The player Cook must start against Middlesbrough

Photo courtesy of the Sun newspaper

The Sun newspaper reports that Jude Bellingham could on his way to Manchester United for a fee of £30m. Bellingham made his debut for Birmingham City’s under-23 team as a 15-year-old in October 2018. He became their youngest-ever first team player at the age of 16 years, 38 days in an EFL Cup game at Portsmouth in August 2019. Under manager Pep Clotet he has now made 20 starts in the Championship this season.

Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Joe Gelhardt too is a prodigious young talent, although a year older than Bellingham. He made his Wigan Athletic debut as a 16-year-old in an EFL Cup game against Rotherham in August 2018. Under manager Paul Cook he has since made 13 appearances in the Championship, with just one start in the 2-1 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday a couple of weeks ago.

The approaches of Clotet and Cook are certainly contrasting. Clotet has given Bellingham every opportunity to showcase his talents. Cook has used Gelhardt as an impact substitute, although in less than half of the games Latics have played in the Championship this season.

Cook has constantly talked about the need to shield Gelhardt from too much pressure at an early age. His most recent comment was that: “I think all Wigan fans probably want him to start, and the hard thing for me as a manager is trying to protect the young man – as good as he is.” However, he did add that: “He’s only 17, he’s a fantastic talent who makes things happen on a football pitch. His time is coming, that’s for sure.”

Cook got his starting lineup woefully wrong in Saturday’s home match against Preston. Playing with a back five and three defensive midfielders, reminiscent of the Warren Joyce era, was a valid tactic against a Leeds side which was technically superior. However, facing a Preston side that had won only 3 times in 14 away games, it was the wrong ploy. It was only after Preston went 2-0 up that Cook changed his formation and took off a defender to bring on Gelhardt. The youngster went on to provide the pass leading to Chey Dunkley’s goal after 57 minutes, looked dangerous and forced a good save from the Preston keeper in the last minute. As Cook said: Gelhardt makes things happen.

Since the departure of Nick Powell, the manager has experimented with different players in the number 10 position behind the centre forward, none of whom has been able to establish himself there. His recent preference has been to use Joe Williams, a holding midfielder, in that position. Williams is an all-action player who has been one of Latics’ best performers this season, but a number 10 he is not. The player needs to be restored to his best position.

Using Williams or Lee Evans at number 10 has been an option that has given Cook more midfield tackling cover, but there has been a crying-out need for a naturally creative player in that position. It looked like we might have had that kind of player when Kieran Dowell signed on loan from Everton. However, Cook dispatched Dowell to play wide, preferring to continue with Williams as a 10.

In the absence of Dowell through injury there remains one prime candidate for the number 10 position – Joe Gelhardt.

At Wigan, Cook has mentors who had illustrious careers after making their debuts at a tender age. Peter Reid started for Bolton as an 18-year-old while Joe Royle was only 16 when he first played for Everton. It makes the manager’s reluctance to immerse Gelhardt hard to understand.

Middlesbrough have only won two games away from home this season. They can certainly be beaten if Wigan go in with a positive approach.

Playing Gelhardt from the start is paramount. Moreover, he should not be dispatched to a wide position, but played behind the centre forward. The creativity and dynamism that Gelhardt can provide is something that has been so lacking over the course of the season.

A Forest fan’s view of Kieran Dowell (Part 2)

 

Following on from previous fan views of Kieran Dowell we later received a further one from Rich Ferraro at his Forest Ramble site (www.forestramble.com)


As for Dowell, we just didn’t see enough of him in a red shirt, and neither did Derby. This doesn’t seem to be down to lack of ability, he obviously has loads of talent, and when he got a chance he showed flashes of brilliance (including nine goals in league and cup), but without ever being the first name on the team sheet.

 However, it says a lot that he seemed to do ok at Sheffield United – maybe he needs a manager who is able to put an arm around his shoulder, rather than a kick up the bum.

 Dowell left Forest when Mark Warburton left and Aitor Karanka came in, so maybe he was a victim of the new gaffer having less faith in youth (other victims included Joe Worrall).

 Can he do a job for you? Yes, he provides a good through ball, skills and goals; but you will need to get your enforcers to do some of the donkey work around him.

 All the best for the rest of the season.

 


A Derby County fan’s view of Kieran Dowell

 

Kieran Dowell made his debut for Wigan Athletic yesterday at Leicester, starting in a wide left midfield role. Dowell can be a very important player for Latics in the second half of the season, a natural number 10, with the ability to make incisive passes and score goals.

In order to get more information on Dowell’s performances at his previous club, Derby County, we contacted Ollie Wright of the @derbycountyblog

This is what Ollie had to say:

I feel sorry for Dowell, because he was the victim of circumstances.  Phillip Cocu only arrived at Derby very late on in the summer, after the whole ‘will-he-won’t-he-of-course-he-bloody-will-get-it-over-with’ nonsense over Frank Lampard and Chelsea.  Cocu didn’t really have any time to assess his squad and what he needed to bring in before the start of the season.  

 Several loan signings were made quickly, the first of which was Dowell, just after Cocu had landed in Florida to take over pre-season training.  I’m guessing that Cocu spoke to Marcel Brands – the Everton director of football, who had worked with him at PSV – and Brands recommended that Cocu take Dowell, who was reportedly weighing up offers from yourselves and Huddersfield at the time.  

Dowell played the first few games of the season in an advanced midfield role, but after we were humiliated 3-0 at Brentford, Dowell paid a heavy price and lost his place in the team.  After that, he only started two more games, defeats at Blackburn and Hull, and whispers started to circulate that his loan would be cancelled last month. He was left out of the 18 for the win against Barnsley this week and that was widely seen as confirmation that he would leave the club.

An element of the Derby fanbase wrote Dowell off very quickly and he will certainly not be missed  However, in his defence, it was a tall order for any attacking midfielder to come in and try to replace the elite talents who left the club last summer – Mason Mount and Harry Wilson – and there have been plenty of poor performances since the Brentford defeat in which Dowell was not involved at all, so it’s not as if he could be scapegoated for our difficulties this season.  He did not impress here, to put it kindly, but there’s definitely a talent in there, if somebody can unlock it.  

From the limited time he spent on the pitch, my assessment would be that he is best used as a number ten, without being asked to take care of much (any) defensive duty.  It’s obvious that Wigan are in need of creativity and, if played in a relatively free role, Dowell does have the potential to make things happen – he was the best Derby player for key passes per 90 minutes this season, with 1.9 – but he was unable to replicate the burst of brilliant goals he scored for Nottingham Forest and I wouldn’t expect him to win you many duels in the midfield hurly burly.
Given the difficult position Wigan find themselves in and the lack of goals in the Latics’ side, I think this is a loan move which is definitely worth a shot.  
Wishing you all the best for the rest of the season.  Good luck!

A Nottingham Forest fan’s view of Kieran Dowell

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of 22-year-old Kieran Dowell from Everton on a loan deal until the end of the season. Since the departure of Nick Powell Latics have badly lacked a midfield playmaker/goalscorer and Dowell certainly fits that profile.

The 6 ft 1 in tall attacking midfielder was born in Ormskirk and joined the Everton Academy at the age of seven. After playing for the reserve team he made his first team debut in a Europa League game against Krasnodar in December 2014. Dowell signed a professional contract in March 2015. He went on to make his Premier League debut as a 19-year-old as a substitute in March 2016 against Bournemouth. He made his first start two weeks later in a last day of the season win over Norwich city. He was given a new three-year contract in the summer of 2016. Dowell gained over 40 caps for England at all levels U16 to U20, being part of the under-20 World Cup winning side in the summer of 2017.

In August 2017 he joined Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan. He soon became a regular under Mark Warburton and scored a hat-trick against Hull City in October 2017. He went on to make 31 starts in the Championship with 7 appearances off the bench, scoring 9 goals.

Dowell joined Sheffield United on loan in January 2018 going on to make 8 starts and 8 substitute appearances, scoring 2 goals as the Blades won promotion to the Premier League. He went to Derby on loan in July 2019 making 8 Championship starts and 2 appearances off the bench.

In order to find out how Dowell did at Nottingham we contacted Matt at the Forza Garibaldi fan site (www.forzagaribaldi.com).

Matt commented:

At Forest, Dowell’s first couple of months were electric. He created chances and he scored goals. Some were absolute corkers too. He created something from nothing and was an instrumental part of our side.

 Sadly, Dowell’s impact faded quite dramatically. I won’t pin all of it on him as Forest did do their usual trick of collapsing and a change of manager at the turn of the year clearly disrupted things but he wasn’t the same.

Dowell’s appearances and influence dwindled and when the season ended and he returned to Everton it wasn’t really registered amongst Forest fans. When he signed for Derby on loan in the summer I thought it will either go really well or really badly.

 He may be an excellent addition for Wigan. There is definitely talent there, it just needs extracting. It just looks like a bit of a gamble which Kieron Dowell turns up.

 

A Barnsley fan’s view of Joe Williams

Last week Wigan Athletic announced the signing of 22-year-old Joe Williams from Everton for an undisclosed fee. The midfielder signed a three-year contract.

Born in Liverpool, Williams joined the Everton Academy at the age of 7, becoming a first-year scholar in June 2013. In the 2013-14 season he broke into the U-21 squad. In 2016 he won two caps for the England U-20 team.

Williams spent the 2017-18 season on loan to Barnsley, where he made 38 appearances, scoring one goal. Last season he was on loan at Bolton Wanderers where he made 29 appearances.

Williams is a tenacious midfield player, very strong in the tackle.

In order to learn about Williams’ time at Barnsley we contacted CraigIsRed (@CraigIsRed) through Twitter. He commented:

Joe is remembered fondly at Oakwell. He enjoyed a successful loan spell with Barnsley in 2017 which was unfortunately cut short due to injury. He played really well in that anchor-man role between defence and midfield.

 Joe’s a player that’s not afraid to get stuck in and his timing with tackles is great for the most part. He was the glue that stuck that team of ours together a couple of seasons ago, winning back the ball, scooping up loose balls, and transitioning defence to attack. I have full confidence that he’s only improved more and more since then.

 Overall, Joe’s a really good Championship midfielder. He’s still young as well so I can see him pushing even higher in the future.