What next for Roger?


A top performer for his country in the Brazil World Cup, he scores outstanding goals, makes assists and was part of a famous FA Cup winning lineup. He works like a Trojan on the field, is dedicated to the cause and has infectious enthusiasm. Those attributes make him a favourite with the fans at his club.

But the 27 year old Roger Espinoza has clearly never been a favourite with his managers since arriving at Wigan in December 2012 from Sporting Kansas City, where a fan described his play as a mixture of cruching tackling and combative running. With one more year of his contract remaining will he be auctioned off to another club, or will Uwe Rosler finally give him the extent that he has never been given before?

The love story between Wigan Athletic and Honduras seems to be coming to an end. Espinoza was the fourth Honduran to join Latics, following on from Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios and Hendry Thomas. A fifth – the ‘forgotten man’ Juan Carlos Garcia – arrived last summer, but was shunned by both Owen Coyle and Uwe Rosler throughout the season. Garcia came on as a 62nd minute substitute in the recent friendly at Rochdale. But he was not included in the squad that went to Germany last week and joined Grant Holt in the under 21 team that played at Blackburn on Saturday. With the signings of two new left backs it appears that Garcia’s days at Wigan are numbered.

Although he was born in Honduras, Espinoza is an American citizen. He moved to Denver at the age of 12. He made his name playing for the Ohio State University team that reached the final of the College Cup, scoring an early goal but his team went on to lose 2-1 to Wake Forest. From university he joined Sporting Kansas City in 2008, gaining his US citizenship that same year.  Espinoza was given the opportunity to opt for the US national team, but chose to play for the country of his birth.

Being bilingual Espinoza has been a valuable asset within the squad, providing the link between the Spanish and English speakers. When he first joined Latics he had had practically no break from football as the MLS season had not long finished. Moreover he had a hectic summer representing the Honduran team in the London Olympics, where he got himself instant fame with a goal in the match against Brazil.

Espinoza was to make 16 appearances for Latics in the second part of that 2012-13 season, a significant number for a player with no previous experience in the Premier League. He made a significant contribution to the FA Cup triumph, playing in the wins against Macclesfield and Huddersfield.  In the absence of Figueroa through injury Espinoza was pressed into service as a wing back in the FA Cup Final and performed well.

Given his relatively quick adaptation to English football it looked like Espinoza was going to be a regular name on Wigan’s team sheet. However, the arrival of Owen Coyle was to change that. Espinoza’s appearances were to be few and short, more often than not coming off the bench. On occasions when he made the starting lineup he was invariably substituted early in the second half.

An abiding memory for me is the visit to Charlton in late October. In the 70th minute, Coyle had both Espinoza and Marc-Antoine Fortune warming up on the sidelines. Coyle was soon to point the finger to beckon at least one of them on. Espinoza’s body language said “Who me?” probably assuming it was the big forward who was to go on. The Honduran did go on, with Fortune following four minutes later.

The arrival of Uwe Rosler in December did not seem to help Espinoza’s claim for a regular spot. Despite not being a regular he put in a trio of ‘Man of the Match’  performances in January but was to go for hernia surgery in mid-March, surprisingly returning to play a little over a month later. Had it been the hernia problem that had limited his outings under both Coyle and Rosler?

Espinoza’s critics will say that he plays like a headless chicken, reckless in his tackling and lacking in skill. His fans will utterly refute that. They will admit that he plays at a frenetic pace, but in addition to being a ball-winner he puts in incisive passes and crosses and scores goals. Sometimes his eagerness to win the ball back can leave holes for the opposition to exploit. If he were more disciplined he would be a better option in many ways, but then again taking that impetuosity away from him would nullify his style of play. The question is whether Espinoza can learn to discipline himself sufficiently to fit into the system that Rosler uses.

Espinoza can play in any position across midfield and at wing back. For Honduras he has been playing in left midfield. His best position is probably as a box-to-box player in the left centre of midfield.

At 27, Espinoza is nearing his peak. Providing he stays at the club and stays fit he can have an important role to play in Latics’ promotion push. His best is yet to come.


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From the Archives: Fan views of Latics players – Part 1 – Roger Espinoza and James McClean

The first posting on our Amigos site was made by Ned on August 11, 2011. It received less than 10 views that first day. But by the end of the month the site had received over 700 views.

Our readership has continued to steadily grow. In this current month of April the site has already received more than ten times the number of views than in that inaugural month, from viewers in more than fifty countries. The growth has been particularly significant in recent months.

Given that we now have a wider readership we plan to occasionally republish articles from our archives, that many may not have seen. We ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Our site stats have shown that our readership has been particularly interested in perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs. Thanks to contributions made by bloggers on the fan sites of those clubs for these articles from our archives.

Let’s start with fan views on Roger Espinoza and James McClean.


A Sporting Kansas City fan’s view of Roger Espinoza.


Written by: James Starritt, who writes and speaks about Sporting on the web and local radio, on sportingtimes.net and kicktheball.us

Published: December 6, 2012



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.”

A Sunderland fan’s view of James McClean



Written by: Matthew Wear of Sunderland fan site “A Love Supreme”.

Published: August 19, 2013

In his time with Sunderland, there was a lot of side-taking for the Irish International. He was a little like marmite, either you love him or you hate him. He signed for us for a mere £300,000 from League of Ireland side Derry City, and under Steve Bruce it was seemingly a signing for the future.

However, due to his impressive performances in the reserve side he was placed on the bench but didn’t appear till Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge, which wasn’t until December, and many credited McClean for changing the game around in our favour.

For the rest of the 2011-12 season, McClean was in fantastic form as it seemed he had no fear taking on defenders from the top teams in the land and not being put off by them. Many SAFC fans believed we had unearthed a gem in McClean who would shine for us for years to come.

 In his first half-season he played 29 games, scoring 6 goals and putting in some fantastic displays. With a great season behind him McClean was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012 but only making a substitute appearance against champions Spain. Many fans criticised Giovanni Trapattoni as they felt McClean warranted more game time than what he actually got during the tournament.

As the 2012-13 season rolled about fans were expecting as good as, if not better performances from McClean. But throughout the season, his off-field antics overshadowed his time on the pitch. The controversy surrounding the poppy situation lead to death threats from many fans across the country as he refused to wear the Sunderland shirt with a poppy sewn into the kit and instead chose not to. A lot of our fans then turned their backs on the Irishman, which subsequently lead to a loss of confidence on the pitch.

However it was later revealed that 6 people from the estate he grew up on, were shot by the British Military in 1972. But despite this he was unable to shrug off the booing, which despite what he has done, wasn’t warranted in my opinion.

This all culminated with a very, very poor season by the whole of the SAFC  team, but the majority of the blame fell onto McClean as he was in the middle of the controversy with the poppy. However, his form did drop dramatically in comparison to his debut season as he was labelled a ‘one trick pony’ by many fans and in 41 games he scored 5 goals. Lots of SAFC fans believed he had been found out and his success in the previous season was only because no one knew who he was or how to defend against him.

But despite all this, personally I wish all the best to the lad as I feel that in a new club like Wigan, who themselves still have some quality players who have played in the Premiership, he will thrive and possibly help them push for a place back in the top flight.


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