Unlocking the Powell enigma

Can Caldwell unlock the enigma who is Nick Powell?

Can Caldwell unlock the enigma who is Nick Powell?

In the 66th minute of a deadlocked game on Saturday, Stephen Warnock launched a superb cross into the Burton penalty box. Wigan’s number 25 made a run from midfield, ahead of a defender, dived in and headed it with power. Sadly for Latics the ball was to flash narrowly wide of the post. It had looked a certain goal.

Nick Powell had got himself into a great position and almost delivered the goods. It was not the worst miss we will see this season, but it was to open up a debate as to which Powell we are seeing right now. Would the dynamic young player who thrived under Owen Coyle have put the ball in the net? Or were we seeing the one who floundered under Uwe Rosler?

Three years ago to this month Powell starred in a Europa League victory over Maribor. His first goal had come after 22 minutes: a simple header into an empty net after the Slovenian goalkeeper had made a hash of a punch. Ben Watson added another 12 minutes later, but Maribor clawed their way back into the game as Latics went flat, scoring after 61 minutes. Powell’s deciding goal came in the 91st minute when he somehow found the energy that most of his teammates did not have to slalom through the visitor’s defence and score with style.

Powell’s stock was high. His name was being touted around the media as the one who could go back to Old Trafford and lift his parent club out of their lethargy. He had become a key player in Coyle’s squad. Given the number of games Latics were facing the manager was operating a rotation policy but Powell seemed to be the one Latics forward who could go the full 90 minutes on a regular basis. It prompted fans to wonder about the fitness levels of his team mates.

Following Coyle’s departure, Powell started in both of Graham Barrow’s games in charge, but was substituted early in the second half. He was pulled off after 65 minutes in Uwe Rosler’s first game, a 2-1 defeat at Maribor. However, in the next match he came back to play the full ninety against Bolton, scoring with a spectacular bicycle kick in Latics’ 3-2 win.He went on to score in the 2-1 win at Reading in the next match, but was taken off at half time.

Around that time in late December media speculation over Powell’s future was going haywire. Whether it was due to the media hype or to a series of niggling injuries, Powell could not recapture his early season form. What was visible to the fans was a Powell not showing the same kind of physical commitment that they had seen earlier in the season. Moreover the swagger that the young player was showing in his body language earlier in the season that had been seen as a sign of self-belief, was now being interpreted by some as a “couldn’t care less” attitude.

Powell went back to Manchester United when his loan expired in the summer of 2014. He started in the United team that lost 4-0 to the MK Dons in the League Cup, being taken off after 57 minutes. Within a week he had joined Leicester City on loan, but had to be content with just three appearances off the bench. His loan spell was cut short at the end of December with Leicester citing a lack of commitment to training. On his return to Old Trafford he was to be out for nine months with a hamstring injury.

In December 2015 he came on as a 69th minute substitute for United in a Champions League defeat at Wolfsburg. A week later he came off the bench after 74 minutes in a 2-1 reverse at Bournemouth. In early February 2016 Powell joined Hull City on loan, making his debut in a goalless draw with Arsenal in the FA Cup, being withdrawn after 78 minutes. He was to go on to make three Premier League appearances off the bench before completing a full 90 minutes in a 4-0 FA Cup defeat by Arsenal.

In the two years between leaving Wigan and returning, Nick Powell made a starting lineup 4 times, completing the full 90 minutes-plus just once. He made 8 appearances off the bench. Can he put this nightmare time behind him?

Gary Caldwell stuck his neck out in summer by signing Powell, given his form over the past two and a half seasons. Moreover the 22 year old is surely going to be on a salary above most of his teammates. Why did Caldwell take such a gamble? Can Powell get back to full fitness and the kind of form he showed three years ago?

Powell’s best times at Wigan were when he was playing as a central striker. However, Caldwell has been playing the Crewe-born player in his preferred role in midfield. Up to this point he has started 5 times with 5 appearances off the bench. His best performance up to this point was in his first appearance against Blackburn Rovers, where he scored from a free kick and had a good all-round game.

Although he has not been able to keep up his form of the Blackburn match, he has completed the full 90 minutes in three games. Given the player’s injury problems over the past couple of years it is a step in the right direction. Caldwell clearly has faith in this talented player who had lost his way. Can the Scot nurture Powell back to the match sharpness that will make him the threat to opposition defences that we saw under Owen Coyle?

In recent matches Powell has alternated with Jordi Gomez for the “number 10 role” behind the centre forward. Gomez too has been some way short of full match fitness after so little involvement in Sunderland’s pre-season. Both have the capability of controlling the flow of midfield play, together with potent goalscoring prowess.

Should both Powell and Gomez reach peak fitness, Caldwell will surely have a selection problem on his hands. There is a strong argument to suggest that there is not room in the midfield for the two of them. Each needs a good share of the ball to function. However, Powell can also play as a central striker, although Latics now have three others in Craig Davies, Will Grigg and Adam Le Fondre.

However, the reality at this moment in time is that Nick Powell has just started back on the road towards recuperating his football career. Should he manage to shake off those injury problems that have bugged him for too long he will also have to recover the kind of self-belief that he had as a 19 year old in the Coyle era.

Powell is certainly a high profile player at Wigan, but a real enigma. Can Caldwell unlock the enigma in a way that no manager has done over the last couple of years?

Like all players Powell has his supporters and his critics. In this same month three years ago the former surely outnumbered the latter. But since then a downturn in form has turned around fan opinion of him.

There is a long road ahead for Nick Powell in his bid to regenerate himself as a footballer. Let’s hope that in the months ahead that we will see his swagger as a manifestation of the levels of self-belief that he showed as a 19 year old.

Strength in depth?

Coulthirst

Shaq Coulthirst – his short term loan is soon to expire.

Even with five changes from Saturday, the team played the same way – they had the same control of possession, they attacked with a real threat. It’s good to know you’ve got that back up sitting waiting to come on when necessary.”

Gary Caldwell quoted on Wigan Today regarding the 3-2 victory at Crewe on Tuesday.

Caldwell had made the maximum five changes from the previous match that he was allowed according to Johnstone’s Paints Trophy rules. The players brought in to the starting lineup were Jack Hendry, Francisco Junior, Andy Kellett, Sanmi Odelusi and Yanic Wildschut. He went on to bring Don Cowie and Grant Holt off the bench for their first starts of the season. Tim Chow also came on as a substitute, with Richard O’Donnell staying on the bench.

A total of no less than 21 players played in the last two matches for Wigan Athletic out of a squad of 29. Some players were unavailable – Jordan Flores (suspension) and Shaq Coulthirst, Craig Davies, Haris Vuckic, Kevin McNaughton and Jason Pearce due to injury. Richard O’Donnell was on the bench for both games, with Ryan Jennings and Sean Murray not making the squad for either.

The departure of Jonjoe Kenny left Caldwell’s squad looking bare at right back/wing back, but the signing of Donald Love and with Donervon Daniels showing he can do a good job in that position has eased anxiety. Moreover Coulthirst has returned to the club from Tottenham and Yanic Wildshut has been signed on loan.

Caldwell’s comment indicated his satisfaction of having strength in depth. This is certainly the case, at least in the short term.

However, having a large squad can create complications as Uwe Rosler found out last year. Is Caldwell going to run into the similar problems, having to regularly rotate his squad in order to give all of them game time?

The lessons learned from last year are still ringing in the ears of Latics fans. Is Caldwell going to have to deal with disgruntled players left out in the cold? The logistics of rotating a squad of 29 players are mind boggling, let alone not having a settled team.

It appears that Coulthirst, Davies and Vuckic are close to returning from injury. Providing no further injuries or suspensions impact upon the squad before their return it will leave Caldwell in the position to choose his strongest starting eleven from a pool of 27.

Of the 29 in the squad there are 6 players on loan. Two of those – Jordy Hiwula and Haris Vuckic – are on season-long loans. The other four – Junior, Love, Murray and Wildschut – are on short-term loans. Coulthirst’s loan expires on November 1 and Love’s a month later, those of Junior and Wildschut in January.

Bringing in players on short-term loans is a relatively new experience for Wigan Athletic. Last season Rosler brought back Maynor Figueroa for a brief spell, followed by Malky Mackay bringing in seven. Moreover many of Mackay’s loanees were young players, causing a controversy among fans whether they should be given priority over home-grown young talent.

Up to this point Caldwell has been able to manage the two. He has given opportunities to the likes of Tim Chow, Jordan Flores and Ryan Jennings within the club, whilst bringing in the short-term loanees. Caldwell got a rude surprise when Everton recalled Kenny, although the same club had allowed Junior to extend his loan period.

Kenny is clearly an up-and-coming player at Goodison and will be there long-term. Junior’s contract will be up at the end of the season and at this stage it is unlikely that Everton will renew it. Junior has impressed in the relatively few appearances he has made so far. Fitness has been an issue. Junior has made five starts, being taken off in three of them within the first 56 minutes. However, it is to be noted that Junior completed the full 90 minutes at Crewe. He has already picked up three yellow cards.

Junior has clearly struggled to attain the levels of fitness necessary to make him a permanent choice in Caldwell’s team. Moreover he has had to make a major adjustment to the physicality of League 1. Come January Caldwell will need to make a decision whether to pursue the permanent signature of the player. Junior oozes class in a League 1 setting and were he to be fit and fully adjusted to the pace of the play, he would surely be an asset Caldwell would want to keep.

Caldwell certainly has a squad with strength in depth. But he will be challenged to name a settled team on a regular basis, given the size of the squad. He might even look at reducing its size over the coming months. The strength in depth could prove to be a millstone around his neck.

The return of Chris McCann

Mcann

Relegation from the Championship saw a Wigan Athletic fire sale that was surely unparalleled in the club’s history. Players on Championship-level salaries were jettisoned at bargain prices as the club made efforts to drastically slash its wage bill with the prospect of much reduced revenues in League 1. It was anybody’s guess who would remain from last season’s squad as the cull neared its completion.

Many of us thought they would keep up-and-coming young talent and cash in on the players with rich Championship or Premier League experience. It was therefore a surprise to see the 28 year old Chris McCann line up for the opening match of the season at Coventry. Here was a player who had appeared disaffected in the latter part of the previous season, who had not started a game since early February.

McCann could have been expected to be one of the first to be offloaded. But it was not to be. In fact, the Dubliner has played in all eleven league games up to this point. His versatility in being able to play in midfield or on the left side of a central defensive trio has been of paramount importance to Gary Caldwell, given the injury problems he has already had to cope with.

Owen Coyle must rank as one of the most unpopular managers that Wigan Athletic have ever had, although most fans would probably rank Malky Mackay even lower. Coyle lasted less than six months in charge at Wigan before he left “by mutual consent”.

Coyle was given the mountainous task of taking Latics back into the Premier League within a year, together with leading through an historic Europa League campaign. He inherited a group of players who had played under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, but given the mass exodus of players in the summer he had a lot of recruiting to do.

Coyle’s first signing was to be Chris McCann. The Dubliner had played under him at Burnley and was available for free at the end of his contract. McCann had been at Turf Moor since arriving from Home Farm in 2004. He had an outstanding season in 2008-09, when Burnley won promotion to the top tier of English football. Sadly he sadly was only able to make half a dozen Premier League appearances for the Clarets before receiving a cruciate knee injury. McCann returned in January for a couple of games before injury ruled him out for rest of the season. However, the Irishman was to come back to start in 83 Championship matches over the next two seasons. But he was unable to once more reach the heights of that promotion season form at Burnley, with further knee problems not helping.

McCann’s early performances for Latics were solid, if uninspiring. Some said that Coyle had brought in an ex-player who was not up to par and was snubbing players from the Martinez era. However, McCann gave a fine display against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, being tireless in defence, with his cultured passing when under pressure helping Latics keep possession. He followed that up with a fine performance at Charlton, being unlucky with a flick header that hit the crossbar. McCann had clearly now settled in and was to become an important cog in Coyle’s machine.

McCann must have wondered what would come next when Uwe Rosler replaced Coyle in December 2013. The Irishman is not the world’s most fortunate footballer and he was sadly sent off in Rosler’s first match in charge, leading to Latics being eliminated from the Europa League. Latics had been a goal up at Maribor when a shot from the edge of the box hit McCann’s upraised arm after he had turned his back to the shooter. It was clearly not intentional, but the Polish referee not only gave a penalty, but also gave McCann a yellow card. Since he already had an earlier one he was sent off.

But McCann was to become a key player for Rosler in Latics’ rise up the table and into the FA Cup semi-finals. He would usually operate on the left of midfield, where his surging runs forward, accurate passing and toughness in the tackle were a real asset. However, from time to time Rosler would play him on the left of a back line of three. He was playing in that position in the FA Cup sixth round match at Manchester City on March 9th, when he sadly fractured his knee cap during the first half of what was to be another stunning victory. Once again a serious injury had interrupted McCann’s career.

He was to make his return as a late substitute at Brighton on November 4th, in the penultimate game of Rosler’s reign. Mackay’s first match as Wigan manager saw them draw 1-1 at home to Middlesbrough, with McCann putting in an excellent performance. He became a frequent starter, although his performances had started to wane. McCann’s last appearance as a starter was on February 7th in a home defeat to Bournemouth. After that he was limited to three appearances off the bench for the remainder of the season.

McCann has staked his claim for a future under the management of Gary Caldwell. He has had his downs in his career, particularly with injuries, but continues to show his resilience. He has bounced back after appearing to be on his way out.

When McCann plays at the back Latics are pretty much guaranteed cultured passes coming in from the left hand side. Moreover at 6 ft 1 in and with a strong tackle McCann is able to cope with the physical side of defensive play.  However, his best position is on the left side of a trio of midfield players. It is from such a position that his attacking abilities are most effectively employed. On occasions when he has been played as one of two holding midfielders he has been less effective.

It has been a remarkable turnaround from McCann. Although seemingly destined to leave the club he has stayed and fought his way back to a regular starting place.

Over the coming weeks, providing the injured players gradually ease their way back in, it will be a challenge for McCann to maintain his place. But then again, given the player’s resilience, who can say that he will not be a key player in Caldwell’s plans?

A visit to Brentford and a look at a disastrous season

With the final game of the season coming up at Brentford on Saturday, Billy Grant  (@billythebee99) of beesotted.co.uk asked us to respond to some topical questions. The article is also posted on the Beesotted site.

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When we touched base for the first time this season around the time of the Forshaw saga, we had no idea our season would end up like this. We (and the world) thought we would be battling against relegation and you thought we would be battling for promotion with Uwe Rosler making his much awaited return to Griffin Park. Where did it all go topsy turvey?

Things had already started to go awry by the time that Brentford visited in mid-October. Just over a week later, with only three victories in seventeen league games, Rosler was shown the door. It was a sad end to an era in which the German had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. The previous season he had taken over a team in 14th place and got them into the playoffs, only to be narrowly beaten by QPR. Moreover the stunning win at the Etihad against the to-be Premier League champions in the FA Cup sixth round would stick in the memory for years to come. So would the semifinal, taking Arsenal to a penalty shootout.

Sadly things had gone pear-shaped for Rosler in the second half of his reign. The rot had set in towards the end of the 2013-14 season. The confidence that had been generated through a long string of good results had started to wane. Then over summer Rosler was to lose class performers in Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez, but the biggest blow was the departure of James McArthur on the transfer deadline day.

The new season had seen the team coming back from pre-season training in Germany in poor physical shape, with second half collapses being the order of the day. Moreover Rosler had made nine new signings since the summer, all in need of a settling-in period. But their arrival had swelled the first team squad to over thirty, the end result being Rosler having to deal with disgruntled players not getting a regular game.

Sadly Rosler could not inculcate his vision into his players. As time wore on it appeared that he and the players had become  more and more out of tune in terms of what should be delivered on the pitch. As the new season wore on we were to see less and less of the commitment required for the high tempo, high pressing football he sought.

By November the dream of getting back into the Premier League had become almost unreal. It looked like it was not going to happen this season with Rosler. Dave Whelan stepped in, relieving the German of his job, bringing in Malky Mackay, stating his belief that the Scot was the right man to take the club back to the Premier League.

Little did we know what depths the team would plumage towards under Mackay. His appointment did great damage to the club’s image as portrayed by the national media. Moreover the team did not rise on the bounce effect of a new manager, as is so often the case. In fact they got worse. They did not win a single home game during his tenure and he will go into Wigan Athletic history as their least successful manager.

When Mackay had taken over he had stuck by an “old guard” who had been underperforming under Rosler. Neither did they perform well under him. The result was no less than thirteen players dispatched out of the club in the January window. Given the departure of so many players who had proved themselves in the Premier League it was no surprise that the standard of football was to plummet close to rock bottom. The hoofball that had become evident under Coyle, which Rosler could not eradicate, soon became the order of the day under Mackay.

The conspiracy theorists say that Mackay was brought in as a short-term alternative, with his main task being to cull the dead wood within the playing staff. It could be said that he did that. Perhaps some of the players from the Martinez era had become complacent and were causing divisions within the camp.But the cull, together with a reluctance to provide Mackay with sufficient cash to find adequate replacements, left the club so short of quality players that relegation was always going to be a possibility. Mackay was to replace the departed players with those on short term contracts or young loanees green behind the ears. It was a recipe for disaster.

So many fans are relieved that Mackay will not be at the club next year, even if it is in League 1. But it should not hide the lack of foresight and decisiveness by new chairman, Sharpe, who left it too late in dismissing him.

Give us your thoughts on Brentford’s season

Many of us were shocked by the decision to not continue with Mark Warburton. I wonder if he had come to Wigan with Rosler we might have been promoted by now, rather than relegated.

Warburton deserves commendation for what he has done since he took over as manager. He has stuck to his guns by insisting that the team play good football and their quality has surprised others in the division. To be within reach of a playoff spot on the last day of the season is some achievement.

Whoever follows Warburton is on a hiding to nothing. You have to hope that Benham will make the right appointment. Whelan made a major blunder at Wigan by appointing the “long ball” Coyle following the departure of “tiki taka” Martinez. You need to appoint a manager who will build on what is established, rather than one who will destroy it.

There was an enormous who-ha over Wigan’s poaching of Adam Forshaw at the start of the season. He gave his reason for leaving being he wanted to move to a ‘bigger club’ and to one that was ‘challenging for promotion’. A bit cheeky. Would you admit, looking at how the season has panned out, Forshaw made the wrong move? He was a key player for us and has become a bit player since his move.

Rosler was building for the future by signing a handful of younger players. Andy Delort, Adam Forshaw, Emyr Huws, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and James Tavernier were brought in. All were stars at their clubs last season and they are still good players. Sadly they were dragged into a situation where even experienced and capable pros, such as Ivan Ramis, Shaun Maloney and Leon Barnett, had been struggling to impose themselves on the field of play. Sadly those young players were mismanaged, first by Rosler then by Mackay.

Forshaw’s transfer had hit the headlines because of the bad feeling it created between the clubs. From the player’s point of view he was rejoining the manager who had nurtured him to the point of becoming League 1 Player of the Year. He was also joining a club that had a squad good enough to challenge for promotion, which would offer him a more lucrative contract.

Like those other young players Forshaw was never able to truly establish himself. He made 13 starts, with three appearances off the bench, scoring one goal.

Talking of Forshaw, his agent played him a big BIG get-out-of-jail card. Out of the blue he got him a move to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough after staring relegation in the face. At one stage, he looked destined for the Premier League with them but now has to settle for the playoffs. Assuming we don’t make the playoffs, do you think Forshaw will be a Premier League player next season?

Ben Watson’s agent did even better. Since leaving for Watford in January he has been a regular in a side that is already promoted. Forshaw has been largely used as a substitute by Middlesbrough, making only five starts.

Forshaw had been part of the January cull, with the club cutting their potential losses for the season by selling players off for whatever transfer money they could get and freeing others on lucrative contracts. So many fans had been disenchanted by the lack of performance by the squad that Mackay did not meet the opposition one would have expected when selling off the family silver. But there were fans who thought the departures of young players with potential was worrying.

Aitor Karanka has done a good job at Middlesbrough. They can play attractive football and will have as much chance as any other team in the playoffs. We learned last year what a lottery the playoffs can be. Should Boro get promoted they are going to have to bring in a lot of new players as their squad is not anywhere near Premier League standard.

Forshaw still has not established as a regular starter in the Championship, but he does have potential and maybe the Premier League environment would suit him?

For a while Latics fans were a bit disenchanted with Brentford over the Forshaw saga, but most of us will wish the Bees well in the quest for promotion. You have an outside chance of getting into the playoff zone, then a one in four chance of winning the playoffs. But the likelihood is that Derby will win at home to Reading on Saturday. If they do then I will fancy their playoff chances. Despite poor recent form their squad is probably the best outside the top two.

The Rotherham result in midweek has consigned you to Division 1. Despite our little ding dong earlier this season, most Brentford fans would actually prefer you stayed up. We had a good day out at Wigan much preferring it to our trips to places like Bolton and Millwall to be quite honest. How do you think you will get on next season???

Wigan is a friendly town and away fans seem to enjoy their visits. I went to Millwall for the first time a couple of weeks ago and can understand why your fans are not keen.

Dave Whelan is now 78 and after 20 years of guiding the club he has stepped back. He made a mistake with the Malky Mackay appointment and his inappropriate comments were gobbled up by the national media. It has sadly tarnished the image of a man who has done more for Wigan Athletic than anyone before.

When all this was going on the club seemed to have no direction and leadership. But now Latics have a new chairman and a new manager, both young and hungry for success. The 23 year old David Sharpe wisely opted for a manager who believes in playing football the “Wigan way”. Moreover his expectation is that Gary Caldwell – only 32 years old – will stay in the position long-term.

Next season is a great unknown for us. There will be another mass exodus over summer as the club sheds its highest wage earners and rebuilds. Sharpe has already stated his goal of promotion next season, but most of us realise that this might not happen so quickly. A large number of new players will be coming in and it is going to take time for them to gel and learn to play football with the style that Caldwell expects.

With the youngest manager and youngest chairman in the four divisions at the helm there is renewed optimism at Wigan. The era of Whelan has gone, but an exciting new one is about to commence.

Do you think you players will turn up at the weekend?

More than half of the players who made the starting lineup against Wolves last weekend are on short-term contracts which finish next month. Many of the remainder are likely to be leaving in summer. Will this motley crew give their commitment on Saturday?

Nevertheless Caldwell will expect them to give their all and many might want to impress possible future employers. Moreover there is no pressure on them to get a result.

Given such a scenario who knows what will happen? It could be a surprise victory for Latics or a hammering.

My guess is that it will be a 1-1 draw.

 

 

The controversial MAF

Fortunemiss

“Marco is a quality player and we were very impressed by just how well he did for us last season. People say he didn’t have a fantastic scoring record. But look at the goals from midfield after he came in. The goals the other boys scored because the way he played was phenomenal. Marco had a great ethic about him in his training as well as his playing. He was a privilege to work with.”

So said Peter Grant when Marc-Antoine Fortune signed for Celtic in July 2009. Grant had moved to a coaching position at Celtic after a spell at West Bromwich Albion, where he had previously worked with the French Guianan.

Celtic had paid Nancy a fee of £3.8m for “MAF”, after he had impressed in a loan spell with West Bromwich in the second half of the 2008-09 season. MAF had become a fan favourite at the Hawthorns and after 18 appearances and 5 goals he was voted ‘’Player of the Season”.

Sadly times have changed for MAF. A mere mention of his name among Wigan Athletic supporters will cause controversy.

The player appears shot-shy, unwilling or unable to make the probing runs off the ball that are expected of a striker. But despite a record of 7 goals in 70 appearances (including 43 starts), MAF continues to figure prominently in Malky Mackay’s plans. It causes a considerable amount of consternation among the majority of fans. Put simply, how can a player with such a striking record regularly make the starting lineup?

However, MAF does have his supporters who will say that he is a real team player, with his strong hold-up play and willingness to chase. Moreover on occasions when he has been substituted during the course of a game, Latics’ play has got worse, not better. The team so often seems to play better when he is on the pitch.

At 33 and nearing the end of his contract, will there be a possibility of him staying at Wigan? He has never been a prolific goalscorer, but there have been spells at clubs where his record has been well within the acceptable range. Is he at the end of his career now or can he still show that he can score goals more often?

That move to Celtic had been potentially the high point of MAF’s career, but despite scoring 10 goals in 32 appearances for the Glasgow club, he could not live up to his price tag and new manager Neil Lennon shipped him off to West Bromwich a year later.

MAF was not able to relieve his previous highs in his second spell with the midlands club, but nevertheless stayed with them for three more years. He was to score 10 goals in 62 appearances.

When Owen Coyle took over as Wigan Athletic manager in the summer of 2013 he had a major rebuilding job to do with a squad that had been decimated following relegation from the Premier League. Coyle had been given a year to get the club back into the Premier League. His recruitment plan was to largely focus on seeking experienced professionals who had played in the Premier League.

In his signing of Grant Holt and MAF it looked like he had found a good blend of strikers. Holt was the bustling, goalscoring centre forward, with MAF the foil, through his unselfish and hardworking support. Sadly the partnership never really got together , with Holt dispatched off on loan in January.

Their lack of success had drawn criticism from many fans of Coyle’s signing of two 32 year olds on long term contracts. With the departure of Holt on loan the focus fell more and more on MAF. Under Coyle he had made 19 appearances, which included only 8 starts. His solitary goal had come ironically from a superb crossfield pass from Grant Holt at Yeovil. However, he was to find favour with new manager Uwe Rosler under whom he made 15 starts and 15 appearances off the bench, scoring 4 goals.

When Oriol Riera and Andy Delort were signed early on in the current season, and with Martyn Waghorn’s proven goalscoring record, it had looked like MAF would fall well down the pecking order. But he has come bouncing back. Riera and Delort are gone, Waghorn is marginalised and new signing Billy Mckay finds himself warming the bench. MAF has weathered the storm, working under three managers at Wigan, all of whom have shown faith in his abilities.

So far this season MAF has made 22 starts, with 5 appearances off the bench. He has scored 2 goals and made no assists. The last time he scored a goal at the DW Stadium was in February 2014.

Despite the value MAF might add through his hold-up play and commitment can Malky Mackay continue to justify his inclusion in a team desperately short on goals?

Has Mackay considered playing MAF wide on the right, where he can play an effective role but not labour under the burden of scoring goals?

The controversy appears set to linger on until the end of a bitterly disappointing season.