Holgersson will come good, says Red Bulls supporter

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As part of our continuing effort to keep Latics supporters informed about new recruits, we have invited a New York Red Bulls supporter to guest write an article about new centre-half Markus Holgersson.

Holgerrson’s signing, subject to international clearance, was confirmed by the club today. His initial contract will be until the end of the current season.

Hello Wigan supporters, my name is Dan Ryazansky. I have run MetroFanatic.com, the premier website for the MetroStars (now Red Bulls) of Major League Soccer since 2001.

It’s hard to think of a player whose lot with Red Bulls supporters changed as much as Markus Holgersson’s. He arrived in 2012 at the tail end of the team’s Scandinavian invasion: a group of players acquired by Norwegian Sporting Director Erik Soler and Swedish manager Hans Backe. A rather tepid show in preseason led to many question Holgersson’s inclusion in the starting lineup.

Yet there he was, from the get-go, starting in central defense and quickly becoming a liability. Too slow. Too awkward. Not able to keep up with MLS’s physical attackers. And — worst of all — poor clearances and defensive lapses that led to scoring opportunities and, alas, goals.

And then, with Thierry Henry absent due to injury, Backe gave Holgersson the captain’s armband. Was it a case of Swedish nepotism, the supporters thought?

But something happened to Holgersson. Thrust with new responsibility, the much-maligned defender started to improve. His ability to read the game trumped his slowness of feet. He became excellent in one-on-one situations. The mistakes started to disappear as well. Even the goalscoring came, as he became a threat on set pieces.

Then, the offseason came. With Soler and Backe fired, many thought that Holgersson would be gone as well. Not so; new head coach Mike Petke kept him on, but the Swede did manage to lose his starting job in preseason. He won it back after the first two matches and didn’t relinquish it afterwards, playing almost every minute the rest of the way. By the end of the season, he was the team’s most consistent defender. When called upon, he even played some at right back.

Unfortunately, Holgersson’s high salary (by MLS standards) made it very hard for the team to keep him. When his departure was announced, the same supporters that called for his head expressed concerns over his departure.

So, in summary: a solid central defender who should be able to hold his own on the Championship level. Might have difficulties adjusting early, but will be able to adjust. Good at reading the game. Can start the attack from the back. Can play right back if needed, but not an efficient crosser of the ball. Thrives when given responsibility. Passionate. Will be missed.

Best of luck for him at Wigan!

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Celtic supporter sheds light on Thomas Rogne, Wigan’s new signing

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In light of the much-needed flurry of transfer activity Owen Coyle has orchestrated in recent days, we thought we’d re-visit a special feature approach and ask more informed writers about who exactly the club is signing.

Twenty-three year-old Norweigan centre-back Thomas Rogne became the third free transfer in less than a week to join the club after some promising, but injury-strewn years at Celtic. He joins former teammates Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell in the Wigan locker room and has hopefully spent enough time in Scotland to understand what James McArthur, Stephen Crainey are on about as well.

In an effort to learn more about his Celtic years and the circumstances under which he is joining our club, we reached out to the writers of Celtic  blog, Lost Bhoys, who helped us with a similar request when Shaun Maloney signed for us two years ago. Their take on the little Scot has proven thoroughly accurate — if he could regain fitness and sharpness, they wrote, he would go on to be a hit. After a six to eight month period of adaptation and fitness work in his first season, Maloney’s impact has been spectacular. Lets hope the arrival of another ex-Celtic player can help keep him at the club.

Without further ado, here is Liam Power, aka Brummie Bhoy of Lost Bhoys, dishing on our new centre-back Thomas Rogne:

Hail Hail to Ned and all the Wigan supporters who Los Three Amigos website. Ned had asked David Harper to produce a piece on Thomas Rogne after he did something similar when Shaun Maloney joined Wigan back in August 2011. Unfortunately, Harper was unavailable so he asked me if I would pick this up which I was more than happy to do.

I think it is reasonable to say that Wigan were not one of the more glamorous Premiership clubs during their spell in the top league so they would generally slip under the radar of most Celtic fans. However, this changed in recent years as we have seen a number of ex Celts and SPL players move to the club under the tenure of Roberto Martinez.

My former boss is a Wigan season ticket holder so we have had many amusing conversations over the last few seasons when discussing the contribution of Gary Caldwell and more serious chats about the continued development of Maloney, McArthur and McCarthy as they become integral to the Wigan team in the last season, culminating in your magnificent FA Cup victory.

Wigan now also has lifelong Celtic supporter Owen Coyle in charge and have just acquired the services of Celtic’s out of contract defender Thomas Rogne.  As a season ticket holder for most of the last 9 seasons and as a weekly blogger for the LostBhoys on www.hailhailmedia.com I can provide an insight into Rogne’s time at Celtic, what sort of player he is and what you can expect from him in the seasons ahead.

Rogne turned 23 last week but still features regularly for the Norway under-21 team despite being capped at full International level. He joined Celtic as a 19 year old on the 20th January 2010 and was described by former Celtic favourite Vidar Riseth as the hottest young talent in Norway.

Rogne was signed by Tony Mowbray whose single season in charge at Parkhead can most politely be described as a disaster, culminating in a 4-0 defeat to St Mirren that signalled the end of his reign. Rogne only managed 4 appearances during the second half of season 2009/10 but would have been encouraged by the appointment of Neil Lennon who has always been happy to give young players opportunities within the team.

Rogne didn’t start a game in the following season until 30th October 2010 as an injury interrupted pre-season prevented him from establishing himself in the manager’s plans. However, he then featured 15 times in the following three months, including an outstanding performance at Ibrox in a 2-0 win over our former rivals.

Further injuries took him out of the team and he only featured intermittently during the rest of the season. This was to become the story of his time at Celtic as he could rarely muster a run of games in the team without picking up knocks that would require spells on the sidelines. As an 18 year old Rogne damaged his cruciate ligaments and missed the entire 2008/09 season, which may explain his continual injury problems.

The following season 2011/12 saw a depressingly similar pattern as injury disrupted his pre-season and he didn’t make his first start until 26th October 2011. He played 3 times before injury sidelined him again but once back in the team in December Rogne managed to establish himself and struck up a good partnership with Scottish Player of the season Charlie Mulgrew.

He featured in 17 league games during the remainder of the season and was considered as a first choice pick for the first time in his Celtic career, keeping out new signing Kelvin Wilson who had experienced a difficult start to his Celtic career.

This should have signalled better times for Rogne at Celtic but the signing of Efe Ambrose and the re-birth of Kelvin Wilson produced a solid partnership that was not going to be split up. This partnership, added to more niggling injuries for the player meant that he had drifted out of the first team picture.

He only made 8 league starts last season, a situation that was not helped with his ongoing contract dispute with the club. Rogne was looking for a deal that would put him in with the high earners at the club but he had done nothing during his 4 seasons to justify such a position.

The club expressed their desire to keep him but no compromise could be reached so the player allowed his contract to expire and today he becomes a free agent meaning that Wigan will not have to pay any compensation to Celtic.

There is no doubting the ability of Rogne as a footballer. He is a tall player who enjoys doing the basics of good defending.   He is good in the air and reads the game well which enables him to win a fair amount of challenges staying on his feet without over committing himself.

He has reasonable pace and his positional sense is good although he can suffer from lapses in concentration. He is not a ball playing defender and is happy winning possession and giving the ball to his more talented colleagues.

What he desperately needs is a run of 20-30 games in a side without injury so that he can establish himself as a first choice. He is easily good enough to play in the Championship but needs to contribute much more in terms of appearances. As a free transfer on relatively modest wages he fits the bill for Wigan’s transfer policy and would be deemed as a low risk signing.

Wigan have the best chance of promotion from all the three clubs who were relegated as they should manage to retain a decent nucleus of last seasons squad, unlike QPR who have huge financial implications to deal with.

Providing he can stay fit then Rogne will be a good addition to the squad and should be a success at Wigan. He is familiar with British football and knows Caldwell and Maloney well from his time at Celtic, so his transition to Wigan should be relatively straight forward.

Good luck to you for the forthcoming season and I will definitely continue to keep an eye on our former bhoys

Hail Hail

Brummie Bhoy

Meet Roger Espinoza — the inside scoop on Latics’ Honduran target

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As today’s news reports have all but confirmed the signing of Honduran Roger Espinoza, we thought we’d seize the opportunity to introduce him through a Kansas-tinted lens. Though familiar on this side of the pond for his star turn in the summer olympics, the midfielder is a far cry from Wigan’s typical Latin American recruits.

Born in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, Espinoza moved the United States at the age of 12, where he has resided since — becoming a citizen in the process. He played collegiate (university-level) football for Yavapai College before transferring to the much bigger Ohio State Buckeyes, where he was identified as a talent and selected in the “draft” by the Kansas City Wizards.

He has since made more than 100 appearances over a four-season span for the club — now known as Sporting Kansas City — and amassed 25 for his native Honduras since his first call-up in 2009, not including the four for the olympic squad this past summer.

Not only will Espinoza become the fourth Honduran to don Wigan Athletic colours — strengthening the ever growing bond between our club and the central american country — he also arrives with fluent English, a huge advantage over his countrymen. As one Wigan supporter humorously, if somewhat inaccurately pointed out, he will be the first “American-sounding” player at the club since Jason de Vos.

When I reached out to the independent supporters club, the KC Cauldron, their response was warm and swift. Latics supporters know a thing or two about losing quality players for little or no money, and the feeling in Kansas is not unlike what we have experienced so many times in the past — sadness and resignation, mixed with pride and genuine wishes for the player to succeed on the big stage.

Without further ado, the words of James Starritt, who writes and speaks about Sporting Kansas City on the web and local radio, on sportingtimes.net and kicktheball.us — and has been thoroughly impressed by Roger in his four years at the club.

A frenzy of crunching tackling and combative running

Roger is a fantastic player who has shown enormous capacity to grow over the last few years. As is typical for MLS he was played out of position for a while — on the flanks early — before being converted to full-back. He didn’t do well, and was a fairly average presence until Honduras popped him into central midfield, and he immediately carved out some fantastic performances. An injury crisis in the middle in 2011 forced a similar move shortly afterwards from Sporting Kansas City, and in his first game he simply dominated the entire midfield, scoring a goal, and breaking up opposition possession in what I can only describe as a frenzy of crunching tackling and combative running. He has never looked back.

If you watched Paul Ince, David Batty or Roy Keane back the days, he is cut from that mold. He is passionate and dominant when he is on his game, and he leaves everything he has on the field. He thrives on the competition, and seems to get stronger as games go onwards. He is very, very consistent. If he can play … he is on.

He is very dangerous around either area, breaking up possession in front of his defense and winning it back around the top of the opponents box. He is ideal sitting right between a defensive midfielder and an attacking/creative one — at least at this level. He can drop back into defensive midfield comfortably, however. He is not terribly dynamic going forward but he does create chances for other players to play around him simply by winning the ball and pressuring people into mistakes, he won’t make goals, you’ll still need players to capitalize on the possession he wins for that. If he can raise his game to BPL levels, Wigan should see more of the ball just having him out there. He is a decent passer, he won’t score many goals, but I think he will only improve with better players around him.

The transfer will go through, goodbyes have been said – I see no reason that he will not pass the medical. He may be a little beaten up after a long season but nothing stands out as problematic long-term that should prevent this going through. Pay will not be an issue either as he is on less than £80,000 currently … annually. The only question is whether he can handle the step up in level … what you get with Roger is a guy who will die trying. He is 26 now but players start later in MLS (they go to college/university and then play…) he is still learning and growing and doesn’t have 8 years of time on his legs. He’ll earn his share of yellows and reds… it is just the nature of his play, he isn’t malicious or dirty but if he dives in, he is going all in. You’ll get no histrionics, no diving – he goes down and bounces right up and gets right back into the game, not much complaining, no drama off the field, and he is a nice guy to talk to – he won’t have problems fitting in with the squad unless he struggles to feel at home within Wigan itself.

If he can handle the BPL I think he has the capacity to be a bit of a fan favorite, maybe not a huge star but a good solid pro who you’ll miss when he isn’t out there. We certainly will.”