A Brentford fan’s view of Latics’ visit to Griffin Park

The bookmakers William Hill are offering odds of 13/8 on Brentford being promoted, a close second to the favourites Leeds United at 6/4. They quote Wigan Athletic at 8/1, making them seventh in the rankings. Both teams have made a good start to the season, with the Bees just a point ahead of Latics.

But bookmakers’ odds can soon change so early in a season with just 6 of the 46 games having been played so far. Brentford have won all three home games up to this point, with Wigan winning one and losing two on the road.  But Wigan Athletic have a good record against Brentford, having won 19 times, drawn 9, losing 7 since they first played each other in 1982.

Brentford came up from League 1 in 2014 and have consolidated themselves in the second tier. Much of that is down to owner, Matt Benham, who has not only made a huge financial investment, but also shown vision and belief akin to that of Dave Whelan at Wigan. But when Latics were back in the Championship, buoyed by parachute payments, after eight years in the upper tier  they could afford a wage bill exceeding £20 m, reaching the playoffs in 2015. Since then the club has suffered two relegations and the paruchute money is no more. This year’s wage bill will probably be nearer to £10 m.

Although Brentford manager, Dean Smith, might dream of promotion to the Premier League this season, Paul Cook will be primarily looking at consolidation. But who knows what might happen? Cook’s team plays with the kind of belief that suggests they can upset the bigger names in the division.

On their relatively modest budgets, can Brentford, or even Latics, overcome the financial odds against them and punch beyond their weight?

Despite the scintillating football we have seen up to this stage by Latics, results have lagged behind performance.  Cook has adopted an attacking philosophy that suggests his team is afraid of no one in the division. “Soft goals” in the closing minutes have widened that performance/result gap, but Cook deserves great credit for his positive approach. Will Brentford be in for a surprise on Saturday?

It promises to be a fascinating encounter. In order to get a Brentford fan’s view on Saturday’s match we contacted Billy Grant. Billy writes, podcasts and blogs for Beesotted (@Beesotted) the Brentford Fanzine (beesotted.com). You can catch Beesotted’s post-match podcast from around 7pm on PrideOf West.London – talking to both Wigan and Brentford fans in the pub after the match

Here are Billy’s responses to the questions we put to him:

Brentford have got off to a good start to the season and the bookmakers are reckoning your team are candidates for promotion. Is promotion a possibility for a club that works on a smaller wage bill than the likes of Leeds and Middlesbrough?

It’s been a great start to the season but to be honest, last season we played wonderful football but couldn’t buy a win for the first couple of months. It was I think 8 matches before we got our first victory despite playing a lot of teams off the park. So I put last season down to a learning curve and this season we haven’t fallen into the same trap – thank Horatio.

 We have been trying to keep below the radar so its a bit annoying that the people are starting to back us. We love being the team that no-one knows about. When we came into the division, we were the laughing stock. The team who ‘dumped’ Warburton (which wasn’t true). They laughed at our use of stats to find obscure players that no-one had heard of or thought would cut it in the championship. Players like Jota. And Andre Gray. And Scott Hogan.

 Four years later and we’re turning down bids for £10m plus for players who have played barely 30 matches after graduating from our B-team. Theres a stat that says that we have made a profit of £50m plus on players since we came into the Championship. I wince a little bit at that as it’s not all about selling players for the sake of selling players. But we apparently have a knack of selling when the player becomes overvalued. We cash in and buy a better player for a fraction of the money. So as much as I would LOVE for us to stick with a team and a squad for a period of time, it’s not going to happen. Because other teams have realised that we are successful in finding talent and do the olde vulture job.

 So the question. Is promotion a possibility?

 Ask that to Huddersfield a few seasons ago. Or Brighton even (although they had a big budget. People just don’t know it).

 The answer is of course.

 One of the keys to success is that the club is run properly from bottom to top. It’s taken a few years for Brentford to sort itself out. And pull together a management and coaching team who believes in the long term vision of the club willing to pull together in the right direction. We did great in that playoff year but unfortunately not everyone working at the club was pulling in the same direction so eventually it would have gone belly up.

 The owner – Matthew Benham – is a very smart man. A Bees fan from when he was a kid. And he says “when” we get promoted and opposed to “if”.

 So it will happen.

 Sometime.

 We have seen a vast difference between our club now and three or four years ago. Strength in depth. Players who want to play for the club. No nonsense politicking. That has all come about from experience of problems in the past.

 No we haven’t got a huge budget. I think it is just over £10m a year. Compare that to the likes of Villa and Birmingham and Leeds and Boro and even West Brom, Swansea and Stoke, its chicken feed. It’s still a lot of money. But when it comes to competing, we have to ensure that we spend that money wisely. No QPR-style p!ssing it up the wall or Forest-style spending £13m on one player.

 I’m actually proud that our record signing is £2.5m. We bought Ollie Watkins for £1.8m last year. Neal Maupay for about £1.5m i think. Erzi Konsa this summer for about £1.5m again and Said Benrahma for around the same. These players are all quality and will easily quadruple the price we paid for them in the next two years at least.

 So now who’s laughing?

What tactical formation does Smith employ and what kind of football can we expect?

To be fair, we don’t (or can’t) flip to a more aggressive direct style of football as we haven’t got the players for it. We’re pretty much 4-3-3 or if you want to get more intricate 4-2-3-1. We play it out from the back most of the time (not always). We have developed the team over time so that every player is comfortable on the ball – even the centre backs.

We pass the ball a lot. Like a ridiculous amount. We get a stupid amount of chances. Last season Im pretty sure we had the most chances in the whole of the league. Ben from @Experimental361 – a renounced statistician – labelled Brentford ’energetically wasteful’ in one of his many colourful graphs describing how each team was performing meaning we created endless chances but delivered only a fraction of them.

So there will be a lot of passing.

Who are the Bees’ key players?

Cliché time. But we play as a team. Yes we have key players. But we have also realised when they come out of the Brentford ‘ecosystem’ many of them do not perform as well. Jota was brilliant for us because of what was around him. The players played to his strengths. And weaknesses. And don’t under-estimate the mental cotton-cuddling we would give him. He’s gone to Brum and the fans want to run him out of town.

Personally, I saw Benrahma play in a friendly against Watford and I said to Laney who co-runs Beesotted “Blimey … he’s quality”. And he is. It normally takes our foreign players 9 months to acclimatise to the UK. But he seems to be doing very well – talking the p!ss at every possible opportunity.

Have to give a mention to Chris Mepham who – alongside Erzi Konsa – forms our central defence with a joint age of 40 years. He’s got a lot of hype on him at the moment having gone from Brentford B-team to Wales team 1st-on-the-sheet within 12 months. He’s played less than 30 games for us but we’ve already turned down £10m plus bids from the Bournemouth for him. He’ll go for sure. Ryan Giggs loves him. And the club know that.

But if he does go – and we hope he doesn’t – we’ve got Julian Jeanviere waiting in the wings. He was Reimes player of the year for the past two seasons and apparently he’s meant to be mustard. He’s played two Carling Cup matches when we put out a second-string (well A minus) side and he scored two goals.

Will he play against Arsenal?

Now that is the question.

Ryan Woods – our midfield quarterback – left for Stoke a couple of weeks ago. He was great. We thought we would miss him. But to be fair, Josh McEachran – who we signed from Chelsea three years ago – and Lewis McLeod have stepped up to the plate. Most fans had written them off to be honest as they seemed to be permanently injured. And when they came back, they had one good game out of four which wasn’t good enough.

How much money do you estimate Mathew Benham has put into the club so far? Is he reaching the break-even target where outgoings are met by revenue? What is the news on a new ground?

Matt Benham has spent in excess of £100m. To me i would be cacking my pants if I had spent that type of money but he is a professional gambler (from a statistical background) and he is not phased in the least. After losing £10m to £15m each year, this last year the club pretty much got on an even keel – losing just under £1m if I remember rightly. The though is with the future transfer dealings, Brentford will operate on an even keel for the foreseeable future – meaning that Benham won’t be pumping large chunks into the club any more.

If (when) we get to the Premier League, he will get his £100m back. If we don’t I am of the understanding that he will write it off as a bad gamble (maybe not literally). That’s how confident he is of us being promoted sometime.

Lionel Road is our new stadium and it is in full flow. It’s 15 mins walk from the current ground right beside Kew Bridge Station. If you check the Brentford Drone you can see videos of it’s construction.

It’s not a huge ground. 17,250. But it looks impressive. The thought is – the club would rather it is smaller and compact and buzzing with atmosphere rather than scrabbling around trying to fill 30k fans every week in a morgue of a stadium. And fair play.

Up to 3000 away fans. Safe standing in both ends (assuming approval which I believe will happen by 2020). Loads of pubs in the immediate viscinity.

No it won’t be Griffin Park. But hopefully it will be buzzing.

Move date has been moved back to Summer 2020. Which is great. Means we have another two seasons at Griffin Park – Im very happy with that.

What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Since the World Cup, where I was really reserved with my predictions and enthusiasm – despite spending pretty much three weeks out in Russia – I have tried to reel back on the expectations. It’s hard seeing how classy the side are at times. However, I realise there are so many factors which determine how you get on in this league. One of them is luck. Another is injuries. And another is attitude.

In principal, I believe that we are not going to take Wigan for granted. Something that we may have done a few seasons ago. If so, I reckon we should win 3-1. Mainly because we are due a few goals after a fairly barren spell (compared to chances created) over the last few weeks since we trounced Rotherham 5-1.

 

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Another Cup or League dilemma?

Can Paul Cook emulate Gary Caldwell by winning League 1? Or will the FA Cup get in the way?
Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.

 

Wigan Athletic have a habit of giving the media something to feed upon. Dave Whelan certainly gave them plenty of ammunition when he appointed Malky Mackay and consequently made politically incorrect comments that the press lapped up. But he also appointed Roberto Martinez, who brought home the biggest prize in the club’s history amid worldwide media acclaim.

That FA Cup win will remain in our collective memories for years to come. Moreover it created a story that the media found irresistible. As a result Wigan Athletic became known on the world stage and it is no surprise that they are now about to be taken over by a Far East consortium.

Prior to that fateful day in May 2013 there were debates among Latics fans about what was more important – the league or the cup. There were two extremely difficult games coming up within the space of a few days: Manchester City at Wembley and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The bookmakers did not think Wigan Athletic could win either game.  In the event Roberto Martinez managed to fashion a team out of an injury-ravaged squad which went on to win the FA Cup on merit. It was a dream come true, especially for those of us who had seen the club rise from its humble origins over the years. That old debate is now settled – who would want to put the clock back and swap a cup win for a longer stay in the Premier League?

Almost five years later and a parallel debate is opening up following Monday’s remarkable win against the same club. Some in the media are saying Manchester City are the best team in the world. It remains to be seen whether they can win the Champions League, then the World Club Cup to justify that label. But they have certainly been outstanding up to this point in all competitions bar the FA Cup. That a club from the third tier could knock them out beggars belief, even if they played half of the game with ten men.

It was the third FA Cup giant-killing act by Wigan Athletic against Manchester City in five years. In that 2013 Cup Final, Wigan had 48% possession, equaling City in shots with 11 and committing 5 fouls to their opponents’ 11. A year later Uwe Rosler’s team won 2-1 at the Etihad in the quarter finals, the stats perhaps being reflective of Wigan’s status as a Championship division team, having 32% possession, 5 shots to City’s 12, each team committing 10 fouls. The stats from Monday’s game reflect what a remarkable performance it was from a side currently in League 1. City had 82% possession and 29 shots to Wigan’s 4 , but could not get a goal. Wigan conceded 11 fouls, although a number of those decisions were debatable, City committing 6.

The application, effort and discipline required to hold off the continuous waves of City attacks was remarkable and reflects on the mentality Paul Cook has instilled into his players. It was another unforgettable day for Latics fans.

So, Wigan Athletic have reached the last 8 of the FA Cup for the third time in the last half decade. A sixth-round home tie with Southampton beckons. What chance do Latics have of beating the Saints?

“Believe” remains the Wigan Athletic theme. Lots of fans will say that Latics have already beaten three Premier League sides, including the champions-elect, so why not Southampton too?

The realists will point out that Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City fielded weakened teams. If Southampton play their strongest lineup then they are likely to overcome third tier Wigan.

But will the victory over Manchester City, followed by another tie with Southampton in mid-March have an impact on Wigan’s quest to get back to the Championship division? Is the FA Cup a distraction that could cost Latics promotion?

The defeats at Southend and at home to Blackpool were an unwelcome surprise for a team that had seemed to be cruising towards the League 1 title. Some suggested that the impending takeover might have something to do with what was happening on the pitch. Others pointed to the upcoming game against Manchester City being a major distraction for the players. Or was it simply a matter of time until that good run would come to such a resounding halt?

Moreover, Monday’s heroic performance could carry a heavy toll. The sheer exertion of running for 90+ minutes with just 18% possession is something that should not be dismissed. In addition to the next FA Cup encounter, Latics have played three games less than their promotion rivals, leaving them 15 league games to play in a 10 week period. Fans will recall the long run-in that Uwe Rosler’s side faced in 2013-14, which left them jaded for the Championship play-offs. However, that season not only included a run to an FA Cup Semi Final but also six games in the Europa League.

Paul Cook’s team will be on a psychological high after that amazing performance. The question is whether they will have the stamina to cope with the bread-and-butter events of League 1. Cook is not a man who likes to rotate his squad, but he will surely have to do so over the coming weeks if Latics are to keep up their momentum for promotion.

Cook’s main challenge is to keep his players firmly focused on League 1. A win against Southampton would put Latics in the FA Cup semi-final once more, but a return to the Championship is surely the club’s main focus.

In the meantime, reports suggest that both Cook and David Sharpe travelled to Spain this week. Not surprisingly it is being linked to the change in ownership, which appears due to be completed by the end of this month. But perhaps it was to celebrate Cook’s birthday (February 22)?

Following the cup tie Cook’s popularity ratings have reached an all-time high at Wigan. He has done a wonderful job up to this point but there remain considerable hurdles to cross  over the next couple of months.

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Evans on his way out – what kind of legacy will the Whelan family leave behind?

Lee Evans’ departure will be a blow for Paul Cook.
Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

Things had been going so well for Wigan Athletic. Promotion back to the Championship had been looking a near certainty, following the club’s best-ever start to a league season. But will the impending departure of Lee Evans prove to be an indicator that the promotion will not be as inevitable as it might have seemed?

Evans will certainly be missed. He and Sam Morsy have been the most successful central midfield pairing since the halcyon days of the “Jimmy Macs”, McArthur and McCarthy. That Latics have conceded only 12 goals in 25 league matches is not only due to having a solid defence. lt should rightly be attributed as a whole team effort, but the protection provided by Evans and Morsy in front of the back four has been exceptional. However, Evans is much more than a midfield enforcer, his range of passing adding an extra dimension to Latics’ play, particularly in his delivery from set pieces. It is no coincidence that he leads the team in assists.

According to media reports, Wolves will sell Evans to Sheffield United for a fee of around £750,000. The player will join a club with aspirations of promotion to the Premier League. A couple of seasons ago Wigan paid more than that to sign Will Grigg, to help them get out of League 1. They also paid around £600,000 to secure the services of Yanic Wildschut, whose permanent signing proved to catalyse that League 1 title win. By paying out that kind of money Latics had shown ambition, albeit buoyed by the parachute payments the club was receiving at the time.

Sadly the ambition showed in 2015-16 was not to be replicated the following season, when pre-season spending of around £3 m was modest compared with the norms of the Championship. Gary Caldwell had reportedly wanted Hearts right back Callum Paterson and Barnsley midfielder Conor Hourihane, but it did not happen. The right back position was to prove problematic and the quality  of delivery that Hourihane can provide could have made a big difference to Caldwell. In the January 2017 transfer window, Sharpe found Norwich’s generous offer for Wildschut too good to refuse. The end-result was the club getting relegated, but nevertheless making a profit.

Reports suggest that the K8 consortium is poised to take over Wigan Athletic, but is awaiting EFL approval. The Whelan dynasty at Wigan therefore appears to be reaching its end.

The club had overachieved for so long, winning the FA Cup, reaching the League Cup final, with eight years in the Premier League, including luscious wins over the elite clubs that dominate the English game. Dave Whelan’s drive, vision and financial backing underpinned those successes.

However, in recent years some bad decisions have been made and, despite having received well in excess of £100m in parachute payments, the club finds itself in the third tier. The appointments of Owen Coyle, Malky Mackay and Warren Joyce were disasters waiting to happen and their lack of success was no surprise to the more discerning of fans.

The appointment of Paul Cook in summer had appeared to set Latics back on the right track. But now with the club in limbo, waiting for the change of ownership to be confirmed, what can we expect to happen over the January transfer window? Will other key players in Cook’s squad be departing over the next three weeks?

We can only surmise on what would have happened in the transfer window if the takeover had already taken place. Would the K8 consortium have given Cook the financial backing to keep Evans and to hold on to the club’s most prized assets? Would Cook have been given a treasure chest to buy players for an anticipated return to the Championship next season?

Given the reality of the situation, with an ownership change still in process, what can we expect from Sharpe and his grandfather over the window period?

We do not know whether Sharpe made a bid to Wolves to sign Evans on a permanent contract. But even if he had, would he have been willing to get into a bidding war with Sheffield United? The probability is that with Max Power and Shaun MacDonald ready to step into Evans’ shoes, the club was unwilling to seriously compete for the player’s services. Latics no longer have parachute payments and are unlikely to shell out big money over the window. Given that Sharpe appears likely to continue to hold the reins for some weeks at least, are we likely to see more player exits?

Cook and the recruitment team spent no money on transfer fees over summer. Players were picked up as free agents or on loan. However, the media reports that the £300,000 transfer of Jamie Walker from Hearts is currently going through, despite the fact that the player has a knee injury and will not be available for some time. The 24 -year-old Walker may well prove to be a good signing in the long run, but what does it tell us about Sharpe’s intentions? Will Sharpe expect funds to be coming in to compensate?

The media has been telling us that Steve Bruce wants to take Nick Powell to Aston Villa, although the player was under Bruce’s charge at Hull in the second half of the 2015-16 , but could not command a place in the starting lineup.Now the Sun complicates the situation by telling us that Powell will stay at Wigan if the Asian consortium takes over.

Cook is in an unenviable position as this transfer window unravels. He is depending on Sharpe, who is in a sitting duck position, waiting for the takeover to happen. Will Sharpe, or ultimately his grandfather, allow clubs to come in and pick off key players, with the club in limbo? In addition to Evans and possibly, Powell, is there a danger of such as Dan Burn and Sam Morsy leaving too? Has there been any discussion between Whelan/Sharpe and K8 about how the transfer window will be handled?

Whelan generally has the backing of the Wigan Athletic support, although there are critics who tell us that he is at heart a businessman. Would he sanction the selling-off of players prior to the takeover, damaging Cook’s attempts to get Latics back into the Championship?

All will be revealed in the coming weeks.

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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.

A murky future for Latics – a Chinese buyout or Mike Phelan?

A murky time for Wigan Athletic.

 

These are unsettled times at Wigan Athletic. A team that has relegation staring in its face unable or unwilling to show the urgency needed to stave it off. The departure of the Head of Football Operations with barely a murmur from the fans. A new contract for a player who has hardly made an impact this season. The Sun newspaper telling us that another of Alex Ferguson’s men could be taking over as manager. Then the blockbuster rumour that Dave Whelan is looking to sell up, with a Chinese consortium visiting the facilities at Christopher Park, Euxton and the DW Stadium.

The players are surely caught up in this too. It has been an awful season with so many of last year’s squad finding the step up to the Championship division tough.

Some will say that the squad just has not had enough quality to compete in the higher division, but there were players of flair and high technical quality there at the start of the season. Nick Powell was always going to be a risky signing, given his horrendous problems with injury in recent years, and so it has proved. Saturday’s cameo appearance shows what a difference he could have made if he could have stayed fit. Jordi Gomez was another flair player and he had a great record in the Championship division with Latics and Swansea.  Gary Caldwell used him sparingly, Warren Joyce too, being seemingly content to shunt him off to Spain in January. Joyce also lost Latics’ most dynamic player and potential match winner, Yanic Wildschut, to Norwich City’s over-generous offer in January. Alex Gilbey too had shown flair early in the season before receiving a serious injury from which it took him months to recover.

Having had to make the massive shift from the possession football of Gary Caldwell to the hoofball of Warren Joyce the players have lost much of their ability to pass and receive the ball. Moreover with the end of the season approaching and League 1 beckoning, so many will be unsettled. Until the last couple of games a willingness to fight for the cause has rarely been lacking in the players, who have suffered so many heart-breaking defeats by fine margins. The seeming lack of urgency is surely a manifestation of a feeling of insecurity for so many of them. They know that the last time Latics were relegated there was a huge exodus of players, with 22 new players coming in.  Indeed some may have already been told to start looking for another club.

Matt Jackson’s departure was labelled as “the end of a consultancy period” on the club web site. After rejoining Latics in 2011 the ex-team captain had taken over as Head of Football Operations. Interestingly the club communique tells us that Jackson had not been involved in player recruitment for the past 18 months, although he was part of the newly formed Player Recruitment Department from the summer of 2015. Jackson was heavily involved in the Latics Academy and the switch to Euxton.

The announcement of a new two year contract for another ex-captain came as a surprise to many of us. Craig Morgan was a rock upon which League 1 was won last season, but has not had an easy time this year. Injuries and an infection have limited his availability and the 31 year old has made just 12 starts and 5 substitute appearances this season.  The contracts of Jussi Jaaskelainen, David Perkins and Stephen Warnock are also due to expire in June.

Given the results it is appears more and more unlikely that Graham Barrow will continue as manager next season. Indeed there are even rumours that a new manager may be brought in before the season finishes. Doing so would give a new incumbent the opportunity to decide on contracts and the players he would like to keep.

For weeks now we have heard rumours that ex-Hibernian and Rotherham manager and Bolton and Everton player, Alan Stubbs was a frontrunner. The rumours may have been fuelled by the fact that John Doolan, who was Stubbs’ first team coach at Hibs, has already rejoined Wigan. Moreover Stubbs will have been visible watching his son, Sam, play for Latics’ youth team and development squad. However, the assertion that ex-Manchester United assistant manager, Mike Phelan, might be taking the reins has already been met with concern by fans.  It also appears that a return for Gary Caldwell is a possibility.

To add to all of this uncertainty the alleged visit of a Chinese consortium is of even more import. The visit might well be tentative, but is this an indication that the 22 year Whelan dynasty will soon come to an end?

Much has been said and written about DW’s incredible success at the club. If he had not taken over in February 1995 what would have happened? Would another buyer have come in and made the investments that Whelan made? Not likely. The club was not an attractive proposition at the time, languishing in the fourth tier with attendances so often below 2,000. Its only real asset was Springfield Park. Whelan invested  with a mission to propel his home town club into the Premier League. Estimates vary as to how much he put into Wigan Athletic, but the figure appears to be somewhere between £90 m and £100m.

The club is surely more sellable in 2017 than it was in 1995. It has a more tangible “brand” after its successes in recent years – winning the FA Cup, reaching the final of the League Cup, eight years in the Premier League. But other than its players what assets does it have? Both the DW Stadium and the Euxton facility are owned by companies linked with the Whelan family, not the club itself.

Should the Whelan legacy continue we can expect continued financial backing for the near future at least. The club will be expected to be as financially self-sufficient as possible, although achieving that whilst maintaining success on the field of play will be a challenge. Wigan Athletic’s fan base has grown to maybe five times what it was in 1995, but still does not match those of the majority of clubs in the Championship. It is more akin to those of clubs in League 1. Moreover to maintain attendance levels the club has had to resort to cut-price season tickets. Put simply, the club will not have the revenue to seriously compete, even in League 1, unless there is backing from the ownership.

However, although Dave Whelan will surely provide a buffer for the club in the near future there appears to be no way that he will be making the scale of investment he has in the past. Given the club’s current predicament it is highly unlikely that it will reach the top tier of English football again in the foreseeable future.

Eleven of the twenty four clubs in the Championship are now owned by overseas investors. Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Wolves are Chinese owned.

In the long term it is unlikely that the Whelan family will continue to inject funds into Wigan Athletic. There will surely come a point where they will say “enough is enough”, but would anyone be tempted to buy a club that does not own its own stadium or training ground?

It is a time of uncertainty at all levels within the club. Ownership and management issues further cloud a murky near future.

 

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