A Wolves fan’s view of Lee Evans

Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

A few days ago we published a Bradford City fan’s view of Lee Evans. Since then we have been in contact with Tom Baugh of the Wolves Blog (http://www.wolvesblog.com/)

Evans can be expected to be a key player for Latics this season in a midfield holding role. On signing for Wigan he said:

“I am delighted to be here. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get everything sorted at both ends. I knew I didn’t really have a future this season at Wolves so to join a club like Wigan, who are pushing for promotion this season, is a perfect opportunity for me. It’s part of football, different managers have different opinions; under Paul Lambert I was playing quite a bit and he gave me a new contract but now the new manager has different ideas. That’s fine, they told me soon enough so I had plenty of time to get things sorted, I had plenty of options but I felt like Wigan was the best opportunity for me.”

The departure of Paul Lambert and the arrival of ex-Porto coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, saw the player move down the pecking order at Wolverhampton. The loan arrangement appears to be in the interests of both Latics and Evans.

Here’s over to Tom to tell us about Evans’ time at Wolves:

Lee Evans could easily have been lining up for Wolves this weekend. He’d probably fit nicely into our new 343 system. But we’ve shelled out £15 million on Ruben Neves from Porto and he’s found himself frozen out despite only signing a new contract a few months back. There’s probably not much between him and Jack Price who remains contention at Wolves, but we’ve got a bloated squad meaning someone had to go.

His obvious strength is an excellent passing range. He can ping accurate balls out wide for fun and deliver searching forward passes. He’s combative, decent in the tackle and can get forward to chip in with the odd goal.

I don’t think he’s particularly mobile. You’re certainly not going to see him going past players or embarking on mazy dribbles. He’ll hold a position and feed balls into attackers who can make something happen.

He did well in League One for Wolves and Bradford so it’s a no-brainer signing for Paul Cook. His quality at that level is undisputed. After we got promoted he was briefly instrumental in our Championship promotion push the following season but faded away.

If the plan is to get the ball on the deck and play, I think he’ll do very well for Wigan and with his best mate Michael Jacobs there I’m sure he’ll hit the ground running.

Best of luck for the season guys.

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A Bradford City fan’s view of Lee Evans

Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of the 23-year-old Lee Evans from Wolverhampton Wanderers on a season-long loan. The 6 ft 1 in tall Welshman is a central midfield player.

On signing Evans Latics manager Paul Cook said: “Lee’s a classy player and somebody who has been playing at a good level for a number of years. We do have a number of players in midfield at the moment but I feel you can never be too strong in that department, especially over the course of a season in which we’re going to play over 50 games. I am sure once he’s settled in, Lee is the type of player the fans will really warm to.”

Lee Evans was born in Newport and made his debut for his home town club as a 17 year old in March 2012. shortly after he went on to play in the FA Trophy Final in which Newport County were beaten 2-0 by York City. The following season he had made 23 appearances in the Football Conference before being signed by Wolves in January 2013.

Evans made his Football League debut for Wolves in August 2013, going on to make 28 appearances as the midland club went on to claim the League 1 title. In  August 2015 he went to Bradford City on loan, making 41 appearances and scoring 4 goals.

Evans has made 48 league starts for Wolves with 11 appearances as a substitute. He has made 13 appearances for Wales at U21 level.

In order to learn more about Evans time at Bradford we contacted Bantams’ fan Stuart Black (@blackmeister).

Here’s over to Stuart:

Lee Evans joined Bradford City on 20th August 2015 under Phil Parkinson.  We had made a poor start to the season and were playing two defenders in central midfield in Tony McMahon and Chris Routis and quite frankly it was very weak.  We took only 1 point from the first nine with defeats away at Swindon and at home to Gillingham and it was obvious to all that Central Midfield needed strengthening badly.

When Evans joined on loan from Wolves at least we had a square peg in a square hole and immediately our fortunes turned around.

In our first match we played away at a very good (and ultimately promoted) Barnsley and got a hard fought 0-0.  We then picked up 8 points from the next 4 games to get us to 12th. Evans had a big hand in the fact that by the end of November we had risen from 22nd to 6th in the table.

Evans has a lot of ability and can certainly find a pass. He has average pace but is physically strong albeit slightly reckless but will get you occasional goals.  He is not bad in the air which you would expect at 6’1 tall and can take a good set piece.

Bradford City hit a flat spot in November and drifted back towards mid table as Evans needed better quality next to him.  That quality arrived in early February when City signed Josh Cullen on loan from West Ham.  As a midfield pair they excelled and the team rose to 3rd in the league but ultimately failed in the play-offs when beaten by Millwall.

Lee Evans scored 4 goals for us in 2015-16 from 35 appearances with 3 assists.  He was only 21 at the time so should be stronger and wiser now. He got 9 yellow cards and 1 red in that same time but looks to have improved those figures in the Championship.

I suspect most Bradford City fans would still like him in the team as we look rather weak as a squad at the moment as we look to rebuild following our late Wembley defeat once again against Millwall and the subsequent loss of some of our better players to other clubs.

Best wishes for the new season to all Wigan supporters.

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Lifting the gloom and doom against Wolves

A win against Wolves can dispel the doom and gloom among Latics fans.

A win against Wolves can dispel the doom and gloom among Latics fans.

Who would have thought that Wigan Athletic would be bottom of the Championship table by the end of September? The League 1 title had given the club back the momentum it had lost in the dark days of Malky’s reign. But now, once again, that prevailing atmosphere of doom and gloom has returned. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

But then again, it isn’t yet the end of September. The home game against Wolves is only a couple of days away. A win would not only propel them off the bottom, but could conceivably lift them out of the relegation zone too. But more than anything else it would lift the doom and gloom that is once again rearing its head. Is a win over Wolves likely to happen?

Football is a game of fine margins. The average number of goals per game in English football hovers around the 2.6 mark. It means that whichever team scores the first goal has a statistically good chance of winning the match. Sadly the authorities who run football remain staunchly conservative. Too many fine margins are determined by erroneous refereeing decisions as the sport continues to bury its head in the sand and resist the kind of video technology that has been invaluable in cricket and rugby. Those who oppose the use of video will say that the law of averages means that by the end of the season the number of dodgy decisions for and against even out.

Gary Caldwell would not necessarily agree. Sometimes those decisions just don’t balance themselves out. He was entirely right about the refereeing decision that led to Preston’s goal on Friday. He was also right about the incident at Bristol where a player who had already been booked should have been sent off a minute before he scored the match-winning goal. But such complaints from a manager tend to be looked upon as sour grapes and Caldwell needs to desist in making them if he is not to open himself up for criticism.

It could be argued that referees have not done Latics any favours so far this season. Many of us hoped that we would see better officials in the second tier than we saw last year in League 1. But if there is a difference in quality, is it so great?

But refereeing has not been the main factor in the poor results so far this season. Fitness has proved to be the overriding issue, exacerbated by the sheer number of new faces coming in. Once again the pre-season did not provide an adequate basis for the kind of physical competitiveness needed at the start of an English league season. Before the warm-up games started Caldwell already had long term injured players in Reece James and Andy Kellett, but he was soon to lose Donervon Daniels and Kyle Knoyle for several months too. For the game at Preston Caldwell was denied the services of at least seven of his squad through injury.

Given the injury situation Caldwell rightly boosted his squad size. He now had 27 players in the senior team squad. However, circumstances were to dictate that so many of the new signings he had brought in were well short of match fitness. It had taken some weeks to get the backbone of his team to a competitive level of fitness, but now he had to ease in new signings, some of whom had not had much game time in pre-season with their previous clubs.

Latics went to Preston to face a physical battle against a team whose style of play is reminiscent of the worst times of Sam Allardyce at Bolton. It was always going to be a difficult game, but the controversial, fortunate goal scored by the home team after just seven  minutes was a hammer blow to Wigan. To their credit they withstood that early onslaught and dominated possession thereafter. But a goal was not to come. The front three of Jacobs, Grigg and Wildschut all had poor games. Grigg had become a father for the first time just a couple of days before. Whether that affected his play on the day is up to debate, but the reality is that Latics need a sharp central striker when playing at places like Preston. The current North End team will never win an award for an aesthetically pleasing style of play, but their manager Simon Grayson has made them into a mean defensive unit.

Norwich City went to the top of the Championship division yesterday and with the strength of their squad they will surely be challenging for an automatic promotion place as May approaches. Despite an awful opening ten minutes at Carrow Road, Latics had gone on to match their rivals, coming so close to a result. The quality of Wigan’s play in the second half more than matched that of the Canaries. It showed that there is sufficient quality in the squad to at least consolidate in the Championship division.

Individual errors such as Dan Burn’s bad back pass at Bristol and Adam Bogdan’s howler at Norwich have been particularly frustrating. But most of the goals conceded have come from slack marking from defence and midfield. Much of it can be put down from a lack of continuity in the starting lineup, the players not “gelling”. The right back/wing back position has been a big headache for Caldwell. With Knoyle and Daniels out long term he has used no less than six players there in his starting lineup. Moreover he has yet to establish the kind of consistent pairing in the centre of defence that we saw last season with Morgan and Pearce. Burn and Buxton has been his recent preference.

So can Latics get off the bottom by beating Wolves?

Well there is one factor that has been missing this season that all teams need to be successful. Most people would call it “luck”, maybe like that goal scored by Preston. It could be said that Preston were “lucky” that the referee ignored the linesman’s flagging for a foul on MacDonald. Moreover there was a strong element of “luck” involved as McGeady’s shot was going harmlessly wide before it hit his own player, changing its direction to beat Bogdan.

Given Caldwell’s luck up to this point he would quite happily settle for not having a controversial refereeing decision against his side. Going one behind in the first half against any Championship side makes things very difficult. Caldwell will recall the Birmingham game when Donaldson was at least a yard offside when he raced ahead to gain a penalty for his team that almost won the match for them.

Put simply, Latics are not bottom because of refereeing decisions or luck being against them. But a controversial decision going their way or a scrappy goal could be enough to see off Wolves. But then maybe their key players will sparkle at the same time bringing the best performance of the season to date?

A loss on Tuesday would not be the end of the world, but would be a further disappointment in a frustrating return to the Championship.

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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Michael Jacobs – fan views from Blackpool and Wolves

 

Wigan Athletic have now confirmed the signing of Michael Jacobs from Wolves.

We reached out to the Wolves Fancast (@WWFCFanCast) for a Wolverhampton based view on Jacobs.

Jacobs was influential for Wolves when we were in League 1. Initially playing on the wing, he truly excelled when given a central attacking role. His close control and shimmies were delightful to watch. 

I, along with many fans were hoping to see him push on last season in the Championship, but sadly wasn’t the case.  He struggled to break into the first team and when he was given the opportunity, he didn’t particularly set the world alight.

From my point of view, it looks like Jackett felt like Jacobs wasn’t quite ready for the step up to the Championship just yet, so a move to Wigan is a good move for himself, just a shame he isn’t going to continue his development at Wolves.

We had previously contacted the Blackpool fan site AVFTT http://fansonline.net/blackpool/ about his loan spell there:

There were very few positives about Lee Clark’s time in charge at Blackpool but there were two loan signings which he brought in who caught the eye. One was Gary Madine who ended up signing for Bolton over the summer and the other was Michael Jacobs from Wolves.

 When he joined the Seasiders practically everything about the side was a mess but the return to form of Jamie O’Hara alongside Andre Orlandi and Jose Cubero gave the side some much needed shape and ability. The addition of Jacobs complemented that and he looked a class above most players who visited Bloomfield Road.

 Surprised in many ways that Wolves have let him go. He has pace, accuracy, a powerful shot on him and really looks the business. Looks like our loss is Wigan’s gain.