An Oxford United fan’s view of Chey Dunkley

 

Wigan Athletic have announced the acquisition of central defender Chey Dunkley from Oxford United. Dunkley is a free agent and will formally join Latics when his contract expires at the end of June. The 25 year old Dunkley is 6 ft 2 in tall and made 52 appearances in all competitions for an Oxford side that finished 8th in League 1.

Cheyenne Armani Keayu Dunkley was born in Wolverhampton and was part of the Crewe Alexandra academy. As an 18 year old he was sent out on loan to Hednesford Town in 2010, going on to being signed on a permanent contract when Crewe released him. Dunkley went on to make 86 appearances in a three year stay at the Staffordshire club in the Northern Premier League.

In June 2012 he signed for Kidderminster Harriers of the Conference Premier League for a fee of £5,000 plus add-ons. He made 92 appearances, scoring  12 goals before going on loan to Oxford United in November 2014. Dunkley went on to sign for Oxford for an undisclosed fee. In April 2016 Dunkley scored an unfortunate own goal in the Football League Trophy final at Wembley when Oxford were beaten 3-2 by Barnsley. But in the next month he went on to score the first goal in a 3-0 victory against Wycombe Wanderers that gave United promotion to League 1. Dunkley went on to make  a total of 78 appearances for the Yellows, scoring 7 goals.

On announcing Dunkley’s arrival, Paul Cook said: “Chey has continued to develop his game year on year since he left Crewe after coming through their academy, learning the hard way in non-league and having his best season to date with Oxford United last year and playing over 50 games. He adds more quality to a strong defensive department.”

In  order to find out more about Dunkley’s time at Oxford we contacted Mark Lambourne of the Yellows Forum (yellowsforum.co.uk), together with fans David Mitson and Jamie Bowler through Twitter.

Mark commented that:

Dunkley is a great young player, still learning his trade. He is prone to mistakes, but can make up for these with some great challenges. He is a pretty good target in the box from set pieces, scoring some goals from these and also clearing the ball when defending.

Good luck to him, looking forward to seeing him play against us next season!

David Mitson @CrazyMitto said:

What can you say about Chey Dunkley?

Big heart,  big head and a big right boot. Old fashioned centre half. Chey only has one gear and its first gear. He may lack pace but you’ve got to get past him first. Always gives 100%. Chey will be missed. His header v Wycombe in the last game of the season when we gained promotion will always be remembered. Yes he can pass. He can also hoof it into row 67. He loves to score (7 for us) and gets v excited when he does.

Jamie Bowler @J_Bowler07 added:

Big centre back who would win headers all game as well as being a good defender all round. Struggled when the ball was at his feet and would often look the go long when pressure was put on. But as a person was in my opinion one of the most respected players and have back to the fans. Going to miss the lad.

 

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Latics fans react to Paul Cook’s arrival on social media

After the lulls of the past weeks Paul Cook’s arrival at Wigan has produced a considerable stir on the social media and message boards. Not least of that were torrents of vitriol from Portsmouth fans angry that Cook had left them with a year still left on his contract.

However, Portsmouth acted quickly to calm the storm, in appointing Kenny Jackett their new manager. One Pompey fan tweeted:

But the mood of Latics fans has certainly been uplifted. Will that Pompey fan rue his prediction by the end of the season?

We trawled the social media following Cook’s appointment and came up with some  very positive responses from Latics fans. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Facebook and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

Gaz_Latic on Latics Speyk compared Cook and Jackett:

IMO, we’ve probably both got good deals. Jackett would have been an Owen Coyle-esque appointment here. His style doesn’t fit with the players or fans (at least half) expectations while Cook obviously didn’t fit in the same way down there. I would expect us to finish higher than Pompey next season purely on the squads as they are now – but much can change between now and the start of the season.

For me the attacking talents of Powell, Jacobs, Grigg and Bogle are almost unmatched in this league but much depends on how they are deployed and the service they receive. Cook has shown in the past he is able to get plenty out of meagre attacking talents – think Gary Roberts and Padraig Amond, imagine what he’ll do (we hope he will anyway!) with Bogle and Grigg. Jackett on the other hand has a habit of doing good jobs with unremarkable teams but rarely has he been able to turn early success into something remarkable. At Swansea, Millwall and Wolves he began well but plateaued in later seasons. One could argue that Cook overachieved at both Chesterfield and Sligo while was largely in line with expectations at Pompey.

So make of it what you will but I suspect that come the first games of August neither Wigan or Pompey fans will be ruing either appointment.

 Kev @kevwafc tweeted:

All I want Paul Cook to do next season is make me look forward to watching a few games of actual football and that’ll do for me  #wafc

Colin Prunty on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

Appointing an ex player gets my vote . Caldwell, Martinez and Jewell and Barrow (94-95)all had success of some kind or other during their time.needs time though and the constant sacking of managers needs to stop in my view.

The_Wigan_Whopper on Latics Speyk commented:

Happy with the appointment overall – he’s a Latics hero to me. Got to get behind him and the team now. Up the tics!

 King_dezeeuw06 on Latics Speyk added:

 Glad it’s finally done and we can finally put a really frustrating and difficult period behind us and go into our next season with a clean slate and hopefully some excitment and optimism. It seems Sharpe and the club showed some real ambition with the money they paid to get Cook in, so credit to them. I think it’s a really good appointment, some will have their doubts no matter who we hired as no one choice can please everyone, but Cooks record is very good so let’s be positive and get behind him.

Jimmyc on the Cockney Latic Forum opined:

This looks like a decent appointment with some logic behind it from young Sharpy. Quite looking forward to next season..

Goodbrand Stats @StatsChristian tweeted:

Paul Cook has won 2 league titles & reached #Playoffs twice in his last seasons as a manager. Good #Wigan appointment.

David Green on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

We have got our new manager in paul cook he may or may not be the choice of everyone but everyone will have their oppinion but all we can do is get behind paul and the lads . Im not saying we are going to take league 1 by storm like we did after christmas last time but we know what the league is all about and that is grinding out a result so that should stand us in good stead. Paul needs to be given the time to make his mark on the club. Remember the last paul (jewell) that was manager he didnt get off to the best of starts but he got the time and we all know the rest is history.

Jrfatfan on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Welcome on board Paul, best wishes for the season ahead. Whether it be 442, 351 or 531 hope you have a successful time back at the club you started out at all those years ago.

Try to keep of this board as there are some moaning gits who have started off already before the inks dry on your 3 year contract. It may take a few months to sort out the team and tactics but most of us will be right behind you and the boys. We fully understand that there might be defeats before you get it right so just ignore the Victor Meldrews who will be on here at 5.05pm following every defeat or draw.

All the best for the next 3 seasons be it one up front or 10 up front.

Vincehill on the Cockney Latic Forum concluded:

A very good appointment which shows ambition and listening to Paul cook today during his opening interview reminded me very much of a certain Paul Jewell when he came back to the club in 2001

They have also given him a 3 year contract but please young David let him have the time to do the job because to be now on the seventh manager in under 4 years is frankly ridiculous especially when we only had 4 in the previous 12 !

I’m also pleased he is an ex player as there have been no failures with any ex players in the management role and I get a good vibe with this one as we have to get it right some time.

Best line in that interview was from the interviewer himself “Welcome back Paul ,what are your first impressions of the place ?”

Quality

Whittleblue on Latics Speyk was a little sceptical:

 I understand the rationale behind the appointment and let’s be blunt there wasn’t exactly a great choice out there or any outstanding candidate. Don’t think he’s the right fit for us at this time however, though I’m hoping to be proven wrong. Hopefully he can stay out of controversy and manage to find himself a suit to look the part. Best of luck to him.

Runcornfan1978 on the Cockney Latic Forum was optimistic:

I actually think he will be given the time to turn things around.As for a borefest. Pompey were amongst the top in the goals chart last season.

Hopefully we have now found someone who can get the best out of & has the perfect knowledge of the lone striker system. If played correctly, this formation produces goals just as much as any other. formation.I also like how he has been allowed to bring in his own staff.

Predicting good things next season, i am!!!

True Believer on Latics Speyk acknowledged the need for stability:

Hopefully we can all give him time. He needs to feel that we the fans are with him and allow him the time he needs to change the losing mentality we have gotten into. He needs the board to back him and not get edgy if things don’t happen immediately. It has been said before and I will reiterate it that the club needs stability on and off the pitch and we as fans need to play our part. Good Luck Paul and welcome back.

Donnyspage responded on “How many in and out before end of August” on the Cockney Latic Forum:

Personally as few as possible but who knows. Obvious ones that will leave are the long term loaned out players from last season. Hopefully we won’t be selling the likes of Grigg, Burn, Powell etc. I hope we have a small squad fighting to get a game. Do we really need to bring any players in? All have been brought in to play the type of game Cook plays so no need for them to adapt. Two strikers is ample as only one will be playing and providing none are injured. As little disruption as possible should see us ok. Paul as inherited a squad that should fly up the league. They just need managing. All that said, this is Latics so it will be more likely ten out and ten in and a practice ground for half a dozen loanees whose heart and minds lie elsewhere.

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A Portsmouth fan’s view of Paul Cook

 

 Paul Cook – the right man for the job

As expected, the announcement came yesterday of the appointment of Paul Cook as manager of Wigan Athletic. He joins the list of ex-Latics players who have managed the club in recent years along with Gary Caldwell, Paul Jewell and Roberto Martinez, together with Graham Barrow in short term stints.

Cook’s  impressive track record as a manager is reflected in his stats:

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Following Cook’s appointment, chairman David Sharpe commented on the club’s official site that:

“Paul was the man that I felt was best to take this club forwards after looking at the jobs he has done at Chesterfield and Portsmouth in the last four seasons.He has won two promotions, has never been outside of the top six, has a 50% win ratio and also plays the brand of football that I think is the best for this football club. Moving forwards, I’ll be delighted to see Paul’s work in progress and I have a good feeling about it.”

Adding that:

“The man I met, in terms of his character and how lively and energetic he is, makes me believe he will be a lift for the whole place and I think we need that sort of character.He’s very bubbly, will have the boys playing with a smile on their faces and I am looking forward to what he will bring it.”

The social media and message boards have been awash with comments from Pompey fans regarding Cook’s departure with one year still remaining on his contract. The Portsmouth FC official site stated that:

“Paul Cook has stepped down as Pompey boss to take up the vacant managerial position at Wigan Athletic. A financial compensation agreement was reached with Wigan over the weekend, resulting in permission being granted for the Latics to speak to Paul. Assistant manager Leam Richardson has also left Fratton Park. Cook arrived at Pompey in May 2015 and led the club to the League Two play-offs in his first season in charge. There was even more success at the end of last term, with the Blues earning automatic promotion and securing the title on a dramatic final day. Portsmouth Football Club would like to thank Cook and Richardson for their service to the club. “

The likelihood is therefore that Richardson will be joining Cook at Wigan as his assistant.

The 37 year old Richardson, born in Leeds, began his playing career at Blackburn Rovers as a right back. He signed for Bolton Wanderers in July 2000 for a fee of £50,000. Loan spells followed at Notts County and Blackpool before the Tangerines signed him on a permanent contract. Richardson went on to make 71 appearances for Blackpool before joining Accrington Stanley in August 2005. He was to stay there for 8 years making 133 appearances. He took over as caretaker manager in January 2012 until Paul Cook took over a month later. When Cook left Accrington in October 2012, Richardson took over as manager. However, he was to join Chesterfield in May 2013 as Cook’s assistant manager, subsequently moving on to Portsmouth with him.

In order to get an overview of Paul Cook’s time at Portsmouth we contacted Jim Bonner  (@FrattonFaithful) of the Fratton Faithful fan site.

Here’s over to Jim:

There can be no disputing that Paul Cook is a good manager. After all, he won Portsmouth the League Two title by sticking to his principles and winning games in the right manner. However, it should be remembered that he delivered this league title when Pompey were favourites to win the division on goal difference from Plymouth and including an inexplicable collapse by Doncaster who lost all four of their final matches when they required just one.

Cook will have your team playing attractive, possession football and his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation means that the back four are well protected whilst the attacking midfield trio are free to attack and create chances for the lone striker. He is also an excellent motivator as rarely did Pompey lose more than a single consecutive game under his management and any bad performance was usually followed by a good one.

 His record in the transfer market was mixed. He has the eye for a quality player as proved in his first season with the Blues as he virtually rebuilt a poor squad and moulded it into a good one with signings like Christian Burgess, Enda Stevens and Gareth Evans proving to be shrewd. However, his second season saw him sign many players who either couldn’t get into the team or had their stays abruptly ended by either having their contracts terminated or being shipped out on loan. Milan Lalkovic must be secretly delighted that Cook has gone.

The negatives of Cook’s management is that whilst Plan A can work extremely well, he doesn’t have a Plan B. His stubborn attitude meant he would rarely stray from his 4-2-3-1 formation and when he did, the results and performances were worse! He also struggles to work out how to break down teams that will “park the bus” and play for a draw on home turf. Thus, you should prepare yourselves for grating post-match interview soundbytes such as “All credit to Shrewsbury, they’re an excellent team and had a gameplan which stopped us scoring. We go again next week.”

Whilst he may be good enough to get a squad of Wigan’s quality back up to the Championship, there is a feeling amongst people that he isn’t tactically smart enough or indeed professional enough to succeed at a higher level.

Cook also seems to struggle under pressure as he felt the heat with 16,000 expectant Pompey fans constantly scrutinising him as he occasionally lashed out at the media whilst having indirect digs at them. The crowds at the DW Stadium may be half the size of what he was used to at Fratton Park, but the expectation will be exactly he same and he may well feel the heat if the Latics fans aren’t happy with performances next season.

In a nutshell, it should speak volumes that the reaction of Pompey fans is anger at the manner he left rather than any kind of sorrow that the event even took place. He’s a good manager but there are arguably even better bosses that Portsmouth can attract to replace him with Kenny Jackett rumoured to take his place.

 

 

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Paul Cook – the right man for the job

Football took a nose dive at Wigan Athletic last season. What we saw in its place was a kind of “fightball” with players allowed to hoof the ball upfield, the end result being players ultimately unable to pass the ball with any consistent degree of accuracy. The end result was another seemingly inevitable relegation.

It had happened before, in the 2014-15 season, when William Kvist’s long throw-ins into the penalty box had become Malky Mackay’s principal attacking ploy. Who could have guessed that Warren Joyce and Mackay would create such a blot on the landscape of football when they were first appointed?

Owen Coyle’s long ball tactics and lack of tactical expertise had been no surprise to those of us who had seen his teams play prior to his arrival at Wigan. The surprise was more that Dave Whelan had appointed a manager whose style of football was diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor.  The end result in Coyle’s case was a team that should have been challenging for promotion instead languishing in the bottom half of the table. In the cases of Mackay and Joyce the rot was to prove terminal.

Watching Paul Cook’s Chesterfield in the League 1 playoffs a couple of years ago immediately had me reflecting on his days at Wigan. Cook was the kind of player who probably would not have got a place in the teams of managers such as Mackay and Joyce. Harry McNally brought him in as an 18 year old from modest Marine, a club from Crosby who had been regular adversaries for Latics in their days in the Lancashire Combination. But despite his humble footballing origins Cook was a class act, an intelligent footballer with excellent control and a superb left foot. He was a member of Bryan Hamilton’s exciting Latics side of 1985-86, who were desperately unlucky not to be promoted to the second tier, a late run from Derby County pipping them by a single point. Cook continued to be an important player under Ray Mathias, who like Hamilton, encouraged his teams to play good football. But it was no surprise when he was snapped up by Norwich City in 1988, the next step in a career that was to see him go on to amass 642 Football League appearances, scoring 56 goals in the process.

Cook was a cultured player and he expects his teams to play in a similar fashion. He started his managerial career in the lower leagues, spending some six years at Southport, Sligo Rovers and Accrington Stanley before joining Chesterfield in October 2012. His first season saw the Spireites come within two points of the League 2 playoffs, but they were to win the division the following year. They went on to firmly establish themselves in League 1 in 2014-15, reaching 6th place, losing out to Preston North End in the playoffs.

In May 2015 Cook was appointed manager of Portsmouth. Pompey had fallen from the Premier League to 16th place in League 2 within a period of just five years. In 2015-16 Cook lifted them to sixth place and the playoffs, narrowly going down to Plymouth Argyle in the playoffs. They went on to win the division last season under his guidance.

Paul Cook has an impressive 44% win ratio as a manager. Moreover he has done that by insisting that his teams play a version of football akin to that which led Wigan Athletic to the most successful results in their history. Roberto Martinez had led Latics to wins over giants – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United – plus an FA Cup Final victory over Manchester City, by playing possession-based football.

As a young player at Wigan Cook was not universally appreciated by the home crowd. There were those who urged him to “get stuck in” and release the ball quicker. Fortunately in Hamilton and Mathias he had managers who appreciated his style of play and who wanted their teams to play good football.  If there was one thing that Cook lacked it was pace. It meant that he was not to play at the highest levels of English football, despite his technical expertise.

It looks like Paul Cook will be signed up as Wigan Athletic’s manager in the next 24 hours.  Once again he will not be popular with all of the fans. Those who prefer a more direct style of play will be left frustrated. It will signal a reversion to the kind of football most recently employed at Wigan by Gary Caldwell, prematurely dismissed in October. The cynics had said that Caldwell could not get promotion out of League 1 playing possession-based football. They were proven wrong as his team went on to win the division.

On Cook’s seemingly impending arrival at Wigan, his ex-boss Mathias remarked to Wigan Today that:

“He has proved he can do it. I know his upbringing and how he’s lived his life. He can be very strong for Wigan and he can be a strong talker when he has to be.”

 Paul Cook is an experienced manager with an excellent track record in the EPL’s lower divisions. He is the right qualities for the job at Wigan Athletic in this moment of time.

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Garry Cook and the next chapter for Wigan Athletic

“I was both honoured and delighted to be asked to be part of the team developing the next chapter for Wigan Athletic. Returning to the UK and football was a careful decision and had to include supporting a chairman with a high level of ambition and enthusiasm to build the club for future success.”

Garry Cook’s arrival at Wigan was a bolt out of the blue. From 2008-2011 he was CEO of Manchester City, helping transform them into a major power in European football. He may have left City under controversial circumstances, but his prior accomplishments at the club were impressive.  On his departure the chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak stated that:

On every level, the club is unrecognisable from the organisation which he inherited and our staff and supporter services, community outreach and commercial activity have seen unparalleled growth under his direction with yet more projects to be realised on the horizon.”

Cook had worked for Nike in the USA from 1996-2008, becoming head of the “Brand Jordan” project alongside basketball mega-star Michael Jordan. On joining Manchester City in May 2008 he was given an annual salary in the region of £1.5 m. In September 2012 Cook was appointed Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Europe, Middle East and Africa for the mixed martial arts organisation, UFC. He rose to the position of Chief Global Brand Officer. He left UFC in October 2016 following a series of staffing cuts.

Cook is a highly experienced executive, used to working on a large scale, with equally large budgets. Put simply, why would he get involved with Latics?

According to the club site Cook is to be a non-executive director, assisting part-time, “helping the Board of Directors with strategic planning and long term objectives”. But what does that really mean? When Cook refers to “developing the next chapter for Wigan Athletic”, what is he referring to?

Even to the impartial observer, Cook’s appointment would appear to be a win-win for Wigan Athletic. Given a seeming reluctance to pay top whack to people involved in the running of the club, it is unlikely that Cook will receive the level of remuneration to which he has been accustomed, even allowing for the fact that it is a part-time position. However, following a six year absence from English football Cook might well want to get his foot back in the door, foresaking his normal monetary expectations. But what can we expect from Cook?

If Cook is given a fair crack of the whip – “if” being the operative word – we can expect some changes in the strategic direction of a club that has had too many ups and downs since that eventful day in May 2013. The turnover of managers in the past four years has been disturbing. That of players even more so.

Last season Wigan Athletic had the biggest turnover of players of any club in English football’s four divisions, mirroring what has happened too often in  recent years. Over those years the choice of managers has been haphazard, the more successful ones being sacked so little time after doing so well. Others have been appointed that the discerning fan could see were ill-suited from Day 1. Player recruitment has been an area of great concern. Too much money has been spent on players who have not made the grade, sometimes not entirely their fault. Long term contracts have been offered to players past their best, seemingly up-and-coming signings have so often disappeared from view. In a business sense the dealings in the transfer market, including money paid to agents, have left much to be desired.

Given this backdrop, Cook’s input would surely be valuable. Cook was heavily involved in player recruitment at City, albeit on an elevated plane, but he also had a major input on infrastructure and the commercial side. Even when Latics were in the Premier League commercial revenues  were low compared with other clubs in the division. They remain so. In terms of infrastructure, the development of an academy, potentially capable of providing players for the senior squad, remains a work in progress. The club’s purchase of the Charnock Richard golf course was upstaged by the Whelan family’s  acquisition of the ex-Bolton Wanderers training facility at Euxton. The club owns neither its main training ground nor it stadium.

When Dave Whelan took over the club in 1995 his vision of Wigan Athletic being in the Premier League was to provide direction for the club in the years that followed. Following the FA Cup win and relegation there has been no overriding direction. Put simply, the club needs to come to terms as to what it is and what it could be. A clearly defined, well -articulated vision for the future could provide the driving force for improvement in the operations of the club.

Garry Cook clearly has a lot of nous to bring to the table of the Wigan Athletic Board of Directors. However, it should be noted that Cook was appointed  at City by Thaksin Shinawatra and was instrumental in bringing in Sheikh Mansour’s money to buy the club, in poor financial shape at the time, for a figure around £150 m.

Latics supporters continue to speculate on the influence that Cook will have on the club. Is he there to provide the kinds of ideas that can move the club forward, developing  a strategic plan? Or is he there to make the club more marketable, then find suitable future investors? Is it a signal that the Whelan dynasty is nearing its end?

In the meantime we can but ponder on what the next chapter for Wigan Athletic enabled by Cook might be.

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