A Wolves fan’s view of Nathan Byrne

Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Wigan Athletic have announced the signing of Nathan Byrne from Wolves for an undisclosed fee, rumoured to be in the region of £400,000. The 24 year old usually plays as either a wing back or a winger.

On signing for Latics the 5 ft 10 in tall Byrne commented that “I’m energetic, I want to attack and run at people, provide crosses and have shots but overall I’m about energy and my pace.”

Nathan Byrne was born in St Albans and played for his home town club until joining Tottenham, signing professional forms for them as an 18 year old in June 2010. Byrne never went on to play for Spurs, but was sent on a series of loan moves. In February 2011 he went to Brentford where he was to make 11 appearances. In July 2011 he went to Bournemouth on a season-long loan which was cut short by an ankle injury in September which kept him out until January. Byrne went back to Tottenham in February 2012 after making 9 appearances for the Cherries.

Byrne spent the first half of the 2012-13 season at Crawley Town, making 12 appearances. In March 2013 he went on loan to Swindon for the remainder of the season, making 7 appearances. In summer 2013 he left Tottenham on a free transfer, signing for Swindon.

2014-15 was particularly successful for him, Swindon making the playoffs and Byrne making 43 appearances, scoring 3 goals and making 9 assists over the course of the season. He appeared in the League 1 team of the year. Byrne scored a hat trick against Bradford City in the first league game of the 2015-16 season in early August, but in early September he signed for Wolves for an undisclosed fee. In his time at Swindon he had made 83 league appearances, scoring 10 goals.

Byrne made 24 appearances for Wolves last season, scoring 2 goals.

In order to find out more about his performances at Wolverhampton we contacted Thomas Baugh at the Wolves Blog (http://www.wolvesblog.com).

Here’s over to Thomas:

We only signed Nathan Byrne a year ago (almost exactly) for a decent chunk of money, so in one sense it’s surprising to see him moving on.

But he always struggled to get near the team and when he did make an appearance he was usually back on the sidelines again a week later, leaving many to rightly ask ‘why did we bother getting him in the first place?’.

Kenny Jackett certainly didn’t seem too keen, choosing to ignore him even when we were crying out for width and pace. I suspect his diminutive stature is what ultimately counted against him, as he always seemed a decent player on the rare occasions he was selected.

I remember being particularly impressed in a derby victory at Birmingham last season. He got into pockets of space in between midfield and attack and looked a threat. In sporadic appearances he showed quick feet, a decent (but not lightning) turn of pace and an eye for a goal. He scored a nice one against Leeds last season and hit the bar with a free kick so he has a few tools in his armory.

I suspect in a more free flowing team with good technical players around him (e.g. Jacobs) he could be a good Championship player. He came highly rated from Swindon but we never truly got a decent enough look to make a fair judgment.

Good luck to him. It seems like a good move.

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A point gained or two lost?

2013-spursloss

A thrilling encounter at the DW Stadium ended two goals apiece as Tottenham and Wigan put a dent in each other’s contrasting ambitions. Spurs, chasing a Champions League spot after being cruelly denied one last season, started strongly but found themselves 2-1 down for the bulk of the second half. Wigan’s committed and organized defending looked likely to secure three points of gold in the relegation battle until an intelligent Tom Huddlestone free-kick caused panic and Emmerson Boyce — scorer of Wigan’s first goal with an excellent header — scored an unfortunate own goal.

While there was much to applaud from Wigan, the nature of the goals conceded will torment Roberto Martinez. Eighty minutes before Boyce’s heartbreaking own goal, Maynor Figueroa and Joel Robles had conspired to bizarrely gift Spurs the lead. A series of uncertain passes between them resulted in a casual clearance by the young Spanish keeper that bounced powerfully off Bale’s outstretched leg and into the back of the net. That Wigan managed to stop Tottenham’s dangerous attacking game but conceded two goals as sloppy as those is cruel on Martinez, who got his tactics right on the day.

Wigan’s goals on the other hand, were fantastic. A curling Shaun Maloney corner was wonderfully headed home by Boyce to equalize early in the affair, before a truly inspired passing sequence involving five players was finished with a thumping left footed volley by Callum McManaman to give the team the lead.

Despite uncharacteristically struggling for possession throughout the match, Wigan played with desire and commitment and were ultimately unfortunate not to emerge with three points.

The Good:

Despite the absence of key defender Antolin Alcaraz and the injury to Maynor Figueroa, there were signs that Wigan could defend well with a makeshift defence. The midfield tackling was superb with James McCarthy and James McArthur at their very best. Ronnie Stam, on for Figueroa, had a good game and may well keep his place at right-back with Emmerson Boyce covering for the injured trio of Ivan Ramis, Antolin Alcaraz and Maynor Figueroa.

Callum McManaman’s goal was superbly taken and he has shown enough in the last ten or so matches to suggest he will be a big contributor of goals in seasons to come. He is fearless and direct, and takes it on when others would pass the ball to someone else. He fades in and out of games and is being eased into Premier League football with about an hour of football per match, but he has become an important player for Martinez.

The Bad:

There was a huge element of fortune in Spurs’ equalizing goal, but the first one was simply unforgivable. You can’t expect to beat a team of such quality when you give them a free 1-0 start.

The injury to Maynor Figueroa is another serious blow in a season that has denied Latics of a fit and healthy backline. How different things might have been if Ramis, Alcaraz and Figueroa had been able to line up together. The question now is whether Gary Caldwell will return to the centre of defence against less speedy opposition at West Brom, or if Boyce will partner Scharner with Stam continuing on the right side of defence.

The League Table

It is a two-horse race between Wigan and Aston Villa. The teams have now played the same number of matches, with the latter two points ahead. All eyes will be on their unpredictable fixture against Sunderland on Monday. As long as they do not win, Wigan’s fortunes remain in their hands.

Player Ratings:

Joel Robles: 5 — Awful mistake early in the match to give away the first goal. Arguably might have done better with the second. In his defence, he made some excellent saves and probably saved a goal when Jermain Defoe was through on goal late in the first half — but looked jittery.

Emmerson Boyce: 7.5 — Unlucky to give away the own goal. He had been excellent before that, scoring a brilliant header and defending responsibly after being drafted into the centre of defence.

Paul Scharner: 8– Very good game against difficult strikers, despite moving across to the unfamiliar left side of centre in a make-shift defence.

Maynor Figueroa: 5 — Was not enjoying his day before injuring himself while making an excellent clearance. His injury is a huge blow and will be missed.

Jean Beausejour: 6 — Given the circumstances, and being asked to play at left-back for big chunks of the game against some of the fastest players in the league, he coped admirably. Unfortunately, his professional foul against Kyle Walker led to the free-kick from which Tottenham equalised.

James McCarthy: 8 — Asked to play a deeper role shielding the back four, McCarthy covered every blade of grass today breaking up play and driving forward when able.

James McArthur: 8 — An exhibition in one-on-one defending. He won the ball back in midfield frequently and tracked back when necessary to help out his defence.

Jordi Gomez: 7 — Caught in possession a few times and not his best first half, but played well in the second before making way for Roger Espinoza.

Shaun Maloney: 7 — A typical Maloney performance with neat feet, darting runs and positive movement. Unable to exert strong influence on the game from the wing, however, as the team struggled for possession.

Callum McManaman: 8 — Excellent defensive contribution, he ran his socks off. In attack, he drifted in and out of the game but scored a cracker and looked dangerous when on the ball.

Arouna Kone: 7 — Threatened but couldn’t deliver this time.

Subs:

Ronnie Stam: 7 — Put in a very good shift despite having been in the fringes for a while now.

Franco Di Santo: One fantastic curled cross for Kone after a strong run down the right side.

Roger Espinoza: Immediately involved, a couple decent tackles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latics against the big boys: damage limitation or capitulation?

My son’s mother in law is a psychologist. I could have used her help this weekend. Psychologists can help you sort out your head. They can enable you to meet reality and deal with it. For us Latics supporters this can be a real challenge. After the first half against Tottenham on Saturday I was suffering from a depression that was extreme. The immediate reality was intolerably hard to bear. However, a beer at half time, together with an improved second half performance from Latics, dissipated some of my immediate symptoms.

Cast your mind back to August 14th, 2005: Latics first match in the Premier League. What chance did we have for a result against the champions, Chelsea? Not much, according to the pundits at the time. Robbed in the end by a great strike from Hernan Crespo in the 93rd minute. That Latics team went on a great run after that and were second in the table briefly, reached the League Cup final and eventually finished in tenth position. A wonderfully uplifting season, giving us Latics fans hope for the future.

Optimism or pessimism? What is Latics’ reality? How did you feel watching that first half against Tottenham? And what about the recent capitulation against Manchester City? Did you expect anything different? Are you into market economics? What do you think: can the economically small compete with economic giants? Okay, Tottenham are giants compared with us, but not the biggest. We had beaten them only once in their six previous Premier League visits, so what did we expect? Can we ever narrow this huge gap?

How do you feel when Latics are about to play a team from the top four? Apprehensive? Statistics of Latics’ performance against the elite are stark. Even our most successful team in 2005-2006 could not win a single point against the top four teams that season. Since we joined the Premier League our number of points against the teams who were to finish in the top four each season has been (goal difference in brackets):

Year HOME AWAY TOTAL Positive results

2005/06: 0 (3-6) 0 (2-12) 0
2006/07: 0 (3-11) 0 (2-12) 0
2007/08: 1 (0-5) 2 (2-8) 3   — Arsenal H 1-1, Chelsea A 1-1, Liverpool A 1-1
2008/09: 1 (2-8) 0 (7-3) 1  — Liverpool H 1-1
2009-10: 6 (6-11) 0 (1-21) 6  — Chelsea H 3-1, Arsenal H 3-2
2010-11: 1 (2-14) 0 (0-7) 1  — Arsenal H 2-2

So, on average Latics have gained just less than 2 points per year of the 16 available against top four teams. A key statistic is that, if these points had not been obtained, Latics would still have had sufficient points to stay up, except in 2009/10 when they would have had the same number of points as the 18th placed team, Burnley.

In December 2009 Wolves put forward their reserve team to play at Manchester United in a Premier League game. This caused a considerable amount of anger among their visiting fans. However, Charles Ross, editor of a leading Wolves fanzine commented that: ‘… the fact of the matter is – and it doesn’t matter whether Mick McCarthy rested one, five or 10 players – the Premier League should take a long, hard look at themselves. Wolves are competing in a league where it is clear they are not operating among equals. The gap that the Premier League have created begs the question as to why managers like Mick McCarthy feel the need to do this. He knew he was going to be pilloried for his team selection at Old Trafford, but the mere fact he has been forced into this should spark a debate about the anti-competitive nature of the Premier League. There are the top four, a well-financed bunch below them and the rest of us feed off the crumbs.”

In April 2007 Liverpool fielded what was effectively their reserve team to lose at Fulham. Without those three points Fulham would have been relegated. Circumstances were radically different in the cases of Wolves and Liverpool , but both played weakened teams and flouted league rules such as: “In every league match, each participating club shall field a full-strength teams. “ and “In all matters and transactions relating to the league, each club shall behave towards each other club and the league with utmost good faith.”

Latics’ performances at Manchester City and in the first half against Tottenham set my mind rolling off in tangential directions. I began thinking of players like Cattermole and Palacios. Would Silva, Modric and Co have been able to drift past players like that with such ease? In both games it seemed like Latics had given up before they had even started. Did they need a sports psychologist to get inside their heads? Were they merely going through the motions, looking towards the next match, having given up on that one? In the end the scorelines were quite flattering: only 3-0 at City and 2-1 with Tottenham after a second half turnaround in attitude and approach. Was this through Martinez, a would-be psychologist, getting into the players’ heads during the half time interval? If so, one must ask why he couldn’t have done it before the game started?

There were statistical similarities between the City capitulation (we lost 3-0 on paper but it could have been a lot more) and the 9-1 loss a couple of years ago at Tottenham. Tottenham committed 9 fouls in that nightmare game, Latics gave away 10. Neither team received yellow cards. In the recent game at City we committed 9 fouls, City 6. Once again no yellow cards for either team. How can we be completely outplayed yet commit less fouls than teams usually do and not even get a yellow card? Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating a return to the more pragmatic, physical approach of Steve Bruce’s Latics – but the stats give food for thought.

Have Latics been a “soft touch” under Martinez? Do we need a more Bruce-like approach to succeed? Once again the statistics tell another story. Over the past two Martinez seasons Latics have committed more fouls and had more yellow cards than the average in the Premier League. They would not have won any fair play league.

What should we do when we have games coming up against the big boys? Do what Mick McCarthy did and give our fringe players a chance? Flout the rules and the ethos of the Premier League as our more affluent and cynical adversaries frequently do? We stayed up last year largely because we had the best results of any of the lower placed teams when playing against each other. One could argue that these games should be our main focus and we should use the pairings with the big boys for developing our youngsters. I am not so sure that this should be the way to go, but capitulation is hard to bear. The second half against Tottenham last weekend was much more palatable, even if Gohouri did get sent off and we will be once again sorely stretched again in defence in his absence through suspension. At least there was effort, commitment and belief.

Do the Latics’ first team players need psychotherapy to exorcise those communal memories of being constantly flattened by the big teams? Or is it simply that they are taking a “damage limitation” approach, avoiding injuries and suspensions for more “winnable” upcoming matches? Is winning at least a point from Manchester United this season within the realms of possibility? It has not happened during the past six years, but maybe this will be the season? One continues to live in hope.