Keeping your key asset

Emyr Huws

Emyr Huws

With less than a week to go to the first training session of the new season the summer sell off at Wigan Athletic is starting to gather momentum. Scott Carson has already gone to Derby and it looks like James McClean is off to West Bromwich and Rob Kiernan to Rangers. The latest rumour is that James Perch will be joining McClean and Callum McManaman at West Bromwich.

The demand for ex-Premier League players like Carson, McClean and Perch was always going to be there. They were to be the three most likely to attract transfer income  for the club, as meanwhile it will ease its wage bill by some £20,000 per week or more for each of them. Keeping the three of them would have entailed using up around £3 m of an anticipated wage bill of £8- £10 m.

Behind them in the domestic transfer pecking order come Leon Barnett (29 years old), Don Cowie (32), Chris McCann (27) and Andrew Taylor (28) who have played in the Premier League, but are also experienced Championship division campaigners. Although their potential transfer values may not be high, the club will try to move on most of them, given their Championship-level salaries. Transfer fees will be waived as necessary.

The pairing of Andy Delort and Oriol Riera cost a total of around £5m in transfer fees last year. Sadly Delort was not able to regain his old goalscoring form after rejoining Tours on loan in January. He hit the back of the net only twice in fourteen starts. Reports from the French press suggest that there are Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs interested in him, but it is doubtful whether they would be willing to pay the kind of transfer fee that Latics paid last September. Reports from Spain suggest that Deportivo La Coruna would like to keep Riera, but are unwilling to match the kind of transfer figure that Latics would like.

Latics face a dilemma with the two players. Sell them off for maybe a combined transfer input of  £1m, signifying a £4m loss, or bring them back and have to use up 20% or more of the total wage bill for a squad of around 24 players, on their salaries alone. The option remains of a further loan period for each, relieving wage bill costs, but leaving the door open for the future.

However, media reports suggest that Latics are actively seeking strikers from other English clubs. It therefore looks like they will take the first option and sell the two players off at a significant loss.

All of the players mentioned so far are those for whom salaries are an issue for a club facing a change from a £30m wage bill to one of around a third of that within a year. However, there are also the cases of the younger players such as James Tavernier (23), Martyn Waghorn (25), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (23), whose salaries will also have to be taken into account, together with the Malky Mackay signings Billy Mckay (26) and Jason Pearce (27), whom one assumes will be staying.

David Sharpe talked some time ago about needing up to fifteen new players. The implication is that the majority of the players signed prior to 2015 will be encouraged to move on.

However, if players are to move on they need a club not only interested in their services, but willing to get close to matching the salaries they have been receiving. In Grant Holt’s case the options seem slim. Ostracised by Uwe Rosler, Holt faded out of the Latics’ scene.  He was sent off on loan to Aston Villa and Huddersfield, where he received an anterior cruciate knee injury that kept him out of action for the second half of last season. Holt is 34 years old and with that ACL injury he is unlikely to attract the interest of clubs who can afford to pay a salary probably well in excess of £20,000 per week.

Critics will say that Owen Coyle should not have been allowed to offer a three year contract with a lucrative salary to a 32 year old. At the time it appeared to be not such a bad bet, getting a player with proven goalscoring pedigree for a relatively low transfer fee. Little did we know that just two years later the club would be in League 1 and the player’s salary would be like a millstone around their necks.

Injuries certainly affect the marketability of a footballer. Holt’s injury while playing on loan at Huddersfield will most likely prove to be the factor that will mean him staying at the club. At 34 and past his best, recovering from injury, but playing in a lower division can he be a key player? Can he win back the fan support that he lost before he was dispatched to Villa Park?  The likely scenario is that Gary Caldwell will have to find ways of motivating a player who has had a difficult time at the club, into being part of a successful set-up.

The injury to Holt did Latics no favours, but the ankle problem that prevented Emyr Huws playing in the second half of last season might well prove to be a blessing in disguise.  The 21 year old Huws was initially signed on loan from Manchester City, but Rosler signed him for a fee in excess of £2m last September. Not long after Huws injured his ankle while playing for Wales and suffered a series of niggles with it that prevented him reaching top form.

However, it was an incident in training in early February that caused Malky Mackay to report that “Emyr’s rolled his ankle badly, we’ve had it looked at and he’s going to need operating on. He’s going to be out for three or four months, and that’s a real disappointment. He came back in for a couple of games, he grabbed his chance and did really well, and it’s a real blow for us and him.”

Mackay clearly rated Huws and the young Welshman was one who avoided the huge January sell-off. Midfield was to prove a problematic area under Mackay and one can only speculate what might have happened had Huws been fit.

Because of his injury Huws might well avoid the cull that will happen in the coming weeks. Big clubs will bide their time and see if he can overcome his injury and realise his full potential. Moreover Caldwell might consider him a key player, well worth paying a salary above the League 1 norm.

Huws showed what a quality player he can be when on loan at Birmingham in 2013-14. He has shown flashes of his quality at Wigan, but niggling injury has held him back. However, he has all the attributes needed to become a top midfield player. He is combative in the tackle, has a cultured left foot, good dribbling skills and the technique to score spectacular goals from distance.

In League 1 Huws is capable of being the kind of imposing midfield player that Latics have lacked since the departures of the Jimmy Macs, McCarthy and McArthur. Moreover in shedding players who have played at higher levels there is a danger of a lack of class in the team. Huws can provide that.

Who knows how many of the players from Coyle and Rosler’s days will be at Wigan come August? So many will be shed because of economic necessity.

But Emyr Huws could prove to be the asset most worth keeping from that 2014 squad.

Only time will tell if Gary Caldwell thinks the same.

The sad case of Rosler’s big money signings

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The rumours are getting stronger. Oriol Riera back to Spain. Andy Delort to France, not to mention the demise of Emyr Huws and Adam Forshaw. What is happening to the players who looked such good signings not so many months ago?

Latics paid a total of over £10m for the four and none of them made the starting lineup at Leeds. Forshaw and Riera made the bench, but did not come into play. Delort and Huws were nowhere.

Critics of Uwe Rosler will say that he paid over the odds for players who were not good enough. But most fans will say the four received a raw deal under Rosler, then even worse up to this point under Malky Mackay. Many still dream of an upfront pairing of Delort and Riera, whilst recognizing the potential of a midfield with the skills of Forshaw and Huws.

Mackay may be doing the right thing in letting the senior professionals shoulder the burden of getting things back on track. However, until Saturday’s result at Leeds it was just not succeeding. His choice of a midfield trio of senior pros – Cowie, McCann and Watson – can be regarded as relying in experience, building up an understanding between the three which will put Latics in good stead in the coming months. In the meantime Forshaw and Huws remain lower down in the pecking order, with Roger Espinoza ahead of them.

Delort and Riera appear peripheral in Mackay’s planning. Mackay’s front two at Leeds were Marc-Antoine Fortune and James McClean, players not known for their finishing. However, McClean was to confound his critics with a well take goal eight minutes from the end. Only time will tell if McClean can learn to play a striking role, quite distinct from being on the left wing. Moreover can he produce a reasonable goalscoring ratio?

The departure of Delort or Riera, or even both, in January remains a distinct possibility, given the impending return of Grant Holt. Holt impressed in his early games on loan at Huddersfield, but the gloss has worn thin over recent weeks and a goal tally of 2 in 15 appearances is hardly impressive. Is the 33 year old Holt likely to more effective than the two Latins? Are we heading back in time to an upfront partnership of Holt and Fortune?

Frankly speaking, Mackay’s team selections have been as frustrating as those of his predecessor. At times it seemed like Rosler had taken the names out of a hat. Mackay’s have been conservative and uninspiring.

On his arrival Mackay said that all players would be given a chance to prove their worth.

However, he has already all but confirmed the departure of Thomas Rogne, despite never seeing him perform for the first team. Rogne’s career has been blighted by injury, but he has been available all season without being called up. He looked a useful player last season – superb in the air and calm under pressure.

Denmark captain, William Kvist, is another who appears to be frozen out by Mackay. There is talk of him moving in the January transfer window. The excellent Ali Al-Habsi has appeared in just one League Cup game, having being briefly loaned out to Brighton. The exciting young ’keeper, Lee Nicholls, has had zero opportunities.

Mackay will reduce the size of his squad in January, trying to raise funds through transfers and reduce the wage bill by shipping higher earners out on loan. One of those could be Andy Delort, who has been linked with a loan move to Charlton. Rosler made a serious error in signing the exciting Frenchman, then playing him as a lone centre forward. Delort’s success last year at Tours came through playing as a twin striker. If Delort does go on loan to Charlton it will be interesting to see how they deploy him. However, the loan could be a good option for Latics, giving the 23 year old more game time in the Championship division. He could come back a better player.

Delort has been quite vocal about his frustrations through comments made to the French press. Riera, on the other hand, has remained positive and stated his desire to adjust to the physicality of the Championship division and to be successful at Wigan. However, if media reports are to be believed there are at least three La Liga teams who would be interested in taking him on loan. But then again what potential value would there be for Latics sending him back to Spain, other than by reducing their wage bill? Better to send him on loan to an English club. Even better from so many fans’ point of view to give him a fair chance at Wigan. Riera has already proven that he can score goals in a lone centre forward role at Osasuna. If he can do it in a competition as good as La Liga, surely he can do the same in the Championship?

Both Forshaw and Huws have grown up in English football. Both have the competitive edge to go with their considerable skills. They have been unfortunate to come into a team struggling to find its form. After being the League 1 player of the year, Forshaw has had to adjust to playing in a higher division. But Huws knows what the Championship is like, his excellent performances having helped Birmingham City stay up last year. The two surely have the necessary technical ability and resilience to become the lynchpins of Latics’ midfield.

Dave Whelan boldly backed Rosler by shelling out good money for four players who are certainly good enough to make their mark in the Championship. A midfield with Forshaw and Huws creating chances for forwards Delort and Riera, is a mouth watering prospect.

What the four need is to be given a run of games in the team. If it happens at all, it will come later rather than sooner.

But has Mackay already made his mind up? How many of the four will be at Wigan a year from now?

Rosler builds a formidable squad


Wigan Athletic fans are buzzing again.

Despondency had crept in with the impending departure of that great Latics servant and FA Cup winner, James McArthur. It looked like Rosler was not going to get the extra striker he desperately needed with the Andy Delort situation continuing to be uncertain. Moreover difficulties over dealing with Everton’s role in the transfer process made the Forshaw saga drag on. The creative midfielder was clearly within Rosler’s sights, but was it going to happen?

But then on Saturday Delort was presented to the crowd at the DW. A ray of hope indeed. Latics went on to give a fine performance in the 4-0 rout of Birmingham City, who had been unbeaten in the league.

Then on Monday we found out that Dave Whelan had splashed the cash after all. Leicester City had dropped out of the race to sign James McArthur, but Crystal Palace had moved in and made the acquisition. There had been rumours that Ivan Ramis was leaving too, but that did not materialize. Instead we had the confirmation of the Delort and Forshaw transfers, plus the surprise signing of experienced midfield enforcer William Kvist from VfB Stuttgart.

The three signings signaled a statement of intent from Whelan and Rosler that they really wanted to finalise a squad capable of achieving promotion. But there was another signing that was unexpected – that of Emyr Huws on a permanent contract.

The capture of Huws was arguably even more significant. The young Welshman is an outstanding young talent and the type of player Latics are not usually able to sign. A price tag of around £3m would appear to be a lot for a team in the Championship without the TV revenue that it got in the Premier League. But in terms of getting a bargain for the future, Rosler has done a great job. Huws is only 20 and makes the kinds of mistakes one can expect from young players. However, with his cultured left foot, his determination in the tackle and ability to score from distance, he is going to be a top player.

More than anything the Huws signing is a statement about the longer term. Rosler and Whelan are clearly looking at a future that must surely be in the Premier League.

This season could be the turning point for Wigan Athletic’s future. Can Latics keep defying the odds and continue to punch above their weight? Without Whelan pumping big money in can Latics compete with clubs who have bigger fan bases and commercial backing? If they get back into the Premier League can they survive? If they don’t get promotion what would happen next? Would it be a slide down into the lower divisions?

A week ago Rosler’s squad was not complete. It lacked another central striker and a creative midfielder. Moreover the returns from injury of Chris McCann and Ben Watson were weeks ahead and there was a need for more cover in holding midfield.

Rosler has built a formidable squad, with at least two players competing for every position. Even if injuries strike, as they have done so cruelly for Wigan Athletic over recent years, there are very capable players in reserve.

Promotion seems a much closer possibility than it did a week ago. Other alternatives are not open to consideration as the promotion push starts.

With Dave Whelan and Uwe Rosler at the helm Latics are the envy of most clubs. They make a formidable pair. The future will be rosy if they stay together.

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A Manchester City fan’s view of Emyr Huws

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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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