The transfer window – a sign of things to come for Latics?

 

“Of course Luis wants to work and play at the top level. But unless something drastic happens, he will be staying here.”

Brendan Rodgers’ hapless quote did not go down too well with the fans. The Luis Suarez saga dragged on for so long, but the end-result was that the player got what he wanted with a move to Barcelona.  Suarez had been pivotal in Liverpool’s challenge for the Premier League title. His departure seriously weakened a team that had come so close to winning the Premier League.

Nick Powell’s departure from Wigan Athletic over the January transfer window would also have seriously weakened a team striving to win their division. The media was awash with stories telling us that other clubs were bidding for him. We had to hold our breath until the window closed on Wednesday evening.

Powell’s case is remarkable among modern day footballers. Indeed, it was so refreshing to get away from the media hype of Alexis Sanchez and Manchester United, instead hearing how a player did not want to go a higher division to earn a much bigger salary. Powell quite simply told his chairman that he wanted to stay at Wigan and consecutive bids from Brighton were turned down by the club.

January transfer windows have been depressing affairs over recent years at Wigan Athletic. The decimation of January 2015 immediately comes to mind, when Dave Whelan had Malky Mackay boot out so many household names, together with players who had only been signed in summer. It was a matter of reducing the wage bill more than anything else. Relegation was not a surprise consequence of those actions. Add to that the woeful comings and goings in 2017 under the inept Warren Joyce. None of the 13 players he signed were at the club when the current season began. But the January 2018 dealings were by no means depressing, and if anything, they were positively uplifting. So, what has changed at the club?

First and foremost is the manager. Paul Cook has shown the kind of shrewdness in hiring and moving-on of players that has been lacking at Wigan in recent years. When Lee Evans left to join Sheffield United, early in the transfer window, it looked like a case of David Sharpe not being willing to put up that extra money to keep the player. Evans had been excellent and wanted to stay at the club.

But the signing of Jamie Walker from Hearts looked like a step forward, a player who can play the number 10 role that Nick Powell currently occupies. Within a few days James Vaughan was signed from Sunderland, an experienced player who has not only played most of his football in the upper two tiers of English football but has a superb goalscoring record in League 1. The loan signing of Jay Fulton from Swansea was to follow, then on deadline day Devante Cole was signed from Fleetwood for reportedly £400,000 and Donervon Daniels brought back from Rochdale.

Cook has brought in largely younger players, together with the 29-year-old Vaughan. Walker is 24 years old, Fulton 23 and Cole 22.  Daniels is still only 24. His contract runs out in summer. Cole’s signing was a bit of a surprise, a third central striker to challenge Will Grigg and James Vaughan. However, Cole might well be used on the flanks when needed.

Only time will tell if the players brought in during January 2018 will make a success of it at Wigan. But their profiles certainly look promising and the blend seems right. What is surprising is that David Sharpe has spent more money over January when the club are heading for a financial loss for the season. It is not what we have come to expect in recent years.

Reports suggest that the current wage bill is around £10 m, which cannot even be met half way by gate receipts and EFL subsidies. Part of the funds paid out in January will be offset by a 30-40% share of the £1.5 m transfer fee of Jack Hendry from Dundee to Celtic. However, the takeover by the Asian consortium appears imminent. Has this influenced the transfer window dealings? Moreover, will David Sharpe continue when the takeover happens?

Does Sharpe’s tweet give us a clue?

 

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Another point for Latics as takeover looms

It was another of those games when Wigan Athletic had their chances, but just could not put the ball into the back of the net. Although not at their best, Wigan played some quality football at times against a Peterborough side keen to get a result. The visitors gave a good account of themselves, looking better than their current 9th position placing in League 1.

A third consecutive goalless draw at the DW Stadium is hardly the kind of thing that will attract the “floating” fan. Saturday’s attendance was 8,602 which included 399 from Peterborough. The average for the season so far is 9,084.

But despite the goalless draws, Latics have collected 21 points over the past 10 matches.  Although they have scored just one goal in their last four league matches, they have not conceded a goal in the last seven. However, they will be keeping a close eye on Blackburn Rovers, undefeated in 15 league matches. Over the last ten they have gathered 24 points to Wigan’s 21. They had an important 3-1 win over Shrewsbury on Saturday, bringing them to within 5 points of Latics, 2 points behind the Shrews.

When Aston Villa won the First Division title in the 1980/81 season they used only 14 players in a 42-game season. In contrast, Chelsea employed 24 to win last season’s Premier League in a season of 38 matches. In modern day the strength of the entire squad has become of increasing importance, not only in the first tier of English football. When Sheffield United won the League 1 title last season they used 28 players. When Gary Caldwell’s Latics won it the previous season they had 36 players involved.

The key to promotion from League 1 has typically been to have a nucleus of players who are regular names on the team sheet, together with quality back-up. Paul Cook’s recruitment over summer provided him with just that. That Wigan Athletic are top of the division at this stage of the season is no surprise, given the ability and experience of the core players and the quality in depth that they have. Only Blackburn Rovers have the kind of squad that can come close to Cook’s in terms of quality. They too are serious challengers for automatic promotion.

Shrewsbury Town have been the surprise team of the season. They do not have a squad with the depth of those of Latics or Blackburn, but continue to challenge for automatic promotion. Their success has largely been based on the successful chemistry between a nucleus of players largely drawn from the lower leagues. In fact, 10 of their squad have played in 23 games or more of the 26 they have played so far.

Back in 1980/81 Aston Villa employed such a small number of players during the season for several reasons. One is that teams were only allowed to use one substitute in that era. But a key factor is that their key players stayed clear of injury and suspensions. Shrewsbury are a physically competitive team, not afraid to disrupt the opposition’s game. However, they are well disciplined and have received just one red card and 33 yellows in 26 league games.  Should they manage to stay clear of injuries they could well sustain their challenge at the top of the table.

Given the impending takeover of the club by a Far East consortium, it has been hard to predict the short-term effects the potential change would have.  Despite the uncertainty of what will happen under new ownership, Cook has seemingly managed to keep the players focused, judging by the points accrued during an 11-game unbeaten run. Given the scenario, policy in the transfer market was going to be difficult to predict. Would it be driven by the current ownership or the future buyers?

Up to this point the recruitment in the January window bears the hallmark of the current ownership. Lee Evans left for Sheffield United, after they paid Wolves £750,000 for his services. Two other loan players, Matija Sarkic and Ivan Toney, have been recalled by their parent clubs, through lack of game time at Wigan. Cook will be hoping he can cling on to his other two loan players, Christian Walton and Callum Elder. The arrivals of Jamie Walker and James Vaughan will strengthen the squad, their bargain price signings being typical of the Sharpe era. But we have come to expect the club to seek incoming funds to compensate for the £500,000 or so that has been spent. It appears that Jack Byrne is going to Oldham on a permanent contract, although it is unclear how much compensation, if any, Latics will receive. Can we expect more departures?

The surprise up to this point is that there have been no rumours linking Latics to a right full back, as back-up for Nathan Byrne. Walker will effectively take Jack Byrne’s place in the squad, with Vaughan replacing Toney. Another winger would certainly strengthen the squad and Latics have been linked to Morton’s Jai Quitongo, who could be picked up at a bargain price since his contract expires in summer. Having already lost three loan players, Cook will surely also be scouring the loan market to add to his squad.

Should Alan Nixon be correct in his estimate of 10 more days, the takeover will happen before the ending of the transfer window. However, by then we can expect most of Cook’s adjustments to the squad to have been finalised. He will continue to focus on promotion back to the Championship. Should that happen, and Cook continue to be in charge, we can expect major transfer activity in summer.

We can only hope that the new ownership will invest more seriously in the squad than the current incumbents did in the summer of 2016. It remains to be seen whether the consortium would be willing to go a stage further by putting up the kind of money needed to challenge for a place back in the Premier League.

 

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James Vaughan – a Huddersfield fan’s view

 

It has been reported by Huddersfield sources that Wigan Athletic have signed the 27 year old Huddersfield Town striker James Vaughan.

The departure of Billy Mckay left Latics short on strikers and Gary Caldwell appears to have taken a calculated risk on the talented Vaughan, whose  potentially dazzling career has been blighted by injury. Vaughan still holds the record of being the youngest player ever to score a goal in the Premier League, having done so against Crystal Palace at the age of 16 years 271 days.

It is a bold move from Latics who already had another striker in Craig Davies who too has had his share of injuries in the past. Should Davies and Vaughan stay fit, then together with Will Grigg, they might well prove to be the strike force that gets the club out of League 1.

James Vaughan was born in Birmingham but joined Everton at nine years of age, being spotted playing in Preston. Vaughan is blessed with genuine pace – at 13 years of age he was the third fastest 100 meter sprinter in his age group in England. He was to impress in the Everton Academy being player of the season for the under 16s in 2003-04. Vaughan soon moved up to reserve team football, where he regularly scored goals, and went on to make that memorable debut as a substitute against Crystal Palace in April 2005, which also led to him being beating Joe Royle’s record of being the youngest player to play for the  Everton first team. He went on to  receive  a full professional contract couple of months later.

Sadly Vaughan was to suffer a knee ligament injury playing for England’s under 18 side and he missed much of that 2005-06 season. Injuries were to sadly blight Vaughan’s career at Everton, including a dislocated shoulder and a severed artery in his foot. But he came off the bench for the 2009 FA Cup Final, after also playing in the semi final. In September 2009 Vaughan was sent on a three month loan to Derby County, but it was cut short by a knee injury. On his return he scored what proved to be a vital goal against Burnley. In March 2010 he joined Leicester City on loan where he made 8 appearances, scoring a goal.

In September 2010 he joined Crystal Palace on a three month loan, briefly returning to Everton before rejoining Palace in January until the end of the season. In an injury-free season Vaughan made 30 appearances for Palace, scoring 9 goals. In May 2011 he signed for Norwich for an undisclosed fee, but his first season was blighted by injury with him making just five appearances. In August 2012 Norwich sent him on a season-long loan to Huddersfield Town.

The Daily Mail quoted Vaughan on his difficult time at Norwich and his move to Huddersfield:

It was really tough for me. I’d had an injury-free year at Crystal Palace and I went to Norwich under Paul Lambert and started well. I then got a small knee injury which turned from four weeks out to four months. The thing is, you don’t really have any days off when you’re injured. You’ll have the Sunday off. But I was living miles away from my family and friends down there and was never able to see them. When you’re not playing that is so difficult. Towards the end of the second season I was just getting fit again and then the manager changed. I wasn’t in Chris Hughton’s plans and had to move on. Huddersfield feels like a new lease of life.” 

Vaughan went on to make 33 appearances, scoring 14 goals in that 2012-13 season. He went on to sign a three year deal with the Terriers in July 2013. Since then he made 50 appearances, scoring 17 goals.

In order to find out more about Vaughan’s  time at Huddersfield we contacted a Terriers fan.

Marko (Twitter @marko2807) is a Huddersfield Town SC holder & ATT Town Fans Panel Member.

Here’s over to Marko:

James Vaughan

August 2012 – Huddersfield pulled a shock loan move for Premier League striker James Vaughan, signed on a season long deal from Norwich City and made a winning debut at home to Burnley. That season, Vaughan quickly became a fans favourite for his 100% committed performances and scoring 14 goals in 33 league appearances for Town. All Town fans were crying out for Town to try and bring him to club on a permanent deal.

That close season, Town beat off a number of other clubs and signed Vaughan on a 3 year deal for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around the 600k mark. In terms of ability, make no bones about it, Vaughan is a premier league player however sadly his injury record is there for all to see and is the reason why he was playing for Town rather that higher up the chain.

That season, Vaughan only managed 23 appearances, scoring 10 goals. Still a healthy strike rate but a season cut short by a number of injuries. Last season, Vaughan made 26 appearances, but scored just 7 goals and again, appeared to suffer injury after injury.

Beinging the top earner and some at a smallish championship club with modest gates and minimal TV money, it seems that the chairman has had enough paying top dollar to a player who spends as much time in the treatment room as he does on the pitch.

Make no bones about it, Vaughan is quality and we are a different side with him upfront.  However, keeping him out on the pitch seems to have been a step too far. There is no doubting his commitment when he plays however intelligence hasn’t been his strong point. Making wreckless challenges, picking up silly bookings, then injuring himself and incredibly frustrating on his return for a long injury last season, he scored a late winner and after being booked for a stupid challenge earlier on, pulled off his shirt and we all know what happens then! Celebrated scoring the winner and then promptly walked down the tunnel for another unscheduled break from playing. I didn’t know whether to chant his name or call him what I thought at the time!

If he signs for Wigan and gets and stays fit then I have no doubt that he will be the best player in League One. If he makes it back into the treatment room, then he is good as I am!

Good luck to him – If he plays, I’m sure Vaughan will tear them apart. Huddersfield Town are a lesser team without him, sadly we don’t have resources to burn and seemed to be the reason he is being allowed to leave.