Latics fans react to Villa defeat and reflect on club’s future on social media

Another home defeat and a step closer to relegation. But following the desolate reign of Warren Joyce there are signs that positive football will once again become the norm at Wigan Athletic.

Graham Barrow is by no means universally popular among Latics fans. His supporters will say he is “Wigan through and through”, someone they associate with the successes of the Martinez era, a lover of good football. His detractors identify  him as being the lowest common denominator in  the club’s slide from their heyday. But in any case, David Sharpe has told us that Barrow can keep the manager’s job if he can steer them clear of relegation. That is unlikely, if not impossible.

With relegation staring their club in the face, fans are wondering if Latics can get back up to the Championship if they once again find themselves in League 1 next season. Last time they had a huge financial advantage over the other clubs in the division, through parachute payments. Will we see a fire sale at the end of the season, with the best young players sold off to the highest bidder? Would enough good players remain to get Latics back up?

The financial gulf between Latics and most of the other clubs in the Championship was highlighted once again yesterday when Villa brought the £12 m Scott Hogan off the bench. Villa’s lavish spending contrasts with the austere approach of the Sharpe-era Wigan, where the player most likely to help the team stay in the Championship was sold off in January. Sharpe may yet come to rue the £7 m sale of Yanic Wildschut.

This is not to suggest Latics should splash money around like the bigger clubs in the division, but perhaps they should have made more investments over the summer. One of the players that Gary Caldwell wanted, but could not get, was Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane, who played against them for Villa yesterday. Given the so-often woeful deliveries we have seen from set pieces this season, someone with Hourihane’s ability to launch dangerous deliveries into the box could have made a huge difference.

What kind of financial backing will the Whelan family continue to give Wigan Athletic? Is there any possibility that they will sell the club in the near future? Would the club be a proposition for a willing investor, given the fact that it is the Whelan family who own the DW Stadium, not Wigan Athletic?

Once again we trawled the social media following yesterday’s result. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Moonay on Latics Speyk responded:

…..Whittle …… you support a club who since breaking into the Football League in 1978 have reached the League Cup Final, spent 8 years in the top flight of English football, and put their name on the most famous Cup in Club football ……. you support Wigan Athletic.

‘Be reet ! ;o)

Laticsince1978 on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

What an improvement! As daft as it sounds we were so much better today took the game to the opposition and looked the better side.We took the game to the opposition and have now finally got something to work on. The points will come now with performances like that even if its to little to late we were relegated 2 years ago with a poor side if were relegated again we still have a very strong squad. And as for the villa fans good support pity they weren’t behind the team that much when they were mid table just in front of us in the premier league last time they were here half full away stand another example of big club we support when we want.

Stewart Hart @No1fan tweeted:

Most entertaining #wafc performance for a very long time. Villa quality told in the end, but shows what a wasted 4-5 months under Joyce.

Fathamp on Latics Speyk said:

 Whittle has a downbeat view, completely justified just now but the last few years have spoilt us and really we haven’t got the right to expect to be beyond the bottom 2 divisions. We are gravitating to where we belong so we simply should accept that, otherwise a world of pain awaits. I don’t see an Armageddon scenario unless the support drops off a cliff due to unfair expectations

 Adding:

 Or should that be doesn’t deserve one. The townspeople simply won’t back the club enough to enable latics to properly compete now. We have had our day in the sun at whelans expense, but now it’s back to our natural place with the support we have….old div 3 or 4. Forget whether the rugby town, too many other clubs nearby, poor area etc excuses/ reasons are legitimate, the fact is that a club with 7,000ish fans….and fewer next term, can only be competitive in the lower leagues.

 Vital Wigan @LaticsSpeyk tweeted:

#wafc so much better today despite the result pity Joyce wasn’t sacked 2 months back

 Tertsflan on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

That was a good performance. Awful decision by officials for first goal. Would have been a different game had we have got the foul on the keeper

 Jonny_SuffolkLatic on Latics Speyk added:

Sharpey is making mistakes, and whilst they are financially costly, I don’t think they are club threatening – not like something you’d see at a QPR or Pompey. The ownership are often accused of being tight, and taking the cheap options, but whilst I don’t see that to be the case, the fact that such allegations are made shows that we are far from the recklessness financial spending that comes round to spell a club’s doom. Might be being naive, but I just don’t see the current ownership driving us to a position where our very existence is in question.

On the pitch, I think there’s a good chance we may settle to our natural level for the size of the club in League One, but the right manager and squad can still change that. Problem is, Wigan Athletic have had a journey that other clubs can only dream of over such a short space of time of only decades; promotion through the leagues, Premier League survival miracles, Europe and an FA Cup win, and the problem is that adjusting to the slightly more mundane reality most clubs hold as the norm will take some getting used to. The idea that we may float along in League One for a number of seasons is so alien to us that questions about the future of the club can seem grave, but I imagine that even if we end up with seasons of obscurity in League One, we’ll still be striving for something, and there will certainly still be a Wigan Athletic.

Peter Millward @PeteMillward79 tweeted:

Barrow: ‘We want to try and throw all that caution out of the window – get out there and enjoy it’. And so say all of us! #wafc

Jocklatic on Latics Speyk summed up the performance:

I too came away from the Villa game with a better feeling than I have for a few months albeit with disappointment in not getting something out of the game. I could have taken where we are in this league now if we’d given the same sort of fight / determination we did today all season but sadly we didn’t thanks to the negativity / set up we had under WJ. Saying that tho we are still woefully lacking in any sort of goal threat / clinical finish despite the stats increase from today’s game. Had we this impetus a month or so ago then who knows…..might even have been sitting mid table safety by now….. . But hey as we know that’s not the LATICS way…till its mathematically impossible to survive then BELIEVE…. u never know.
I get what ur saying in that the stadium is too big for us but there’s nothing we can do about that & despite the lack of parachute payments next season I just hope upon hope that we can keep a good chunk of this squad if / wen we go down….if not then it cud be very Portsmouth esq. No doubt numbers will decline but we’ve hardly been blessed with a big fan based nor even a very vocal one despite the great effort today against a near capacity away end who for the first 10/ 25 min made us sound like the away support…..great atmosphere today btw & just shows how the crowd respond to positive play.

On a side note…. the fat lady ain’t singing yet

Leylandlatic4ever on the Cockney Latic Forum provided his perspective:

Yes can’t disagree. Much better performance and unlucky not to have scored given the number of chances (when was the last time we said that?). Downside….well that’s sadly obvious. Whilst we’re not technically down, and I won’t give up until it’s physically impossible, I think today was the end of the line. Now 7 points off safety…a minimum of 3 games.  Sorry but just can’t see us escaping from that, especially with the away games we’ve got. Even if we can win all 4 home games left, 46 points is very unlikely to be enough.. Upside…we’re going to Southend again to stand under that corrugated iron roof

Neil Eccleston @wiganlaticsgoon tweeted:

If Barrow can get a performance like that after only 4 days he will do for me , just luck the Difference today , still Fighting #wafc

YonMon on Latics Speyk gave his opinion:

I would say Wiganers will support a Wigan Football team. But only if they are winning regularly. Our rise up the leagues proved that from averaging around 1500 when Whelan took over to just under 20000 in our last Premier League season. Unfortunately we don’t have a large established fan base to fall back on like our Northwest neighbours. As attendances drop as we fall back down the leagues they will grow if we climb back up.

I still think though that the Barnsley performance and result last season had a negative affect on this seasons ST sales. A large expectant crowd left disappointed meaning some of our old fans not returning this season.

TrueLatic4ever on Latics Speyk  suggested:

Divisions 3 & 4 are full of skint clubs with no ambition and owners who refuse to invest.

We will fit in nicely.

Pskl on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

 Tell me why anyone wouldn’t buy us. Stadium runs 12 months a year weddings etc plus whatever we get from the rugby. It as a restaurant unlike alot of stadiums and a football team which will attract crowds in a region of 10000-12000 fans in the championship. All this could be sold if the whelans would include the stadium in the sale.

BickyMon on the Cockney Latic Forum concluded:

Really enough saying its manager fault ._..The fault lies directly at the top thats where our problem is.
We are owned by people that are stuck with the club and cant sell it and wont push the boat out anymore
Thats why we get likes of caldwell joyce and its not their fault ._.Yes we know they where not good enough the owners knew and took a huge gamble that has made us see the worst season in football i have seen in years
Worst of all not one of the owners have stood up and said anything to the fans about this tragedy of a season
And why they let it get into this sorid state. Whelan out

He also said:

Was not long ago whelan stated if a suitable buyer came along with good intensions for wigan athletic he would sell the club to them for just 1 quid. Has he did not want to burden his familly with wigan athletic if anything happened to him. Thing is nobody will buy wigan athletic for 1 quid because it would not include the stadium or any training facility
He wants to sell but own the stadium thats the problem what would any buyer be really buying ?

 

 

 

 

 

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Joyce has gone – time to BELIEVE again

Do we BELIEVE that Latics can get out of this predicament? Table thanks to Statto.com

David Sharpe did the right thing today by dismissing Warren Joyce and his close associate Andy Welsh. Some might say the chairman deserves praise for swallowing his pride and realising he did the wrong thing in November. But Sharpe is pragmatic enough to know that if he had kept Joyce in charge, Latics would surely have been doomed to relegation.

One of the fundamental building blocks in Wigan Athletic’s rise from the fourth tier to mingle for so long with the elite clubs of English football was sheer BELIEF. It was the belief of Dave Whelan in his managers – Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez – that led to the club to an FA Cup, a League Cup Final and eight years in the Premier League. Whelan backed them, not only with his chequebook, but with his driving ambition to hold Wigan Athletic up there.

There were certainly sticky moments along the way, but there was always the hope that things would turn out alright in the end. They did apart from that fatal night at the Emirates, just three days after Ben Watson’s unforgettable goal had won them the Cup. But Whelan had chosen his managers wisely.

Jewell’s teams were built on solid defence, but always had flair players in attack. Whelan opted for continuity when Jewell left, giving the post to his assistant, Chris Hutchings. Sadly it did not work out and Hutchings was gone after barely three months in charge. Bruce came back to the club, Whelan backed him in the transfer market and he righted a foundering ship. His teams were based on a solid defence protected by a rugged midfield, but with a good smattering of flair players to provide balance.

Martinez was brought in to keep Latics in the Premier League on a much reduced budget. He went on to produce the best results in the club’s history, away wins at Arsenal and Liverpool, the club’s one and only victory at home to Manchester United, that epic victory on cup final day. Martinez was a great ambassador for the club, through his insistence that his teams compete against star-studded opposition by sticking to the principles of skilful possession football. The FA Cup victory against Manchester City was no fluke: Wigan had played the better football on the day, with not a hint of skulduggery.

Was Whelan just lucky with his appointments of Jewell, Bruce and Martinez or did he have a vision of what they would do? If he was lucky with those three, he certainly was not with his appointment of Owen Coyle. Neither was he in appointing Malky Mackay and his grandson made a similarly woeful appointment in Warren Joyce. None of those three names – Coyle, Mackay, Joyce – became synonymous with good football at Wigan Athletic. Indeed it was quite the reverse.

But Whelan did make a good appointment in Uwe Rosler, who picked up the mess left by Coyle and got Latics to the FA Cup Semi Final and the Championship playoffs. Sadly the going got rough in Rosler’s second season, but rather than showing faith in a manager who had achieved so much, Whelan showed him the door, bringing in the hapless Mackay. Sharpe did a similar thing with Gary Caldwell, who had only months before won the League 1 title. His replacement was the inept Joyce.

Sharpe has done the right thing for the moment. The odds are that Latics will not be able to avoid relegation, but without the shackles imposed by Joyce the players can make things happen. Few of us really and truly believed that Joyce was the right man for Wigan. To BELIEVE that Joyce could save the club from relegation was asking too much, given his obsession with the defensive side of the game and the hoofball we were witnessing.

Graham Barrow has been appointed caretaker manager again. Barrow is a survivor who has seen six managers come and go since rejoining the club in 2009. Barrow is not the kind of coach who will throw caution to the wind, but we can expect him to field line ups that are more balanced that we saw under Joyce. Due attention will be paid to the offence, as well as the defence.

With Barrow in charge we at least have a hope that we can BELIEVE our team can avoid the drop.

Courtesy of Statto.com

 

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Forgetting the past

Alex Cribley (left) with Dr Mike Ashworth.

Alex Cribley (left) with Dr Mike Ashworth.

Last season is still a bit of a mystery for me. Having a poor season is one thing, it happens to a lot of teams. But for us to have got relegated was unthinkable. I’ve got my own opinion on what happened, but that’s all history now. We just need to let it go and be ready for the challenge of bouncing back next season.”

The words of Graham Barrow speaking to the Evening Post.

Many of us would be interested in hearing Barrow’s opinion of what happened last season, but he seems unwilling or unable to make it public. Barrow rightly wants to move on and focus on next season. However, despite saying that last season is all history now, he moves on to talking about his role in Latics’ Freight Rover Trophy win thirty years ago.

The Chorley-born Graham Barrow has had a long association with Wigan Athletic. He was the most rugged and determined of midfield players, sometimes used as a centre forward, signed from Altrincham for £10,000 in August 1981. He was to become a key component in Larry Lloyd’s team that won promotion from the fourth tier and made 179 appearances, scoring 35 goals, in his five seasons at Wigan. He was “Man of the Match” in that 3-1 win over Brentford in that Freight Rover Trophy final.

 

 

Barrow moved on to Chester at the age of 32 and suffered five bookings in his first seven games for them. However, he was to make 248 appearances for them, scoring 17 goals. In addition to being captain on the field of play he became assistant manager to Harry McNally, then player/manager from 1992-94. As Latics’ manager in 1994-95 he helped them avoid relegation to the Conference. He was to go on to manage Rochdale, before a short lived return to Chester, subsequently taking the reins at Bury.

Barrow was brought back to Wigan as first team coach by Roberto Martinez in July 2009. On Martinez’ departure in summer 2013 and the arrival of Owen Coyle his future seemed in the balance. New managers tend to bring in their own right hand men, but although Sandy Stewart came in as Coyle’s assistant, Barrow continued as coach. He was to become assistant manager under Uwe Rosler, keeping the position under Malky Mackay and Gary Caldwell who were to follow.

Alex Cribley played in the same Larry Lloyd team and that Wembley final against Brentford. In fact he made 328 appearances for Latics over eight years. Cribley had been signed on a free transfer from Liverpool by Ian McNeill in November 1980 and his versatility made him a key player. His best position was probably in the centre of defence, but he was a solid right back and could lend a hand in a midfield holding role. Cribley went on to become club physiotherapist, being connected with the club for 35 years.

Cribley is perhaps one of the more unsung of Latics icons. However, when Mike Ashworth retired as club doctor in April after 33 years of service he spoke of his colleague:

“One thing I will miss more than anything is Alex Cribley. He was there as a player when I started so he’s been there longer than me, then he became a physio. He’s been a fantastic friend, a fantastic support, a proper professional and Wigan Athletic has been very lucky to have him over the years. I’m going to miss that day to day contact with Alex but I’ll keep in touch, I’ll still go to the games and hopefully get a season ticket now and go back to where I started.”

A couple of weeks ago a rumour went around the social media and message boards that Cribley had left the club. Soon after the kit manager, Dave Mitten, tweeted that he had been made redundant. Ironically Mitten still appears on the Who’s Who on the official club site, but Cribley has disappeared.

Given a drop of two divisions in a space of years and an almost 80% potential dip in revenue compared with the life at the top, Wigan Athletic have to cut their coats according to their cloth. It entails not only a mind shift  in terms of the kinds of players they will look to acquire, but also a fundamental restructuring of the auxiliary and administrative staff  at the club.

Put simply Latics cannot continue with a Premier League infrastructure in League 1. It inevitably suggests a huge cut in the total costs of players’ wages, but also a general downsizing within the organisation.

There are fans who will question the outgoings over the next couple of months, not only players but support staff. The club will look at getting the best possible infrastructure in place, within its new financial situation, for the start of the 2015-16 season. It is going to be a painful time for so many within the club, as redundancies will be announced.

David Sharpe is in an unenviable position in having to oversee the culls. He currently has the support of the majority of fans, despite the poorly handled departure of Emmerson Boyce. There are fans who will question the exit of such as the kit manager, citing that what he was earning was a pittance in comparison with what a player would earn. Those questions will continue as the downsizing continues.

However, past commitments and service to the club should at least be acknowledged, if not celebrated. Boyce spent nine years at Latics in their heyday and deserved more thanks than he got from a club that has not been strong in the human resource management aspect. It is sadly the norm in football clubs across the country, Latics probably being no better or worse than most.

Football clubs need to look forward to the future, but at least recognise people who have put in so much in the past.

We await news from the club on Alex Cribley.

Almost gone but there’s hope

Will Caldwell play 3-4-3 next season?

Will Caldwell play 3-4-3 next season?

At the start of the season there were rumours in the media that Wigan Athletic were looking to sign Benik Afobe on loan from Arsenal. Little did we know at the time that it would be Afobe who would put what could be the final nail in the coffin that represents Latics’ season.

Afobe has scored 23 goals this season. Wigan’s leading goalscorer is James McClean with 6. Would Afobe have been able to score like that if he had joined Latics, rather than MK Dons, at the start of the season? Or has Wigan become a strikers’ graveyard, a place where past performance counts for nothing?

Gary Caldwell must have found it hard in his first three matches to resist moving towards the 3-4-3 that became the hallmark of his days under Roberto Martinez. Yesterday he employed something approaching it, with the players he had at his disposal. Given Wolves’ penchant for thrusting players forward it had looked like the right decision to play with three central defenders. It seemed to be working until Afobe scored that “soft” goal, which sapped away Wigan’s brittle confidence. Caldwell would have hoped that a back line of three, becoming five with the wing backs dropping back, would cut out possibilities for a headed goal of that type.

With Latics a goal down and not looking like pulling one back, Caldwell felt it necessary to move to a conventional back four, so that he could accommodate changes in midfield and up front. William Kvist was pulled off after 56 minutes, with James Perch coming out of the back three to a holding midfield position. The goal-shy MAF came on at centre forward with the enigmatic James McClean moving to the left wing. Twelve minutes later Caldwell took off Jerome Pennant for Billy Mckay. But unlike what happened in the previous match with Brighton, the changes did not work this time around. Indeed the departure of Kvist probably did not help, given his ability to drop deep to receive passes and build up from the back.

Latics are surely heading for League 1. The direction had been set in January with the selling off of so much of the family silver. The departure of thirteen players would have been unimaginable at the start of a season that promised so much. Uwe Rosler had made a fatal mistake by signing nine new players over summer, despite having a squad good enough to reach the FA Cup semi final and the Championship playoffs. The result was a fractured squad where new players found it difficult to settle in and the morale of the existing players sank. But just as Rosler had erred in bringing in so many players, Malky Mackay was to do the same. He brought in eleven over a period of three months.

The disruptive pattern caused by managerial changes continues to be problematic in English football. The classic case is typified by a new manager bringing in his assistants, coaches and backroom men from his previous clubs. He then wants to bring in his own players, those who are more likely to be loyal towards him than those recruited by his predecessor. The new manager will say that he wants to bring in players who can play the kind of football he believes in. The result is inevitably disruption and turnover.

However, clubs are slowly adjusting to this scenario. A new model is emerging where a Director of Football has the overview at the club. The ability of a manager to bring in hordes of new coaches, backroom staff and players is diminished under this model. The Director of Football and those above him at the club will take the lead at identifying the kind of football they want at the club. The manager they appoint would need to fit into that philosophy rather than imposing his own.

With the appointment of Matt Jackson as ‘Head of Football Operations’ Wigan Athletic have moved towards the alternative model. Moreover Gary Caldwell has been appointed largely because he is the right fit for the club, given the statements of young chairman, David Sharpe. Sharpe has already stated the need to bring in at least ten new players over summer. His action of creating a new department for the recruitment of players is another indication of a change in model.

Moreover both Sharpe and grandfather Dave Whelan have insisted that the coaching staff largely remain intact, despite the changes in manager. When Rosler was appointed many of us expected him to bring in his assistant manager and first team coach from Brentford. In the event he was allowed to bring in Chris Haslam as Head of Performance, but the long-serving Graham Barrow was to continue as first team coach. Barrow was to be moved into the assistant manager position following the acquisition of Eric Black as first team coach in July. The rumours were that Black was Whelan’s appointment, not Rosler’s.

Malky Mackay’s appointment saw the arrival of David Kerslake as first team coach, despite already having Black in place. Black remains although, in the absence of information from the club, we can assume that Kerslake departed with Mackay.

The role of the coaches over the course of a terrible season has been questioned by many fans. The managers, Rosler and Mackay, have carried the can for poor performances, but Barrow, Black and goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt remain in place.

Probably the biggest failure this season was the failure of the new players signed by Rosler to reach the performance levels they showed at their previous clubs. It was compounded by the lack of motivation of players who had played under Martinez and Rosler.

Seemingly bright young talents such as Adam Forshaw and James Tavernier were dispatched in January, with Emyr Huws and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair disappearing through injury. The mishandling of strikers Andy Delort and Oriol Riera was sad to see. Yesterday’s starting lineup saw just one of Rosler’s signing make the starting lineup, in William Kvist. Another two, Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor were on the bench.

The events of the first half of the season clearly had a negative effect on the players released in January. Tavernier’s loan spell at Bristol City has not seen him become a regular first choice, with 8 starts and 3 appearances off the bench. Likewise Forshaw’s stay at Middlesbrough has seen him used largely as a substitute, with only 5 starts. Delort scored two goals in his first three games on returning to Tours, but has not scored in his last seven, with the club just three points above the relegation zone. Riera has been more successful having made 13 starts at Deportivo La Coruna, with four goals. Rob Kiernan too has been a success in a loan spell, having started 11 matches at Birmingham to date.

One wonders if there is any possibility of those loan players returning. Delort, Kiernan and Tavernier are young and would surely improve if capably nurtured. Riera is an experienced central striker and goalscorer who was poorly treated by Rosler, then written off by Mackay.  If Caldwell is to adopt a 3-4-3 system next season he could clearly do much worse than put in Delort and Riera as two of his front men. Moreover Tavernier is naturally suited to the position of wing back and will score goals if given the chance. Kiernan had a difficult time this season, but he is still only 24 years old. At his best he is a cultured central defender who can pass the ball. He can also play in central midfield.

Whether the loan players will return is going to largely depend on the departure of the bigger wage earners. Latics will hope to get reasonable transfer fees for the likes of Scott Carson, James McClean and James Perch. Ali Al-Habsi will become a free agent, as will Marc-Antoine Fortune. Disaffected players like Leon Barnett and Chris McCann will most likely be encouraged to move on. The futures of the much maligned Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor might lie elsewhere.

Had Afobe joined Wigan Athletic at the start of the season, could he have scored the goals to help them stay afloat? The question is academic, but given the way that strikers with good credentials have failed to make it at the club, one doubts it.

The latest sad example is Billy Mckay, who must have been full of confidence after scoring a potful of goals in Scotland. Four months after signing from Inverness he still has not made a start for the club. A sad indictment on the recruiting/coaching functions at Wigan Athletic.

Mckay is merely the latest in the long line of strikers who have arrived with promise, but have not been sufficiently nurtured. The coaching staff must surely take some responsibility for what has happened.

Latics already have one foot in League 1. Even a draw for Rotherham in their midweek home game with Reading will be enough to finish them off.

But Gary Caldwell has been like a breath of fresh air since being appointed manager.

With the backing of the coaches he might well lead Latics back to the Promised Land.

Will Powell be back for the playoffs?

nick-powell-wigan

Wigan Athletic have a paltry goalscoring record this season, notching just 81 goals in 60 matches. But among the goals they have scored there have been some absolute crackers. Jean Beausejour’s rocket shot at Derby, Jordi Gomez’s free kicks, Roger Espinoza’s 35 yard blinder against MK Dons.

But in terms of sheer self-confidence and artistry Nick Powell’s second goal in the Europa League home game against Maribor stands out. It is the kind of thing that one might expect to happen at places like the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu, but it was certainly a joy to see it at the DW.

Powell was the hero for Latics that night. His first goal had come after 22 minutes from a simple header into an empty net after the Slovenian goalkeeper had made a hash of a punch. Ben Watson scored with a header from Jean Beausejour’s cross some 12 minutes later. But Maribor clawed their way back into the game as Latics went flat, scoring after 61 minutes. Powell’s deciding goal came in the 91st minute when he somehow found the energy that most of his teammates did not have to slalom through the visitor’s defence and score with aplomb.

That was in early October and Powell’s stock was high. His name was being touted around the media as the one who could go back to Old Trafford and lift his parent club out of their lethargy.

Owen Coyle was clearly delighted to sign Powell on loan last August, saying “I said to David (Whelan) when I was bringing him in, for me it was a win-win-win situation.We would win out of it because we got a terrific player, Nick Powell would win because I’ve given him a platform to showcase his talents and Manchester United will get back a more-developed player with more experience and a player who can challenge; as we’ve done before with the Sturridges and the Wilsheres.There’s no doubt from me he can have a huge career.”

During the time Coyle was at Wigan it looked like his assessment of Powell’s potential might be right. The 19 year old was to get rich experience in Europe, starting in five of the six Europa League games and coming on for the last half hour in the other in Kazan. His first appearance for Latics was coming on as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester on September 14th. Five days later he started in the unfamiliar centre forward position in the 0-0 draw with Zulte Waregem in Bruges. With experienced central strikers Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune struggling with injuries, Powell soon established himself in that position.

Alex Ferguson had signed him from Crewe in July 2012. Powell had been a boy wonder with the Railwaymen, making his debut at the age of 16. He was to get lots of media attention scoring a spectacular goal for Crewe in the 2012 League 2 playoff final, but he had already agreed on a move to Old Trafford before then.

The iconic Dario Gradi, Director of Football at Crewe, explained what Ferguson saw in Powell: “He is athletic, he’s a good size, he’s good physically and he’s bright, he knows where people are around him. His clever with his play, he’s not just twinkle toes. Nick’s got a brain and a desire and Alex spotted it on the strength of one outing.”

Powell had become a key player in Coyle’s squad. Given the number of games Latics were facing Coyle was operating a rotation policy but Powell seemed to be the one Latics forward who could go the full 90 minutes on a regular basis. It prompted fans to wonder about the fitness levels of his team mates. At the time of the Scot leaving the club in December, Powell had made 14 starts, 3 appearances as a substitute and scored 6 goals.

In both of Graham Barrow’s games in charge, Powell started, but was substituted early in the second half. He was pulled off after 65 minutes in Uwe Rosler’s first game, the 2-1 defeat at Maribor. However, in the next match he came back to play the full ninety against Bolton, scoring with a bicycle kick in Latics’ 3-2 win.

He scored a goal in the 2-1 win at Reading in the next match, but was taken off at half time. Around that time in late December media speculation over Powell’s future was going haywire. The main theme was that Manchester United were going to recall him from his loan spell. Another version was that he was either going to go on loan to another Premier League club for the rest of the season or another club was to sign him. The names of Everton and Swansea were often quoted.

In the event, Powell was to stay at Wigan until the end of the season. His next goals came after coming on in the 60th minute in the FA Cup tie at MK Dons when Latics were in trouble. His two well- taken goals helped them reach the fourth round.

Injury caused Powell to miss the month of February and he returned to the field on March 12th coming on in the 54th minute in the 1-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday. Since then Powell has only completed two games, including a goal in the 3-3 home draw with Yeovil. His other goal was an 88th minute equalizer at Bolton, after coming on at the 70 minute mark. The last game he completed was the 1-0 defeat at QPR on March 25th.

Since Uwe Rosler’s arrival, Powell has made 12 starts, 10 appearances off the bench and scored 6 goals. The stats paint a different story than in the first half of the season under Coyle.

Nick Powell had an impressive start to his loan spell under Owen Coyle. Although Ferguson and Manchester United signed him as a midfield player,  Coyle thrust him into a central striking role. During Coyle’s tenure he looked the part.

The young player exudes a certain kind of arrogance in his body language on the field of play. Some have compared him to Berbatov, but under Coyle, Powell was willing to graft and defend in a way that would not typify the Bulgarian. Powell won the hearts of many Latics fans through not only his excellent technique and confident play, but also through the physical effort he put out for his team.

Somewhere along the line, Powell lost his way. He just has not been the same kind of player in the second part of the season. Have injuries and illness played a part? Has the extreme media attention got too much for him, above all not knowing where he will be next year? Or is it just that he is a young player, not long turned 20, who lacks consistency? The conspiracy theorists will say that there is a rift between Powell and Rosler.

What fans have seen over the past weeks is a Powell who has not shown the same kind of physical commitment that we saw earlier in the season. Moreover the swagger that the young player was showing in his body language earlier in the season was seen as a sign of self-belief, but  is now being interpreted by some as a “couldn’t care less” attitude. However, some would say that Powell has not been well used by Rosler, too often pushed out to the wings where he is less effective. At times under Coyle, he enjoyed a free role.

Nick Powell is a fine young player, who has represented his country at all youth levels 16-21. He has recently been nominated Crewe’s best player of all time. He is a class act and will almost certainly represent his country at senior level.

If Powell can make the playoffs – in a positive frame of mind and a good state of health and fitness – it might conceivably make the difference between another year in the Championship division or a return to the Premier League for Wigan Athletic.

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