FFP and Latics – should Whelan splash the cash?

2012-moneyball

Bournemouth has never had a team playing in the top tier of English football. They entered the Football League in 1923 and AFC Bournemouth play in a stadium that holds 11,700. They had 91% occupancy last season when they challenged for a playoff place, eventually finishing 10th in the Championship.

Owned by Maxim Demin, a Russian petrochemicals billionaire, they would like to see the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules changed. They claim that less than half of the clubs playing in the Championship now were present when current FFP regulations were agreed. In May their chairman, Jeremy Mostyn, said that “What we have is an ambitious owner who has a desire to take this club as far forward as he possibly can…….but what is wrong with having an owner who is determined to put his own money into a football club and take it as far as he can?

Demin wants to see his club in the Premier League. In gaining promotion from League 1 in 2012-13 they lost £15.3m. He is clearly prepared to put in the funds to launch them up another division.

Wigan Athletic fans know what it is like to have an owner who wanted to get his club into the Premier League. It cost Dave Whelan an awful lot of money not just to get Latics into the elite circles, but also to keep them there. If FFP had existed a decade ago it is highly unlikely that Wigan Athletic would have been able to climb up to the Premier League.

In their final two seasons in the Premier League Latics were among a small minority of clubs that actually made a profit. After years of Whelan pumping money into the club it was starting to look like it could become self-sufficient. But relegation meant that the parameters changed – breaking even in the Championship was to be a very different proposition to doing the same in the Premier League.

Last season Latics were due to receive £23m in parachute payments from the Premier League. With an historic Europa League campaign coming up the club decided to largely invest the parachute payments into maintaining a large squad. It is believed that the club had previously written into players’ contracts that their salaries would drop if they were to be relegated from the Premier League. Moreover a number of players left the club, several at the ends of their contracts, others for significant transfer fees.

The proceeds from the sales of Arouna Kone and James McCarthy to Everton probably amounted to around £18m, although the payments were to be staggered over a time period. Most fans expected a sizeable chunk of that money to be reinvested in signing players who could help get the club back into the Premier League. Owen Coyle came in and did a remarkable job in bringing in 10 new players in the space of a couple of months, some having been at the ends of their contracts, some loan signings and others for what appeared to be bargain prices.

With hindsight Coyle was to make one major blunder, paying around £2m for the 32 year old Grant Holt and giving him a 3 year contract. At the time Holt looked like a good signing, given his proven goal scoring record, although the length of the contract raised eyebrows at the time. However, Coyle paid modest fees to acquire Leon Barnett, Scott Carson and James Perch, who have proved to be good signings. He paid a little more to sign James McClean, who took a drop in pay to join Latics from Sunderland. Although the Irishman remains enigmatic he might well become a key player in the future. Coyle’s acquisition of Chris McCann, who had reached the end of his contract at Burnley, was by no means lauded at the time, but the Irishman was to prove a quality signing. Seven of Coyle’s signings remain Latics players, although Juan Carlos Garcia has gone to Tenerife on loan.

The sum total of the transfer fees paid by Coyle would approximate to that received through the sale of Kone. It is assumed that the sum roughly equivalent to that due to be received through McCarthy’s transfer will be allocated towards the development of the new training and youth development facility at Charnock Richard.

Latics actually performed relatively well last season in using their parachute payments to assemble a squad good enough to reach 5th place in the Championship. In the previous season the clubs who came down from the Premier League – Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves – finished in 13th, 16th and 18th positions, despite parachute payments of £16m.

With the parachute payment and funds gained from the Europa League campaign, together with prudent financial management, it is likely that Wigan Athletic at least broke even financially last season. The projected cost of the Charnock Richard facility has not been announced by the club, although Latics clearly made a bargain in buying the site, which was auctioned at a guide price of £650,000.

The accounts will make interesting reading when they are announced in a few months’ time.

Under the current financial regime at the club, Wigan Athletic are highly unlikely to incur penalties under FFP rules. The challenge is whether they can secure promotion back to the Premier League against clubs who are spending millions on new players. Fulham’s investment of £13m on Ross McCormack was staggering, especially for a player who has never played in the Premier League. Last season both Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers flouted FFP rules in gaining promotion. The London team is reported to have had a budget of £70m last year, exceeding that of Atletico Madrid, La Liga winners and Champions League finalists. They lost £23.4m over the season.

The rules for FFP for the Championship division differ from those of the Premier League and Leagues 1 and 2. For the 2013-14 season clubs were required to restrict any losses to £3m. However, it gave the owner of the club the option of converting up to £5m of any loss into equity, putting in cash to buy shares in the club. It cannot be done by borrowing money. However, if these were to be met and the losses did not exceed £8m there would be no penalty.

Clubs are required to submit their accounts for the 2013-14 season on December 1st. Any club that exceeds the limit will have a transfer embargo imposed until it turns itself around to reach FFP rules.

One club that appears certain to have a transfer embargo placed on it in January is Blackburn Rovers. They lost an incredible £36m in the 2013-14 season, wages alone accounting for 115% of revenue. The transfer of Jordan Rhodes for big money would help them to balance their books for the 2014-2015 season, but they face at least a year of transfer embargoes until the accounts are once more submitted in December 2015.

The Football League has a “Fair Play” tax in the case of clubs who overspend, but are promoted to the Premier League. The tax is on a sliding scale, but QPR are due to pay over £17m on their overspending last year. The Championship clubs voted overwhelmingly to impose the Fair Play tax, but the implementation of the scheme relied on the support of the Premier League, which has not materialized. At this stage it looks like QPR have got away with it, but it remains to be seen what will happen if they get relegated and return to the Championship.

Championship clubs continue to overspend in their ambitions to reach the Premier League, not only in transfer fees, but also in salaries. In the 2012-13 season only five clubs in the Championship made a profit. Leicester City lost £34m that season and if FFP rules had been in effect there is no way they would have avoided a transfer embargo, making it unlikely they would have been able to build up a squad strong enough for promotion the following season. It will be interesting to see if clubs fared any better last season, knowing that FFP was coming into effect.

Almost half of the clubs in the Championship are receiving parachute payments. This gives them a considerable financial advantage over the others who receive a “solidarity payment“of £2.3 million from the Premier League, one tenth of that of a club in its first year of parachute payments. The imbalance among the clubs has led to suggestions that clubs with parachute payments should have TV money withheld and that a salary cap be introduced for clubs.

Because of the financial support through the second parachute payment now is the time for Latics to really push for promotion. Over the next two years the payments will decrease and after that Latics would receive only the meagre consolidation payment that teams like Bournemouth are receiving. However, they are now competing against clubs who have just come down with bigger parachute payments plus other clubs who do not seem to be afraid to splash money on transfers despite FFP.

Latics desperately need another striker who can win matches by scoring goals. The question is how far is Whelan willing to go in the bidding wars that start up as the transfer window deadline day draws closer? Brentford sources are suggesting that Latics are going to have to pay more for Adam Forshaw than we previously thought. Moreover a good central striker is going to cost money.

Whelan will want to squeeze as much as he can out of any deal for James McArthur in order to finance the other two purchases. The hold-up in the Forshaw transfer might well be because Latics need to get the McArthur deal finalized first. There has been no news about other Latics players being sought by other clubs, but it remains a possibility at this late stage.

Whelan, Jonathan Jackson and Uwe Rosler deserve credit for the way the club is being run on a sound financial basis. Looking at the plight of near neighbours Bolton and Blackburn highlights the fact. Latics are likely to be one of the leaders in the division in terms of meeting FFP conditions.

However, whether Whelan will allow potential outgoings on transfers to exceed the incomings is a moot point. If he does not do so it will almost certainly jeopardise Latics’ chances of going up this year.

Dave Whelan is first and foremost a businessman. He will have some key business decisions to make over the next few days.

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Selling off quality

“We need the right offer. I don’t want to stop the lad from going into the Premier League.”

The words of Dave Whelan regarding the probable departure of James McArthur over the coming days. Once again Latics are playing the role of a club selling off quality.

When thinking of James McArthur the words “automatic choice” come to mind. In fact his would be the first name most Latics supporters would pencil into a team lineup. The Scot might not be the most elegant of movers, but he has been the key man in the engine room of the team. McArthur grew up under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, where good football was of the essence, even if the results did not always match.

Working under three different managers in less than a year, McArthur stayed with the club when relegation happened. He is a player of genuine Premier League quality, with a massive work rate to supplement his considerable skills. Even in the dark days of long ball under Owen Coyle, McArthur did not succumb. He stuck to his footballing principles, providing the link between defence and attack, preferring to keep the ball on the ground rather than make hopeful long passes. With McArthur on the pitch there has always been a chance of good football coming from Latics.

The same could also be said for Ivan Ramis, the club’s most classy defender. Ramis might well have proved to be one of Martinez’s most astute signings, had he not suffered that cruciate knee ligament injury at Fulham in January 2013. Ramis remains a class act and if he can maintain his fitness he can still be a top flight player. Martinez never had much luck with injuries to his squad and one can only ponder on what might have been if Ramis and Antolin Alcaraz had been able to play together in the centre of defence on a regular basis.

Reports suggest that Ramis is on his way to join Deportivo  La Coruña in Galicia, now back in La Liga after a year’s absence. No fee has been mentioned, but if there is one it is likely to be modest, given the player’s injury record over the past 18 months. Ramis is reputed to be one of the highest earners at the club and his departure has been imminent.

The media reports that both Burnley and Leicester City have made bids for McArthur, the latest one being around £5m from the Foxes. Whelan will probably try for £7m, but the final figure is likely be closer to £6m. The lure of playing in the Premier League and earning a commensurate salary will be hard for the Scot to resist, although the cynics might say that he could well be back in the Championship a year from now if he joins either of those clubs. However, possibilities remain for other Premier League clubs to get involved as the week progresses.

At the moment it looks like Latics are going to take one step forward – in signing Adam Forshaw – and two steps back in allowing players of the quality of McArthur and Ramis to leave.

The dismantling of Roberto Martinez’s squad continues. In July  Latics lost both Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez, skilful players who added poise to the team.  Martinez himself did his old club no favours a year ago when he took James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to Everton, along with Alcaraz and Joel Robles. Four of the players remaining from the Martinez era – Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell, Ali Al Habsi and Shaun Maloney – are now well into their thirties. Al Habsi is playing second fiddle to Scott Carson and might well be gone over these coming days.  Roger Espinoza and Fraser Fyvie have not impressed  Rosler sufficiently to push for regular first team places. Even Ben Watson could have left in summer if it had not been for his double leg fracture. On a more positive note Callum McManaman is getting back to his best form and both Rob Kiernan and Lee Nicholls have come up through the ranks.

Times have changed at the club. Few fans these days expect Whelan to get out his cheque book as he did in not only in helping Latics rise to the Premier League, but in keeping them there.   They made losses for six successive years in the elite league despite selling off prized assets like Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios. However, when Whelan brought in Martinez he cut the budget and somehow the Catalan managed to keep the club up there for three more years,  an horrendous injury list contributing to relegation in his fourth and final year.

A few years ago fans might have expected Whelan to back the manager in retaining quality players like Beausejour, Gomez, McArthur and Ramis. Uwe Rosler does not have such luxury. He is now likely to lose his classiest players in both defence and midfield. Rosler has to balance the books, using money brought in from transfers to fund his own searches for players.

Ramis played at his best for Rosler when in the centre of a back line of three. Although Latics remain well stocked for central defenders only Caldwell has experience in that position.

It looks like Forshaw will be McArthur’s replacement.  A young player who has excelled at League 1 level compared with an experienced campaigner who played in all of the most eventful games in the club’s history in the higher echelons of English football.However, Rosler clearly has confidence in Forshaw’s ability to make it in a higher level of football.

However, fans will hope that the proceeds of the sales of Ramis and McArthur will go towards improving the squad. The media reports that Latics are in negotiations to sign central striker Andy Delort from French second division side, Tours. It is rumoured that they are offering around  £2m-£3m for the player. This added to an investment of around £5m for Riera and Forshaw would come close to what Latics would recoup. However, the possibility remains of more players leaving, particularly those on higher salaries or out of favour with the manager.

In McArthur and Ramis, Latics will be losing two more players of genuine Premier League quality. However, Rosler has to take a wide overview and make sure that his squad is well balanced and competitive in all positions. At the same time he needs to make sure that he not only breaks even on his transfer dealings, but that he keeps a cap on the wage bill.

Rosler does not have the financial backing that Paul Jewell or Steve Bruce had during their time at Wigan. His situation is more akin to that faced by Martinez. Although he has recruited mainly UK based players he has had to look further afield to find strikers that he can afford.

Fans will be disappointed to see McArthur and Ramis go, less so the Spaniard given his injury problems. They are quality players capable of performing at a high level in the first tiers of football in both England and Spain.

 

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The Best of James McArthur 2013-14 [video]

With a new season less than a week away for Wigan Athletic we wanted to take a final look at some special moments from the season just passed. .

James McArthur is a class act. He is admired by fans for his never-say-die spirit and during a game he covers almost every blade of grass on the pitch. He is at the epicentre of the engine room that makes the side tick. An FA Cup Final winner, James played in Roberto Martinez’ team that blew away the likes of Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool a couple of years ago. His passing game is second to none at the club.

The video below is kindly shared with us by a talented and true Latic fanatic through YouTube and captures some of the Scot’s best moments in the 2013-14 season.


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Profiles from the archives – Part 2: James McArthur and Ben Watson

In April we stated our intention of republishing articles from our archives from time to time. It takes a long time for a fan site to get established and Amigos has been no exception. We are now in our third year. Our readership grew slowly in the first year, steadily in the second, but much faster in this third year. Given that we now have a wider readership we decided to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen.

The republishing of the  “Fan View”articles – perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs – went particularly well, according to the viewing stats.

We now plan to look back to some of the player profiles that we have have written and published over the past couple of years. Once again we ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Click here for our previous player profile on  Jean Beausejour and Chris McCann.

Let’s take a look at our articles on James McArthur and Ben Watson.

 

Auld Mac getting better and better – a look at James McArthur – published April 3, 2014

The Jimmy Macs - McArthur left with McCarthy.  Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

The Jimmy Macs – McArthur left with McCarthy.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

They were the two Jimmy Macs – James McArthur and James McCarthy – in the engine room of Roberto Martinez’s midfield. It could be difficult guessing Bob’s starting lineups, but the Jimmy Macs always seemed to be there. Together with Shaun Maloney they could compete on an even keel with the likes of  Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes. They were the ones who underpinned Wigan Athletic’s famous victories against giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Both had started at Hamilton Academicals in the second tier of Scottish football. Both Glaswegians and both part of the Accies side that won the Scottish First Division in 2007-08. The younger Jimmy Mac – McCarthy – was first to join Latics in summer of 2009, to be followed by ‘Auld Mac’ a year later. James McCarthy made 120 appearances for Latics before he moved to Everton early this season. James McArthur has made 116 up to this point.

Given his wealth of Premier League experience McArthur was expected to be a major force in the Championship division. His early performances under new manager Owen Coyle were disappointing, his partner McCarthy’s departure not helping. Some even suggested McArthur would never be the same without the younger Mac. But then again not many players reached optimum levels under Coyle’s slack regime. However, Coyle clearly recognized McArthur’s talent and leadership qualities, giving him brief captaincy duties for the first time in the absence of Emmerson Boyce.

The arrival of new manager Uwe Rosler signaled a change in tactical approach. Coyle’s long ball tactics had not suited the skilful McArthur and he soon made an impact upon his new manager. He formed a formidable midfield trio with Chris McCann and Ben Watson that was to prove crucial in Latics’ revival. Sadly both McCann and Watson were to pick up long term injuries and since then McArthur has had a variety of players accompanying him in midfield. Nevertheless he has kept up his excellent form.

However, Auld Mac has become more and more influential in that midfield engine room. He has become the fulcrum around whom things happen, a complete midfield player. Despite already having played 45 games this season he was full of energy and drive in an outstanding display in the draw with champions-elect Leicester City on Wednesday.

McArthur was once described as a tough tackler with creative spark. But he has become much more than that. He has become the midfield general who sets the example to his teammates in terms of his commitment and dedication to the Wigan Athletic cause. He will always be remembered as being part of the team that beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup last May. He had a wonderful game as a makeshift wing back.

If there is one area in which McArthur needs to improve it is in scoring more goals. However, when he does get them they tend to be good ones. That rocket shot at Huddersfield last season and the amazing chip over the Northern Ireland goalkeeper are as good as you will see.

Auld Mac is not so old. In fact he is only 26 and still has not reached his peak. He has taken his game to a higher level and many would view the underrated Scot as Latics’ player of the season at this point. It is ironic that when he is showing  possibly the best form of his career he is not making the first choice line-up for his country. Granted he has dropped down a division, but are the current starters for the Scotland team really better than him?

James McArthur is a quality footballer with a great attitude. He can help take Wigan Athletic into the play-offs and beyond.

At 26 he has still not reached his peak. Latics supporters will hope he will stay at the club for years to come.

 

Watson’s  best is yet to come –published February 12, 2014

Ben-WatsonHe wrote his name into history with a brilliant last-minute header that won the FA Cup. If you were in a room full of football fans from all over the world and asked them to name a Wigan Athletic player, you can guess whose name would be most likely to come up.  That would be Ben Watson.

At his best he can look as classy as any midfield player in England. He is a strong tackler capable of making key interceptions. He has genuine football vision and can make forty yard passes with Beckham-like precision. He can certainly score goals and is not afraid to take penalties. One recalls the away game at Stoke last season when Tony Pulis was far from happy to see the Londoner brought off the bench to take a penalty, which he duly dispatched.

Watson’s peak time at Wigan was during the late rally in the 2010-11 season, when Latics produced a series of results that shocked the English football world and silenced even the most vile of their critics in the gutter press. Roberto Martinez had moved to a system with three central defenders, with Watson playing just in front of them, making up the extra man in the centre of defence when needed and playing a deep-lying midfield creator role.

You could say Martinez made the most inspired substitution of his career when he brought on Watson for a tiring Jordi Gomez after 81 minutes in the FA Cup Final. The end result was that a player who had never consistently commanded a first team place at the club became its most famous-ever player.

Ben Watson has his critics among Latics fans. They would say he is prone to lapses of concentration in defence, too one-paced in his play and inconsistent in his taking of set pieces. Far too often his shots on goal from free kicks have endangered supporters sitting in the back rows of the stands behind the goal.

However, the 28 year old has already started in 24 league games this season beating his previous best of 23 league starts in 2010-11.

Steve Bruce signed Watson from Crystal Palace in January 2009 for a fee of around £2m. He was to make 6 league starts with 2 goals under Bruce’s management.

Watson could not  establish himself under new manager Martinez in 2009-10, being sent off on loan to Queens Park Rangers for the first half of the season.  Coming back he could still not get into the Wigan team and was loaned to West Bromwich Albion in February 2010, but was recalled early in April. By the end of the season he was to make 5 appearances, getting a goal in the 3-2 home win against Arsenal on April 19.

The 2010-11 season was a mixed one for Watson, not being a regular starter until after Christmas, when he was to become a key player in that deep-lying midfield role.

After signing a new three year contract in August 2011, Watson could not settle into a rhythm in the 2011-12 season and started in only 14 Premier League matches.

Last season saw the Londoner make only 7 league starts, mainly down to the broken leg he received at  Liverpool in the November. Watson was not to reappear until May when he played in the 3-2 away win at West Bromwich. He was soon to go on to score that all-important goal at Wembley.

Watson got off to a good start in Owen Coyle’s first league match in charge. His superb shot from 30 yards opened the scoring at Barnsley on the opening day of the season, leading to a 4-0 rout. He also scored a superb goal in the Europa League match at home to Maribor, running through from his own half to connect with Jean Beausejour’s cross. Coyle played him in that deep-lying midfield creator role but also further forward in midfield. In Shaun Maloney’s absence he became the main taker of set pieces.

Watson survived the ‘Coyle Revolution’ better than some of his teammates who had also been with the club in the Martinez era. Coyle certainly rated him and his set-piece deliveries were crucial to an attacking approach where Latics were looking for headers from their big men.

Many of us wondered how the new manager Uwe Rosler was going to use Watson in a high tempo game plan. But from the start the German was positive about Watson and he has publicly stated his hope that the player will sign a new contract.

Watson scored another good goal against Crystal Palace recently. Once again he ran in from a deep position to score an opportunist strike from James McClean’s low cross. Together with James McArthur and Chris McCann he makes up a formidable midfield trio, which has a high work rate and no mean level of skill. Roger Espinoza, Jordi Gomez and Josh McEachran will continue to challenge that trio for a place.

At 28 a midfield player is often around his peak. However, with Watson one has the feeling he can get better still.  Rosler clearly has plans for the player and believes he can fit into his high-tempo style. Moreover if Watson can cut out the errors he can be prone to make through lack of concentration he will be a much better player. Rosler is keen to increase fitness levels of the squad and this will help Watson both physically and mentally.

Ben Watson has certainly had his ups and downs at Wigan, but has shown both patience and determination to get where he is now. He has the ability to be a top class footballer.

However, given the financial constraints that Latics are now facing it is unlikely that they will be able to offer Watson the kind of contract he seeks.

In the meantime Watson will continue to be a pivotal player in Wigan Athletic’s climb up the table.

 

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Auld Mac getting better and better – a look at James McArthur

 

The Jimmy Macs - McArthur left with McCarthy.  Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

The Jimmy Macs – McArthur (left) with McCarthy.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

They were the two Jimmy Macs – James McArthur and James McCarthy – in the engine room of Roberto Martinez’s midfield. It could be difficult guessing Bob’s starting lineups, but the Jimmy Macs always seemed to be there. Together with Shaun Maloney they could compete on an even keel with the likes of  Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes. They were the ones who underpinned Wigan Athletic’s famous victories against giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Both had started at Hamilton Academicals in the second tier of Scottish football. Both Glaswegians and both part of the Accies side that won the Scottish First Division in 2007-08. The younger Jimmy Mac – McCarthy – was first to join Latics in summer of 2009, to be followed by ‘Auld Mac’ a year later. James McCarthy made 120 appearances for Latics before he moved to Everton early this season. James McArthur has made 116 up to this point.

Given his wealth of Premier League experience McArthur was expected to be a major force in the Championship division. His early performances under new manager Owen Coyle were disappointing, his partner McCarthy’s departure not helping. Some even suggested McArthur would never be the same without the younger Mac. But then again not many players reached optimum levels under Coyle’s slack regime. However, Coyle clearly recognized McArthur’s talent and leadership qualities, giving him brief captaincy duties for the first time in the absence of Emmerson Boyce.

The arrival of new manager Uwe Rosler signaled a change in tactical approach. Coyle’s long ball tactics had not suited the skilful McArthur and he soon made an impact upon his new manager. He formed a formidable midfield trio with Chris McCann and Ben Watson that was to prove crucial in Latics’ revival. Sadly both McCann and Watson were to pick up long term injuries and since then McArthur has had a variety of players accompanying him in midfield. Nevertheless he has kept up his excellent form.

However, Auld Mac has become more and more influential in that midfield engine room. He has become the fulcrum around whom things happen, a complete midfield player. Despite already having played 45 games this season he was full of energy and drive in an outstanding display in the draw with champions-elect Leicester City on Wednesday.

McArthur was once described as a tough tackler with creative spark. But he has become much more than that. He has become the midfield general who sets the example to his teammates in terms of his commitment and dedication to the Wigan Athletic cause. He will always be remembered as being part of the team that beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup last May. He had a wonderful game as a makeshift wing back.

If there is one area in which McArthur needs to improve it is in scoring more goals. However, when he does get them they tend to be good ones. That rocket shot at Huddersfield last season and the amazing chip over the Northern Ireland goalkeeper are as good as you will see.

Auld Mac is not so old. In fact he is only 26 and still has not reached his peak. He has taken his game to a higher level and many would view the underrated Scot as Latics’ player of the season at this point. It is ironic that when he is showing  possibly the best form of his career he is not making the first choice line-up for his country. Granted he has dropped down a division, but are the current starters for the Scotland team really better than him?

James McArthur is a quality footballer with a great attitude. He can help take Wigan Athletic into the play-offs and beyond.

At 26 he has still not reached his peak. Latics supporters will hope he will stay at the club for years to come.

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