Whenever you read this, I’m writing it before the Leicester game. So basically I’m in the same frame of mind as I was when I wrote part 1 of this little catch up, which covered what I’ve been doing instead of paying attention to goings-on at Latics (playing Cricket) and my thoughts on the sh… football that I’ve seen served up at the start of the season. If you read it, you probably picked up that I’m not a particularly happy bunny, but what’s new, eh?
Still, there’s still events off the field to cheer me up, do you reckon? Let’s find out.
P.A.R.T.Y. in the pound bakery
With having to travel to Blackpool for work, I wasn’t sure whether I’d make the FA Cup parade. I’d kidded myself that it didn’t matter, that I’d seen them lift the trophy at Wembley and had the chance to draw a line under the last eight years the day before and that was more than enough. But then again, I still found myself sat at Poulton-le-Fylde station, iPad in hand watching Sky Sports News as the bus took off from the bottom of Standishgate.
I made it back for the festivities on stage and was glad I did, it would be the last chance I’d get to see the likes of Bobby, Graeme Jones, Franco, Figueroa and the Pink Iguana in royal blue and it was good that it wasn’t an occasion laced with melancholy. In fact it felt like a very Latics occasion, “Yes, we’ve just been relegated from the biggest cash cow in football, but you know what? Let’s party”.
And so we did, again.
Bye-bye Bobby (Bobby goodbye)
It was inevitable, he was always going to leave at some point, but personally I didn’t think it was going to be this one. Despite the vultures that had been approaching in ever decreasing circles since Fergie finally decided to go from drinking a nice red in the Old Trafford manager’s office to quaffing it in the directors’ box, I thought the challenge of balancing an European campaign with the challenge of getting Latics back into the Premier League might prove too tempting.
I kept coming back to what Paul Jewell had said about what he’d have done if we hadn’t managed to survive at Bramhall Lane, that his pride wouldn’t have let him walk away from us at that point.
Maybe pride shouldn’t come into such decisions, maybe Jewell was talking out of his backside (after all he never had to make the call, did he) and, even more so, maybe it was just that I wanted Bobby to stay. After all we’d been through, who would want to take us over? Who’d come to Latics and carry on the good fight? Well we know the answer now, and more on that later, but then the future felt like a massive black hole.
But that wasn’t Bob’s fault, I was disappointed that he was going, but Everton felt, feels, like the right sort of club for him. One where he can build from the bottom, one where he’ll get some time, but one where he perhaps won’t need to do quite as much structural work as he might elsewhere. It also helped that I’ve not got any particular gripes with Everton, they don’t seem to think that they’re any bigger than they are, the majority of fans seem to understand the financial situation the club is in and they may even grow to love our Bob as much as a portion of the Latics crowd do.
Coyle-ing up in agony
What do you want me to say? He’s an ex-Bolton player, an ex-Bolton manager and someone who’s got one of those faces that even his granny would probably want to give a slap. And the shorts, and the socks and the “hasn’t he turned Bolton into a great footballing side” myth. Nope, it’s safe to say that Owen Coyle wasn’t my first choice for Latics manager.
But, he got the job, so what am I going to do about it? Give him a chance to win me over, of course.
I’ve heard lots of good things about what Coyle said over the summer, but as I wasn’t paying attention, I can’t be sure. He’s signed a lot of good championship players, which I suppose is a good thing, a fair few of them are defenders, but Geoff Boycott’s mum could tell you we needed that and he’s bought Grant Holt, an actual bone-fide striker who’s scored some actual goals in the last few years.
So far, so good and I’m determined to give him time to bed his team in and show us how he wants them to play, but it’s proving hard.
I can’t tell you that I don’t like how Coyle is setting his team up or how he’s asking them to play, because after sitting through 360 minutes of his management I’m not sure what either of those are. Usually, even when a manager isn’t quite pulling things together, you can see what they are trying to achieve, so far I haven’t got a clue what Coyle is aiming for.
Or maybe it’s that I’m refusing to believe that a professional football team’s tactics can be distilled down to “Bang it up to Holty until I take him off, then try and then give it to Shaun and see what he can do”. It’s not that I can’t stand direct football, but this isn’t kick and rush it’s hit and hope and I hope it’s just a stop-gap on the way to something a bit more subtle.
Otherwise it’s going to be a long hard season.
There are two that clearly stand out. First, Scott Carson, latterly of Liverpool and England, a man who was available on a free when we chose to spend £4.5m on a Bolton reserve. I suggested at that time that we might not be able to afford his wages, but if we can now then why not then? Who knows where we might be now if we had. Anyway, he’s a good keeper and, injuries aside, I’d be very surprised if we see Ali between the sticks again.
Secondly, we’ve got Grant Holt. He knows where the net is, if you can get him the ball in the right places. He’s capable of roughing it with the best of them, but actually he’s a lot player than that and actually, as you can see from the video below is the sort who feeds off other players as much as anything else. The other notable thing in the video is the distinct lack of him try to control balls with his back to goal and two centre halves on his back.
The conclusion for me is that we’ve got a good one if we use him right. I’ll leave it to you to judge if we’re doing that right now.
We knew that the out of contract players were out of the door as soon as someone offered them a contract, so I’m not going to complain. I’m kind of sad to see Franco grin off into the sunset and miffed to see Manyor join up with Mrs Doubtfire at Hull, but hey-ho and all that. My only qualm with Kone going is that he could have bossed it in the Championship and Jimmy Mack has proved good business all round. As much as I’d l have loved him to stay, he’s a premier league footballer and that’s where he should be playing.
My biggest disappoint in the “out” column is Roman Golobart. His performances in the cup and on the odd occasion he played in the league hinted at more to come and his standing off the field was increasing with every tweet. He was the one player in the Latics squad who really stood to gain from our relegation and the departures of Figueroa and Alcaraz, but for whatever reason he was out of the door quicker than you could say “northern quarter hipster”.
You’ll be missed Roman.
It doesn’t SLAM shut in the Championship
I’ll give Coyle his due, he got his transfer deals done early. Despite the hopes of another striker, Jim White Day was nearly always going to be about which of our better players got fished back into the big pond and by whom. We escaped more than lightly with only the nailed on loss of James McCarthy chalked up on Sky’s massive iPad. The poker played throughout the day, involving Fellani, Rhodes and young James was a deadline day master-piece, topped off by Whelan taking to the airwaves to force Everton’s
hand with minutes to go.
Having lost a footballer like McCarthy, it was more than disappointing to see Rory Delap’s apprentice join the club and hopefully it’s the other loanee, United’s Nick Powell, that’s the better scene setter for the rest of the season. A midfielder with plenty of promise and lower level experience with Crewe, the lad looks like he knows what he’s doing around the box and if we start to use our midfield more could prove a real asset.
Even though Mr White called time, that’s not likely to be it for Latics and Coyle will no doubt be looking to pick up a couple of shorter term loans to get Latics through to the January window. Wags may well be wondering if we could loan that nice Mr Zola from Watford.
Take a note Mr Hayton
Finally, a proper sad goodbye as one of the fixtures and fittings, Club Secretary Stuart Hayton disappears to join Matt McCann at Liverpool. Stuart has been a Laticsmon since his school days and has worked at Latics for longer than I care to remember (I think he’s the same age as me so it would just make me feel old). Rumours that he’s gone to Liverpool because their lack of European football means he can get Thursday nights and Sundays off to watch Latics have probably just been made up by me.
Either way, good luck Stuart, I hope the Scousers are paying you shedloads more money that Uncle Dave ever would.
And I reckon that’s your lot, unless you want my opinion on whether league cricket should be timed or limited overs and local cricket club finances and even then I’m too tired to start the ball rolling. I think what I’m trying to say is that we’re now up to date and I’m ready to throw myself into the new season. Starting with the game later today.
Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
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