Some talking points following a good performance at Birmingham

Birmingham City 1 Wigan Athletic 1

 

After gifting a goal to Birmingham City with just two minutes gone Wigan Athletic fought back to gain a well-deserved point. But it could have been three points with more clinical finishing and more favourable treatment from the match officials.

Paul Cook made eight changes from the team that started against Preston, reverting to the 3-4-2-1 formation he employed at Bristol City. England Youth players, Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir, were on the bench, as was the 18-year-old Adam Long.

City’s early goal was a blow for Latics, but they took the game to the home team, carving out chances, with Nick Powell’s deflected equaliser coming in the 38th minute.

Following the game assistant manager, Leam Richardson, commented: “It’s a long season and you normally end up finishing where you deserve to. We did suffer with a few injuries in the middle of the season, but our lads have stuck at it and they’ve always believed that they’re good enough. They’ve stuck together and there haven’t been any fallings out. They’ve had their heads down every time they come back in after a game and worked hard to go again. We’re looking to finish our season strongly and the lads deserve great credit for sticking at it all year.”

Let’s take a look at some points arising:

Olsson recovers from early error. An improved display from Darron Gibson

As has so often happened this season Latics gave away a soft goal. With Jamie Jones rooted on his line Jonas Olsson failed to deal with Lukas Jutkiewicz’s run, the striker poking the ball home between Jones’ legs.

Olsson is 36 years old and his short-term contract is up in June. After making some 250 appearances for West Bromwich Albion he left them by mutual agreement in March 2017, returning to Sweden to join Stockholm club, Djurgardens.

It has been a tough return for Olsson who has not been able to claim a regular starting place. However, despite the early mix-up with Jones he went on to have possibly his best game to date for Latics. Cook wisely placed him at the centre of the back three where he could use his vast experience to help marshal the defence. The result was the defence held firm and limited the home team’s direct attempts on goal.

The 30-year-old Gibson too has had a tough time over recent months, but yesterday his performance was much improved in a holding midfield role.  His contract also expires in June.

In addition to Olsson and Gibson and the loan players there a number of others whose contracts expire shortly. They include Leon Clarke, Callum McManaman, Shaun MacDonald, Gavin Massey, and Nick Powell.

Gelhardt and Weir make their league debuts

The inclusion of the 16-year-old Joe Gelhardt and the 17-year-old Jensen Weir in the matchday squad was a welcome surprise, but we can scarcely have expected more than a brief appearance on the pitch for either. But Josh Windass’ injury led to Gelhardt being thrust into the action after the interval and he took the opportunity to impress. Despite robust challenges by Birmingham he was not deterred and showed a willingness to run at the home team’s defence. Naturally left-footed he was played on the right. Weir too came on after 81 minutes for Nick Powell, being employed in an attacking midfield role. However, with the game petering out in the closing minutes he was starved of possession and we did not get much of a glimpse as to what he is capable of.

Joe Gelhardt joined Latics at the age of 10. He made 6 appearances for the England under-16 side, scoring 3 goals, together with 7 goals in 12 outings for the England under-17 side. The Liverpool-born forward signed a three-year professional contract with the club in August after making his senior team debut at Rotherham in the Carabou Cup.

Jensen Weir, born in Warrington, is the son of ex-Everton centre half David Weir. He was captain of Scotland under-16s, for whom he made 9 appearances. Weir also played for Scotland at the under-17 level before switching allegiances to join the England under-17 team for whom he has made 6 appearances. Weir holds the record as the youngest player ever to play for Latics, having made his debut in a Checkatrade Trophy game against Accrington Stanley at the age of 15. He joined Latics at 8 years of age, leaving them when he was 11, returning when 12.

Adam Long is an 18-year old central defender from the Isle of Man. He began his career with local side St Georges, joining Latics in 2017. He made his Latics debut in an EFL Trophy game against Middlesbrough under-23s in October 2017. Although he did not come off the bench at Birmingham perhaps we will get a glimpse of him in the final game of the season against Millwall.

Powell’s last goal for Latics?

Nick Powell’s goal was his 8th of the season, making him Latics’ top scorer, despite having missed a considerable chunk of the season through injury. He also leads the assists with 6.

Over the course of the season there has been so much speculation on the message boards and social media about Powell’s future. There have been so many tweets urgng him to sign a new contract. He is Wigan’s most talented player and the catalyst behind most of the good football we have seen from Latics this season and last.

Although some fans still cling on to the hope that he will decide to stay the likelihood is that he will be leaving. The goal at Birmingham could be the last one Powell scores for Latics.

Has Cook turned the corner?

The manager has gone through a particularly tough part of his career over the past six months. His lowest ebb was probably after the defeat at Hull on April 10 when Latics once again gave away soft goals to throw away a lead. It left them with an away record of LLWLLLLLLLDLLDLLLDLLLDL with the manager seemingly unable to steady a sinking ship.

However, there were some rays of hope following a 1-1 draw in the next match with table-topping Norwich, Latics employing the high press and having the confidence to attack the Canaries. The next game at Leeds was the turning point as Latics managed to beat the second-placed team despite losing Cedric Kipre to a yellow card after 15 minutes and being a goal behind two minutes later. Despite being down to 10 men Cook insisted on keeping Leon Clarke and Gavin Massey forward, moving Kal Naismith into an unfamiliar role at centre back rather than bringing on specialist Jonas Olsson following Kipre’s dismissal. It was a brave move by Cook which was to pay high dividends.

Cook’s supporters will say that he was new to management in the second tier of English football and injuries to key players hit hard in those winter months. His critics will say that his team selections and substitutions have been poor, his approach away from home was too negative and performances against teams in the lower part of the table have so often been dire.

However, in recent games we have seen a  more dynamic and enterprising approach from the players with the manager being more positive in his team selections and tactics. The clock has seemingly been put back to August when the team started so well and played “without fear”. Cook has experimented with his tactical formations and now Latics look comfortable in both the 4-2-3-1 shape previously favoured by the manager and with three at the back in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

In the darkest of days of February and March it appeared that the manager was just not learning from his mistakes. Has the upturn in April been due to a change in “luck”? Or has it been due to good management?

The truth most likely lies somewhere between the two.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

 

A Fulham fan’s view of Dan Burn

Dan_Burn

Wigan Athletic have announced the signing of 24 year old Dan Burn. The 6 ft 7 in central defender was out of contract with Fulham.

Gary Caldwell is clearly pleased to have signed Burn and the club’s web site reports him saying that “He fits our profile exactly, young, hungry and with experience at this level and the desire to progress with us. He is a powerful defender, but he likes to play as well and adds tremendous competition to the squad.”

Dan Burn was born in Blyth but came up through the youth ranks at Darlington, making his first team debut at the age of 17.  He went on to make 14 appearances for the north east club before moving to Fulham in the summer of 2011 for a fee of around £350,000.

In September 2012 Burn went on an initial short term loan to Yeovil, but the loan period was to be extended to the end of the season. He made 41 appearances for the League 1 side, scoring three goals. Burn was to be sent off on another loan in July 2013, this time to Championship club, Birmingham City. He made 28 appearances for the Blues, scoring one goal, before being recalled to Fulham in January 2014. He made his debut for the Londoners on January 4th 2014 in an FA Cup tie at Norwich.

Burn went on to make a total of 69 appearances for Fulham scoring two goals.

In order to learn more about Burn we reached out to Fulham fans on The Independent Fulham Forum.

Alanos commented that Burn was:

Hugely promising early in his career, especially on loan to Yeovil and for a little while Birmingham. Very disappointing in the last few years playing for us, though the same inexplicable loss of form seemed to come over many of our defenders. Who knows, could be a great acquisition (or not).

Biff added that:

Progress seems to have stalled the last few seasons but several players seemed to have been affected as our form and progress fell away.

BS recognises Burn’s top performance against Manchester United:

Probably had his best game against Man Utd when we got a draw at Old Trafford, season we were relegated. Headed so many clearances Sky asked if he had a headache in the post-match interview. Think he might have got MoM for that.

Mike H adds that:

He held Man Utd at bay for 90 mins a few years ago. If the opposition keep floating cross into the box, he’ll clear them. Not so reliable against nippy forwards though.

JamesS notes:

Some harsh comments. Still think he could have a very good Championship future. Wholehearted and good man to have in your squad.

NoHost comments that:

For his size, he doesn’t command the in and around the box as much as you’d think, although he has had his good days. He is prone to making simple mistakes which develop into bigger ones when he tries to rectify. Seems to trip over his own legs sometimes. He talks a lot on the pitch, but I’m not sure what he says is actually helpful. He is determined and genuine and perhaps can be coached into a more solid performer.

Barry@ENF recognises Burn’s determination:

….perhaps with the addendum that you will rarely, if at all, accuse him of lacking heart!

Harry adds:

Excellent attitude and good guy. Positives: Better coaching at a stable club could improve him. Negatives: prone to the odd howler and a liability with quick forwards running at him. Wish him well, though.

Lowe’s Pate sums up by adding:

Huge aerially & plays with his heart on his sleeve. Sometimes loses out positionally but personally would have been delighted if we’d have retained him.

 

A Manchester City fan’s view of Emyr Huws

huws-emyr-wigan_3198769
Monday was an uplifting day for Wigan Athletic supporters. The signings of Adam Forshaw and Andy Delort were confirmed and there was the surprise signing of William Kvist from Stuttgart. But the icing on the cake was surely the capture of Emyr Huws on a permanent contract.

Huws is only 20 years old, has a superb technique and is tenacious in the tackle. Born in the rugby hotbed of Llanelli he joined Swansea City as a teenager, moving to Manchester City in 2009. Huws was to become captain of the club’s under 21 side. He joined Northampton Town in October 2012 on a three month loan, with ten appearances, making a positive impression. He made his debut for City in January 2014 as a substitute in an FA Cup match at Blackburn. A couple of weeks later he joined Birmingham City on a one month loan. Being Birmingham’s player of the month in February, his loan was extended until the end of the season.He proved to be an excellent loan signing for the Blues and his spectacular goals against Burnley  and  Middlesbrough brought him public acclaim.

Huws could prove to be Rosler’s best ever signing. He has everything it takes to become a success, not only in the Championship, but in the Premier League. He has already made two appearances for Wales and will surely make many more in the future.

In order to get a Manchester City fan view on Huws’ transfer we reached out to BlueWolf (@BlueWolf1894) . He is a co-owner of mcfcforum.com and wrote for MCFC’s website throughout last season.

Let’s pass over to BlueWolf:

And so, once more, another Manchester City hopeful moves on to a different club; this time around it’s Emyr Huws to Wigan Athetic for around £3m.

 Five years he had been with us after moving from Swansea City at the age of 15 and much praise was heaped upon him, even Captaining the U21 side. But, in fairness, he had always been on the fringe of appearing for the 1st team squad with a number of loan moves in the last couple of years, which in all likelihood was hampering his progression with us.

 The thing is, us City fans are desperate for someone to permanently break through; we have this wonderful Academy set-up (with the brand new facilities opening up its doors in a few weeks), yet everyone who goes through it seems to end up playing for someone else. Sure it brings in some extra money but everyone loves a true homegrown player taking to the field brought up in the club’s own image. The last one of real note was Michael Johnson, and that didn’t exactly end well, did it?

 That’s not to say it won’t happen, because it will, we’re just getting a little impatient. Over to you Iheanacho, Lopes, Rekik, et al.

 So what are the Latics getting for their money? A good and solid holding midfielder, who has impressed everywhere he has been at; obviously Rosler saw enough to give him a 4 year contract. Of course at the age of 20, he still has a lot to learn, but he has a decent head on his shoulders, and as long as he keeps it there he should do wonders for you guys.

 The reported £3m or so has surprised a few Latics fans, not least because it’s about £3m more than they thought would be spent after splashing out on Kvist, Forshaw and Delort, but I suppose the £7m for McArthur helped out a little.

 Rosler said, “Emyr has impressed everyone since arriving at the club and we feel that he can have a major role to play in the future of the club. Everybody can see what a very talented player Emyr is, and from the first training session with us leading through to the games he has played, he has been very good.

 At just 20 years old he is already with the full Welsh national team and the chance to sign him on a long-term contract was too good an opportunity to turn down.”

 It’s just a pity, City didn’t think the same.

 

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