Review: Can we have our football back? How the Premier League is ruining football and what we can do about it… by John Nicholson

Can we

In ‘Can We Have Our Football Back?’ Football365 writer John Nicholson produces a coruscating attack on the excesses of the Premier League and provides an optimistic blueprint for a football revolution.

Nicholson wants to put an end to the Premier League, an end to the financial model upon which it is founded, an end to paywall TV, and an end to the astronomical wages, transfer fees and agents fees.

He wants to see a more sane, less abusive, more competitive, more fun and less venal competition, which puts fans at the centre of everything and works for the advantage of everyone, not just a tiny elite.

Sky TV is the main reason why the Premier League is awash with money but the perceived view that football on subscription TV is reaching a wide audience is misleading. Nicholson explains that football behind a paywall isn’t popular and really doesn’t get big audiences.

For example, in 2019 the Liverpool v Fulham game was shown on Sky and watched by 1.5m people. At the same time the BBC was showing Millwall versus Brighton in the FA Cup, which was watched by an audience of 4.4m people.

The vast majority of homes in the UK do not have Sky subscriptions. Sky gets 1-2m viewers per game for Premier League games and about 750,000 if the game is between two smaller clubs.

Currently only about 4% of the population have a Sky subscription. Nicholson’s stone cold truth is that the majority of the football public simply rejects the idea of paying to watch football. He states that if we want football to reach the general public it should be restored to terrestrial TV.

One of the main problems with the Premier League is that it is no longer competitive with the top six dominating. But before the Premier League existed, things were different.

The league was much more competitive and less predictable. You had no idea who was going to win the title, and in many ways, even better than that, you had no idea who would finish in the European places.

Sadly money is now the foremost factor in the Premier League and it taints the sport, making it hard to disagree with Nicholson’s analysis.

The style of writing can be a little disconcerting at times and may not be to everyone’s liking but it’s still an absorbing read. Nicholson interviews players, journalists and broadcasters about what is wrong with the Premier League and puts together some compelling arguments about the need for change.

Nicholson has a long list of commendable reforms which will transform football, but the initial catalyst will be the collective boycott of paywall TV when everyone cancels their direct debits.

Some may regard Nicholson as an idealist whose ideas will never come to fruition but there is an increasing mood for change as fans are becoming disenchanted with the predictability of the Premier League and the obscene amounts of money involved.

Can we have our football back? How the Premier League is ruining football and what we can do about it… by John Nicholson, Published by Head Publishing, Price £10.

This review first appeared in the November/December edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, John Nicholson, Late Tackle magazine, Premier League, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Desperate day at the DW – Wigan Athletic 0 Brentford 3

Paul Cook

Paul Cook needs to address the poor form

Wigan Athletic turned in their worst performance of the season as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Brentford at the DW Stadium.

Latics were behind after only five minutes as some dreadful defending allowed Bryan Mbeumo to stab the ball home from close range.

Kamohelo Mokotjo increased the Bees advantage midway through the second half as he lashed the ball home from the edge of the box.

When Cedric Kipre was dismissed for a second bookable offence on 73 minutes matters went from bad to worse as first Josh Dasilva fired into the top corner of the net for the third before Joe Gelhardt was knocked unconscious and Latics ended the game with nine men.

Brentford had Julian Jeanvier sent off after the Gelhardt incident following a clash with Joe Williams but it was Latics who ended the game in complete disarray.

Paul Cook made one change to the team defeated 2-1 by Swansea last time out with Michael Jacobs replacing Gavin Massey.

Brentford started briskly and Latics were on the back foot almost immediately.

The Bees were ahead after only five minutes with the Latics defence all at sea.

Christian Norgaard was allowed to head towards goal unchallenged in the area, David Marshall spilled his header and Mbeumo scored from close range despite the best efforts of Kipre.

The expected response from Latics failed to materialise as they struggled to create any clear cut chances.

Kieffer Moore did fire wide of the target from 30 yards but it was a rare foray.

Brentford 1-0 ahead at the interval and Latics would have to improve significantly if they were to get back in the game.

Cook introduced Joe Gelhardt and Josh Windass soon after the interval as he attempted to get Latics back in the game but it was not long before Mokotjo doubled the lead for the visitors from the edge of the area.

Matters soon got worse as Kipre was sent off for a second bookable offence.

On 83 minutes an impressive Brentford sealed the three points with an emphatic finish from 25 yards by Dasilva.

To compound Latics misery young England starlet Gelhardt was knocked unconscious and had to be stretchered off in added time.

Following the initial incident, Joe Williams and Julian Jeanvier were involved in an altercation and the Latics midfielder was booked and the Brentford defender sent off.

But it was far too late to have any impact on the final outcome and Latics slipped to another defeat and closer to the relegation zone.

Despite some improved recent performances this was a sorry display by Cook’s men. Shambolic defending, poor decision-making in midfield and toothless in attack.

The players should take a good look at themselves after such a dispiriting display but the manager also needs to rethink his strategies.

After such an impressive appearance last week Gelhardt should’ve started against Brentford but Cook persisted with the out of form Michael Jacobs.

Moore is also struggling to make an impact and is low on confidence so it could be time to give him a break and try something new.

Without Charlie Mulgrew, the defence lacks organisation and his calming presence was sorely missed yesterday. Hopefully he will return after the international break.


Posted in Brentford, Bryan Mbeumo, Championship, Josh Dasilva, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Late sucker punch sinks Latics – Wigan Athletic 1 Swansea City 2

Joe Gelhardt

England youth star Joe Gelhardt

Despite creating the better chances and looking the most likely winners Wigan Athletic suffered an injury time 2-1 defeat to Swansea City.

Swansea has taken an early lead through Nathan Dyer but Latics drew level from Kieffer Moore’s penalty after Chey Dunkley had been fouled in the box.

Latics wasted several good opportunities with Moore in particular failing to capitalise on a one-on-one with the Swans keeper Freddie Woodman and having his shot blocked by Mike van der Hoorn.

But with match heading towards a draw Connor Roberts crossed for Sam Surridge to head home in the 92nd minute and break Latics’ hearts.

Swansea go second in the Championship table while Latics slip down to 20th place.

Paul Cook named an unchanged line up from the recent 2-2 draw at Bristol City. England youth star Joe Gelhardt was once again named on the bench.

The visitors opened the scoring on 12 minutes when Nathan Dyer converted Bersant Celina’s cut back from the byeline.

Latics quickly responded and Moore couldn’t direct Jamal Lowe’s cross past Woodman. Soon afterwards Dunkley headed over from Joe Williams’ corner.

Moore then headed wide after Lowe’s cross found the striker at the back post.

But Latics were level though on 20 minutes when Moore scored his first goal for the club from the penalty spot.

Dunkley was pulled back inside the box by van der Hoorn and Moore stepped up to score his first Latics goal in 13 appearances since joining from Barnsley.

All level at the break but Latics upped their game in the second half and had the chances to put the game to bed.

Lowe turned away from Ben Wilmot on the left and saw his effort from the edge of the box clip the angle of bar and post.

With 20 minutes remaining Cook finally gave Gelhardt his chance from the bench and the young striker almost immediately made an impact.

Gelhardt produced a slide rule pass to play in Moore with a clear run on goal but as the striker shot, van der Hoorn got back to make the vital block.

Latics then had another great opportunity when captain Samy Morsy looked odds on to score from inside the box but his shot was agonisingly deflected just over the crossbar.

Swansea then delivered the sucker punch in added time with Surridge heading home Roberts’ cross.

As in the recent games against Derby County and Bristol City, Latics had been the better team but a failure to be clinical in the final third had once again proved costly.

It is fairly obvious that Latics’ current failings lie in the forward line and the introduction of a goal scorer is crucial.

Young England striker Gelhardt fits that bill and showed what he can do as a late substitute against the Swans and must now be given his chance with a start against Brentford.

Gelhardt is an instinctive finisher who can play through the centre or out on the left wing but his best position is probably in the number ten role just behind big striker Moore.

Cook has been reluctant to start the 17 -year-old in the Championship but his brief minutes of the pitch have already demonstrated his potential to help turn Latics’ season around.

Posted in Championship, Joe Gelhardt, Kieffer Moore, Nathan Dyer, Sam Surridge, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dunkley double not enough to see Latics over the line – Bristol City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Chey Dunkley Dunkley brace not enough for Latics

Despite being the dominant team Latics failed to secure the away victory that they crave and had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Bristol City. Andreas Weimann had given City the lead but the visitors were ahead with two goals from centre-back Chey Dunkley and had the chances to seal the three points but were pegged back in the 85th minute through Pedro Pereira.

The hosts were vying to go second in the Championship table but it was the visitors who looked the more likely winners at Ashton Gate. Latics wasted several good goalscoring opportunities and had 19 shots to City’s nine.

Gavin Massey had the best chance with a one-on-one but shot tamely straight at keeper Daniel Bentley and Latics should have been awarded a penalty when a City defender handled the ball in the box.

Latics will feel this was a great opportunity for a first away win of the season but it had been thrown away.

Bristol City remain sixth in the Championship table while Latics move up one place to 18th.

Paul Cook made one change to the starting line up with Cedric Kipre replacing the injured Charlie Mulgrew.

Latics created two good opportunities in the opening 21 minutes with Kipre heading straight at Bentley and then Samy Morsy forcing another save from the Bristol City stopper.

Jamal Lowe was next to go close when his right footed effort from the inside the box was deflected just over the crossbar by a late Ashley Williams intervention. Dunkley then headed over the crossbar from the resulting corner.

Massey curled an effort wide of the far post on the half hour but on 38 minutes some calamitous Latics defending gifted Bristol City the lead.

Dunkley failed to head away in the area and Latics’ other defenders were all at sea as Andreas Weimann dispatched a low shot past Marshall for 1-0.

Latics quickly responded and a cross from Lowe was clearly handled in the area by a defender but referee John Brooks waved away the Latics’ players appeals.

But two minutes later Latics were level when from a Joe Williams corner Kieffer Moore flicked on and Dunkley redeemed his earlier mistake by smashing the ball home for the equaliser.

The visitors started the second half brightly and they went ahead on 53 minutes when Dunkley grabbed his second. The big centre-back rose to meet Williams’ corner and powered his header over the line despite the desperate attempts of Bentley.

Latics best opportunity to seal all three points came on 59 minutes as Moore sent Massey racing free on goal and with Morsy to his left and just the keeper to beat, the winger shot tamely straight at Bentley.

The visitors continued to threaten but they were unable to capitalise on their chances and it was to prove costly.

With five minutes of normal time remaining Latics allowed Pereira to rise unchallenged at the near post to make it 2-2.

Matters could have got worse two minutes later had it not been for David Marshall. The Latics keeper made a brilliant save to deny Weimann when he appeared odds-on to score.

This had been a great opportunity to break the away day hoodoo but Latics failure to be clinical in the final third proved costly.

Latics haven’t won away since August last year and Cook’s reluctance to utilise prolific youth striker Joe Gelhardt is a big mystery. Latics are crying out for a clinical finisher but the manager stubbornly refuses to give the young starlet any game time.

Posted in Andreas Weimann, Bristol City, Chey Dunkley, Paul Cook, Pedro Pereira, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Away day heartache for Latics – Derby County 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Paul Cook

Football can be such a cruel game and Wigan Athletic’s manager, players and fans know it only too well after another away defeat at Derby County.

Latics produced one of their best away performances in a very long time at Pride Park. They created numerous chances and looked the most likely to get the three points but with 92 minutes on the clock Graeme Shinnie broke Latics’ hearts with a stunning strike.

Derby move up to 14th in the Championship table while Latics drop to 19th just four points above the relegation zone.

Latics made two changes to the starting line up from Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Nottingham Forest, with Dujon Sterling and Samy Morsy replacing Nathan Byrne and Michael Jacobs.

The hosts made a bright start and David Marshall made a good early save from Tom Lawrence before Antonee Robinson blocked an effort from Jamie Paterson.

But as the minutes progressed the visitors grew into the game and Gavin Massey fired narrowly wide and afterwards curled another effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area.

Captain Morsy had a great opportunity after working his way past a couple of defenders in the area but instead of shooting he pulled the ball back towards Kieffer Moore and the danger was cleared by a defender.

Early in the second half Moore headed wide of the target from a Joe Williams cross.

Marshall denied Derby substitute Chris Martin on 50 minutes but it was Latics who had the better chances to go ahead.

Moore saw his shot from inside the area blocked by Curtis Davies before Williams saw his shot saved by Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos.

Lowe then had the best opportunity of the game when he was clean through on goal but  he was denied by Roos.

Massey then fired another effort narrowly wide from 25 yards, before Derby threatened and Marshall saved well from a drive from Lawrence.

But Latics continued to create the better chances and the excellent Massey won the ball in midfield and exchanged passes with Williams before seeing his shot deflected wide. From the corner, Dunkley headed just over the crossbar from a Williams delivery.

Latics lost Charlie Mulgrew to a head injury on 63 minutes and Cedric Kipre slotted into the defence.

The visitors had another great chance when Williams found Lowe who turned well in the area and the striker’s effort was saved by Roos with his legs.

As the match moved towards added time Martin saw a header towards goal put over by his own player Joe Marriott and it appeared as though Latics would get at least a point.

But with 92 minutes on the clock Martin knocked the ball to Shinnie on the edge of the area and the former Aberdeen midfielder struck to condemn Latics to another away defeat.

This was an undeserved defeat for Latics but goals win games and they are struggling for them at the moment.

Strikers Moore, Lowe and Massey have only scored one goal between them and the team as a whole have only scored 10 goals in 13 games. It is obvious were Paul Cook’s team need to improve.

Latics lack a cutting edge in the final third but the manager has been reluctant to give 17-year-old goalscorer Joe Gelhardt a starting place. Gelhardt has already shown his ability with a superb strike as a substitute against Hull City, surely now is the time to give him his chance.

Latics are looking much improved in defence with the steadying influence of Mulgrew and last night’s midfield trio of Morsy, Williams and Lewis MacLeod were impressive. The next stage of Latics’ improvement is to get the strikers firing.

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Latics extinguish the Forest fire – Wigan Athletic 1 Nottingham Forest 0

Jamal Lowe Jamal Lowe scored his first goal since joining from Portsmouth.

Wigan Athletic maintained their excellent home record with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against high-fliers Nottingham Forest at the DW Stadium.

Latics rode their luck at times but battled hard for a deserved three points against a Forest team who were aiming to go to the top of the Championship table.

Forest had two penalty appeals when Antonee Robinson pulled Sammy Ameobi’s shirt and Joe Williams’ made contact with Yuri Ribeiro, but on both occasions the offences took place outside the box.

Big striker Kieffer Moore and midfielder Joe Williams typified the battling spirit in a committed and hard working performance by the hosts.

Jamal Lowe’s first goal of the season was enough to end Forest’s unbeaten away record and move Latics up to 14th in the table.

Paul Cook made three changes from his team that lost at Sheffield Wednesday with Michael Jacobs, Lewis Macleod and Kieffer Moore coming into the team. Josh Windass and Joe Garner dropped to the bench with captain Samy Morsy suspended.

Latics started brightly and went close when Joe Williams played in Lowe but the striker’s effort was saved low down by Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba.

Chey Dunkley then headed a Jacobs corner wide but Forest started to create chances at the other end. Yuri Ribeiro wasted a glorious opportunity to open the scoring and Rafael Mir then headed a Joe Lolley cross off target from another good position.

But it was Latics who went ahead on 35 minutes when they broke quickly and Gavin  Massey pulled the ball back to Lowe who forced the ball over the line from close range.

The hosts nearly doubled their lead five minutes later when acting captain Charlie Mulgrew’s excellent curled free-kick from 25-yards evaded the Forest keeper and struck the base of the right-hand post.

Latics survived some Forest pressure at the end of the first half and went into the interval 1-0 up.

Early in the second half Massey had a great opportunity when he broke clear of the Forest defence but his tame effort allowed Samba to push the ball away to safety.

Forest started to enjoy plenty of possession and had two great opportunities first Mir was played in by John Bostock but he fired wide of the target and then substitute Lewis Grabban had probably the best chance of the match but he headed straight at David Marshall when it looked easier to score.

Latics then had the chances to put the game to bed with substitute Kal Naismith’s strike from the centre of the box well saved by Samba and then later another powerful drive by Naismith was denied by the Forest keeper.

This was an important three points for Latics against Sabri Lamouchi’s team who are likely to be challenging for promotion.

Latics continue to be hard to beat at home and impressively this was the 15th home clean sheet since the start of last season.

If only Latics could repeat the clean sheets on their travels they would rapidly rise up the table.

The next challenge is an away trip to Derby County on Wednesday night. Suspended captain Samy Morsy is likely to return at Pride Park but Nathan Byrne will be suspended after picking up a booking and is likely to be replaced by Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling.

The task facing manager Cook and his coaching staff is to find the magic formula to win away from the DW Stadium, a task that has so far eluded them this season.

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‘If he’s good enough, he’s old enough’ – time to give talented young striker Joe Gelhardt his chance at Wigan Athletic

Joe Gelhardt

Joe Gelhardt

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