A quiet January?

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If this is what passes for not doing business in the Bruce household then I’d hate to see the credit card bills after Janet has finished in the January sales. Of course being Latics manager doesn’t offer the man of the house quite so many privileges, but given that he started the new year with an I’m happy with what I’ve got and I’m not about to let any one go attitude, four in and five out is a fair bit of wheeling and dealing. In fact, it’s the sort of churn that could really unsettle a side like ours.

 

If, for the sake of completeness, we’re including Marlon King in the reckoning then 4 of the 6 departures have been players that we might not miss. King struggled to settle last term and spent the first half of this one on the East Coast, Kilbane’s contribution to the Latics cause has often been underestimated, but his time had definitely come and whilst Ryan Taylor is a bit of a one man conundrum his play of late hasn’t really warrant a starting berth.

The thing is that both Kilbane and Taylor added that allegedly vital ingredient, strength in depth, to the squad. With Koumas becoming the invisible man, De Ridder struggling for a haircut that matches both the home and away kits and Kapo chucking his and everyone else’s dummy out of the stable door, they’re the sort of players that a good to have around. Honest solid players that you can call in a pinch.

Think back a couple of years to the dismantling of the promotion team and you’ll see what can happen if you replace too much of your solid base with ‘continental’ ability, even if, arguably the new players are better.

Of course that argument only stands up if you bother replacing the players you lose. It’s easy to look at the sale of Kilbane and Taylor as pruning. Although N’zogbia will play in either of the left sided slots, the money paid suggests he’s being warmed up as the replacement for Valencia (on the creative edge front) when the inevitable happens come July.

Another bad apple cut off before he falls is Henri Camera, although he turned out not to be that bad an apple after all. I’d always had a sneaky suspicion that his Treatment after that first season had more to do with Jewell’s attitude than the player’s and from what Bruce and Camara both said before he popped of to Stoke it seems that there may be more truth in that than even I’d thought.

Naturally, the two departures that caused most discussions are the ones that generated the real cash.

Despite some optimism from within the club, it really was a case of when and not if for Emile Heskey. You suspected that it would be summer and one last big payday, but to some extent he did the decent thing and moved when Latics could get something out of the deal. You could be cynical and suggest that he jumped onto a readymade bandwagon at Villa, bit I’m a romantic mood so I’m believing that he left us at a time where we were effectively safe, in a good position to rebuild and could get some cash in the bargain.

I know that seems hard to believe when you’re talking about modern footballers, but be honest, it’s stereotypical Heskey, isn’t it?

It wasn’t the Heskey deal that caused most consternation though. Losing a “figurehead” is one thing but woe betide the club should make a 1600% profit on one of its players. I still don’t get the fuss over losing Palacios. Yes, he was a good player, but most of his value is in his potential. If we kept him and he didn’t get better then we’d be moaning about missing out on this deal.

I’m going to say goodbye properly to Wilson, when I’ve *sniff* gathered my emotions, but for now, suffice to say, some things are too good to turn down. Like redirection Marlon King straight back to the North East before he’d even had chance to extract Phil Brown’s boot from his backside. I’d be prepared to give King the benefit of the doubt as a player, but the stuff that’s (allegedly) gone on since his move to Hull have him marked out as a wrong un.

The other good thing about the King move is that it (may have) smoothed the way for Mido’s spell at the JJB. I’m cheating a bit, having seen him play, but the Egyptian looks nowt like the moody, disruptive egotist that he’s been marked as in the past. He might not have had a massive grin on his at the Christopher Park photo-shoot, but, to be fair, Standish Lower Ground isn’t most people’s idea of glamour and on the pitch he’s looked a bit of a leader and a fair replacement for Ivanhoe.

I wonder if he can play centre half?

Joining him in the front line is the long awaited Hugo Martinez Rodallega. The Columbian is coming via Mexico and arrives with the intention of him making a big splash next season although Camara’s departure and Zaki’s injuries may see him get more action than Bruce is making out. First indications are that he’s a cracking player with an eye for goal, but whether he settles in and makes as big an impression as the last Martinez to grace the shirt remains to be seen.

Have Latics ever had a bone-fide, loud and proud, ginger in the ranks before? I’m sure we’ll have had the odd strawberry blonde or covered by streaks mop, but I can’t remember any one as red as Ben Watson. The ex-Crystal Palace man was whipping up a bit of demand in the last week of the window although there’s every possibility that the stories were just the press trying to work out who he was using the Latics to extract more money from.

Why else would he be choosing us over Boro?

Well as it was, he did choose the delights of Wigan, but I can’t really tell you much about him as a player. He had plenty of promise a few years back, but with Palace falling off the pace, a little, his start seemed to have waned. It’s not that long ago that he was linked with a move to QPR, but if there were more than us interested, then maybe we’ve pulled off a coup. I’m not ready to declare him Palacios’ replacement yet though.

Finishing off the bring and buy sale is Charles N’Zogbia. It would appear that the Frenchman has been angling to get kicked out of St James’ Park for a while and certainly there’ll be no love lost between him and Joe K’nell (did you see what I did there?). It goes without saying that the “he’s calling me names” stuff all got a bit silly, but at least the player has the excuse of being 22 and French for his mardness, not sure what the other bloke can fall back on though.

N’Zogbia’s reaction to the move has been quite positive, although I can’t help feeling worried about a player who joins Wigan Athletic on the basis that they’re going to carry him into Europe, hopefully it was more of a dig at his “sleep giant” of an ex-employer than his real expectation, otherwise we can expect sulks from the lad in May.

It might be hard to tell but I’m trying to stay positive about our record signing. Surely his pledging of his first month’s wages to a combination of Newcastle and Wigan charities would help? There must be something wrong with me, because I can’t see it as an extravagant and cynical attempt to buy the favour of the man in the crowd. I mean, do you know anyone who could afford to simply give away a day’s paycheck let alone a month’s?

So how does this little trip to the sales leave Latics as they head into the last lap of the season? There’s no denying that Palacios and Heskey have played key roles over the last 12 months and finding immediate replacements for them both would be more luck than anything else. Mido looks promising on that front but if Watson were the English Wilson Palacios then he wouldn’t have been messing about in the Championship.

N’Zogbia and Rodallega have effectively been given the next 3 months to find their feet, and, although it’s an alien concept to Latics fans, we’ll be expected to show patience.

It’s a difficult window to sum up. If you’re looking at the possibility of Europe then you’ll no doubt see the loss of Heskey and Palacios as shooting ourselves in the foot.

The last thing that we need right now is a whole bunch of instability. If you’re more realistic then there’s a completely different picture.

I’ve one eye on what it might mean for the summer and our reputation, but on face value we’ve done some decent business. We’ve money left over from the deals so far, time for players to settle in and a potential replacement for the ‘star’ we’re going to lose at the end of the season. If you believe that were safe in the league now and are happy with that then it makes a hell of a lot of sense.

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