Can Latics afford to keep Chris McCann?

Whether McCann stays or not will provide an indicator on Wigan's financial outlook for the future.

Whether McCann stays or not will provide an indicator on Wigan’s financial outlook for the future.

Norway is a country that prides itself on financial transparency. In fact you can go online and look at the earnings that people post on their tax returns, the Prime Minister included.

But obtaining hard facts on player earnings at English football clubs is quite the opposite. Individual player salaries tend to be closely guarded by clubs who want to keep such things under their hats, for their own sakes as well as those of the players. Since salaries are so rarely divulged we usually to have to make guestimates for the figures involved.

According to the Daily Mail the average basic yearly salary for a Championship player in 2014-15 was £324,250. It was £69,500 in League 1.

Using those basic figures and assuming a first team squad of 25 players it would have cost an average Championship club around £8.1m that season for its basic wage bill for its senior players, let alone for bonuses and appearance money. Together with salaries of other players and staff and the general running costs of the club, the figures would most likely top £10m. A comparable figure for the average League 1 club would have been around £2.5m.

Chris McCann and Leon Barnett were signed by Owen Coyle in the season of 2013-14 when Wigan Athletic’s annual running costs were around £30m. Simple calculations suggest that most of the senior players in that squad would have been earning salaries around £1m.

According to an article in the Star a couple of weeks ago it was Sheffield United, not Wigan Athletic, who had the highest player salary costs in League 1 this past season. They estimated it to be around £6m.

If the Star’s estimate is correct it means that Latics operated on a salary bill no more than £6m last season, remarkable given that the combined salaries of Barnett and McCann would most likely have been between £1.5m and £2.0m. It suggests the remaining players were earning a fraction of the wages of the two Coyle recruits.

Last summer Wigan Athletic did a remarkable job in preparing themselves for the financial realities of League 1, following a 12 year period in the Championship and the Premier League. Players on Championship salaries were jettisoned for knockdown prices, whilst others were sent out on loan. Whether Barnett and McCann remained due to their value to the squad or that no acceptable offers came to them is open to conjecture. In the event Barnett had an indifferent season and will be going elsewhere. McCann on the other hand became a key player in the promotion season, given his flexibility in adjusting to playing in different positions.

The club has announced that it is offering McCann a new contract. The snag is that the salary on offer would mean a substantial pay cut for the Irishman. Given that he is a proven performer with a wealth of experience in the Championship he is likely to attract interest from other clubs in the division. The arrival of Owen Coyle at Blackburn could be a factor. McCann played under the Scot at Burnley before joining Coyle’s Latics. Moreover judging by their profit and loss accounts over the past seasons the East Lancashire club are not averse to offering attractive salaries.

Should McCann leave Wigan there will be fans who will question his loyalty. But the likelihood is that he will leave. There are at least three other players who still belong to Wigan who will still be on their previous Championship-level salaries. They are the loan players – Emyr Huws,  Billy Mckay and Andrew Taylor. But the kinds of salaries that Latics will want to offer this coming season might not be in line with what those players were used to earn before going on loan.

Having had wage bills of £30m in the Championship in 2013-14, then £20m in 2014-15, what kind of figure will Latics be aiming towards for the season ahead?

Wigan will be buffered by their final parachute payment in excess of £12m. However, the club does not have a great record in raising commercial revenues and gate receipts are likely to be well below the average for clubs in division. Offering low cost season tickets is a great way to foster goodwill among supporters and it could be argued that the lower prices will bring more people in, compensating for a reduction in price. However, there are questions about whether such a stance can be maintained without the cushion of parachute money. Even in their heyday in the Premier League the club struggled to reach an annual £3m in gate money.

Latics might stretch to a wage bill of around £15m for the coming season, but they must tread with caution with regards to salaries offered and lengths of contracts. The prospect looms of making significant losses two to three years from now.

Given these factors offering McCann a one year deal on a salary compatible to that of which he has become accustomed would be possible. But a contract of two to three years on such terms would be risky.

Last summer the staffing policy was clear – get rid of the highest earners and bring in players of sufficient quality to get the club out of League 1, but halving the wage bill. This summer it is not so clear. Does the club take the gamble of going for outright promotion or does it keep an eye on what are the longer term implications for its financial future?

Whether or not Chris McCann signs a new contract will provide us with a major indicator as to where the club intends to be heading over the coming years.

Caldwell’s summer shopping list

Will Grigg has been on fire but the dust has now settled on Wigan Athletic’s achievement of winning League 1. Now it is time to look ahead to the start of the Championship season on August 6th.

shoppingGary Caldwell will surely be relieved that he will not have to go through the massive restructuring of last summer. But at the same time he will know that the current squad will need strengthening if Latics are to hold their own in the higher division. At least half a dozen reinforcements are likely to be brought in.

Caldwell’s immediate priority will be to deal with players out of contract and players who have come in or gone out on loan.

Caldwell has already secured the services of Stephen Warnock for the next couple of seasons following a very successful loan from Derby County. Warnock has looked a class act in League 1, whether playing as a left back or on the left side of a back line of three. However, he is 34 years of age and it comes as a surprise that a contract of more than a year was offered.

Rumours also suggest that Caldwell is trying to tie up a deal with Everton for Conor McAleny. The 23 year old scored 4 goals in his 9 starts and 4 appearances as a substitute since joining Wigan on loan in January. McAleny’s career has been dogged by injury, but Caldwell must feel reasonably confident that the player can maintain a good level of fitness. McAleny can hit the ball as hard as anyone, as evident on the screamers he scored at Walsall and Shrewsbury.

Haris Vuckic is the third loan player who finished the season for Latics. The 23 year old Slovenian has a great left foot and can both score and create goals. The question mark over Vuckic has been his fitness. He made 5 starts for Latics, but never completed the 90 minutes. Vuckic has reportedly gone back to Newcastle and given his inability to establish himself at Wigan it is unlikely he will be sought after by Caldwell.

Caldwell has the option of bringing back three players who were packed off on loan to other clubs at the start of last season. With Reece James and Stephen Warnock, Latics do not need another left back, so it is likely that Andrew Taylor will once again be sent away on loan until his contract expires in June 2017.

Billy Mckay was given minimal opportunities at Wigan, but has scored 12 goals in 28 starts for Dundee United who finished bottom of the SPL. However, it is reported that there is interest in him from other Scottish clubs and it is unlikely he will return.

The prospect of Emyr Huws playing in midfield with the likes of Max Power is mouth-watering, but it appears that he might have burnt his bridges at Wigan. Huws is a combative midfielder who oozes class, but comments attributed to him as not wanting to play for Latics when they were going down to League 1 were unfortunate to say the least. Moreover it appears that the ankle problem the player suffered at Wigan has continued to plague him. Huws has another two years to run on his contract and the likelihood is that Latics would accept any reasonable transfer fee put forward.

There are seven players out of contract. Both Leon Barnett and Chris McCann were recruited by Owen Coyle in the days when the club’s annual salary bill was well above what we can expect for the near future. Barnett is an experienced ex-Premier League player, but has found it difficult to adjust to the possession football that Caldwell demands. McCann on the other hand has thrived under Caldwell. The Scot has not only called on him to play in the centre of defence as he did at times under Uwe Rosler, but has reinvented the big Irishman as a wing back. Although Barnett’s stay at the club looks to be coming to a close, Caldwell will be keen to retain McCann, although he will have to ask the player to take a significant salary cut if he wants to stay.

Reece Wabara was signed on a short term contract in January, since when he made 14 starts with 3 appearances off the bench. Although Wabara has by no means played badly, neither has he convinced us that he must stay. Wabara is already being linked with other clubs and rumours suggest he is on his way out of the club.

Kevin McNaughton missed most of the season out through injury and although the 33 year old Scot is an accomplished full back it is unlikely Caldwell will offer him a further contract.

The positions of three younger players who are out of contract are unclear. The 23 year old goalkeeper Lee Nicholls has amassed nine league appearances over his five years or so at the club. He has had loan spells at six clubs, his most successful being in 2012-13 when he was an ever-present for Northampton Town. Fan opinions on Nicholls vary. Some say that he is the kind of commanding keeper that Latics need and that successive managers have never given him the chance he has deserved. Others cite a lack of concentration, that some of the goals he has conceded should have been easily saved. Rarely has the rift in fan opinion been more apparent than in the last game of the season. On the Vital Latics forum 18% of readers voted him ‘’Man of the Match’’ whereas others slated him for all four Barnsley goals. The signing of young Dan Lavercombe from Torquay in January could prove a key factor in the decision whether or not Nicholls will be offered a new contract.

The other two young players whose contracts are due to expire are Jordan Flores and Ryan Jennings, both 20 years old. It was always going to be hard for young, inexperienced players to break their way into a team aiming for promotion. Both have certainly showed promise, although only Flores played in league games this past season. He made two league starts, both in September, scoring a fine goal against Fleetwood but getting sent off at Oldham a week later. Flores has had injury issues, but he has a great left foot and shows some silky skills. Jennings made his senior Latics debut as a substitute in the League Cup game against Bury and has been on loan at Grimsby and Cheltenham, making a total of 9 starts and 9 appearances as a substitute.

So what are the areas that need strengthening?

David Sharpe has recently made it clear that Latics will not be spending big money to bring in players in their late twenties or beyond. However, that does not preclude money being spent on young players who have already shown what they can do at other clubs. Any more experienced players coming in are likely to be free agents or those available at knockdown prices.

With Jussi Jaaskelainen now 41 years old, Caldwell is likely to seek an experienced goalkeeper to challenge the Finn for his place. Rumours suggest that they will once again try to sign the 32 year old Andy Lonerghan. The ex-Preston and Bolton man has a wealth of experience and is midway through a two year contract at Fulham.

Right back was a problem position last season and Caldwell will be keen to recruit someone who can fill the bill. Donald Love (21) could be that player should Latics be able to persuade Manchester United to part with him for a reasonable fee. Love’s loan spell at Latics was interrupted by injury and call-ups from the Scotland under-21 team, but he did enough to suggest that he would be a good investment for Wigan.

Caldwell will also be looking for a quality central defender with the speed to cope with pacey Championship forwards. With the likely departure of Barnett it will be a priority.

Rumour suggests that Latics are interested in the 31 year old Darren Pratley, a holding midfielder with a wealth of experience with over 300 appearances under his belt at Swansea and Bolton. Together with the 22 year old Danny Whitehead, signed from Macclesfield Town in January, Caldwell would be adding a balance of youth and experience to his midfield if he were to sign Pratley.

Caldwell will also seek another centre forward. Much depended on Grigg last season and Latics need alternatives in case he is called up for international duty or injured. Craig Davies had his most injury-free season for some time, but was only used as a substitute in the second half of the season. Caldwell will broaden his options by going for a third central striker.

Should Vuckic not be returning, another left footed winger/creative player would help maintain a balance. Ryan Colclough, Michael Jacobs, Conor McAleny and Yanic Wildschut are all right footed although Andy Kellett can play a left footed role on the right of midfield.

Caldwell and his recruitment team have done a fine job over the past year. Their next challenge is to find half a dozen new recruits who can add further balance to a squad that is going to have to come to grips with playing at a higher level this coming season.

Wabara the next on Caldwell’s latest wish list?

Reece Wabara. Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Reece Wabara.
Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Wigan Athletic currently stand in 5th place in League 1, just 5 points behind second placed Gillingham. They are desperately seeking an automatic promotion place.

On November 9th we posted “Caldwell’s Christmas Shopping List”. At that time Latics were coincidentally 5th in the League 1 table, 5 points behind the Gills in second place. We advocated the need for another central striker (Alex Revell was brought in soon after), a right back, a central defender and an influential central midfield player.

Since then short-term loanees Francisco Junior, Donald Love and Sean Murray have left the club, with Yanic Wildschut being signed on a permanent contract. Revell was recalled early by Cardiff City from his loan spell. Moreover Richard O’Donnell has joined Bristol City on loan.

Since November 9th Latics have a record of W5 D3 L2. Statistics supplied by www.statto.com show them lying 8th in the form table for games played between then and now.

Statto

Wigan’s average of 1.8 points per game over the period has helped then maintain their position in 5th place, but the teams that were above them in November remain above them now.

Both Burton Albion and Walsall have had managerial changes since then.  Since Nigel Clough took over from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Burton on December 4th he has had a record of W4 D1 L0. Sean O’Driscoll succeeded Dean Smith at Walsall on December 18th, his record so far being W3 D1 L1.

Latics clearly cannot rely on the teams above them defaulting over the remainder of the season. History tells us that teams who have gained automatic promotion from League 1 have amassed a minimum of 90 points. To achieve that minimum target Latics would need 45 points from their remaining 20 games, an average of 2.25 points per match.

The January window is crucial to Wigan’s quest for automatic promotion. Caldwell’s squad is strong, but somehow the team rarely fires on all cylinders. The chemistry just does not seem quite right. The question is whether Caldwell can bring in the types of players who can provide an appropriate balance.

A right back/right wing back is surely high on Caldwell’s wish list. Donervon Daniels can excel when attacking, but can be suspect when up against a speedy wide player. Daniels is basically a central defender who has been helping the team by playing out of position. Rumours are that Latics are about to sign right back Reece Wabara whose short term contract at Barnsley has come to an end. Wabara is a 24 year old  ex-Manchester City youth player.  He made 43 appearances for Doncaster Rovers last season before joining Barnsley for whom he appeared 19 times.

According to press reports it appears that Aberdeen are interested in taking Don Cowie on loan for the remainder of the season. With the departures of Junior and Murray and a possible exit from Cowie, Caldwell will be keen to bolster his central midfield.

For some time now Latics have looked short of a midfield enforcer who can close down opponents when the going gets tough. Sam Morsy of Chesterfield is certainly that, being known for his toughness in the tackle. Signed by Paul Cook from Port Vale in summer 2013, the 24 year old  captain has made 97 appearances for the Spireites. His contract expires at the end of the season, suggesting that a relatively small transfer fee could secure his services.

Latics have also been linked with Oldham Athletic captain Liam Kelly. A 25 year old Scottish international, who started his career at Kilmarnock, Kelly is a holding midfielder that Oldham fans don’t want to lose.

With the departure of Junior, Latics look short of variety in midfield. Although dogged by injury during his stay at Wigan, Junior could offer alternatives when coming off the bench. Michael Jacobs is the main creative force for Latics, but there is a need for another player of his type.  So many teams will “park the bus” when they come to the DW Stadium and someone is needed who can help unlock visiting defences.

Grant Holt is now back at Wigan after his loan spell at Wolves, but it seems most likely that he will loaned out to another club. Should that happen Caldwell will surely seek another centre forward. The latest name to be mentioned is Lukas Jutkiewicz who has played for 9 clubs even though he is only 26 years old.  Jutkiewicz is a big target man, but his career strike record is not particularly impressive and he has not scored for his current club, Burnley, in 30 appearances.

Leon Barnett’s contract is up at the end of the season and he might well be looking for a move in January.  Previous rumours linked him to Preston North End. Should Barnett leave then Caldwell will seek to bolster the centre of defence with a new signing. Given the long ball approach that can prevail in League 1 he might well look for a tall player who is strong in the air. Good passing of the ball is not Barnett’s strength and it is an attribute that Caldwell will look at from any incoming player.

Latics have already announced the signings of 19 year old Torquay goalkeeper Dan Lavercombe and the 22 year old Macclesfield midfielder Danny Whitehead. Both players will continue playing for their former clubs for the remainder of the season. They are clearly players for the future.

However, Caldwell’s main priority is to recruit new players for the 20 games that remain this season. How many will be able to recruit will largely depend on the departures of players on Championship-level salaries whose contracts expire in summer.

Given the difficulties he has faced with the right back position Caldwell will be keen to bring in a new player as soon as possible. Reece Wabara might well be a Latics player within the next couple of days.

A point for Latics in the Southend wind tunnel

windtunnel

I had never been to Southend before. I was looking forward to seeing the town, at the same time keeping my fingers crossed that Latics could perform against the local football team. Walking around the English seaside in the off-season was always going to be anti-climactic, but the amusement arcades were still open even if the chill gusts of moving air raged around the beach. I wondered if that wind would abate some twenty minutes’ walk away from the shore at the antediluvian Roots Hall stadium. It didn’t.

Wigan Athletic’s trip to play an in-form Southend United on their narrow pitch was never going to be easy. It was to be made increasingly harder by that cold, blustery wind that was to swirl around the pitch. It was not going to be a day for good football. Latics would have to have to slug it out with the home team to come away with any points. In the end they came away with a well -earned point, thanks to the effort they put in.

Once again Gary Caldwell surprised us with both his team selection and its shape. He decided to field a taller than usual backline of four. With Leon Barnett and Jason Pearce in the centre and Donervon Daniels and Chris McCann on the flanks, Caldwell’s team was well prepared for an aerial bombardment.  The Wigan manager is not a fan of 4-4-2, but yesterday chose to employ it with Will Grigg and Alex Revell operating as twin strikers. Don Cowie came in to play in front of the back four, with Francisco Junior in an advanced midfield role. Reece James and Max Power made up the middle of the diamond.

Good football was at a premium in the first half. Junior tried hard to provide some, but too many of his passes were sucked out of play by that swirling wind. Latics had breathed a sigh of relief after just six minutes as Ryan Leonard’s sweetly hit shot from just outside the penalty box struck their crossbar with Jussi Jaaskelainen beaten. Wigan just could not get any fluency to their game, the front two struggling to make any impact on the home defence. James had looked out of place tucked in there in midfield, but was to return to his normal role at left back after 40 minutes when McCann was withdrawn due to injury. David Perkins came on to take that left midfield role vacated by James. Southend had looked the more likely to score, but Jaaskelainen’s handling was secure and his back four solid in defence.  But Latics had almost taken the lead after 37 minutes when Barnett’s shot from a corner was cleared off the line by Will Atkinson.

Wigan came out for the second half with the look of a team wanting to be more purposeful in their football. After five minutes Barnett once again went close from a corner, this time his shot being saved by goalkeeper Dan Bentley. Although Latics were more dominant they still had to contend with a home team keen to add Wigan’s scalp to their collection. But the Wigan defence held firm after a spell of pressure by the home team. Michael Jacobs came on for Grigg after 65 minutes, adding little more life to the proceedings, although Southend still threatened in breakaways.

Craig Davies’s introduction in place of Junior after 75 minutes breathed even more life into Wigan’s play. The big man was a real handful and the Southend defence started to look vulnerable as Latics pressed forward in the final quarter. Latics almost won it in the last minute when another Barnett effort hit the crossbar, this time from point blank range.

But Southend hung on to a draw they probably deserved. That they were happy with the result was visible through the smiles on the faces of their players as they left the field to a standing ovation from a crowd that had been largely muted throughout the course of the match.

The Good

The defence was solid throughout. Barnett and Pearce formed a formidable partnership, rugged in their tackling and strong in the air. Daniels provided security at right back, although more restrained in attack. It was a surprise to see McCann start at left back, but he looked comfortable until injury forced him off. James looks better as a full back than as a wing back or midfielder and he performed well after being moved back there. Jaaskelainen was a beacon of calm at the back, oozing confidence to his defence.

Davies added an extra dimension when he came on, menacing the Southend defence. Jacobs too made a difference when he came on, his direct running adding variety.

Playing in “wind tunnel” conditions was never going to be easy. But Latics matched Southend tackle for tackle in the earlier stages until they finally got to play something resembling their normal brand of football in the final quarter. Moreover it was their second consecutive clean sheet away from home.

The Bad

The pairing of Grigg and Revell were ineffective. Grigg does not thrive at jumping for lofted passes and Revell just does not seem to threaten in the opponent’s penalty area. Caldwell’s preference of Revell over Davies was hard to fathom. Davies is not only superior in challenging for long balls, but offers so much more threat on goal.

Sadly Junior could not produce the final pass, despite his promising approach work and movement. He remains a work in progress as he continues to try to adjust to the sheer physicality of the game at League 1 level.

Perkins had been left on the bench, following recent displays which were disappointing by his previous standards. The man from Heysham had been playing out of his skin for so long and it was perhaps inevitable that he could not keep it going. Caldwell will be hoping that the player can rekindle that flame that made so much difference to the team before.

Without Jacobs or Wildschut, the starting lineup looked short on creativity. James looked out of place in midfield and one wondered if Jordan Flores or Andy Kellett would have been more effective in that position on the left of the midfield diamond.

Player ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen: 8 – a calm, reliable presence at the back. Excellent in his handling, sensible in his distribution.

Donervon Daniels: 7.5 – a much better performance than what we saw against Burton.

Leon Barnett: 8.5 – a rock in defence and unlucky not to score on three occasions.

Jason Pearce: 8 – a quality central defender at league 1 level. Inspirational in his role of captain for the day.

Chris McCann: – looked comfortable at left back until being substituted after 40 minutes.

Don Cowie: 5- solid and hardworking, but uninspiring in his passing.

Max Power: 7 – worked hard to wrestle midfield control from Southend.

Reece James: 7 – solid in defence and enterprising in attack when moved to left back. Had a good shot saved in the second half.

Francisco Junior: 5 – promised so much but delivered so little.

Alex Revell: 5 – ineffective.

Will Grigg: 5 – ineffective, withdrawn after 65 minutes.

Substitutes

David Perkins: 6 – worked hard.

Michael Jacobs: – his willingness to run at the opposition defence adds an extra dimension to Latics’ play.

Craig Davies: – a threat to the Southend defence.

 

 

 

Economics and Grant Holt’s departure

Grant Holt has signed for Wolves on a short term loan deal.

Grant Holt has signed for Wolves on a short term loan.

A couple of weeks ago an article hit a couple of web sites that Wigan Athletic were looking at signing another striker in January. The player was interesting other clubs, including some from the Championship, but Latics were thought to be in pole position to sign him.

But why would Latics want to sign another forward with Craig Davies and Grant Holt coming back into the reckoning? Moreover Shaq Coulthirst and Haris Vuckic were getting closer to fitness and Gary Caldwell already had Will Grigg, Jordy Hiwula, Michael Jacobs, Sanmi Odelusi and Yanic Wildschut available for his front line.

Grant Holt’s departure for Wolves yesterday was no surprise, even if its timing might have been. He was one of five players on Championship-level salaries still remaining at the club. Emyr Huws, Billy Mckay and Andrew Taylor had already been sent out on season-long loans, together with Lee Nicholls until mid-December.

Between the end of last season and the beginning of this one, the club did a remarkable job in moving so many players from the previous regimes, allowing “hungry” new players to come in. At the end of last season loanees returned to their clubs and none of the seven players at the ends of their contracts were to stay. Nine players were sold, many for give-away prices.

Holt’s departure means that 13 players who would have been on Championship salaries are not currently at the club. Rough estimates place Wigan’s playing staff wage bill at around a third of what is was in the first season back in the Championship division. However, three players still remain on salaries that are possibly double what many of the newer signings are earning.

Caldwell has done a wonderful job in transforming the squad despite being under financial constraints. The 21 “new” players in his squad have largely shown that they can adapt to the style of football he seeks and the team has a genuine chance of promotion back to the Championship.

However, the financial reality is that Latics have suffered a very significant loss in earnings in being relegated from the Championship to League 1. There are still further adjustments to be made.

There are five players in the squad who are on short term loans which will expire before mid-January. Moreover the January transfer window presents an opportunity for players remaining on Championship-level salaries to move on. This includes Holt, whose loan to Wolves expires on January 2nd.

The timing of Holt’s departure is by no means ideal for Caldwell. He now has only two players – Grigg and Davies – naturally suited to the centre forward position. Given Davies’ vulnerability to injury it looks likely that Caldwell will seek another central striker either through the loan market or as a permanent signing in the January window. Hence those rumours of Wigan’s interest in the 23 year old and 6 ft 2 in tall Vadaine Oliver of York City might not be far off the mark.

Should Holt manage to stay fit and show some form at Wolves there are possibilities of him not returning to Wigan. His contract is up at the end of the season and even if he does not stay at Wolves there may be other Championship clubs interested in a striker of his experience.

Two of the three players remaining on Championship salaries have had significant injury problems over the past months. However, Chris McCann has shown that he has overcome his injury and has been in fine form. But Don Cowie has only recently returned and has made just one substitute appearance. Earlier in the season there were rumours linking the third of those – Leon Barnett – to Preston North End. However, with injuries to key central defenders Caldwell would have been loath to let him go at that time. Barnett had a nightmare 2014-15 season, but his form has certainly improved over the past weeks. All three players have contracts which expire at the end of the season and might be interested in moving on in January were a good offer to come through.

January could well be another busy time for Caldwell. In the meantime Coulthirst’s loan from Tottenham expires tomorrow. Donald Love has another month to go on his loan from Manchester United. The loans of Francisco Junior, Shaun Murray and Yanic Wildschut expire in January.

Just as it seemed Caldwell had a settled squad and things were starting to click, Holt’s departure came out of the blue. The likely reality is that the squad will not be finally settled until the end of January at the earliest.