A Portsmouth fan’s view of Noel Hunt

Wigan Athletic today announced the signing of 34-year-old striker Noel Hunt on a one year contract. The 5 ft 8 in tall Irishman was a free agent who spent last season at Portsmouth.

Following the announcement of Hunt’s signing Paul Cook said: “Noel is a top pro whose experience, commitment and quality has already started rubbing off on the squad. He’s a player who trains as he plays, at 100% level, and he will make a significant contribution on and off the field.”

Noel Hunt was born in Waterford and joined Dublin club Shamrock Rovers as an 18-year-old. He was soon to be loaned out to Waterford United where he went on to score 5 goals in 9 appearances. Hunt went on to make 25 appearances for Rovers, scoring 11 goals.

Hunt signed for Dunfermline Athletic in January 2003 for £100,000. He spent three years there, injuries limiting him to making 80 appearances, scoring 8 goals, before moving to Dundee United for £50,000. He went on to make 64 appearances, scoring 23 goals in two years. In July 2008 Hunt was transferred to Reading for £600,000. He went on to spend five years there, making 145 appearances, scoring 33 goals.

Hunt left Reading as a free agent in July 2013 after they had been relegated from the Premier League to re-join Brian McDermott who had taken over at Leeds United. In November 2014, he joined Ipswich Town on a short-term loan. Hunt’s time at Leeds had been blighted by injuries and he made 22 appearances, without scoring a goal, before terminating his contract by mutual agreement in January 2015. He then went back to Ipswich but was released at the end of the season, after scoring 2 goals in 7 appearances. He went on to play for Southend in 2015-16, making 21 appearances, scoring 4 goals. Last season, on a one-year contract at Portsmouth, he scored 1 goal in 20 appearances.

In order to learn more about Hunt’s time at Portsmouth we contacted Jim Bonner  (@FrattonFaithful) of the Fratton Faithful fan site.

Here’s over to Jim:

Noel Hunt will be a positive influence off the pitch. His experience will be valuable to some of the younger players and he was popular amongst Pompey fans last season for his attitude and willingness to talk to fans. I suspect he has signed with a view to be having some coaching role when he retires in the next year or two.

However, in terms of on the pitch contribution he only scored once for us (a tap in against the nine men of Mansfield) and barely saw any playing time in League Two, so he is likely to have even less of an impact on a team pushing for promotion in League One, although his willingness to run around despite his age does give him some nuisance value up front. 

If he has signed to be a replacement for Omar Bogle, Wigan fans are going to be very disappointed. Hunt was a player all Pompey fans expected to leave this summer regardless of who the manager was.

 

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Latics fans react to the Ipswich defeat on social media

An hour before kick-off, anxiously waiting for the lineup that Graham Barrow was going to play at Portman Road. The caretaker-manager was severely hamstrung by the loss of both of his mainline strikers, Omar Bogle and Will Grigg. Was he going to put in the raw Mikael Mandron, plucked from non-league football, but nevertheless  a physical presence and goals to his name, albeit at Eastleigh Town? Or was he going to field the same forward line that finished the Newcastle game, short of physical presence?

Once the lineup was posted most of any pre-match hopes were doused. Could Latics really go into a crucial match like this without a recognised central striker? They did.

In the event it was defensive errors that handed the three points on a plate to Ipswich. On the other hand did the Wigan Athletic team really have the belief that they could pull off a good result in East Anglia?

After the match Graham Barrow was clearly fuming about the performance and critical of senior professionals for making errors that gifted a 3-0 win to a mediocre Ipswich side. But in our heart of hearts, did we really believe that Latics lineup was going to get a result? Confidence at rock bottom, following the devastation of the Joyce era, was there really any way Barrow could change the mind-set of a group of players who had unlearned the basics of good football?

It has been an awful season, paralleling that of 2014-15. Gary Caldwell certainly made mistakes this season, but was prematurely dismissed. Maybe we assumed the club would put in someone with more experience, who knew the division. But the disastrous outcome was the inept Warren Joyce.

Barrow is not everyone’s favourite to take the helm, but he had a mountain of a task to repair the damage done by Joyce when  he took over.  The players too, had a mountain ahead of them.  Under Caldwell they had played possession football.  But Joyce had them playing hoofball, often with ten men in defence. Joyce killed whatever fire Will Grigg had left by first leaving him out of the lineup, then playing him out of position. Then he brought in Omar Bogle, full of confidence, but destroyed that by isolating the player, devoid of support. Both are injured. Hopefully, with time, both will regain their confidence, but whether that might be at Wigan remains to be seen.

The sad situation is that, under Caldwell in the Championship, Latics were cautious, seemingly in awe of the opposition. As a result the goals were not going  to flow. But under Joyce it got much worse. Some said the defence tightened up under Joyce, although the stats do not reflect that. Many would say that the central defensive partnership of Burn and Buxton looked much more solid, although how much of that is due to the midfield having taking up primarily defensive roles alongside them is open to conjecture.

Although staying up might remain mathematically possible, Latics are practically relegated. According to who you speak to, the outlook of getting back to the Championship is either rosy or bleak. The half-full brigade will say Latics have enough good young players to come back up and become a backbone for the future. Their half-empty counterparts will say that most of the talent will be sold off in summer as Latics adjust to a massive cut in income. Instead of a £15-20 million wage bill in the Championship they will adjust towards the £2-3 million figure typical of so many clubs in League 1. Investment by the Sharpe/Whelan family is the unknown factor. Without it, Latics are unlikely to get out of League 1 for years to come, competing on an even keel with others in the division.

Once again we trawled the social media following another adverse result , with more speculation on the future. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Facebook and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

WhittleBlue on Latics Speyk commented:

Six games remain, sadly four of these are at home.

With the absence of any strikers (are Grigg and Bogle out for the season – I can’t recall any club communication actually confirming they are injured) the chances of us seeing the ball hit the back of the opposition net is somewhat slim.

The entertainment value is nil at the best of times and God only knows what affect another four goalless games and likely defeats will do to the prospects or retaining anyone other than the long term, hardcore fans next season. I’ve already heard kids on the way out of the DW saying they don’t want to go anymore. We don’t have a manager so it’s difficult to see the vision going forward and we don’t know what the season ticket prices will be next term. If we shift more than 3000 I will be very surprised. We all know it will be all change on the playing front again and only the dross will remain. The powers that be don’t understand the concept of a balanced squad nor do they feel communication with the fans is important. There is little for the casual fan to buy into. The damage being done is long term, not short term and incompetence at boardroom level that has led us here is quite remarkable and shows no sign of abating.

Our performances are pathetic and we have become relatively uncompetitive. We can longer field a centre forward as we only have two that are unfit and so it’s seems pointless taking to the field to see out the campaign. We are an embarrassment to this league. It’s a slow, torturous death and the end cannot come soon enough.

Stephen Warnock23 @StephenWarnock3 tweeted:

I can only apologise for my own performance last night. Simply not up to the standards I try and set myself.Embarrassed is an understatement

Jonny_SuffolkLatic on Latics Speyk commented:

Probably in a minority, but to me the entertainment value has come back a bit. I’ve gone into the past 2 games having accepted relegation, just wanted to see some attacking football and us not frightened to have a go as we were under Joyce, and we’ve done that pretty much. Yesterday was a shambolic display defensively, and unlike Villa and Newcastle we definitely deserved to lose, but at the other end, with no striker, we put in a good shift at least – and could’ve had a couple if it wern’t for Bialkowski being phenomenal. You’re probably right in that nothing but getting a win is going to win over casual fans, but for those who have followed us through the darkness of this season, I would hope there might at least be something to get out of seeing the team go at the opposition for 90 minutes each game until the end of the season.

Donnys page on the Cockney Latic Forum asked the questions:

What’s needed is a time machine to take us back to the end of last season to see what really happened and to why Mr Sharpe let this freefall happen.
Why have we played in such a negative manner all season?
Why Gary was not replaced with an experienced manager.
Why was Yootha allowed to sign players that were unfit?
Why has there been such an emphasis on midfielders all season?
Why have we been so dull to watch all season?
Why has there been no emphasis on attacking football?
Why do players not performing get picked?

Cupwinners on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Whoever made the desision to let Fondre go in the Jan window should be taken down to market square and publicly flogged with a cat n nine tails made up of knotted Tic scarfs.
No club at any level should ever be left with anything less than 3 recognised strikers,but then again its Latics.

Andronicus on Latics Speyk added:

We actually did okay tonight attacking wise and their keeper made some cracking saves although it has to be said Gilks also made some great saves as well ! Defence though was abysmal and pretty much non existant with the central defenders looking like strangers!! Sadly Barrow is not the answer to our problem and we should be bringing someone in now to get his feet under the table for next year! So sad walk back to the hotel now and talking to the Ipswich fans they cannot get over the fact that their own mis firing team were given such an easy game tonight! Get someone in NOW!!

Jeff’s right on Latics Speyk opined:

I would have had Colclough on the right of midfield where he should be. Two youngsters from the development and youth up top. Jacobs (if the worst signing in our history Obertan isnt fit yet fit yet) out left, Gilbey and McDonald in centre midfield and four at the back. Simple. Every player in position.
Tomorrow though Sharpe needs to be down at Euxton and overseeing his shambles. Sack off all the loan players and Obertan and do what he should have done after the Bristol game start preparing for league one.

David Green on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

So league 1 here we come. Lets look at the possitives no negatives because had more than enough of them.

1 cheaper tickets
2 not that many long trips ( exeption of possibly portsmouth ,plymouth and southend ) but wont be bad weekenders unless on a tuesday night .
3 a few more local games/derbies
4 good standard of football
these are only a few things i for one am looking forward to. Up the tics

Vincehill  on the Cockney Latic Forum gave his view:

From what I saw of Rotherham last Saturday in just the highlights footage I’m fully expecting them to drive the final relegation nail in on Saturday.
Let’s be honest the team is just not good Enough for this division which is so frustrating when you look at what Barnsley and Burton have done.
I keep reading deluded posts saying we can still do it but i gave up the ghost after the Bristol city game and with no strikers ( ??????) it’s all over end of .
The rot set in last summer with poor planning and investment and then the sale of wildschut and again no proper investment has left is in a real
Mess that quite frankly will continue next season if a major change in the club isn’t made .
To say it’s a disgrace isn’t doing it justice but they need to make these changes NOW especially with the season tickets sales about to start.
3 relegations in 5 years when only one in the previous 35 suggests the club has a major problem that lies beyond the players and manager and a huge change is needed throughout the club.

King_de_Zeeuw06  on Latics Speyk was far from happy with the performance:

The fact we played 5 at the back with 3 static defensive midfielders in a must win game shows me despite Barrows talk of ‘going for it’ – we simply aren’t. Negative tactics have been a common theme through all 3 managers this season and if it’s not changed by now i can’t see it changing at all until the new boss comes in.

I was really unhappy with last night after seeing that performance, but I’m absolutely seething now i’ve seen how other results went. They all went for us and if we could’ve got a win against a poor Ipswich side who had nothing to play for we’d have been back to 4 points adrift with Rotherham at home next and a ray of hope. But the set up lacked any ambition, there wasn’t enough fight and we might as well scored 3 own goals for them with the appauling mistakes we made trying to suicidally over play from the back under pressue. It was the type of game you expect the team to come out like men possessed and show some bravery and fire and we just completely bottled it. In other games we’ve been poor but at least the lads made the opposition work to earn their points, but last night was the easiest 3-0 win any team will ever get. We had everything to gain and nothing to lose by having a proper go and nearly all of them went missing – utter disgrace.

Martinh on the Cockney Latic Forum gave his summary of the season:

There’s no doubt that this has been one of the most depressing seasons in living memory, but can we put our fingers on what exactly went wrong? Below, I’ve listed my thoughts, but please chip in with your own in the hope that someone at the club might read and learn from some of this.

1) Caldwell’s clearout. He should never have let Pearce go, or send Morsy and Colclough out on loan. The team that won the league last year should have been given a chance in the Championship.

2) Going the whole season without a recognised right back. That’s apart from Luke Burke, of course, who impressed over three games or so, then was allowed to go out on loan.

3) Signing so many midfielders. How could the team possibly incorporate Nick Powell, Jordi Gomez, Michael Jacobs, Yanic Wildschutt and Alex Gilbey, or David Perkins, Shaun McDonald and Max Power? The squad was so imbalanced that just about all those players ended up filling in at right back.

4) Certain players not turning up. Alex Bogdan goes without saying, but Power, Grigg and Jacobs were all disappointing.

5) Did we panic and sack Caldwell too early?

6) Hiring Warren Joyce. I think we can all agree this was a mistake. Whatever reputation he had as a coach was undermined by some of the most boring football Wiganers have ever seen. To his credit, though, we did start defending better and he brought Morsy out from the cold.

7) Lack of professionalism.,We’re run by a 20-something chippy manager (or are we?), and Jonathan Jackson has been invisible all season. No manager since Martinez has been allowed to bring in their own backroom staff. Instead, we rely on a network of old boys who, this season, seemed to come and go intermittently (Pollitt, Cribley, Jackson, Atherton, Doolan, Barrow). It’s great to see them back st the club but are they the best people for the job? Joyce’s comments about fitness levels or the number of unexplained long-term injuries recently (Reece James, Donervon Daniels) would suggest not,

Getting rid of the local lads. Chow, Flores, Jennings and Burke may not have been worldbeaters but, in this situation, they may just have tried a little harder for their local team. Furthermore, we might have given them time rather than getting on their backs; local players are good for morale and no seen as mercenaries like Tinnicliffe and Hanson.

9) Too many loan signings, some of whom (Marcus Browne) were moaning as soon as they got here and half of whom were injured anyway.

10) Selling Wildschutt. The price may have been right but he was the only player who provided any surprise bits of magic all season.

So, which is the most important? Or can you add your own thoughts as to where it all went wrong?

 

 

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A Fulham fan’s view of Ryan Tunnicliffe

 

Last week Ryan Tunnicliffe was signed on loan from Fulham until the end of the season, when his contract expires. He made an appearance off the bench after 76 minutes in the win against Brentford on Saturday. The 24 year old had a previous loan spell at Wigan under Uwe Rosler which was terminated prematurely.

On signing Tunnicliffe, Warren Joyce said: “Ryan has got a terrific attitude first and foremost. He has been educated through the United Academy and he is a player I always thought would do well.  He has built up considerable experience now in this division and we are confident he can be a really positive influence to the group in the immediate future.”

Tunnicliffe reciprocated by saying that he was delighted to work under Joyce again.

The question is: can the manager get the best out of a player who promised so much under his charge at Manchester United, but whose career seems to have lost its way since then?

Ryan Tunnicliffe was born in Heywood, part of the metropolitan borough of Rochdale. He made rapid progress through the Manchester United Academy, signing professional forms as a 17 year old in December 2009. He went on to win the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year Award in the side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011, ahead of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison.

Tunnicliffe spent the first half of the 2011-12 season at Peterborough, where he made 27 apperances. On his return to Old Trafford he was a regular in Joyce’s reserve side that won two trophies. Tunnicliffe made his senior debut in a League Cup game against Newcastle in  September 2012. He went on a month’s loan to Barnsley in February 2012, followed by a six month loan at Ipswich in the first half of the 2013-14 season.

Ex-Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen signed Tunnicliffe for Fulham in January 2014. He was a regular in the lineup until Felix Magath replaced the Dutchman. After falling out of favour he was sent on loan to Latics in February 2014. In summer 2014 he was sent on a season long loan at Blackburn, but Fulham recalled him in January 2015. He had made 10  starts for Rovers, with 7 appearances as a substitute.

In order to learn more about Tunnicliffe’s time at Fulham we reached out to Peter Grinham on Facebook. Peter previously wrote a fan view for us on Dan Burn.

Here’s over to Peter:

Rene Meulenstein brought him to Fulham after working with him at Man U where, I believe, he was their U21 skipper. He was well thought of at Man U at that time but his career at Fulham has faltered, not initially helped by then manager Felix Magath who was a destructive influence to ALL.

Ryan has never really got going at our club and doesn’t really fit the current Fulham playing style which is pass and go, dribbling past players if need be. He has a lot of energy and is a fully committed player with a decent engine. He has played everywhere across the middle of the park for us but I am really not sure of his best position. He likes a tackle and has a really committed attitude to his game.

When playing as an over age player for the U23s this season, he has simply got on with it, fighting for a 1st team place – where others out of the team appeared to sulk. Sometimes he can go AWOL during a game; I’m not sure if it is a concentration problem or just catching his breath after some powerful committed runs.

Ipswich – once again a turning point?

Will the Ipswich game prove a turning point for Mackay's Latics?

Will the Ipswich game prove a turning point for Mackay’s Latics?

“I think we were terrific. I have watched Ipswich four times this season as a neutral and I knew they grinded teams down before scoring and winning – that is why they are near the top of the league.

“We had to make sure we matched that and we did. There was very little between the two teams. Anyone watching that game couldn’t have said who was near the top and who was near the bottom.”

Malky Mackay’s words after a dire 0-0 draw at Portman Road yesterday.

How times change. A year ago Latics went to Ipswich having won their previous eight matches. They were too good for the Tractor Boys that day, winning 3-1, and it was no surprise. But that game sadly signaled the end of a wonderful run of results, Latics winning only 4 of the 12 league games that followed.

Mackay will hope yesterday’s trip to Ipswich will also be a turning point, but this time in the other direction. It has been something that we could have expected earlier in the Scot’s tenure. On his appointment one had visions of this kind of performance, all grit and determination. His teams have rarely been good to watch, but they have been effective.

Getting the defence right has been key to Mackay’s efforts at Watford and Cardiff. Yesterday, he wisely resisted the temptation to put in new signing Jason Pearce, instead relying on a back four that had played together the previous three matches. The end product was a solid performance from them, not riddled by the errors we have seen over the past months.

Mackay’s signing of Liam Ridgewell looked like a mistake in the loanee’s wobbly first appearance at Birmingham, but since then he has begun to provide the kind of defensive backbone that had been lacking. Ridgewell is the kind of combative professional that one might expect in a Mackay lineup. Moreover when Ridgewell’s short loan period comes to an end he will have Pearce to replicate that style of play.

In the meantime one hopes that Leon Barnett’s recuperation continues. Barnett was one of the stars last season until an injury at, of all places, Ipswich caused him to lose his place. Since then his form has plummeted and he just has not looked the same player. However, Barnett is an experienced and capable central defender, who would find a place in most Championship teams. He is by no means elegant, but he certainly has the ability to be a real asset at this level.

With Chris McCann injured, Mackay opted for a midfield trio of Don Cowie, Emyr Huws and William Kvist. Kvist is at last being given an extended run in the team, albeit not only for his ability in protecting the defence, but also for his long throws which are becoming one of Mackay’s key ploys. Cowie is sadly being maligned by many fans in the same way that Jordi Gomez was during the Martinez era. His pedestrian style of play does not do him any favours in this respect, but there can be no doubting his commitment and workrate. He and Andrew Taylor were key elements of Mackay’s Championship winning team at Cardiff and he is likely to continue relying on the two. Huws remains an enigma. He has all the talent and physical qualities to be a top player, but has still not shown his best in Latics colours. The question is whether Mackay will be able to give him the straight run of games that he needs in order to get his play into full gear.

The downside of yesterday’s performance was the lack of cutting edge up front. The stats show that each of the two front men, Marco Fortune and James McClean, was caught offside four times during the course of the game. That is unacceptable in a team so short of goals.

Getting a result through playing ugly is something that we are likely to see more and more during Mackay’s tenure. The question is whether Latics can do it consistently over the games that remain. Can Latics become the sort of team that nobody wants to play against?

On a positive note, Mackay, at last, got the commitment he sought from the players yesterday. Perhaps the selling off of the crown jewels will have a silver lining. He has lost most of his classy and skllful players. but enough quality remains for Latics to escape the trap door of relegation.

If Latics can show that same kind of resilience that they showed yesterday, over the final 18 matches, then they can look forward to another season of Championship football in 2015-16.