What a night!
It’s been a strange old week in the world of Wigan Athletic. It was another disappointing result for Latics, on the road with last Saturday’s defeat to Nottingham Forest.
Latics certainly pressed more than at the City Ground than they had in the previous week at Hillsborough but the end result was the same.
Without a midweek match all eyes turned towards the transfer window and ensuring Latics went in to the final stage of the season stronger than when they began. Or at least that’s what Paul Cook would have wanted.
The week began with an addition with the Forest veteran Danny Fox arriving to add experience to a back line that have been struggling badly. The fact Fox can also cover at left back is a bonus, with Antonee Robinson still a few weeks away from a return.
With Sunderland making four bids for Will Grigg it was a fair assumption that Grigg could well be on his way. Paul Cook has always been clear about Will Grigg. If any deal was to come for him it wouldn’t have been encouraged by him. Whether his lack of game time in the last few months says otherwise is up for debate.
With Grigg taking all the headlines, former fans favourite Leon Clarke (insert roll eye emoji here) returned. Much to the derision of many Latics fans. It’s three and a half years since Clarke last played for Latics.
Since then he’s gone on to score 18 goals for Bury in one season and 31 goals for Sheffield United across two and a half seasons.
He was one of the leading goal scorers in the Championship last season and also made it in to the PFA team of the season. Without that previous spell at Latics lots would see this as a decent move, I think we can discount that last spell with us. The club was in a dark place at that time and it’s no surprise that we didn’t see the best of some players.
He’s proved himself in the Championship and with Latics looking desperately short of goals Clarke could be an inspired, if short term option to fire the goals to keep us up.
James Vaughan departed for Portsmouth in what looks to be a direct result of Clarke’s arrival. It hasn’t really worked out for Vaughan since his signing last season. He fired some crucial goals last season but hasn’t really pushed on.
Many would have thought and hoped that was the end of the major out-goings for Latics. Especially when Sunderland had a fifth bid rejected for Will Grigg. It wasn’t until 10pm that Sunderland seemingly re-ignited their interest.
At the time of writing it hasn’t been confirmed but it seems that Will Grigg’s three and a half year stay at Latics is drawing to a close. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel sad at that news.
It’s been a rollercoaster time at Wigan for Grigg – two promotions, one relegation, one FA Cup quarter finals and one hit record. Grigg has done more than any player to embody the Sharpe era at Wigan Athletic.
Legends come and go but not many like Grigg. The feeling is similar to when Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts departed the DW. The fee had originally been announced as £1.5m, this was quickly adjusted to £3m rising to £4m.
It’s an absolutely huge call from IEC to sell the club’s star striker in their first transfer window at the club. I didn’t want Grigg to leave and I’m sure most of our supporters didn’t want him to leave either but if we break the deal down and look at it logically.
Will Grigg has been fantastic for us in his two League One seasons. His goals have been the ones that fired us towards those two titles. His record at Championship level is sketchy, this season followed a similar path to 2016/17. A decent start followed by injuries and an in consistent run in the side since.
I’m still not convinced it’s the right move. But and it’s a big but, if we stay up and we managed to take £4m for Will Grigg heading in to the last year of his contract we’ll have done well. That will remain to be seen – as it is, it feels like a big part of Latics has left this evening.
I can understand the feeling of frustration surrounding the deal, but if anyone hasn’t seen the financial statements released earlier this week I would suggest taking a look. There’s very little money knocking about at Wigan Athletic. £4m could go a long way to keeping us solvent. For all the rights and wrongs in selling Will Grigg.
Other business saw us exchange one young Everton midfielder for another as Benni Baningime arrives on loan for the rest of the season. Callum Connolly headed back up the East Lancs before being swiftly dispatched to Horwich and The University of Bolton Stadium.
Connolly has flattered to deceive since his arrival in August, and with game time limited it makes sense. In the case of Baningime we’ve got a Premier League midfielder, highly rated by his club and a lad with his own Wigan connections. I know little about him apart from being an ex student of John Fisher but those who know more than me seemed excited so I imagine it’s a decent move.
Transfer windows are horrible things, the whole circus ably constructed by Sky does bring out the worst in football. And encourages clubs like Sunderland to bid £4m in desperation to take players like Will Grigg. Sunderland have paid over the odds and we’re now a striker down without anytime to bring in a replacement.
So this is it now, a settled squad (without Will Grigg) and one last push to stay in the division. A win against an inconsistent QPR would be a great start on Saturday.