It’s a bit late for a mid term report so I’ll disguise this run through the first team squad as a look at who’s going to play their part, and how, in the most important run in the club has for a while (if not for ever). Given that we are top of the league and have one of the smallest squads around you might be surprised to know that not all of our players have been in top form. There’s definite room for improvement out there, in fact there’s probably only a couple of the lads that have been bang on all season.

We’re now at the stage that all of them have to pull together and push on for the finishing line, so lets look at who’s got the most work to do to achieve the dream.It’s a bit late for a mid term report so I’ll disguise this run through the first team squad as a look at who’s going to play their part, and how, in the most important run in the club has for a while (if not for ever).

Given that we are top of the league and have one of the smallest squads around you might be surprised to know that not all of our players have been in top form. There’s definite room for improvement out there, in fact there’s probably only a couple of the lads that have been bang on all season. We’re now at the stage that all of them have to pull together and push on for the finishing line, so lets look at who’s got the most work to do to achieve the dream.


John Filan
Controversially, perhaps, John has been a little below par in the second half of the season. Whether that’s a symptom of a general problem in the side or not remains to be seen. Less than his commanding self he is still one of the best in the division. Hopefully though he can get back to having a steady defence in front of him and return to the form he showed last season and at the start of this. It’s looking increasingly like the big Aussie will be leaving us in the summer, and his will be big boots to fill – hopefully we’ll remember him for his promotion winning performances rather than the odd cock up here and there that cost us the play offs.

Nicky Eaden
We all know Nicky’s faults, but Jewell has stuck by him and at times it’s easy to see why. On one hand unspectacular and lacking pace on the other steady and reliable. Essentially you get what you see, having said that he must have quite a few assists this season. At this stage of his career it’s hard to say where Eaden is going to improve, the best we can hope for is that he keeps it steady and doesn’t come across anyone with pace and a left foot.

Leighton Baines
There’s two jobs here, firstly Jewell seems to be doing a good job of keeping Bainesy’s feet on the ground. Regardless of the pace of his progression he has never seemed to get cocky. The bigger job is to keep him fresh. Young lads of his age aren’t supposed to play full seasons at the level he’s at, let alone make themselves first choice U21 internationals. There’s an international break coming up, but chances are it’ll mean another 180 minutes for this lad. A star throughout the season, some people seem to have mistaken his improvement slowing down as a sign that he’s not as good as we thought – give it a rest!

Matt Jackson
If you’d have asked me a few weeks back I’d have told you that Jacko had nothing to prove. Basically he and Breckin had knocked all doubts about losing JDV on the head and were pushing for inclusion in the PFA team of the year, and then came Emerson Thome. For whatever reason Jewell decide that his time had come and someone had to make way for him, in some ways it’s understandable that it was Jacko, well at least from an age perspective, but if his place was ever at risk, why make him captain? Thome’s injury saw him come back into the side but he’s also managed to get himself injured. It seems Matt’s biggest Job Will be convincing PJ that he should be in the team – I doubt many of the fans would disagree with that.

Ian Breckin
What can you say? This lad look nowt but a reserve two when we were in the second division, now here he is; first in the squad with a new contract and seemingly unmovable from the first 11. He had a blip just after signing his new contract but got back on track pretty quickly. Possibly the only real unsung hero in the side (i.e. the one that doesn’t stand out but never has his position questioned).

David Wright
You’d be forgiven for feeling sorry for the lad. He’s never done anything to deserve being dropped and yet it’s happened to him twice. And it’s likely to happen again once Jacko gets fit. If he wants some inspiration then he should look what happened to Breckin – at least Wrighty has had a fair whack of games this season.

Emerson Thome
For me it’s a case of less said the better. He might be a better ball player than the other center halves but when that seems to be offset against worse defending is it worth it? Premiership defences play as high up the pitch as this lad seems to want to then it’s no wonder Henry and Owen have made such a killing and it’s good news for our two as well. Somehow I can’t see that being the case though.

Steve McMillan
What ever happened to studs?

Gary Teale
Until he scores our winning goal in the champions league final, Latics fans will always be split over Tealey. On his day no one in the division can live with him, the trick is getting him to have his day more often. He’s come into form over the last few weeks, since scoring at Rotherham, but no one really seems to be expecting him to carry that through all season. If he doesn’t then he’ll probably be looking for a new club this summer; if he does it will probably mean promotion for us and a new contract for him. Over to you Gary!

Lee McCulloch
I’m not the lad’s biggest fan, but the one thing you can’t doubt him for is his effort. I just can’t see the point of playing a half decent right-footed player on the left hand side of midfield. Ok it’s worked thus far, but it will be interesting to see what happens when Mahon’s fit again. Lee’s got his goals this season, double figures from midfield isn’t bad going and earned his new contract but I really struggle to think of him as a real top class player. For one reason or another he’s seemed a little off the pace the last game or two and he’s struggled for another way to get into the game, but I can’t see that lasting. Lee’s season will go one way or the other he could finish up a star and 3rd top goal scorer, or he could end up on the bench and there’s very little he can do either way.

Jimmy Bullard
Mr. consistency? Well he’s continued his development as a player and he’s on his way to breaking appearance records but at times this season I think he’s been a little too certain of his place. The main question about Jimmy’s ability is why he insists on taking all the set pieces, he may be bob on but it’s not happening on the pitch. For me Jimmy’s a little too small for the Prem, but let’s worry about that when we get there, until then he’s more than the real deal at this level. Hopefully he’ll revel in the freedom that signing Kavanagh will give him, if not he’s now got a real threat to his place in Mahon, should keep him on his toes.

Alan Mahon
The only problem with Mahon this season is getting him a place in the team. It was a bit of a shock when he didn’t have a starting place at the start of the season, but a

fter Frandsen’s injury our resident pop-idol has gone from strength to strength, apart, that is, from his mysterious disappearance around Christmas time. 6 goals so far isn’t bad and we shouldn’t under estimate the influence his grandma’s chicken soup might have played in getting a team out for the Ipswich game. The big question is what part he has to play on his return from

injury, he’s certainly not guaranteed his pace back.

Graham Kavanagh
I’m not going to try and judge him on the basis of what he’s done so far, but his experience is going to be invaluable between now and the end of the season. If we’d had an older head in midfield since losing Frandsen we might already be promoted, we’ll never know but we can certainly find out the benefit of it in the run in. The real pity is that Mahon will probably lose out at his expense.

Jason Jarrett
When we’re letting players out to Stoke on loan, because they need some match fitness, something must be going right. Unfortunately what’s good for the club isn’t likely to be what’s good for JJ. Yes we wouldn’t let him go back out on loan but that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t allow a permanent deal if one was on the table. Flynn’s departure probably makes it unlikely that Jason will go anywhere before the end of the season, but I can’ see him playing much more than a bit part until then.


Gareth Whalley
The surprise of the season? Probably when Whalley managed to break the Bullard/Mahon partnership for no reason that was apparent to the fans. To be fair he did well in his few games, doing the dirty work at the dirtiest point of the season. As pitches improve, and since the signing of Kavanagh, it is increasingly unlikely that we’ll see very much more of him. From what we have seen he won’t pull up any trees should he be required again, but he will do a steady enough job to keep the team ticking over.

Andreas Johansen
What can you say? Regardless of the reasons, the Swede is either going to be chalked up as ‘one for the future’ or ‘the new Stephan Bidstrup’. Big things are expected when you cost £500,000 and come with a reputation, but as yet we’ve seen no sign of them. In his one appearance so far he looked like he was playing a different game to his teammates. Hopefully he will be able to settle down and do us a job, wherever we are next season because I can’t seem him making much of an impact this time around.

David Graham
This lad is a good footballer, but faced with the competition he’s got there’s little chance of us finding out how good a striker he is. He certainly gives us a different option up front but so far is struggling to shrug off suggestions that we’d have been better off keeping Lids. Hopefully he’s got more to show and can improve on current offers, otherwise he’s likely to end up back in the lower divisions.

Jason Roberts
It’s hard to think of any of the warnings that we were given on signing JR that have been true. Even his temperament isn’t as bad as most people want to make out (he’s been booked this season for asking ref’s about their decisions, shows of real dissent have been few and far between). He’s arguably been the most important player in the team over recent weeks, forcing us into attacking play and keeping the team’s energy up as well as creating and scoring chances. He really is one payer that we need to keep fit and in form over the last weeks of the season.

Nathan Ellington
It may sound strange but we really need to find a replacement for the Duke. I’m not saying we get rid of him but we need some one to cover for him. His shoulder is both a short and long term risk and although we hope we won’t have to do without him at all there needs to be a plan ‘b’ in place, just in case. He, along with Roberts is extremely important to us and if we have another striker we can be confident in, Nathan can take some much needed R&R either at the start or the end of the odd game. I’d much rather he be fit and raring to go come the crunch than sat on some consultant’s operating table.

So what’s the conclusion? We’ve a good mix of steady players and match winners. We’re lacking in certain areas of the pitch, but not so far as you’d call them weak spots. Even with so few games left there’s still a worry about the size of the squad and we could probably do with a defender and a backup goal scorer just to make sure. Recent transfer rumours suggest that the club is thinking along the same lines. As for whether we’ll do it – ask me when I’ve had a few pints or in May, I’m not pessimistic, but there’s too much football left for me stick my neck on the line just yet.

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