The financial side of keeping a nucleus for League 1

“Que sera sera…..whatever will be will be….we’re going to Shrewsbury….que sera sera

So sang a group of Wigan Athletic supporters. It certainly took the wind out of the sails of the “going down” taunts of home fans at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday.

Shrewsbury is certainly a pleasant place to visit. Its football team has competed in each of the three EFL divisions. Their New Meadow stadium holds 9,375. Shrewsbury Town met Manchester United in the FA Cup in February 2016. They lost 3-0, which is not surprising given the fact that the Shrews had a wage bill of £2.5 m compared with £210 m of United.

In fact the Shrewsbury wage bill is typical of many clubs in League 1. According to an interesting article on the Daily Mail site, the average salary of a League 1 footballer in 2014-15 was £69,500. It compared with £324,200 in the Championship. The ratio of the average salaries is 1 to 4.7.

There are strong arguments to suggest that the league positions of clubs in the Championship division correlate to their wage bills. In their first season back in the Championship Wigan Athletic finished in a playoff place. The wage bill was around £30 m. Clubs in mid-table would typically have wage bills averaging £20 m.

Latics’ reputed wage bill for the current season is around £17 m. Assuming they were to trim next year’s wage bill according to, say, that previous ratio of average salaries between the two divisions, it would give a figure of around £3.6 m. In 2015-16, still buoyed by parachute payments, Latics had a wage bill of around £6 m in League 1, reportedly second highest after that of Sheffield United.

So at what level will David Sharpe pitch the wage bill for the coming season? As in the Championship there is some degree of correlation between wage bills and success on the playing field in League 1. If the club is to break even financially next season what kind of wage bill would be realistic? Moreover will the club be able to slash its wage bill as successfully as it did in the summer of 2015, when faced with a drop down to the third tier?

In 2015-16 Latics finished top of League 1 with an average attendance of 9,467. Shrewsbury Town finished in 14th place with an average of 5,407. The average attendance for the division was 7,163. Wigan’s cheapest adult season ticket cost  £250 while Shrewsbury’s was £285.

David Sharpe took a bold step in reducing season ticket prices for the club’s return to the Championship. Renewals were pitched at £179, with a price of £199 for new purchasers. The levels were uneconomic compared with those of competitor clubs, but Sharpe was clearly hoping to not only hold on to the core support, but to attract others. With just one match to go in the Championship season Wigan’s average home attendance is 11,560 up by more than 2,000 from the previous season in League 1. However, the bigger clubs in the Championship have brought sizeably larger away support than had those in League 1.

Rumour suggests that the club will maintain the levels of season tickets prices for the coming season. If this is so the £179 price would be almost 40% less than the figure of £295 to be offered by Shrewsbury Town for the coming  season. Moreover should Latics not be as successful as they were last time in League 1 attendances will surely fall. The match day revenue differentials between Wigan and Shrewsbury could merge closer.

Put simply potential match revenues for Wigan Athletic will in no way suffice to give them a competitive advantage over most of their rivals. Some would say that under Gary Caldwell Latics had bought their way out of League 1, having a wage bill twice that of most of their rivals. That was made possible by the parachute payments they were receiving at the time. However, now that the parachute era has come to an end, how can Latics get a financial advantage over most of their competitors in League 1?

One solution is to sell off assets. The second is for the ownership to provide the necessary funding.

The saleable assets Latics have are their players. The club’s main asset, Yanic Wildschut, was sold in January for a hefty premium. Early in the season Will Grigg would have been another major asset: he was scoring goals and looking comfortable in the higher division. It was sad to see how the player later found himself either warming the bench, playing as a lone centre forward with a derisory lack of support, or being played out of position. A player who could have probably drawn a transfer fee in excess of £5 m is now not such an attraction on the transfer market. Better to keep Grigg who has a superb record of goalscoring in League 1.

Nick Powell will surely be on his way. After months out through injury he roared back with spectacular performances as a super sub. In doing so, Powell put himself in the shop window. Dan Burn is another player who has caught the eye and will surely be of interest to Championship clubs. Burn was already an experienced Championship level player when arriving on a free transfer from Fulham. He has since developed a level of self-confidence  previously lacking. Between the two, Latics could possibly raise around £5 m on the market.

Omar Bogle was the most exciting of the January signings. Having scored a lot of goals for Grimsby he arrived brimming with confidence and style. But after a promising start Bogle was to wilt under  a horrible burden put on him by Joyce: that of being the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Injury too was to hold him back. Like Grigg, his potential transfer value has plummeted. But the likelihood is that either Grigg or Bogle will be sold, albeit at a discounted price.

Max Power was almost sold to Birmingham City in January. Although he did not have the season he would have liked, Power remains one of the more saleable assets. Sam Morsy too is a player who could be sought by Championship clubs.

Last weekend Jonathan Jackson stated that “There will be some changes in the squad, but we want to keep the core there.”

Goalkeeper Matt Gilks and ex-captain Craig Morgan will be two of those core members who continue. Gilks was only signed in January on an 18 month contract and Morgan recently signed a two year extension to his contract. The long-term injured players – Donervon Daniels, Reece James, Andy Kellett and Shaun MacDonald – will also be staying. Alex Gilbey is another who has not been able to play in recent games after coming back from long-term injury. Latics will be hoping at least some of those players will be available for the beginning of next season.

It is difficult to predict who else will stay to provide a core for the coming season. The club is going to have to slash its wage bill some 60-70% to be financially viable. Put simply more than half of the players currently under contract are likely to depart over summer, many on free transfers. Others will be sent off on loan.

The players currently under contract for the coming season are:

Goalkeepers: Matt Gilks, Dan Lavercombe

Full Backs – Luke Burke, Reece James.

Centre backs: Dan Burn, Jake Buxton, Donervon Daniels, Jack Hendry, Craig Morgan.

Midfielders: Jack Byrne, Alex Gilbey, Andy Kellett, Josh Laurent, Shaun MacDonald, Sam Morsy, Max Power, Danny Whitehead.

Forwards: Nathan Byrne, Omar Bogle, Ryan Colclough, Will Grigg, Michael Jacobs, Mikael Mandron, Sanmi Odelusi, Nick Powell, Kaiyne Woolery.

The amount of turnover at the end of the 2015 season was remarkable, with 31 incomings and 44 outgoings, including loan players.

Latics currently have seven whose contracts are due to expire – Jordan Flores, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Billy Mckay, Gabriel Obertan, David Perkins, Andrew Taylor and Stephen Warnock. There are another eight players whose loans are coming to an end.

In 2015 Gary Caldwell had already been installed as manager to oversee the massive turnover that took place over the summer.

At this stage we do not know who the next manager is going to be and there have been mutterings about taking the time to choose the right man for the job.

But given a mountain of a task ahead we might well see an appointment made sooner rather than later.
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Latics fans react on social media to Sheff Wed defeat

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Another narrow defeat against a team vying for promotion. It was a game practically devoid of good football, hardly an advertisement for the EPL in front of a large television audience. There were few moments of general entertainment in the whole game: a header from debutant James Weir that went over the bar and a disallowed goal when Callum Connolly ran through.

Warren Joyce has certainly created a team that can stop the opposition playing. Frankly, Sheffield Wednesday were made to look poor, despite being seventh placed in the division and their large investment in players.

But stopping the other team scoring goals is only half of the recipe for success. The other side of it is to be able to score goals yourself and Latics hardly looked like doing that last night. Once again Joyce had packed his starting line up with midfielders. It was the same eleven that sparkled against Brentford, but this time around the midfielders were preoccupied by their defensive duties, leaving Will Grigg without support. Latics’ attack was not surprisingly sterile.

The debate about playing twin strikers continues. Joyce had the opportunity to bring Omar Bogle on to pair up with Grigg, but chose not to do so. But even if you are playing with a single striker you can still push men forward to support him. Was it the midfielders themselves who were reluctant to push forward or were they following the manager’s instructions?

The quality of football played by Latics was reminiscent of the dark era of Malky Mackay. Now that Joyce has his team able to curb the opposition, will he move on to the next step which involves creativity and movement going forward?

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

 

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Paul Rowley @PaulRowleyBBC tweeted:

Worth noting ‘LaticsOfficial have lost 7 of their last 8 league games at the DW. Just 3 home wins all season. @BBCMancSports

Sam Morsy @sammorsy08 talked of fine margins:

Great effort and commitment from the boys today, fine margins cost us today, but we will go again Tuesday, fans roaring us on till the end !

Matthew Taylor @matty123tay added:

Disappointed with that. Thought they were there for the taking really, onwards to Norwich…#wafc

MR Brownbill on the Cockney Latic Forum was unimpressed:

 Wasted 1st half….Never score in a month of Sundays with this bo..ocks Grigg on his own .No surprise he hasnt scored in 16 league games. Totally inept going forward…hit and hope. Final ball ,set pieces, corners dire. Wake up please…he will not budge in his plan….pack the middle with no support hope something drops our way. Bogle on….Grigg off….Ch..t almighty…another single goal di..ing. Jacobs..Power..time to rest em. Don’t give a toss how many players we signed he’ll just swap the midfield personnel and play with an isolated pi..ed off forward.

Martin W @dmartw opined:

No width, no urgency, no pace. Hard to believe that was the same team that beat Burton and Brentford. Slightly better in 2nd half #wafc

Dave Carter on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

Two thoughts from tonight. One, the disallowed goal was very marginal and we can feel just a bit hard done by. Two, Joyce is incredibly naive tactically. We had no support at all for Grigg and the only time that changed at all was after the substitutions with twenty minutes left. We’re going down unless someone kicks some sense into the manager.

Donnys Page on the Cockney Latic Forum questioned the approach:

Game plan exactly the same as against Utd. No support for either lone striker, lone strikers both looked like Fortune, Boseli, Riera and Delort totally lost. Not even a winger or even a wing back to replace a winger putting crosses in bar Jacobs efforts on the wrong wing with 20 minutes to go. No attacking midfielder supporting lone striker. Strikers forced out wide leaving their position in the box vacant.   It’s going to be a real battle to get out of this mire but we may have to be a little more cavalier to escape the drop. Same team as the Brentford game but different approach. Why?

Power Jacobs Perkins McDonald all ready for a rest for a few weeks and new ideas needed but it may be too late for that. This season was bal.. ed up last June.

JamesSaintLatic @JamesSaintLatic added:

Another Saturday of sitting and praying Burton, Bristol City & Blackburn don’t win #wafc.

Pauvre Jean on Latics Speyk has not lost hope:

It wasn’t for lack of effort we lost, it was the same old reliance on playing one badly out of form lone striker. When Weir and Bogle came on we started to threaten. A shame it took 75 minutes to try something different. So yet another disappointing 0-1 defeat to a ‘top six’ Team who were frankly little better than us.

I’ve not lost hope like some on here as I can still see that we can turn it around. I’d like to see the line up that finished tonight starting on Tuesday for a start.

Stuart Kelsall @StuartKelsall believes Latics can stay up:

Not one team played us off park this season and that’s why am more than confident that will stay up there are worse sides than us #believe

Jonny_SuffolkLatic on Latics Speyk advocates a more attack oriented approach:

Our wins against teams around us in recent weeks already shows we can stay up, it’s just that against the higher positioned opponents we should be setting up, and playing, more attack orientated than we are. Against weaker opposition, the team we started with tonight might be able to deliver the points, but better teams need to be tested with more than Grigg up front supported by Jacobs on the wing.

SamWhyte @SamWhyte referred to Grigg’s role:

Grigg spends more time doing defensive work than actually being a striker that when chances do fall his way, he’s knackered. Waste IMO #wafc

Stewart Hart @No1fan referred to a Grigg/Bogle combination:

Should have got something tonight. Clear we can’t play Grigg alone, needs to be paired up, or Bogle on his own. Impressed with Weir. #wafc

Jeffs right on Latics Speyk added:

Bogle and Grigg together could have got us a point. Bogle on his own just reminded me of Mark Antoine Fortune. No service to either of the strikers from Power, Jacobs, Perkins, McDonald. For sh..s sake give Grigg some service and he will get us goals. Power and Jacobs have been more inept than Grigg all season yet Grigg gets the slag off.

Moonay on Latics Speyk summarised:

Sheff Weds – nowt special
Latics – not clinical enough
Rhodes v Grigg – both as poor as each other
Their goal – scabby ……………… & offside ?
Our goal – marginal ……….. but probably was just offside
Our chances – Weir & Burn & Jacobs should have scored
Negatives – reaction of some of our fickle fans, Connolly had his first poor-ish game
Positives – Weir, Morsy played well again, Weir, Bogle looked a handful, …….. oh, and Weir looked a good prospect.

WhittleBlue on Latics Speyk concluded:

A game we didn’t deserve to lose nor win.

Regarding the goal yes it had an element of fortune about it and perhaps Burn, in an otherwise excellent display, could have got closer to Rhodes but that passage of play should never happened in the first place. A lack of footballing intelligence cost us that goal this evening and the blame for that is solely down to Power. Why on earth having sent the centre backs forward would he choose a six yard sideways/backward pass to another player who wasn’t exactly free instead of putting it forward toward those who had ventured forward? What the hell did he expect MacDonald to do with it other than put it forward himself? Absolutely f**king clueless.

Other than that plenty of effort, we look decent defensively overall butlook bereft of quality in attacking areas. I thought Grigg had a thankless task with little service but the one opportunity he had he again spurned, miscontrolled and appears to be low on confidence. Morsy was good but had little support. Jacobs, whilst he tries hard is out of his depth at this level. The problem is who do we replace him with? Weir is a left sided player as is Obertan and the other midfielders all are of a similar type. Yanic is a massive loss and despite signing a load of players I don’t think they strengthen us in the area we needed strengthening which is offensively. The squad is very poorly balanced. The right back looks more threatening and likely to score than anyone which is a poor reflection on the attacking players. Sadly I don’t see enough creativity or goals in this team to see us winning games comfortably and I’m not convinced we will score enough to get us the victories we need to stay up.

 

 

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High turnover but what’s changed? A perspective on Wigan’s latest window

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Management hates it, the media loves it, fans have little choice but to be glued to it in hope and trepidation. Transfer deadline day is bigger business every year that goes by. It’s one of the ways – the lack of a winter break being the other obvious one – in which the British game likes to make things that bit more complicated (and profitable) than the rest of the world.

For clubs that swapped managers during the first half of the season, the January transfer window has become an opportunity for the new regime to stamp its authority on the squad. Ship out players that don’t fit the tactical model; replace them with players that do; balance the books by shedding big earners and reinvesting in problem positions. It’s a pattern that has become all too familiar at Wigan, with last year’s success in League 1 the notable exception.

There are a couple problems with this approach. First, you have less time in January than in the summer, not only to recruit good players and find a home for high-earning misfits, but just as importantly to provide incomings the tactical and personal adaptation period they need to succeed. On top of that, you have to navigate an inflated market to negotiate fair prices for players, which can be particularly challenging if you appear desperate, as one does in a relegation fight, for example.

Another unpleasant feature of the January transfer window well known to Latics, particularly in the Premier League days, is the risk of losing your most successful players. It tends to be instigated by agents or players themselves, and to materialize in the dying hours of the window, preventing the club from finding an adequate replacement. Sometimes, these decisions become of huge financial importance to the club, and their approval is beyond the manager’s control.

Add to this Wigan’s very limited spending power compared to its Championship competitors – and you realize what a big ask we as fans are making of the manager. It’s worth pausing to put oneself in Warren Joyce’s shoes. There are plenty of arguments claiming the manager should only be judged after a window. I’d take them a step further to suggest that’s still nowhere near enough time. The new players haven’t had a pre-season with him; many will need to adjust to playing at a higher level; all will have to adapt to new surroundings and teammates; and Joyce himself will need to adapt his tactics, having lost his most valuable player.

The counter argument, of course, is that Joyce brought some of these challenges upon himself. Too much turnover is bad for any organization, specially in a short period of time, and the high number of ins and outs will breed instability. Was it really necessary to bring in so many people, so many loanees in particular? Right when the team was gaining some consistency and producing results on the pitch? Plenty to debate. In the meantime, here are some ups and down on another busy window:

Good News: The whopping fee received for Yanic Wildschut (£7.5 million according to Sky,£7 million elsewhere.) It’s hard to take, given his status as Latics’ best attacking threat, with pace and strength to burn, and room to improve. But his finishing was often frustrating, he was inconsistent, and very much rough around the edges. If he had to go, credit is due the club for gaining such a huge profit on their investment.

Bad News: Yanic again. Being gone so late in the window. It’s hard to ignore that Wigan have scored three goals fewer than Rotherham, and yet just sold their most effective attacker.

Good News: In Gabriel Obertan, the club have found as close to a direct replacement as could be expected. We’ll be left to imagine what Joyce’s team might have looked like with two pacey wingers on the pitch. But at least Obertan’s defining attributes are similar to Wildschut’s: pace and strength, some trickery, abundant potential yet inconsistent finishing. He should be entering his peak years, has something to prove, and lots of experience at a higher level. Joyce knows him, he’s apparently a good professional, and they have said encouraging things about each other. The term of contract is short, therefore financial risk is too. All in all, a gamble worth taking.

Bad news: The squad feels unbalanced and bloated. There are a lot of midfielders, but few wingers or attacking playmakers given Nick Powell’s absence. With Obertan almost certain to start, it’s likely Michael Jacobs (in desperate need of a goal) on the other wing, with Colclough, Weir and Browne all unproven backups. Meanwhile, in the centre of midfield, Joyce has Power, Morsy, Perkins, MacDonald, Gilbey, Tunnicliffe, Hanson, Byrne, and Laurent to keep happy. Perhaps some of these players will be used in different positions (Hanson as defensive cover, etc.), but it’s a bloated, uneven squad that Joyce may have a hard time keeping happy.

Good News: Welcome Omar Bogle! He may need time to adapt. But the club beat out competitors to get him, and on paper, he has everything he needs to succeed at Championship level. A lot of hope is resting on his inexperienced shoulders, but if his teammates can provide him service, there is reason to believe. The option of a little-and-large Grigg and Bogle parternship is also intriguing. He’s left-footed, too.

Bad News: Banking on lower division signings is playing with fire. If Grigg is to become injured, Latics are left with Bogle, and Mikael Mandron to lead the line. Both have potential, but their success has come in League 2 and the Conference, respectively. They are completely unproven at this level, and playing with new teammates.

Good News: Alex Bruce appears an astute short-term signing, with potential for a longer stay. Dan Burn and Jake Buxton have developed a useful partnership in recent games, but Bruce is a dependable and experienced head to provide backup, who should also be good to have around the place.

Bad News: He hasn’t played all season due to an Achilles injury.

Good News: Keeping Sam Morsy and Max Power. Much of the attention has been on keeping Morsy, who has performed very well since his return. Power may not have started strongly, but has been steadily improving and remains a player of undoubted potential. Had rumours of his departure materialised, Latics would have lost an opportunity to reap the rewards of blooding him at this level. Good things should come of establishing Power and Morsy as a partnership.

Bad News: Too many loanees. In order to secure loan signings, managers often have to pledge a certain number of game time to the players’ parent clubs. Given the maximum of five loan signings per match-day squad, it looks an impossibility Latics’ recent loan signings will all get their wish to show what they can do. Jakob Haugaard may find himself sacrificed given the arrival of Matt Gilks. Callum Connolly is certain to play. That leaves Jamie Hanson, Marcus Browne, James Weir, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Bruce and Haugaard to vie for the other berths. Presumably, borrowing players and not giving them a game reduces the chances of players being borrowed from the same clubs in the future. Given many of these players are expected to be fringe players anyway, might Latics have been better off without a few of them?

Good News: Joyce appears to have both a short-term, and long-term plan. Signings like Gilks, Bruce and Obertan point to survival needs, while the signings of Jack Byrne, Mandron, and Josh Laurent show a continued desire to invest in youth and capitalize on Joyce’s wealth of experience in the area of player development. Byrne, in particular, was highly rated at City and appears a good long-term signing.

Verdict

Despite the high turnover, it doesn’t appear likely there will be immediate, dramatic changes to the starting lineup – Obertan in for Wildschut, perhaps the goalkeeper, and a new striking option in Bogle off the bench. This should prove a blessing, given the progress made in recent weeks. But it also calls into question the need for such a high number of incomings and outgoings. Joyce would do well to resist the urge of upsetting the players who have recently given him good commitment and results.

As supporters, patience is going to be important. Demanding instant impact from players adapting to a higher level is unfair, as is demanding instant adjustment from a team that became dependent on Wildschut to create for it. But if the new signings can add to the promising form shown of late and provide cover for injuries, we can be cautiously optimistic that, with a new crew of Joyce-loyal players and relative stability in the starting XI, we’re better off than before the window.

Full squad can be seen here

A Grimsby Town fan’s view of Omar Bogle

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Bogle at Aldershot in April 2016.

In the dying minutes of the January transfer window Wigan Athletic signed Grimsby Town centre forward Omar Bogle. The transfer fee is reputed to be in excess of £1 million.

On signing Bogle Warren Joyce said: “Omar is a finisher, and he has scored goals at every level he has played at. He needs to take it to the next level now but we are convinced he has the attributes to be a success here.”

Bogle added: “I owe a lot of Grimsby Town, the chairman, the gaffer, my teammates and the fans, who were great with me. I’ll always appreciate their support.I’ve handled the step up from the Conference and have done well this year, but that’s testament to the gaffer at Grimsby and the players I had around me.I’m quite a direct player who has attributes in every area. I’m quick, strong, put myself about a bit and have the ability to really beat players. I want to excite the Wigan fans. I’m ready for the challenge of stepping up to the Championship. It’s a new environment for me playing against bigger teams and the standard will be higher, but I’m definitely ready. I want to thank all the Wigan Athletic fans for their support on social media. I can’t wait to excite the crowd and do well for this club.”

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Bogle lines up a free kick against Braintree in October 2015.

The 23 year old Bogle, who is 6 ft 2 in tall, was born in Birmingham. After being with West Bromwich Albion’s youth system in his early teens he passed through the Birmingham City Academy before joining the Celtic Academy for a year. After a one year spell at Hinckley United he joined Solihull Moors where he went on to spend three years. In 2014-15 he was the Conference North Player of the Year, being top goalscorer in the division with 29 goals.

Bogle scored 62 goals in 111 appearances for the west midland club before signing for Grimsby Town in summer 2015. He went on to score 16 goals in his first season, including two against Forest Green Rovers in the National League playoff final, which Grimsby won 3-2. Bogle started the next season well, being League 2 Player of the Month in both August and September 2016. He went on to make  a total of 68 league appearances for Grimsby, scoring 32 goals.

In order to learn more about Bogle we contacted Paul Ketchley. Paul is a regular contributor to the independent Grimsby Town fanzine  Cod Almighty.

Paul not only gave us his insights through a Q and A session, but sent us the photos featured in this article.

Here’s over to Paul:

Where did you get him from?

As you know we picked him up from Solihull Moors for something around £30,000. Last season he and Padraig Amond (now at Hartlepool) struck up a partnership that went together like haddock and chips. That’s the way it should be by the way. They are why we are back in the League.

How good is he?

On his day and providing you play to his strengths he’s a match winner. Won the play-off final for us last year to get us back in the League and has only got better this season. Play him along a little guy and he’ll make as many goals for them as many as he scores himself. Padraig Amond’s 30+ goals last year were also the result of having Omar alongside him

Have Wigan paid over the odds?

We think that you’ve got him at a bargain price! If it’s between £1 million and £1.5 million he’s worth at least that. We hope we’ve got a big sell-on clause in the deal.

Will he do any good in the Championship?

Providing you play to his strengths he’ll terrify opposition defences. He likes taking free kicks by the way.

Can Wigan send him back if they don’t like him?

There’s nobody at our end who is glad to see him leave. We realise that this is how football is these days. So, Omar will be welcome back any day.

How do you welcome him?

Start playing Blur’s “Tender is the Night” to practice the Omar Bogle anthem. The “oh, my baby” bit.

 

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