There are two things I usually do this time of year. One, write an article where I pretend I’ve only just realised that the football season has started and two, try and sum up where the transfer window has taken Latics. So, here goes…
September? It’s September already? How did that happen, how are we doing?
To be fair, I haven’t actually got that much of a clue. I missed the Birmingham and QPR games and I’m not daft enough to let a routing of an Owen Coyle team have too much of an effect on my view of this season’s prospects. Still, even if they end up as the worse team in the division, we stuffed them and if nothing else I’d take seeing Coyle home to cry in Irn Bru over having double figure points right now, especially as we’ve had ALL THOSE signings, right?
There has definitely been plenty of movement, at last count it was something like 14 in and. 17 out, but amongst all that you’d say that on 2 or 3 of the departures were regular starters and the reality is that there was only one of those where the club had a real chance to do anything about it.
Jason Pearce’s flit to Charlton has robbed me of one of the best ready-made musical links I’ll ever have, unless we can entice Johnny Morrissey out of retirement but, more importantly it’s robbed Latics of the cornerstone of a defence that we all grew to trust last season. When Pearce and Morgan were together things seemed to work, no matter the formation, Dan Burn has failed to impress as yet and neither Burke not Buxton have had chance to show their metal as yet.
Seeing as we’ve looked a bit leaky’ it’s understandable that people are panicking about the back 3-4-5, but Pearce isn’t the only cornerstone of last season that’s been missing this year, and from what I’m hearing it sounds like Caldwell might need reminding of a lesson that it took him a good while to realise last year.
Thought that title win, there were only a handful of times Latics looked a total mess. There were also only a handful of times that David Perkins didn’t start and complete the majority of games in midfield. This season, he’s featured in four of the six, predominately though in the left wing back position.
I’m not going to say that Perkins must be returned to his midfield role to do the bits and pieces of dirty stuff that got him equal parts praise and derision through much of last season, but, from what I’ve seen and heard so far, that’s exactly the sort of player that we need, to hold the team together and give us something to build from. Yes, he’s nearly as old as me, but if one of the multitude of midfielders Latics now have on their books now doesn’t start to fill his boots (and they’re, presumably only little) then I’ll be asking for him to get his chance.
Upfront has definitely been a bone of contention this summer. We might have got the striker with the best song in the whole world (evidence? The Olympics even took it on) but he’s just (what’s that? A goal?) cut (another?) out (again?) for this (a fourth? Get out man) level. Well ok, four in five ain’t bad, but he needs someone up front with him, not, not Davies, Wildschut, Powell or Jacobs and definitely not that feckless Spanish fop Gomez.
Heading towards deadline day, things could be pretty much summed up for me as:
- We’d got rid of a lot of “fringe” players and replaced them with potentially better players
- Whilst it was sad to see Tim Chow and Louis Robles leave, it was good to see Nick Powell and Jordi Gomez back
- There were questions over the defence, wing backs and up front
- The departures of Morsy, Colclough and Pearce raised question marks but
- Caldwell had amassed a significant stock of midfielders anyway, even if he wasn’t sure how they all fitted in a way that provided the stability of last year
- Could we really cope with just Davies as back up to Grigg, as a “genuine” centre forward?
And so, on Tuesday morning, with a couple of gaps in the squad still needing plugs and keeping with the theme of me avoiding football, I caught a train to London, for work reasons but with the added benefit of missing two days of rolling pictures of Jim White and co pretending to get important, revealing texts from important, indiscreet football insiders. The downside was that I’d miss the recording of Episode 7 of the podcast, but maybe that was a benefit, giving some of the revelations the lads came out with.
So instead of transfer spotting, I noticed the following “London things”
Orange skirts are big this summer; big orange skirts are massive. Walking from my hotel to the office on the Wednesday, I noticed that the vast majority of females in the commuting throngs fell roughly into one of three equal groups. Business types (suits and that), chilled sort (summer dresses etc.) and girls wearing orange skirts with dark tops. Maybe it was a uniform that I didn’t pick up on, but I can’t think of the last time I saw so many people wearing basically the same outfit in the same place. Fashion, eh?
Too much choice is a massive pain in the gut. When I go away with work, I live in dread of the “shall we all meet up for something to eat tonight?” (well they nearly always say dinner, but I don’t want you to think I approve of that sort of behaviour). I always expect it to happen, yet it hardly ever does these days and so I end up sorting myself out. This time, on the Tuesday night, this meant wondering the streets of Fitzrovia overwhelmed by the choice and trying to decide which of the assorted eateries I’d blend into best.
After two and a half hours wandering (and wondering), including a few pub stops, I ended up with a Sainsbury’s Melton Mowbray pork pie and an early night. The lesson? Always know where you’re going to eat when you set off in London.
Driving is over-rated, owning cars isn’t, mind. I don’t know if it’s a product of the pedestrianisation of other cities, or whether it’s definitely a London thing, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many personalised number plates in such a small area. It also seemed that ever vehicle that had more than two seats also had a suited-up bloke in the front seat, with someone who was significantly richer or more important than me sat behind smoked windows in the back. Is there anything that screams “superiority complex” more than sitting in the back of a car that doesn’t have someone in the passenger seat and doesn’t say Taxi on the top of it?
Did I mention the podcast? Wednesday was a little bit easier, the lads were recording the podcast at the Royal Oak and I knew that burgers were on the agenda. So I checked on Yelp! and Trip Advisor and came up with Bobo Social (95 Charlotte St, W1T 4PZ). The burgers ranged from £9 to £15 (a lot, but fairly normal for a city centre these days) and were clearly made with fresh, top quality meat. I had some deep fried squid whilst I was waiting, which was the highlight of the meal, the squid cooked perfectly in a spiced crispy coating. The burger came pink, accompanied by fries and deep fried pickles, not the best I’ve ever had, but up there all the same, good enough to ignore the mixture of tea cups & slates that the meal came served on!
And as for the real question, no, the only time I touched the cutlery was to get at my napkin.
On the heritage trail. Having a plan meant that I could be a less random about my pub choices and could try and avoid the boorish rich young things that had typified many of the places I went past on Tuesday. A quick check of http://www.heritagepubs.org.uk/ revealed that there was several notable pubs within walking distance so I decided I’d see how many I could get to before I had to be back at the hotel to edit the podcast. The answer was two:
The Dover Castle – hidden in one of those Mews streets that crisscross the centre of London, the Dover Castle’s current building and layout go back to the mid-19th century. The bar, woodwork and windows look like they date back to then. It was quiet when I was in there, other than the loud media type extolling the virtues of the mid-nineties Groucho set, but it’s location means that it’s been the home to all sorts of musicians and celebrities down the years. As well as the very traditional surroundings, the Castle serves Sam Smiths beers, it’s always a treat when you see their unique pump heads in pubs down south.
The Barley Mow – less obviously heritage, much of the interior appears to have been upgraded at some stage, the Barley Mow has a unique, original feature that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a pub before. One side of the bar is taken up with a couple of booths, designed in Victorian times to keep the classier customers away from the gin soaked masses. Less impressive on the eyes than the Castle, the Barley Mow has a wider choice of beer, with a reasonable selection of bottles for those of you that like your beer on the craft side.
And so, whilst I was poncing about that London, Reece Burke strengthened Caldwell’s defence, Nathan Byrne gave us more options at wing/full back, Adam le Fondre came in to give back up to Grigg and Kaiyne Woolery boiled the p*ss of Bolton fans the world over. There was a bit of a twitter meltdown over the perceived quality of this bunch, but there’d have been a different sort of meltdown had we gone out and bought four premier league starlets.
We’ll find out in time whether they’re good enough, but there’s no denying that they left the squad looking more rounded and complete and hopefully ready to hit the ground running after the international break. My season starts properly with the Fulham game, so hopefully you’ll get something more intelligent, and Latics based from me after that.