Them and us – Nathan Ellington (Wigan Athletic and West Bromwich Albion)

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The visit of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday gives TNS the opportunity to look back at the career of one of the best strikers this club has ever had.

Nathan was born in Bradford on 2nd July 1981 and began his career in the youth team at Tooting and Mitcham for whom he played one first team game as a sixteen year old before moving on to Walton and Hersham.  His career blossomed when, Ian Holloway who was then the manager of Bristol Rovers, spotted his talent and signed him for a fee of £150,00.

He was one of many goal scoring machines nurtured by Holloway during his time as manager of the Gas and Ellington was soon to follow the likes of Jamie Cureton and Jason Roberts to a higher level of football.

After scoring 35 goals in 116 league outings for Rovers, he became Latics’ record signing on transfer deadline day, 28th March 2002. Latics paid Bristol Rovers £1,200,000 for his services. The 22 years old striker signed a four-year deal, designed to keep him at the club until the summer of 2006. He signed for the Blues in preference to both West Bromwich Albion and Millwall, clubs that were chasing promotion to the Premiership at the time. He made his Latics League debut on 6th April 2002 against Chesterfield at Saltergate in a game that resulted in a 2-1 victory for the Blues. Nathan and Andy Liddell were the goal scorers.

The following season (2002/03) saw him become a mainstay in the Second Division Championship campaign where he brought his club total to 45 League games played and 18 League goals scored. His season also saw him pick up the Worthington Cup ‘Top Scorer’ award, and his five goals in that competition saw Latics progress to the quarter finals for the first time in their history. Ironically, he scored a hat trick against the Baggies on his way to winning the honour.

Doubts about his ability to step up a level were dispelled the following season when he scored18 League goals again despite playing a game less. By the end of season 2003/04 his tally for Latics was an impressive 89 League appearances with 36 League goals scored.

He became a true Latics great the following season by being a member of the squad that won promotion to the Premiership for the first time in the club’s history. It was the manner in which he achieved his dream that was remarkable. Playing with an injured shoulder for most of the campaign he became not only Latics’ but the Championship’s top league goal scorer by bagging 24 goals. He also scored Latics’ last ever goal in the Championship! In total he made 129+4 League appearances, netting 60 League goals, becoming Latics’ second highest league goal scorer since the club relocated to the JJB Stadium.

Sadly, for Latics, he was sold on 13th August 2005 to West Bromwich Albion for £3,000,001, on the eve of the Latics’ first ever Premiership season. The fee involved was a record amount received by the club for a player and Nathan left knowing that no player had scored more goals for the club than him since relocation. His reasons for leaving Latics were that he felt the Baggies had a better chance of Premiership survival than Latics.

He also stated that their manager Bryan Robson, was one of his heroes and thought that he would enhance his career. In the event the Midlands team were relegated whilst Latics finished the season in tenth position. After three unhappy seasons at the Hawthorns (68 apps, 15 goals), and numerous attempts by Paul Jewell to re sign him, he eventually joined Championship outfit Watford for an undisclosed fee on 29th August 2007.

Expressing regrets at ever leaving the DW Stadium, he spent most of season 2008/09 on loan to Derby County.  However, when Nigel Clough replaced ex Latics manager Paul Jewell in the Pride Park hotseat Ellington returned to Watford. He was loaned from Vicarage Road to Greek outfit Skoda Xanthi on 21st December 2009, making 16 league appearances and netting 7 times  for the Greek Super League outfit.

On his return to Watford a year later he was then loaned to Preston North End before joining up with Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town on 21st July 2011 on a free transfer, teaming up with most of his old Wigan Athletic backroom staff and of course Jimmy Bullard.

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