League One having spent more than half the season on loan at Rotherham in 2013/14.

At the time, he was a bit raw and untested and was used mainly as a substitute by boss Steve Evans, but he did make an impact.

He can play as an out-and-out striker, in a target man role, is comfortable playing behind the main striker and can also be employed on the left. He is tall, has good aerial ability, but also can run with the ball and beat men.

A Rangers fan’s view of Haris Vuckic

Written by:  Stewart Franklin of Gersnet Independent Rangers Fansite gersnet.co.uk @GersnetOnline

Date published: September 3, 2015

When Haris Vuckic signed for Rangers on loan from Newcastle in the January transfer window, it’s safe to say the transfer initially polarised supporter opinion. Although the player’s reputation was impressive enough, conflict between Rangers and Mike Ashley’s Newcastle, meant many Light Blue fans were suspicious of any deal between the clubs – never mind five loan players arriving from the North East.

Vuckic’s first game didn’t help. Although he played reasonably well and scored a fine individual goal, Rangers were beaten 2-1 at home by Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup so the jury remained out. Nevertheless, as the other Newcastle loanees struggled to feature through a combination of injury and illness, Vuckic was able to retain his place in the team going forward. Indeed, a change of manager also improved our form through the rest of the campaign and, it’s fair to say, Vuckic was central to our attempts to achieve promotion back to the Scottish Premiership.

In that sense, the Slovenian not only supplied several excellent goals himself but was a creative force in the side. Mainly featuring in wider positions, Vuckic had the strength and ability to take the ball in and, despite a lack of genuine pace, could beat players in any area of the park. It was through this contribution, Rangers fans started to warm to the player and many fans were certainly open to the idea of a permanent move. Unfortunately, the end of the season wasn’t quite as positive. Vuckic’s form dropped off and in our two final play-off defeats against Motherwell, his flaws were all to obvious and the player struggled to affect these vital games as he had previous matches. Despite an excellent return of 9 goals in 16 appearances his loan spell ultimately ended in disappointment as Rangers failed in their promotion attempt.

In June, Mark Warburton took control and Rangers’ style of play completely changed. The team went from playing an awkward blend of direct football to a fast, free-flowing possession game. Over ten new players arrived (including Tavernier, Waghorn and Kiernan from Wigan) and Rangers have started the season very well. Despite this, the club were still linked with Vuckic through August and the player himself was quoted in the Slovenian media as being happy to return to Scotland. However, our new style of play suggested these rumours were never going to come to fruition and the player moved to the Latics as the transfer window earlier closed this week.

To conclude, I’d suggest Wigan have signed a decent player. Vuckic won’t win you games on his own and there were will be periods where he can go missing. However, he’s clearly talented, will create and score goals if used effectively (probably best playing just off another striker in a free role) and will prove a key signing as Wigan attempt to make their way back to the English Championship. A contract extension at Newcastle suggests the North East club still have faith in the lad and I think Rangers fans will also keenly follow his development. Certainly this will be a big year for the lad’s career and only time will tell if he can show the kind of genuine consistency to fulfil his early potential.”

All the best for the new season and thanks for the three lads above who’ve all started well! Amazed we got them so cheaply from you chaps!

 

 

 

A Bolton fan’s view of Andy Kellett

Photo courtesy of Manchester United magazine

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of 21 year old full back/wing back Andy Kellett from Bolton Wanderers.

Kellett was born in Bolton and came through the Wanderers academy to make his first team debut as a substitute against Leicester City in April 2014. He again came off the bench in the next match against Sheffield Wednesday. In October Kellett joined League 2 club Plymouth Argyle on a one month loan, which was extended a further month.He was to make 12 appearances, scoring one goal .

Although Kellett was more likely expecting a return to Plymouth in the second half of the season he was to join Manchester United on loan in early February 2015. A Daily Telegraph  article tells how Bolton’s first team coach Garry Parker broke the news to Kellett of United’s interest in him.

“Sit down Andy, We’ve got some good news and some bad news. “You’re not going back to Plymouth,” was the bad news. After that body blow, Kellett asked to hear the good.“You’re going to Manchester United,” Parker said.

Kellett went on to make 10 appearances for United’s development squad before returning to Bolton.

In order to learn more about Kellett we reached out to Chris Mann of the Burnden Aces fan site http://www.burndenaces.co.uk (Twitter @BurndenAces ).

Here’s over to Chris:

The lasting memory of transfer deadline day from times gone by usually hindered around Harry Redknapp talking to reporters from his car, or crowds gathering at stadiums and training grounds with indescribable adult-themed objects.

A new trend seems to have been set, however, and that is ‘Transfer Deadline Day = Andy Kellett is on the move’.

Having spent the early part of last season on loan at Plymouth Argyle, Kellett had looked set to return to Home Park only to become one of the country’s biggest talking points when he sealed an 11th-hour switch to Manchester United back in February.

United were short of options at full-back, but the move baffled supporters of both clubs. As predicted, though, Kellett’s time at Old Trafford was consigned to the development squad that would eventually go on to win the Under-21 Premier League title.

Kellett signed on at Wanderers as a seven-year old and, having impressed at youth level, made his senior debut in April 2014 – making a total of three appearances before the end of the 2013/14 campaign.

Hopes were high for the hometown boy, but a change in management seemed to put the brakes on his progression and it quickly became obvious that he just wasn’t rated by Neil Lennon.

His big chance arrived in a game at Rotherham United in January, prior to his United move, but a shambolic performance from the entire team saw Kellett sacrificed after 51 minutes – at 3-0 down – and he hasn’t been anywhere near the first-team since.

Kellett was a popular figure amongst the Bolton fans, many of whom believe he should have been given more of an opportunity. But Lennon has granted chances to the likes of Zach Clough, Josh Vela and Tom Walker, while a group of other names are also on the verge of breaking through, so the manager has shown he will put his faith in youth if he deems them good enough.

It’s a shame to see him leave, but Kellett had entered the final year of his contract and wasn’t being considered for what has been a position lacking in cover. Lennon hasn’t made many mistakes in terms of player recruitment so far, so we’ll trust his judgement and wish Kellett the best of luck down the road.