Latics in a quagmire


Rugby League has never really appealed to me. In my pre-adolescent days Wigan RLFC used to have a good deal for kids. You could go and watch the famous Cherry and Whites for threepence in the ‘hen pen’ behind the goals. I did it twice, once when they beat Hull and finally when Ryan Giggs’ father, Danny Wilson, inspired Salford to victory there.

Central Park was just five minutes’ walk from where I lived, right next to the town centre. So when my dad asked me if I would like to make the longer crosstown walk over to Springfield Park on a rainy day I had to think twice about it. But from the moment I watched Latics that first time, as an eleven year old, there was no way I was going back to the hen pen.

I have maintained little interest in watching the local rugby team playing a sport that I have rarely found entertaining. But on Saturday I tuned into the second half of the World Club Challenge game between the Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos. The commentators were waxing lyrically about what a good game it was, but all I could see was the Warriors penned into their own half, unable to move forward on a quagmire of a pitch. It was dull stuff until they surprisingly broke away from their own half and equalized near the end of the game. By that time the pitch was totally ruined, so a little bit more punishment caused by the game going into extra time was not going to make that much difference.

It is the first rugby league game I have watched for ten years and a similar time period could elapse before I watch another. The pitch clearly made things difficult for both teams. It made me wonder if the Warriors would have been able to hold the Broncos to such a tight margin if the pitch had been better. Then my thoughts turned to the Cardiff match. Could it be that the quagmire pitch might actually help Latics?

The term ‘quagmire’ can be used to describe not only the DW Stadium pitch, but also the current plight of Wigan Athletic. They are stuck in a quagmire in their fight to avoid relegation. Most of the more skilful players in the squad have deserted a sinking ship and the manager has the most unenviable record in the Football League of W2 D3 L10. Moreover Malky Mackay’s plans have been hit by long term injuries to Emyr Huws, Chris Herd and Leon Clarke, plus a two week absence for William Kvist who has been the team’s most consistent performer over recent weeks. Having shipped the likes of Delort, Kiernan, Riera and Tavernier off on loan he is left with a squad that is starting to look threadbare.

Mackay and Latics are certainly in a quagmire and there appears no way out of it. The manager has dismantled the old squad, brought in new players, but performances continue to be well below par. Latics have got worse, not better, during Mackay’s tenure. Dave Whelan is back in town and clearly worried about results. If Latics do not beat Cardiff tonight will he be showing Mackay the door?

Cardiff City’s form has also slumped over the past couple of months, so Latics will face another side low on confidence like themselves. It would appear to be a real opportunity to pick up three precious points, but over recent weeks Latics have thrown away games against teams in similar situations. The home defeats to struggling Rotherham and Charlton sides were a bitter pill to swallow. But can they actually win tonight playing on that quagmire of a pitch?

The critics would say that good football has not been evident since Mackay’s arrival, with goals from set pieces the order of the day. The pitch could stifle any attacking moves from the opposition and a goal from a set piece could win it. Mackay will rue the absence of Kvist, with his long throw-ins.

It is likely to be a grim night for lovers of good football tonight at the DW Stadium. But it is the result that is paramount. A win for Latics would provide at least a ray of hope for the future. Less than that will surely bog them down even more in the quagmire that Mackay finds himself in.


A Cardiff fan’s view of Kim Bo-Kyung


The 26 year old Kim Bo-Kyung is Malky Mackay’s latest signing and made his debut against Bournemouth on Saturday.

The South Korean moved to Japan as a 20 year old, signing for J League club first division club, Cerezo Osaka. On his arrival he was soon loaned out to Division 2 side, Oita Trinita, where he scored 8 goals in 27 appearances. On his return to Osaka he was to establish himself, scoring 15 goals in 41 appearances.

In July 2012 Malky Mackay took him to Cardiff City for £2.5 million. He was to make 28 appearances for the Bluebirds in their 2012-13 Championship winning side, scoring 2 goals. He made 31 appearances in the Premier League the next season, scoring a last-minute header in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

Kim was marginalised from the Cardiff side this season. His contract was cancelled by mutual consent on January 24.

He has made 30 appearances for his country, scoring 3 goals.

In order to learn more about Kim’s time at Cardiff we reached out to Benjamin James of the View from the Ninian fan site.

Here’s over to Ben:

Kim Bo Kyung came to Cardiff City with much promise. We had, supposedly, beaten both Borussia Dortmund and Celtic to his signature. His early appearances showed glimpses of what he could do and as he settled into the Championship, he grew as a player. He’s a classy footballer who can pick a pass, take players on and score goals.

 His early days in the Prem showed more of what he could do. He’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet but his defensive fight is lacking somewhat. He’s a slight lad and can get brushed off the ball easily. But I really rated him. I felt he deserved more game time. Mackay nor Ole really knew how to get the best from him. Is he a winger or a central midfielder? I think he would be best deployed behind the front two or a lone striker.

 I really hope he succeeds at Wigan. He has, no doubt, got bundles of skill and ability. I just hope he can fulfil the early promise he showed at Cardiff.

What Mackay can do for Latics


Photo courtesy of Sky Sports.

Photo courtesy of Sky Sports.

If you believe what some of the media tell you, Wigan Athletic have gone from being so many peoples’ second favourite football team to their least favourite. All in the space of a couple of weeks.

The furore surrounding Malky Mackay’s appointment and the roasting of Dave Whelan by the national media has changed the view of the club in the eyes of the public.

Without going into the moral rights and wrongs of the broader issues, it is clear that Whelan could have avoided this happening from the start.

Why did he choose Mackay over other candidates with good track records whose recruitment would not have caused such waves? Did Whelan have an inkling of the repercussions that Mackay’s appointment would cause?

If he had anticipated what might follow he must have believed that Mackay stood head and shoulders above the other candidates – that he was the right man to get Latics back to the Premier League. However, the fact that Whelan put a clause in Mackay’s contract “protecting the club” against possible FA action suggests that he had more than an inkling of what was going to happen and made a calculated gamble in the Scot’s appointment.

So what is it about Mackay that made Whelan take the risk to appoint him? Providing FA sanctions do not prevent him continuing at the club, can Mackay lead Latics back to the Promised Land?

Born in Bellshill, some ten miles from the Glasgow city centre, Mackay passed through the youth ranks at Queens Park where he made 70 first team appearances over a three year period. At the age of 21 the powerful young centre half joined Celtic. However, during a five year stay he struggled to command a regular place at Parkhead. In September 1998 he joined Norwich City for £350,000 and he went on to make 212 appearances for the Canaries over a period of six years.

Mackay went on to a one year stint at West Ham, followed by three years at Watford. In his first season playing for the Hornets he achieved the remarkable distinction of being promoted to the Premier League for the third time in three years.

Midway through his first season as a Premier League player in 2006-07, Mackay was appointed first team coach at Vicarage Road. He took over as caretaker manager in November 2008, following the departure of Aidy Boothroyd.  But it proved to be only for five games with Brendan Rodgers being brought in from Chelsea.

However, Rodgers’ reign proved to be short-lived and Mackay was to take over in the summer of 2009. His first season was a struggle. With just five games to go, Watford were in 21st position, but an end of season rally saw them finish in 16th place. Several players on higher salaries left the club over the summer of 2010 and Mackay eventually steered the Hornets into 14th place in the 2010-11 season.

In June 2011 Mackay joined Cardiff City, where he was to enjoy a successful first season. The Welsh club reached the League Cup final, only to be beaten 3-2 by Liverpool on penalties. They reached the Championship playoffs, only to be beaten by West Ham.

The 2012-13 season saw Cardiff win the Championship and Mackay receive the League Managers Association ‘Championship Manager of the Year’ award. However, Mackay and Cardiff owner, Vincent Tan, clearly did not see eye to eye. Being unhappy about Mackay’s transfer dealings over the summer, and with concerns about poor results and the style of play, Tan sacked Mackay in December 2013. The national press has kept us well aware of what happened between Tan and Mackay since then.

Mackay has certainly had his ups and downs in football. As a player he was released by two clubs after he had helped them get promotion to the Premier League. As a manager at Watford he had to deal with the departure of key players for financial reasons and fight against relegation. In his first two seasons at Cardiff he enjoyed considerable success, even if the style of play was not the most exciting to watch. Mackay knows the Championship division as well as any manager could.

Over the coming weeks we can expect Mackay to focus on making Latics a team that is hard to beat. As an ex-centre half he will demand a tight defence. To get goals he is not likely to flood the opposition penalty area with attackers, but will rely on set pieces and on his “flair players” delivering the goods.

With Latics currently second from bottom, Mackay has a task on his hands. However, he knows that he has enough quality in the squad to challenge the best in the division. Latics will surely rise out of the relegation zone, but it is more a question of how quickly they can do it. Promotion this year is not out of the question, but is a long way off at the moment.

Mackay will take things a step at a time and if promotion does not happen this season, he will be planning towards the next. He will surely be aware of the “player power” that helped dislodge his two predecessors at Wigan. He will look at downsizing the squad in the January transfer window and there could be some surprise names exiting the club.

Once again Wigan Athletic are at a turning point. Dave Whelan will be hoping he made the right move in appointing Malky Mackay.

Only time will tell if that is to be the case.

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Don Cowie – a Cardiff City fan’s view




With a shortage of midfield players available for the start of the season Uwe Rosler has moved wisely and snapped up Don Cowie from Cardiff City. Cowie’s contract had expired and Cardiff had made a new offer, but Cowie chose to join Latics.

On signing Cowie, Rosler remarked that “Don also played over 20 games last season in the Premier League; he’s 31 but he’s an extremely professional person and I’ve known about him for quite some time. From his training regime to the way he lives and breathes football he has the attributes to allow him to play football until his late 30’s. I think he knows the position, he has the ability to play a high-pressing game and an attacking forward game and I think he will add experience, reliability, a technical ability where all our players have to be so I look forward to working with him.

The 31 year old Cowie was born in Inverness and made his debut for Ross County as a 17 year old after coming through their youth system. Cowie was to go on to become captain for the Dingwall club, making 160 appearances, before joining Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2007. He adjusted quickly to the higher level of the SPL and was top scorer and Player of the Year in his first season at Inverness.

After two seasons at Inverness, Cowie signed for Watford in July 2009, under the management of Malky Mackay. He made 88 appearances for the Hornets, scoring 9 goals. When Mackay moved on to Cardiff he signed Cowie (and Andrew Taylor) for the Welsh club. From 2011-14 Cowie made 82 appearances for Cardiff, scoring 6 goals. Like Taylor, Cowie played in the League Cup final for the Bluebirds in 2012, when they were beaten on penalties by Liverpool. Cowie has been capped 10 times by Scotland.

In order to learn more about Taylor’s time at Cardiff we have one more reached out to Benjamin James of the View from the Ninian fan site.

Here’s over to Benjamin.

Don Cowie was often seen as Malky’s son at Cardiff; no matter how well he was playing, he always got a game. But I think that is unfair to Don Cowie. He came in on a free and was absolutely committed to Cardiff from day one.

A player who can play all along the midfield, his biggest asset is his fitness. He genuinely doesn’t stop running and leaves everything on the pitch. He does pitch in with assists and the odd goal but his work rate is phenomenal. When we got the prem, I didn’t expect him to feature much but he played a big role in some of our biggest wins; particularly in the home win over Man City.

I’m sad to see him go. Never one to shirk or hide away and has a great cross on him. Thought he would be a big player for us next year but, instead, he will be a big player for Wigan instead.

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Rosler’s loan signings can make the difference

transfer window

An unknown third choice goalkeeper from Spain, an end of contract midfielder from Kansas City and a 32 year old unwanted by Hamburg. Such were the loan signings made by Wigan Athletic a year ago.

The feeling at the time among Latics supporters was of being “underwhelmed”. Was this the best that Roberto Martinez could do? Why wasn’t Dave Whelan opening his wallet and bringing in players that could really make a difference?

In the event Joel Robles, Roger Espinoza and Paul Scharner did make a difference. It was not enough to save Latics from relegation, but all three were to go on and play in the lineup that won the FA Cup for the club.

That same underwhelming feeling has surfaced again.

Who on earth was Tyias Browning? Why would Latics want to sign a crock from Cardiff, who had not started in a league game this season? Why go for a player from Chelsea who had already been on loan at three other clubs? But most confounding of all – why would Latics take a player who had never made it in a team from their own Championship division?

Nicky Maynard was sought by Roberto Martinez while at Bristol City. In the event he went to West Ham who sold him on to Cardiff City for a fee around £2.75m in August 2012. Unfortunately he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament in only his third game at the Welsh club, which was to keep him out of action until May 2013.

The 27 year old central striker is a Cheshire lad who came up through the Crewe Alexandra academy. His most successful year as a goal scorer was in 2009-10 when he scored 20 goals in 40 starts for Bristol City in the Championship division.  Maynard has struggled since the injury, his appearances for Cardiff this year being two starts in the League Cup and eight times off the bench in the Premier League.

Maynard is clearly a player of some pedigree and a proven goal scorer at Championship level. If he can regain an optimum level of fitness he will be a threat to Championship defences. Maynard is likely to alternate with Marc-Antoine Fortune for the centre forward spot, although there will be times when Rosler will play them together.

Latics fans saw what Josh McEachran can do yesterday when his superbly judged pass put Fortune through for an 89th minute goal yesterday. He made his Chelsea debut as a 17 year old. Still only 20 he has played for Swansea, Middlesbrough and Watford on loan. McEachran can play as a holding midfielder but his best position is in the hole between the midfield and the central striker.

McEachran is not fully fit at this stage, but he has so much quality that he can add the cutting edge that has been lacking in Latics’ play in recent weeks.

Rosler’s signing of Martyn Waghorn has been questioned by many Latics supporters who were hoping the club would sign a player with a proven history as a goal scorer.  They are unimpressed that Leicester City are willing to let him go out on loan although they are challenging for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Moreover Waghorn will be a free agent in summer when his contract runs out.

However, Waghorn is still only 24 years old and can play in any of the three front positions. He played for England at both under 19 and under 21 levels.  Leicester paid a fee of around £3m when he arrived from Sunderland in a permanent deal in August 2010. He had been voted young player of the year at Leicester the previous season when he had been on loan with them. See his goals during that season here.

Waghorn has had his ups and downs and played for five clubs before coming to Wigan. However, he had a successful spell on loan at Millwall this season, making 12 appearances and scoring 3 goals. Millwall boss Steve Lomas wanted to sign Waghorn permanently, but it was not to work out.

Waghorn will be keen to impress at Wigan and show that his success at Millwall is not a flash in the pan. He has a good left foot and is no mean penalty taker.

The 19 year old Tyias Browning was signed on a one month loan from Everton on January 10th. A day later he made a strong impression after coming on as a second half substitute in the 3-0 win against Bournemouth. A week later he was to concede a penalty in the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Doncaster. Browning is clearly one for the future, but the value of having a young player join the club for such a short loan period is open to question.

Following the last-gasp victory over Charlton yesterday Latics remain within reach of a play-off place.  Only one player – Nouha Dicko – left permanently during the transfer window. Grant Holt has gone on loan to Aston Villa, but Ivan Ramis will be staying at least until the end of the season following his failure to pass medicals at Cardiff and Crystal Palace. It could be a blessing in disguise for Latics.

A fit Ramis would make a big difference to the promotion push. Not one of that skilful trio – Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson – left during the transfer window, although their contracts terminate in summer.

All in all, Latics have a better squad now than they had before the January window began. Moreover if loan players like Maynard, McEachran and Waghorn were to reach their optimum levels they could swing the balance and get Wigan into that play-off place.

Like Martinez last year, Rosler seems to have made ‘underwhelming’ loan signings in the transfer window.

But then again maybe they are better than they seem at first glance.

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