Home grown harmony

You’ll win nothing with kids! An infamous statement made all the more pertinent by the fact it was made by a Liverpool stalwart, Alan Hansen about none other than Manchester United.


Back then it was proven to be a statement of folly, as the class of ’92 overcame an early season reversal at Aston Villa to romp to one of Manchester United’s many title wins as the golden crop bore fruit.


I think if he made the same statement now, then it may hold more weight given that multi-million pound deals to bring in global superstars are en vogue in the Premier League, thus meaning that young home grown players can no longer get near the first teams of top flight clubs.


Yet closer to home, there appears to be a quiet renaissance of the long forgotten youth policy. It might have only been the League Cup and it might be symbolic of us sinking back into the third tier but seeing so many young lads wearing the shirt of Wigan Athletic with pride was indeed a heartwarming sight.


Four products of the youth system were on the pitch, one of them scoring the winning goal – and another one of them keeping the equaliser out on a few occasions. With another four on the bench, and watching Lang and Burgess running around like their lives depended on it in the last half an hour was also impressive.


Much of the credit must go to Gregor Rioch, who had a fantastic reputation at Coventry prior to joining Latics. Indeed, it must be something of a miracle that he is still here, given all the managerial turmoil of recent years. Yet we are now seeing the fruits of his labour as a very decent youth coach and one of Wigan Athletic’s biggest assets.


Of course we can’t get too carried away, nor put too many expectations on young shoulders but when Paul Cook talks of having too big a squad (of experienced players), his woes are amplified when there’s a handful of young bucks knocking on the door of the first team as well.


This is, however, a nice problem to have and bodes well for the future. What we saw on Tuesday night was effectively a second team, who had barely played together, led by the veteran Will Grigg (at 26!) giving it a real good go.


Once we have cleared a bit more off the top and the “outlawed three” have been sold on, then we look to be in good shape. Two players for every position but also enough flex to give opportunities to the younger players and those not in the team can slot in at various times during an unforgiving 46 games plus three cup competitions season.


The model which Cook seems to be building is to have a settled first team eleven but also to have a back up player for every position. Over time those back up options will naturally include some of our own youngsters, or ones we have signed like Josh Laurent and Terrell Thomas, or the odd, older experienced head like Noel Hunt, or dare I say it, David Perkins.


You know we’re in a good place when I start to feel a bit sorry for the ones who aren’t getting a game, it’s a sign that I’m starting to actually like our players again, and the reason for that is because they are showing the right attitude. And that is surely because Paul Cook is getting the coaching right throughout the club, and managing to mould that harmony I spoke about last week.


Still, let’s see how positive we feel after a tough test against Bury on Sunday though.

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 11th August 2017

You can listen to more of Jimmy’s thoughts on Latics, and more, on the latest Pie at Night Podcast.  Episode 28 of the Pie at Night podcast “Mickey Mouse Club”, is available now from all the usual places. Our Soundcloud page, on iTunes  or by searching on your preferred podcast app.  You can also listen on the player below.

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