A squad too strong for League One? Part 3

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So to Part three of this little, er 5,000 word series about the general health of the Wigan Athletic squad with all the early signs suggesting that, far from having the strongest squad in League One, we may well be up to it in our necks bleating loudly that “we had no idea there were four bloody relegation places” come September. And I ended the last piece so positively as well….

So who on earth is going to score the goals to fill the massive void vacated by Marc Antoine Fortune then?

By my reckoning we have five fully grown centre forwards plus a couple of kids at the minute, however the chances of seeing two of the adults in a Wigan Athletic shirt again seem entirely unlikely for a start.

I actually thought Delort might have a bash and I really don’t think he is as bad as made out but maybe his agent simply sold us a pup, milking the good ship Wigan Athletic for all that it’s worth, maximising his worth off the back of a good season, like a Gallic David Graham.

Riera, I’m sure could do a great job for us in League One as indeed he probably could have done in the Championship if he had any sort of chance but if I was him, I would rather cuddle an octopus coated in acid than board an Easyjet flight back to WN5.

All Rösler’s fault of course although he was slightly hampered by the fact he already had two heavily salaried thirty something centre forwards on his books. For all the whining about Riera and Delort, we’ll probably claw more back of their £2m than the £2m we spent on Grant Holt.

Interestingly, Rösler moaned at an early season fans forum about not being able to afford £23,000 per week in wages to acquire Lewis Grabban, plus he also missed out on Cameron Jerome. Both players ended up at Norwich – and oh look Norwich got promoted!

The wage bill was undoubtedly too bloated already to pay out the wages being asked and I think we all agree it was a good thing we didn’t given the subsequent frenzied slashing of it which took place. And even if we had signed Grabban or Jerome, they’d probably score a hat trick one week then get benched for the next six games while Fortune ambled around the pitch three yards offside for ninety minutes.

Anyway, Bournemouth, who presumably don’t pay their players £23k per week sold Grabban and they got promoted so in a roundabout way, it turns out it’s not about the money at all, it’s about the appetite within the squad to score goals and win football matches. The club clearly “went bad” under the summer. Rösler’s disciplinarian approach might work with super fit Germans who probably spend their weekends getting walloped with table tennis bats in underground dungeons for pleasure.

However, overpaid preening footballers who still think they should be in the Premier League seemed to be considerably less inclined to get superfit and were probably stashing pasties behind bushes at Christopher Park in protest as they did their hundredth lap of the day.

Speaking of pasty-stashers and twenty-three grand per week (probably) brings us nicely back around to the thorny subject of Grant Holt. There is a school of thought that he has been badly treated, particularly by Rösler, and has never had a fair run, and given that scenario, why wouldn’t he simply just take the money and say “f*** ’em”.

There is another school of thought that says Owen Coyle signing a 32 year old on big wages and a three year contract was a bad idea from Day One because most footballers in their mid-thirties tend to get injured a lot and then retire. Admittedly this is more Hindsight Academy than School of Thought.

My own school of thought doesn’t just apply to Grant Holt but in general and that is be careful when signing players who are “legends” elsewhere because they rarely have the desire to repeat that status somewhere else. At the time we signed him, it felt like a great move – this was a Premier League player, one of those types who you hate every time he plays against you but would secretly love him in your team.

He felt almost unobtainable until we read the “wants to move closer to his family” strapline. This innocuous little bullet point, harsh as it may seem was another alarm bell, similar to my “legend” analogy.

Young, hungry footballers are prepared to travel to country in search of the right club, they move the family where the work is and earn fantastic salaries as compensation for all that uprooting and upheaval. Holt, quite frankly was looking to wind down and a three year contract an hour and a half down the M6 from his beloved Carlisle was indeed the golden ticket.

Now I have no idea what arguments raged between Rösler and Holt, presumably about his fitness. In Holt’s defence, if his level of fitness served him well in the Premier League with Norwich, I see no need to have gotten him even more fit at Wigan Athletic.

However, if we set aside the fitness issue, if you are paying any employee a million or two a year in English Pound notes, I would think that the very least you would demand is that he would dedicate himself solely to the job in hand for a couple of years?

Yet Holt seems immersed in a Carlisle United, Radio Cumbria, greyhound racing world. This doesn’t sound like a man rushing home to spend time with family, this sounds like a man who is feathering his nest for when he retires. So in that respect, moreso than his fitness levels I can see why Holt and Rösler clashed and I think Uwe may have had a point when you look at it from the independent point of view of the football club.

Holt’s latest escapade was to apparently get pranked by a Welsh teenager pretending to be Burnley manager Sean Dyche where he was heard to mutter the words “f*** ’em” about our beloved Wigan Athletic albeit if he’s been told he can leave on a free why should he care?

A whole sorry mess from start to finish. The wrong player at the wrong club at the wrong time. By the time he has gone, I reckon around 15% of all our parachute payments will have been splurged solely on Grant Holt.

Yet still, in spite of all of the above, I can’t help wondering that maybe just maybe, he gets himself fit and fully recovered, perhaps the injury has given him a jolt…. a scary jolt that his career could be finished……and the prospect of playing once more has him somehow invigorated……with all the hunger and desire of a precocious teenager scampering on to the turf with all the glow of an Indian summer…….as the big, burly Cumbrian fires twenty plus goals to take the mighty Latics back into the Championship at the first time of asking………..see what I mean?

The squad numbers will give us a clue I suppose, if he bags a number 9 then he may have a future. If he’s number 42 again, a massive pay off and free transfer to Carlisle awaits.

Hello, is there anyone still there? Ah yes forwards, thus far I’ve been concentrating on the ones we’re likely to get rid of which isn’t really helping matters.

The biggest problem we’ve had by far in the last two years has been scoring goals. We haven’t had a goalscorer since Arouna Kone said “I love this club! What? We’ve been relegated? F**k that I’m off”

So it would seem that the solution will not come from in-house. We do have two strikers with a bit of form in McKay and Waghorn and I can see both playing a part next season depending on what formation we will be going with given we’ve been playing the “Fortune formation” for so long.

McKay is probably capable enough at League One level but perhaps a touch diminutive as a solo front man. Waghorn is also a similar fit to McKay, a talented goalscorer on his day who could probably get a bagful with a good run and a bit of luck if he ever gets a settled run in any team anywhere. You get the impression they would be a support act at best however. Who knows, an attacking triumvirate of Holt – Waghorn – McKay could terrorise League One but it just feels instinctively unlikely right now.

So with that in mind, we will probably need one maybe two goalscorers to bolster the front line, not the easiest commodity to come by. I note newly promoted Bury have already signed Leon Clarke and Tom Pope, both of whom have been proven goalscorers at this level.

Whereas I wouldn’t necessary advocate having Clarke back, Pope seemingly was also linked and is perhaps exactly what we need. Just someone who can score at League One level and will gladly move here because we are still, just about, a bit of a draw for a footballer to make what is in theory a sideways move.

I can’t pretend to know the lower leagues but if we are to flex our financial muscle then this is the area to do it in, sign one of the best young forwards out there off a rival League One side. Indeed, A MARQUEE SIGNING as they now call it in that strange little sport they sometimes play around here. The goals for column in recent years suggests otherwise but maybe just one decent centre forward will be enough to start the tap running again.

A lot will depend on the system as to whether there are one, two or three forwards on the pitch and whether these are supporting number tens, wide supporting midfielders, traditional wingers or attacking midfielders. However, it is evident that to have success at any level, we need one player who can score twenty goals, a handful of other midfielders/forwards who can chip in 6 to 10 goals each and indeed we need defenders to get involved too. It is a hallmark of any successful team, but the first bit is the most important and what we have lacked for so long.

The only other factor here is whether Caldwell will continue to development of Robles and Cosgrove and look to blood the youngsters, certainly in cup games but maybe in League games as well and I would certainly look to them to pad the squad out, to suggest they may become a key part would only pile pressure on them at this stage however.

So let’s have a look at my proposed squad after I’ve slotted in Craig Morgan. I’ve actually allowed 29 albeit 6 or 7 names are mere youngsters who may play some or no part in first team duties. I still reckon we need a dozen players, which seeing as we’ve signed 3 reconciles with David Sharpe’s scary “we need fifteen players” mantra.

FIFTEEN NEW PLAYERS!! It will be amazing if half the team knows each others’ names come August 8th…..

GK Nicholls
GK O’Donnell
GK Owen Evans

RB Perch / AN Other
RB The invisible man (Taylor-Sinclair)
FB Taylor / AN Other
FB AN Other

CB Pearce
CB Barnett
CB Kiernan / AN Other
CB Boyce / AN Other
CB Morgan
CB AN Other / Youth Player

DM Perkins
DM AN Other
DM the new James McArthur
CM Huws
CM Chow
CM McCann
WM The invisible man (2) / AN Other
WM Flores
WM Jennings / AN Other
WM AN other

FW Billy McKay
FW Martyn Waghorn
FW Grant Holt / AN Other
FW AN Other
FW Sam Cosgrove
FW Louis Robles

Coming soon: the Mudhutter Summer Special 2015, free downloadable fanzine

A squad too strong for League One Part One

A squad too strong for League One Part Two

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