You’ve probably not noticed but it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted anything on the site. It would be nice to say that I’ve had a nice couple of weeks, sitting back and watching the world go by, but why lie? No, the lack of ‘Not a patch on…’ related activity is down to that familiar, close season malaise. It’s an odd numbered year and with the rumour machine growing every year it just gets that little bit harder to be bothered when there’s no football about to motivate you.
So, in an attempt to drag me out of my virtual pit let’s have a look at what we’ve missed out on whilst your less than dedicated commentator (i.e. me) has been lazing about discussing the relative merits of housing estates (and the importance of only moving to an area that is covered by Virgin Media) and banging his head against a brick wall as his other half wastes her opportunity to dominate the TV by choosing Big Brother.
We’ve already covered everyone up to the re-signing of Mike Pollitt but that leaves us with a couple of additions unaccounted for. First up we’ve a big hello to Frank Barlow (no relation to George, or so we’re told). His appointment may have raised a few ‘who?’s amongst the fans but it seems that he’s been about a bit. After his career was cut short by injury he’s had coaching appointments all over the place.
It seems that he’s deliberately avoided managerial positions, preferring to act as the experienced sidekick to less experienced main men. His experience of the top flight is slim but Hutchings believes that he’s got the right man for the job, someone with a solid reputation who can bring things to the club.
It’s all got a bit of the Bill Greens about it, but it will be a bit easier to see the effect that Barlow is having on the club. He does seem to be an experienced coach and if you accept that the most important thing with an assistant manager is his relationship with the boss then if Hutchings thinks he’s the right man then he deserves the chance.
Less of a hello to Louis Antonio Valencia, not because he’s not welcome, just because he’s already got a year under his belt. The Ecuador midfielder’s performances last season may have received a mixed reaction, but there seems to be a general acceptance of his potential. Hopefully now he’s settled in a bit we will start to see a bit more of that coming through.
Similarly we can nod a mark of familiarity to Carlo Nash. Last year’s emergency keeper has signed on a permanent deal. £300k isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things, although it’s weird to think of Latics paying money for someone that they hope will never play. That said, with Kirkland and Pollitt’s injury records you never can say.
Finally on the “how do you do? ” front is Chris Hutchings first proper money signing of the summer. There’s been a fair bit of excitement over the addition of Jason Koumas to the squad and I suppose that is understandable, Koumas has developed a reputation as the best midfielder outside of the top flight and has shown a knack of making and scoring goals. In short, he’s just the sort of midfielder that we’ve been missing since, well for a long time anyway.
Whatever your reservations are about this signing (although I may be on my own on that front), the presence of a ‘proper’ playmaker in the squad gives us our first real indication of how Chris Hutchings will have the team play next season. It’s a hell of a lot of money to spend on a midfielder if you plan to lump the ball between the defence and Emile Heskey’s head and hopefully it means we’ll see a whole lot more football played where nature intended it to be.
Whether Koumas is good enough to help improve the team’s performance compared to last season is bother matter. He certainly didn’t answer the question in his previous season in the Premier League and it is only a short while ago that the Baggies were trying desperately to run the lad out of town. The considered view is that if his head is right then Koumas is a match winner and Latics’ job is more about getting (and keeping) the lad in the right frame of mind.
That’s bound to be a real test of Hutchings’ abilities but even if he fails, at least we will finally have managed to get a player out of West Brom, even if it has taken what seems like an age and over a thousand (or so) attempts. The biggest surprise though is that with, Latics’ interest hardly being one of football’s best kept secrets, that no one came in with a last gasp attempt to spoil the manager’s plans for next season.
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