Latics’ players magnificent in adversity – Wigan Athletic 1 Queens Park Rangers 0

Kieffer Moore

Kieffer Moore with a vital goal for Latics

In the midst of an administration crisis Latics’ players responded to Saturday’s defeat at Brentford with a totally committed and characterful victory over Queens Park Rangers at the DW Stadium.

Latics totally dominated the first half and should have been out of sight by half time if it was not for some profligate finishing and resolute Rangers defending.

After Jamal Lowe, Kal Naismith and Kieran Dowell had missed presentable chances they went ahead on 33 minutes when captain Samy Morsy drove forward before setting up Kieffer Moore who smashed the ball past Lumley for the only goal of the game.

Rangers enjoyed more possession in the second half and might have drawn level when Ilias Chair forced a good save from Scotland keeper David Marshall but Latics still had plenty of chances to increase their lead with Moore curling an effort just wide and Lowe forcing Lumley into another good save.

Latics move level with QPR on 53 points and eight points above third bottom Hull City but they have the EFL’s 12 point deduction hanging over them.

Paul Cook made one change from the team which lost at Brentford with Danny Fox replacing the injured Leon Balogun. Joe Garner was unavailable due to suspension and Anthony Pilkington and Michael Jacobs are both injured.

The hosts started very brightly with Lowe forcing Lumley to save with his legs and Naismith having a goal bound shot deflected for a corner inside the first four minutes.

Soon afterwards Moore’s whipped cross just evaded Lowe at the near post and Naismith coming in at the back post couldn’t make a proper contact. Latics really should’ve been ahead in those opening ten minutes.

Everton loanee Dowell showed great vision and skill by setting up Moore on 20 minutes but the big striker somehow managed not to finish from a very good position.

Bright Osayi-Samuel had a rare effort on target for Rangers on 22 minutes but it was comfortably collected by Marshall.

Latics pressure eventually paid dividends on 33 minutes when Morsy surged forward and played in Moore who lashed the ball past Lumley from inside the box.

Naismith nearly doubled the lead just before the interval but Lumley saved well diving low down to his left.

The hosts had been in almost total control throughout the first half but manager Cook would have been concerned that they had not turned their dominance into more goals.

Moore had another great chance early in the second half when he curled his shot just wide of the far post from a central position.

Soon afterwards the Wales international striker had another effort deflected over the crossbar.

The visitors were enjoying more possession in the second half and their best chance of the game came on 60 minutes when Chair forced Marshall into a crucial save.

But Latics had managed to keep QPR away from goal for most of the game and they claimed a vital three points in their quest for Championship survival.

Captain Morsy had once again led by example with an inspiring display in midfield but this was an excellent all around team effort.

In an extremely difficult week Cook’s men had been magnificent and if they can maintain this form they could still accumulate enough points to escape the drop, and despite the EFL’s harsh 12 point deduction.Championship Table

Championship Table courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Championship, Kieffer Moore, Paul Cook, QPR, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics must keep fighting despite difficult week – Brentford 3 Wigan Athletic 0

Paul Cook

Paul Cook said ‘I can guarantee to the supporters that we will not be lying down and just fading away’.

It’s been an incredibly difficult and emotional week for everyone associated with Wigan Athletic and things didn’t get better on the pitch as they were outplayed by an in-form Brentford at Griffin Park.

Said Benrahma scored a hat-trick for the hosts as Latics failed to re-create their recent good form against their free-flowing opponents.

It was difficult from the off for the visitors as they lost centre half Leon Balogun to injury after only five minutes with Kal Naismith having to drop back into defence and Benrahma giving Brentford the lead after only 19 minutes.

It was one-way traffic as Latics failed to come to terms with the Bees slick pass and move.

Early in the second half Benrahma’s speculative effort floated over goalkeeper David Marshall for the Bees second.

Before Benrahma completed his hat-trick on 66 minutes when he shot low into the bottom corner after good work down the right flank from Josh Dasilva and Christian Norgaard.

The visitors just couldn’t get a foothold in the game and matters got course when substitute Joe Garner was given a red card for a high boot on 81 minutes.

Latics drop to 16th place in the table on 50 points but the EFL’s proposed 12 point deduction would put them at the bottom of the table.

Brentford remain in third place just two points behind West Brom who play Hull City today.

Paul Cook made one change from Tuesday’s night’s starting line-up with Kal Naismith replacing Michael Jacobs.

Latics were under pressure from the kick off as the Bees went in search of three points in their quest for promotion to the Premier League.

Latics lost centre half Leon Balogun after only five minutes with Kal Naismith having to drop back into defence and substitute Gavin Massey replacing Naismith on the wing.

The Bees buzzed from the kick off, dominating the game and it seemed only a matter of the time before they would go ahead.

It didn’t take too long as Benrahma fired home from inside the area on 19 minutes from Emiliano Marcondes’ header.

Benrahma’s second came 12 minutes into the second half when what appeared to be a cross deceived David Marshall and floated into the top right corner for 2-0.

By the 66th minute, the Algerian forward completed his hat-trick shooting low into the bottom corner from just outside the area.

Matters got worse for Latics with nine minutes remaining when substitute Garner was given a red card card for a high boot on Jan Zamburek.

The Bees deservedly ran out comfortable winners in what had been a devastating week for Latics.

The team must now pick itself up and regroup for Wednesday night’s game against QPR at the DW Stadium.

The battle for survival continues both on and off the pitch. With five games remaining Paul Cook’s men must accumulate as many points as possible and hope that the EFL see sense and that the decision to deduct points is rescinded.

Let’s Hang On Appeal

The Wigan Athletic Supporters Club “Let’s Hang On” appeal has already raised over £110,000 to ensure that Wigan Athletic Football Club have the necessary funds  to complete the season.

The club have confirmed that they will use the funds raised to help with travelling to away fixtures, overnight stays and helping to pay the wages of over 500 staff.

If you have not already done so please PLEDGE NOW to support Wigan Athletic Football Club

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/official-wigan-athletic-football-club-fundraiser

Posted in Brentford, Championship, Paul Cook, Said Benrahma, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wigan Athletic – Dodgy owners, financial naivety and EFL incompetence

Wigan badge banner Wigan Athletic banner

As a lifelong fan of the club the news that Latics have gone into administration has been devastating and sickening. I am still in shock about what has happened but my immediate thoughts are follows.

On the playing front the club was in fantastic form with Paul Cook’s team having taken 27 points from a possible 39, unbeaten in nine with seven clean sheets in a row. The club had moved to 14th in the Championship table and was virtually safe from relegation.

Behind the scenes the club had changed hands only four weeks ago when the International Entertainment Corporation, a Hong Kong-based, Cayman Islands-registered company led by Stanley Choi, sold the club to Next Leader Fund in which Choi still has a 51% stake.

Worryingly under the change of ownership the Next Leader Fund loaned Latics £28.77m at an interest rate of 8%, rising to 20% if the club defaulted on payments.

The EFL’s test and takeover process involves determining that a new owner has the money to buy a club and support it financially for at least the remainder of the season and the whole of the following season.

However less than a month later and a week since the partner Au Yeung was announced as the new majority owner, the club has appointed the administrators Begbies Traynor.

It’s a murky story, why were Next Leader Fund allowed to pass the EFL’s ‘Fit and Proper’ test when they did not have the resources to run the club?

Surely the EFL should take some responsibility for their poor decision-making?

But instead they immediately issued Latics with a 12-point deduction which dumps them at the bottom of the Championship table and staring relegation starkly in the face.

The EFL have a track record of poor implementation of ‘Fit & Proper’ and several clubs have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous owners and this seems to be another example of such behaviour.

The administrators have said that they may appeal the 12-point penalty and it would seem they would have a strong case given the EFL’s negligence. If an appeal doesn’t work, then the club should have recourse to the courts.

Latics’ English board members, Chairman Darren Royle, Director Joe Royle and Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson should also take some responsibility for allowing this to happen without making their concerns known about the change in ownership and the financial penalties that were involved.

The board may say they were not in control but they are the custodians of the club and they should have made their concerns known to the EFL.

In the circumstances my immediate priorities for the administrators would be as follows:

  • Stabilise the club and continue to pay the players and other staff with help from the PFA and league
  • Complete this season’s fixtures and maintain the contracts of the current players, while a buyer is sought
  • Appeal to the EFL against 12-point deduction and if that doesn’t work take the matter to the courts
  • Approach Dave Whelan to see if he will help in the short-term with financial help
  • Ensure the new owner is a ‘Fit & Proper’ person or company.

Despite the current difficulties I’m still optimistic the club can get through this and survive.

I’m sure Paul Cook, Samy Morsy and all the players will show their character and commitment at Brentford on Saturday. The rest of us should be equally committed and show our support in whatever way we can. The battle for our existence must commence now. Stay strong and believe. Up the Tics!

Posted in Championship, International Entertainment Corporation, Next Leader Fund, Stanley Choi, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dominant Latics now virtually safe from relegation – Wigan Athletic 3 Stoke City 0

Kal Naismith Wigan Athletic Kal Naismith grabbed a brace – photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic produced one of their best performances of the season to defeat relegation rivals Stoke City 3-0 at the DW Stadium.

Two goals by substitute Kal Naismith and an opening strike by Everton loanee Kieran Dowell ensured that Latics continued their incredible run of form. They have now moved up to 14th place in the Championship table and are virtually safe from relegation.

Stoke were totally outplayed and look in serious relegation trouble after a lacklustre display. They are just one point above the relegation zone with both Huddersfield and Hull having a game in hand.

Paul Cook made two changes to the side that defeated Blackburn Rovers on Saturday with  Michael Jacobs replacing Anthony Pilkington and Leon Balogun replacing Danny Fox.

Latics continued were they had left off against Blackburn and quickly took control of the game.

In the fourth minute Kieffer Moore had an opportunity to open the scoring but he was denied by goalkeeper Jack Butland who smothered his shot at close proximity.

Two minutes later Jamal Lowe fired into the side-netting from a tight angle as the hosts showed their determination to claim the three points.

Soon afterwards Nathan Byrne’s low cross was almost turned in by Moore but the striker couldn’t make a good contact and the chance went begging.

Latics were dominant in most areas but the visitors looked threatening from set-pieces and David Marshall was called upon to make a good save to deny a Sam Vokes header in the 14th minute.

Latics continued to create chances and Butland had to tip Joe Williams’ free kick over the crossbar which had been destined for the top corner.

Captain Samy Morsy then powered forward before unleashing a blistering drive but unfortunately for Latics it was straight at Butland.

Latics lost Jacobs to a thigh injury on 32 minutes and he was replaced by utility man Naismith.

Former Latic James McClean blazed over the angle of post and crossbar on 33 minutes but it was a rare foray by the visitors.

Latics continued their dominance and they took a deserved lead just before the break.  After some neat build up play, Dowell cleverly curled the ball from the right by-line and under Butland and into the net for his first goal for the club.

Substitute Naismith nearly got in on the act moments later when he picked up the ball 35-yards from goal and volleyed left footed for the bottom corner but the Stoke keeper pulled off a miraculous save to deny him.

Dowell then blazed high over the crossbar from a good position as the hosts ended the half in complete control.

In the second half Latics picked up where they had left off in the first and turned their dominance into more goals.

On 54 minutes Jamal Lowe missed an absolute sitter when he failed to capitalise after Naismith had superbly set him up.

But on 65 minutes Latics doubled their lead following some great work by Lowe. The striker’s cross was fumbled onto the under side of the bar by Butland and Naismith finished from close range.

Three minutes later the former Rangers midfielder Naismith produced one of the goals of the season when he connected with Byrne’s cut back on the edge of the area and the ball flew into the net past the helpless Butland.

Latics should have added more to their goal tally but it had been a thoroughly dominant performance which continues their amazing form.

They have surged up the table since the turn of the year, they are nine games unbeaten and have not conceded a goal in their past seven matches – a remarkable achievement in the Championship.

Latics will face probably their toughest game of the season at promotion chasing Brentford on Saturday, but on this current form I certainly wouldn’t bet against Latics getting a good result.

Championship Table courtesy of Whoscored.com
Posted in Championship, Kal Naismith, Kieran Dowell, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics triumph in Lancashire lockdown derby – Wigan Athletic 2 Blackburn Rovers 0

Championship Form TableChampionship form table last 12 games courtesy of Whoscored.com

The Championship’s form team continued their excellent run with 2-0 victory against play-off chasing Blackburn Rovers at the DW Stadium.

In a closely fought encounter it was Latics who had the cutting-edge with two second half goals by substitutes Lee Evans and Michael Jacobs.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround from early December when Latics couldn’t buy a win. Many fans including myself were calling for a change in manager as Paul Cook seemed completely out of ideas.

Great credit should be given to Cook for transforming the team’s fortunes and coming up with a winning formula.

Despite the long lay off Latics have continued were they left off before lockdown. The team spirit is now sky high with all the players pulling in the right direction. Their effort and determination has been exemplary as they pull away from the drop zone.

In the last 12 games Cook’s team have taken 24 points from a possible 36 and are unbeaten in eight with six clean sheets in a row.

Latics retained the same starting eleven from the victory against Huddersfield Town with the fit again Leon Balogun on the bench.

The hosts started brightly with Kieffer Moore curling an effort narrowly wide on eight minutes and then Cedric Kipre headed Kieran Dowell’s corner just wide at the back post.

Jamal Lowe created a great chance for himself bursting into the Rovers area but was closed down and couldn’t quite get his shot away from close range.

Rovers main threat came from two set-pieces with Joe Rothwell curling a free kick just over David Marshall’s crossbar and Stewart Downing forcing a full length save from the Scotland international just before the interval.

The visitors started the second half strongly but it was the hosts who created the better chances with Samy Morsy firing a shot just wide of the target from distance and then Anthony Pilkington curling another effort over the crossbar from the edge of the box.

But it was the substitutes Evans and Jacobs who would make the breakthrough for the hosts.

On 80 minutes Latics went ahead when former keeper Christian Walton fumbled Robinson’s cross under pressure and Evans stayed composed to control the ball and then volley home via the under side of the crossbar.

Rovers had an opportunity to draw level soon afterwards when Samuel’s header looked bound for the top corner but Marshall made an excellent save tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Latics confirmed the points in added time when Joe Williams superb long range pass found Jacobs on the counter attack and the winger showed great pace and determination before cutting inside the box to fire past Walton to make it 2-0.

This had been another excellent performance with everyone contributing to the cause. Captain Morsy once again leading by example but there were also strong displays by Joe Williams, Nathan Byrne, Robinson and Marshall.

The matches come thick and fast now with relegation threatened Stoke City at the DW Stadium on Tuesday night. The visitors will be without former Latic Nick Powell who was sent off yesterday for two bookable offences.

Latics will have a big say in who is relegated from the Championship as they play four of the teams in the relegation battle, Stoke, Barnsley, Hull and Charlton, in the final seven games of the season.

Championship TableChampionship table as at 28 June 2020 courtesy of Whoscored.com
Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Championship, Lee Evans, Michael Jacobs, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wigan Athletic make flying restart as they ease past Huddersfield – Huddersfield Town 0 Wigan Athletic 2

Huddersfield Town v Wigan Athletic behind closed doors

Latics continued their excellent pre-lockdown form with a comfortable 2-0 victory at a deserted John Smith’s Stadium.

Football behind closed doors is an eerie affair and it was the visitors who coped best in the strange surroundings.

The hosts enjoyed plenty of possession but it was the visitors who looked the more likely to score.

Latics went ahead on 26 minutes when Kieffer Moore’s deflected cross found Jamal Lowe who bundled the ball home at close range.

Latics goalkeeper David Marshall made an important save to deny a Juninho Bacuna free-kick before Latics doubled their lead at the start of the second half when Anthony Pilkington’s shot was deflected into the net by Lewis O’Brien.

The visitors seemed fitter than their opponents and could have added to their lead when substitutes Lee Evans and Michael Jacobs forced a good double save from Town keeper Jonas Lossl.

Latics move up to 17th in the Championship table, while the Terriers drop to 20th just one point and two places above the bottom three.

The visitors welcomed back Antonee Robinson from a heart scare and Kieran Dowell and Danny Fox from injury.

But they were without Leon Balogun, Gary Roberts, Gavin Massey, Alex Dobre and Dujon Sterling and Chey Dunkley who were all injured.

It was a scrappy opening period as neither side got the upper hand.

The first real opening came on 20 minutes when Dowell’s clever back heel set up Nathan Byrne down the right and his cross found Pilkington in a great position but the former Huddersfield midfielder fired straight at Lossl.

But Latics were ahead on 26 minutes following a flowing move. Pilkington picked the ball up in midfield and found Moore on the right hand side and the big striker’s cross was deflected off Harry Toffolo into the path of Lowe who chested the ball into the net.

Huddersfield rarely threatened, but when they did Scotland international David Marshall came to their rescue, producing a great one-handed reaction save to deny Bacuna’s in-swinging free kick.

Latics were in control at half time and they consolidated their lead early in the second half. Lowe crossed for Pilkington and the midfielder turned superbly in the box and his shot was deflected into the net by O’Brien.

Latics’ players celebrate

Lowe might have added to the lead moments later but his powerful drive blazed wide of the target from a good position.

The visitors just seemed fitter than their opponents and they had further chances when substitutes Lee Evans and Michael Jacobs forced a good double save from Lossl.

Captain Samy Morsy was in terrific form, bossing midfield and preventing Town from gaining a foothold in the game.

Marshall was called upon in added time when Harry Toffolo forced another excellent save but in truth this had been a surprisingly comfortable return to the Championship.

Latics had cruised home to a satisfying victory which eased their relegation worries.

Paul Cook’s team have now been on a remarkable run and are unbeaten in seven games with five consecutive clean sheets. It’s taken awhile for the team to click but they are now the form team in the Championship. Two more wins would secure their Championship status.

Latics Away Form Latics Away Form – courtesy of Whoscored.com
Posted in Anthony Pilkington, Championship, Huddersfield Town, Jamal Lowe, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wigan Athletic Championship restart preview

Samy Morsy

Ready for action – Latics captain Samy Morsy. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Latics will recommence their season behind closed doors at Huddersfield Town tomorrow with nine games to secure their Championship status.

Paul Cook’s team had been one of the in-form teams in the Championship prior to the lockdown with 12 points in the last six games but fans will be concerned that the long lay-off could potentially have a detrimental impact on results.

Latics are precariously positioned in 20th spot just two points above the relegation zone and they will have to face several of the clubs around them in the table in the run-in. Huddersfield, Stoke, Barnsley, Hull and Charlton are in the bottom eight so Latics must ensure that they pick up points when they play against their relegation rivals.

If the season had been voided, current league position used, or the average points per game calculated Latics would have survived relegation. But we are now entering the unknown, football behind closed doors and a frantic nine game mini tournament that will decide their fate.

So, what are the prospects for survival?

Latics have been boosted by the return of Antonee Robinson after his heart scare and the extended loans of Leon Balogun, Dujon Sterling, Kieran Dowell, Alex Dobre and Jan Mlakar.

Contract negotiations are still ongoing with seven first-team squad members Chey Dunkley, Michael Jacobs, Joe Garner, Anthony Pilkington, Gary Roberts, Danny Fox and Lewis Macleod but it is expected that most will stay.

The squad  looks to be in a much stronger position than before the lockdown with several players coming back from injury and no significant absences.

Some of the other clubs involved have had to contend with major problems during lockdown. Stoke manager Michael O’Neil has tested positive to Covid-19 and is isolating for two weeks.

Charlton are in the throes of a High Court insolvency action and the unsettling saga of wantaway leading scorer Lyle Taylor, who has refused to play in the remaining games, won’t have helped team morale.

Luton recently parted company with their manager, the former Latics coach Graeme Jones, and the new manager Nathan Jones has returned to the club following an unsuccessful period at Stoke.

Hull have off the field ownership issues and have been in free fall having taken just two points from 11 games and, having sold Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki in January, they have now lost their captain Eric Lichaj and deputy Jackson Irvine, plus Stephen Kingsley and Marcus Maddison, having been unable to negotiate agreements with the club ahead of their contracts expiring on June 30.

Another issue which could impact on the relegation places is a possible points deduction for Sheffield Wednesday. Several Championship clubs are demanding a serious points deduction be imposed on the Owls if they are found guilty of misconduct by an independent disciplinary commission over the sale of its stadium to owner Dejphon Chansiri.

EFL guidelines allow up to a 12-point deduction depending on the size of any financial failure, which could relegate Wednesday, if the remaining results don’t go their way.

It is also possible that clubs in the Championship will be affected by positive Covid-19 tests which might significantly deplete their squads or even potentially result in the voiding of the season.

Latics were in fine form prior to lockdown during a six-game unbeaten run with victories at promotion chasing Leeds and West Brom. The spine of the team is now much stronger with Leon Balogun and Cedric Kipre in the centre of defence, the tenacious Samy Morsy controlling midfield and big Kieffer Moore leading the line to great effect.

If they can recapture that form then I’m optimistic that they will secure their Championship status. 50 points should be enough to stay up, so Latics would require another nine points from the remaining nine games.

Posted in Championship, Huddersfield Town, Samy Morsy, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Mavericks – English Football When Flair Wore Flares by Rob Steen

The Mavericks cover

An updated edition of Rob Steen’s evocative examination of the stars of football in the 1970’s has now been published. The Mavericks are the seven Englishmen who followed the trail-blazing superstar George Best: Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Charlie George, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Peter Osgood and Frank Worthington.

They were crowd pleasers and entertainers who were worshipped at club level but were sadly under-represented at international level winning only 46 England caps between them.

Despite their lack of international honours, the Mavericks brought colour, excitement, flair and thrills to football at a time when it was just emerging from the dour 1960’s.

The seven were unorthodox, independently minded individuals and extremely talented footballers. But unfortunately, they also had inherent self-destructive tendencies with alcohol, womanising, indiscipline, drugs, gambling, idleness and pride impacting on their international record.

Alan Hudson for example, received a late summons to play against Brazil in April 1978, but pride dictated refusal.

‘That was probably one of the great regrets of my life. I thought I should have been in the original squad. Then someone dropped out and a call came from Greenwood while I was in the Wellington Pub in Sloane Square.’ “With all due respect, Mr Greenwood”, I said, “I thought I should have been in the side anyway. I don’t want to get picked because you’ve got injuries.” ‘You get so many knocks along the way, people picking you when it suits them rather than on merit. It was like Frank Sinatra being asked to fill in for Cliff Richard at the Albert Hall. Frank would have told them where to go.’

England’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in 1974 and 1978 could partly be put down to the Mavericks’ lack of appearances. Their talent was generally ignored by Sir Alf Ramsay, Don Revie and Ron Greenwood, but when they were selected, they had to conform to the constraints of the England managers regimes and tactics at the time.

As Steen explains, Rodney Marsh said Ramsay never allowed him to express himself and complained ‘he was the one who was asked to do the stopping – overlapping full-backs, opposite number, you name it. It is a wonder Ramsay ever looked his way.’

Tony Currie had the most England caps of the Mavericks with 17, but he looked back in 1994 with some frustration.

‘But it’s when you look back that it hurts, more so now than ever. Why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t the England managers pick me more often? Why didn’t they pick Worthington, Hudson, Bowles and Currie in the same teams? Why didn’t someone say, “Right, I’m going to pick them all for three games and see how it goes?‘‘  I’d love to have seen somebody brave enough to do that.’

In his new Afterword Steen speculates that if the Mavericks had reached their prime in the Twittering Age, they would have been regarded as demigods. I personally think they would have had more England caps but I’m not sure that their off the field antics wouldn’t still have been their downfall.

Whether you think the Mavericks were frustrated by a succession of England managers or their own self-destructive tendencies, this is an engrossing read full of smart analysis, entertaining anecdotes and 1970’s pop-cultural references.

The Mavericks – English Football When Flair Wore Flares by Rob Steen published by Bloomsbury Sport, Price £12.99.

Posted in Alan Hudson, Book Reviews, Charlie George, Frank Worthington, Peter Osgood, Rob Steen, Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: After Extra Time and Penalties – Memories of a BBC Football Correspondent by Mike Ingham

After Extra Time and Penalties

Former BBC football Correspondent Mike Ingham’s autobiography is a thoughtful homage to the golden age of sports broadcasting. His own broadcasting experiences saw him attend eight World Cups, commentate on twenty-eight FA Cup Finals, work with ten full-time England managers and introduce Sports Report.

Ingham recounts his life story and the characters he has come across with warmth and a deep understanding of the beautiful game. The early chapters are a little pedestrian, but the book picks up pace and interest as he recounts his early interviews with John Arlott, Jack Nicklaus, George Best and Brian Clough.

Ingham commentated on the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus at Heysel Stadium when 39 Juventus fans lost their lives and this tragedy has haunted him since.  He makes a telling point when he says Bill Shankly would never have wisecracked about football being more important than life and death had he still been alive in 1985 at the time of the Heysel Disaster.

Tragedy and lives cut short is sadly a recurring theme in the book, Ingham’s close friend and colleague Peter Jones died prematurely at the age of 60 and was at Heysel and Hillsborough and deeply scarred by the two disasters. There is an emotional tribute to another friend and colleague Bryon Butler, one of the great sports broadcasters, who died of cancer at the age of 66.

Ingham pays a glowing tribute to Bobby Moore, who tragically died of cancer aged only fifty-one.

Here’s extract from his scripted broadcast, “Bobby Moore, indestructible defender, ambassador, unique English footballing figure is no longer around to remind us how the national game at its very best can be a thing of dignity, beauty and integrity. He was the best, Pele said so, and that has to be the final word.”

Ingham bemoans the fact that scripted and recorded broadcasts when you would be given time to collect your thoughts and express your feelings are rare these days. When everything had to be live, he finds himself deeply frustrated at not being given the chance to say what he wanted, having been at the mercy of someone else’s agenda.

He is rightly frustrated by the decision of 5 Live to do away with a second commentator, he believes that on the radio the voice is pre-eminent and over 90 minutes – plus often extra-time and penalties – one voice, no matter how mellifluous, can be a hard listen. Test Match Special would never dream of having just one cricket commentator for the whole of a two-hour session.

He is also critical of the BBC’s bureaucracy, believes sport has been relegated in the BBC’s hierarchy of importance, and states that a perennial problem in the organisation is the lack of value placed on experience.

He observes, “In the last year, five respected broadcasters with over one hundred and fifty years of service between them have been allowed to leave BBC Sport.”

That’s a sad indictment of the BBC’s current decision-making, but at least Ingham has been able to provide a worthy tribute to the golden age of sports broadcasting.

The wide-ranging, entertaining stories and anecdotes about players, managers, commentators and summarisers provides a special insight into when sports radio was so important in many peoples’ lives.

After Extra Time and Penalties: Memories of a BBC Football Correspondent by Mike Ingham, Published by The Book Guild, Price £12.99.

Posted in Book Reviews, FA Cup, Mike Ingham, Premier League, Radio, Wigan Athletic, World Cup | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind closed doors: what are the implications for Wigan Athletic?

6906AB4A-E6FC-4C8F-8E07-5C522252DA3C

DW Stadium

There is still a lot of uncertainty about when, or if the Championship season will resume, but matches could resume in June, dependent on the Government giving it the green light.

If they are allowed to resume it is likely that they will be played behind closed doors. Under current EFL plans the fans will only be allowed back into the DW Stadium in October.

The clubs desperately need the TV income to pay wages and to survive over the summer so games will have to go ahead without spectators.

With nine Championship fixtures remaining Latics are precariously positioned just above the relegation zone.

Although they were in good form prior to the lockdown with 12 points in the last six games, the long lay-off could have a detrimental effect on the players and it may even feel like starting the season all over again for some.

Some fans will quip that it will make no difference to Latics’ players as they are used to playing in front of empty seats, but the reality is that completely empty stadiums will pose a new psychological challenge for the players.

Such matches are known as “ghost games” and playing a Championship match without a crowd will be an “eerie experience”.

For professional footballers it is the supporters who make the matches so special and the atmosphere that crowds generate is essential to the game.

The games will be televised either by the main broadcasters, or on the iFollow network but it will be a strange experience for everyone that could impact negatively on Latics’ results.

The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic also poses a threat to Latics’ competitiveness.

Brighton loanee Leon Balogun has been a significant catalyst in Latics’ revival but his contract ends at the end of June and therefore his loan would have to be cancelled before the season finishes, unless Latics can sign him permanently.

Other loanees include Dujon Sterling (who is contracted to Chelsea until the end of 2021/22 season) and Kieran Dowell (contracted to Everton until the end of the 2020/21 season) who Latics are trying to sign permanently.

Several first-team players whose current deals finish at the end of June may also have to be released.

Seven first-team squad members are in this situation – Chey Dunkley, Michael Jacobs, Joe Garner, Anthony Pilkington, Gary Roberts, Danny Fox and Lewis Macleod.

Although the financial situation could dictate matters it is still possible that some workaround could be sorted.

Many teams will be in this situation so a short-term extension to the contracts may be possible and then sort out future contracts when the current season ends.

So much is still unknown, but if the season does restart it will be like a mini-tournament with nine games to decide the big issues, with the majority of teams in the Championship having something to play for, with either promotion or relegation still to be decided.

Champ table 26 April

Championship Table courtesy of Whoscored.com

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