Another derby day debacle – Preston North End 3 Wigan Athletic 0

Paul Cook

It was a case of deja-vu as Wigan Athletic once again crashed to defeat at near neighbours Preston with a toothless performance. Latics had lost 4-0 at Deepdale last season and this was an equally embarrassing showing.

Paul Cook’s men were in good spirits after an opening day win against Cardiff and had been emboldened by a successful transfer window, but they were always second best throughout this fixture and PNE were able to secure an easy three points.

Sean Maguire headed home Paul Gallagher’s corner to put North End ahead after only six minutes with Latics all at sea defensively. It could so easily have been many more before Louis Moult doubled Preston’s lead with a free header on 39 minutes.

Latics started the second half strongly but the points were sealed for Preston when Gallagher struck a sweet free-kick into the top corner on 54 minutes.

Cook’s squad will now need to regroup and ensure that they quickly learn the lessons from such a poor display.

Latics made two changes from the team which had defeated Cardiff City with Kal Naismith and Cedric Kipre coming in for Anthony Pilkington and Chey Dunkley.

The visitors started slowly and PNE took control scoring after only six minutes, some poor marking from a corner allowed Maguire to head past Marshall.

Latics had a golden opportunity to level after eight minutes when Windass was gifted the ball on the edge of the area but his drive was straight and high at Declan Rudd when a lower shot either side might have resulted in a goal.

Midfielder Lewis Macleod tried his luck from distance but his effort was also well saved by Rudd.

But Preston continued to press as the visitors looked uncomfortable in defence and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead just before half time. Four Latics players surrounded Daniel Johnson but he was given far too much space and time to cross for  Moult to head home between Fox and Robinson.

Latics started the second half briskly, probably after an ear bashing from Cook, but North End effectively secured the three points on 54 minutes when Gallagher’s unstoppable free-kick from the edge of the penalty area arrowed into the top corner.

Cook made changes to try and get a foothold in the game with Kieffer Moore, Jamal Lowe and Joe Williams all making their debuts, but they couldn’t pull a goal back and it proved to be another desperately disappointing afternoon for Latics at Deepdale.

It’s still very early in the season but the manager will be concerned to see that PNE wanted it more than his own players in an important derby. Latics players will quickly need to learn the lessons from this setback.

It seems that Cook doesn’t yet know his best defensive line-up and the combination of Fox and Kipre just didn’t work against Preston. New loan signing Charlie Mulgrew could be given a start sooner than expected after such a poor showing.

They missed Captain Samy Morsy’s combative style and were slow to close down and poor at marking. Preston won most of the fifty-fifties as Latics were usually second to the ball.

Going forward Latics weren’t clinical enough when chances did arise. Windass, Moore, MacLeod, Lowe and Lee Evans all had efforts on target but they just couldn’t find the corner to beat Rudd.

After such a lacklustre display Cook is likely to make changes to the team for the home game against Leeds United.

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Posted in Championship, Louis Moult, Paul Gallagher, Preston North End, Sean Maguire, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Championship pundits may need to revise their predictions

Jamal Lowe

Jamal Lowe

Many media pundits prematurely tipped Wigan Athletic for relegation this season but after a very successful transfer window Paul Cook’s team now look a much stronger outfit and much more likely to compete at the top half of the Championship.

Latics made an impressive start to the season defeating promotion favourites Cardiff City and without many of their recent signings. They now face a tricky trip to local rivals Preston tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how they compete while integrating the new signings into the team.

Latics have released or sold 14 players from the squad over the summer and have brought in 11 plus former youth players Joe Gelhardt, Jensen Weir and Callum Lang. The new additions are a blend of youth and experience and on paper the squad looks stronger than last season with perhaps the exception of player of the season Reece James.

Goalkeepers: David Marshall signed from Hull City is the current Scottish Number One and is very experienced at Premier League level. Keeper Daniel Gyollai has signed from Stoke City and will provide backup to Marshall and Jamie Jones.

In Defence: 19 year-old Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling will compete for the full back spot with Nathan Byrne although Byrne is also very capable as a wing-back. Blackburn Rovers captain Charlie Mulgrew unexpectedly joined on-loan on deadline day and he should provide plenty of experience in the centre of defence alongside either Chey Dunkley, Cedric Kipre or Danny Fox.

At left back USA international Antonee Robinson has signed from Everton for a fee in the region of £2m and he will have back up from 21-year-old Tom Pearce signed from Leeds United for a fee thought to be in the region of £300,000.

In Midfield: Central midfielder Lewis MacLeod signed on a free transfer from Brentford and has been joined by 22-year-old Joe Williams who was signed from Everton for a fee in the region of £1m. MacLeod and Williams will have to compete for a starting place with Captain Samy Morsy, Welsh international Lee Evans, former Rangers midfielder Kal Naismith and England youth international Jensen Weir.

In Attack: Latics now have a wealth of attacking talent following the signings of Portsmouth winger Jamal Lowe for £2.5m, striker Kieffer Moore from Barnsley for £3m and loan signing striker Bright Enobakhare from Wolves.

Latics already have forwards Joe Garner, Josh Windass, Michael Jacobs, Gavin Massey, Anthony Pilkington, Gary Roberts, Callum Lang and Joe Gelhardt so competition for a place in the starting eleven will be fierce.

The club’s owners the International Entertainment Corporation have shown their financial commitment to make progress in the Championship and have spent in the region of £10m on transfer fees as well as developing the Academy infrastructure and Stadium facilities. It is now up to Paul Cook and the players to show their commitment.

Only time will tell if Latics are capable of making a promotion push but they now look well equipped in all areas of the pitch and those media pundits may have to revise their predictions.

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Cook’s Latics prove too tasty for Cardiff – Wigan Athletic 3 Cardiff City 2

Josh WindassMan of the Match Josh Windass

* Match report by Jamie Aspinall.

Wigan Athletic’s newly revealed mascot Crusty the Pie seems to have grabbed the attention of the media and was on show to cheer on the team as Latics served up another opening day victory.

Paul Cook seems to know the recipe for winning the first game of the season as it’s his third win in successive seasons since taking charge.

An entertaining, end-to-end game saw Cardiff take the lead after 20 minutes through Joe Ralls, however Wigan went ahead in the second half with two smart finishes from Michael Jacobs and Windass, before former Latic, Omar Bogle levelled with 20 minutes remaining.

It required a delicious, curling finish from Lee Evans into the top corner to seal the 3-2 win for the home side.

The game was lively throughout with lots of attacking play from both sides and the energy was high. Cardiff were lucky to have eleven men on the pitch in the first ten minutes, as Joe Ralls could easily have seen red for a meaty challenge on Evans.

After ten minutes Jacobs showed great tenacity with fast, interchanging play with Windass before laying the ball off to Antonee Robinson to cross the ball into Anthony Pilkington who was inches away from connecting for a tap-in.

Jacobs continued to impress with his trickery and perfectly weighted through balls and along with Windass and Robinson, Latics were producing the majority of the attacking play.

However, it was Cardiff who took the lead. Goalkeeper David Marshall, in his first game for Wigan since signing from Hull City, was only able to parry a succession of shots into the path of the opposition before Joe Ralls calmly slotted a half volley past the despairing keeper and his covering defenders.

Marshall will be disappointed he didn’t clear the danger however his performance improved as the game went on.

This didn’t stop Latics from pushing forward. Twenty three minutes in, Robinson crossed for Joe Garner who volleyed a shot towards goal to try to level the score.

The striker was convinced that the defensive block by Aden Flint was with his hand but it was hard to tell due to the proximity of the block. Paul Cook appeared to be outraged as he was shown a yellow card for arguing with the fourth official.

As the first half came to a close Latics were probably unlucky to go into the break a goal down.

Cook spoke after the game about how his team had struggled to pick themselves up after knock-backs and had worked hard in pre-season to be mentally stronger to fight back during games.

This certainly appeared to have helped as the players didn’t seem phased in the second half.

It was Cardiff who had the best chance early on after the break when Bobby Reid fired just wide of the post.

Fortunately for Latics he did not convert the chance and almost immediately after, Windass was through on goal at the other end and was brought to the ground by a clumsy challenge from Morrison.

Windass had been too hot to handle for most of the game but couldn’t keep his cool to convert the resulting penalty as he fired his low shot against the post.

To give credit to Windass he kept persevering, and almost ten minutes later his free kick was more fortunate than his penalty and bounced off the wall, straight into the path of Jacobs to equalize.

The former Rangers striker was again in on the action when he received the ball in the box and rather than choose to shoot first time, he stayed composed, brought the ball down and picked his moment to drill his shot into the far corner to give Latics a 2-1 lead.

The game had all the ingredients of a thriller, and it was no surprise when former Wigan striker Omar Bogle was introduced after 64 minutes and caused his old club problems.

He immediately forced his way past Nathan Byrne on the left side and his cross was destined to find a Cardiff forward until Marshall stretched out an arm to divert the ball for a corner.

Bogle only needed a further few minutes before he was able to goad the home fans after he was left unmarked in the centre of the area and volleyed in a cross from the left at close range.

Latics’ defending was non-existent and Bogle made sure he rubbed salt into the wound by putting his hand to his ear to celebrate in front of the home supporters.

The hosts had had the majority of the forward play and with twenty minutes to go could easily have crumbled after the Cardiff comeback. But unlike some Latics’ teams of previous seasons, the chances kept coming and they kept surging forward.

After only five minutes of the equalizer Evans found himself with space on the edge of the box and completely out of the blue, found the sweet spot of his boot and unleashed an incredible curling shot into the top corner.

It was no more than Latics deserved and it was a perfect winning goal for what was an enthralling game.

Latics introduced new signing Jamal Lowe after 77 Minutes and have another signing in the oven, as they hope to bring Barnsley striker Keiffer Moore to the DW Stadium.

With these healthy additions, Cook appears to be building a stronger squad for this season after consolidating in the Championship last season, and the signs are certainly promising.

The new additions will also give him food for thought when selecting his best starting line-up and it will be interesting to see if the new players can help Latics to rise up the Championship table.

Posted in Championship, Joe Ralls, Josh Windass, Lee Evans, Michael Jacobs, Omar Bogle, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Saturday Comes Wigan Athletic preview 2019/20

Paul Cook

When Saturday Comes magazine have once again asked for my views on Latics’ prospects for the forthcoming season so I thought I’d record my responses here.

1. Realistically, how will you do?
Very hard to say, the optimist in me suggests a top half finish as we have some talented young players coming through and Paul Cook will have made some astute signings. The pessimist says it will be another relegation battle due to the departures of Reece James and Nick Powell and a lack of suitable replacements.

2. Which teams did you like and dislike most last season?
Liked Sheffield United for their adventurous style of play and disliked Millwall because it continues to be a horrible club with horrible fans.

3. What was the best moment of last season?
Ten-man Latics moving towards Championship safety with an unlikely 2-1 victory at Elland Road and in the process damaging Leeds United’s automatic promotion prospects.

4. What was the worst moment of last season?
Probably the dreadful performance in the 4-0 defeat against local rivals Preston North End at Deepdale in October.

5. What money-making opportunity has your club so far missed out on?
The club’s owners the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) are a Hong Kong-based hotel and casino group and have already signed an agreement with the world’s largest poker group, The Stars Group, and are rumoured to be planning to build a new ‘Wigan Casino’ at one end of the stadium.

6. We’d like your prediction for next season’s League table.

1. Leeds
2. Fulham
3. Sheffield W
4. Cardiff
5. West Brom
6. Derby
7. Bristol City
8. Middlesbrough
9. N.Forest
10. Brentford
11. Wigan
12. Huddersfield
13. Preston
14. Swansea
15. Blackburn
16. Stoke
17. Birmingham
18. Luton
19. QPR
20. Hull
21. Barnsley
22. Reading
23. Millwall
24. Charlton

The full WSC pre-season guide for 2019/20 is now available at your local newsagents.

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Summer Reading – The Best Football Books

Now that summer is finally upon us I thought I’d share my reviews of the best football books for reading on the beach or by the pool. Kick off the summer with one of these great reads.

Black Boots and Football Pinks. 50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game by Daniel Gray.

Daniel Gray celebrates 50 lost wonders of the beautiful game such as goalkeepers in trousers and hats, proper division names, turf patterns, pixelated scoreboards, and, of course Saturday evening pink newspapers… “They were gritty stardust that made football special.”

Done Deal – An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business by Daniel Geey.

If you are interested in the inner workings of the football industry this could be the book for you. Sports lawyer Geey provides insights into what goes on behind the scenes with high stakes transfers, television rights negotiations, player negotiations, player misconduct or multi-million pound club takeovers.

Going to the Match – The Passion for Football by Duncan Hamilton

Hamilton’s book is inspired by L.S. Lowry’s famously evocative painting ‘Going to the Match’. The artist painted the supporters approaching Bolton Wanderers’ Burnden Park in 1953 and Hamilton uses the painting as his starting point. It is an enjoyable read as Hamilton travels as a fan to games throughout the 2017/18 season taking in matches from all levels of the football hierarchy across England, Scotland and Europe.

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J.L.Carr.

The re-published ‘How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup’ by J.L.Carr is a classic football tale from a bygone age but it still has a resonance for football fans today. It is a story about a small village team from the back of beyond who challenge for the greatest cup competition in world football.

Book Review: Living on the Volcano – The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael CalvinLiving on the Volcano – The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael Calvin.

At a time when the average tenure of a football manager is getting shorter than ever, Michael Calvin provides an absorbing insight into the mind of the modern-day football manager. Calvin gets into the psyche of managers who are currently at the top of their profession but also those who are struggling at the bottom or who are now out of work.

Moving the Goalposts – A Yorkshire Tragedy by Anthony Clavane.

Anthony Clavane’s remarkable insight into the demise of Yorkshire’s sporting institutions in the context of a post-industrial world is now available in paperback. Clavane believes that ‘sport has gone wrong’ in the sense that it has been increasingly infected by greed, rampant individualism and amorality. Huge sections of society have been disenfranchised by a new sporting order in which money, rather than collective endeavour, determines success.

No Hunger in Paradise. The Players. The Journey. The Dream by Michael Calvin.

Michael Calvin provides a telling critique of what’s wrong with youth development in English football. He journeys through the landscape of youth football interviewing players, parents and coaches from deprived inner city areas; non-league grounds, mega-rich Premier League academies and the English national headquarters.

Saturday, 3pm. 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football by Daniel Gray.

This is a celebration of what makes football so special. Those golden moments that illuminates a football supporter’s life. These short vignettes of prose-poetry capture the essence of what is still good in the game. What may seem mundane to non-football lovers such as: ‘Seeing a ground from the train’; ‘Getting the fixture list’; ‘Listening to the results in a car’; ‘The first day of the season’ and so on are all rightly identified as a significant part of the football experience.

State of Play - Under the skin of the modern game by Michael CalvinState of Play – Under the Skin of the Modern Game by Michael Calvin.

In State of Play Michael Calvin provides an ambitious, in-depth and wide-ranging examination of the current game. Calvin takes as his inspiration Arthur Hopcrafts’s ‘The Football Man,’ which was written two years after England won the World Cup and is regarded as one of the best football books ever written.

The Club: How the Premier League Became the Richest, Most Disruptive Business in Sport by Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson.

In ‘The Club’ two Wall Street Journal writers Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson provide a telling insight into the excesses of the Premier League (PL) and how it has become a global business with little concern for local communities. This is the story of how the PL broke away from the Football League in 1992 and how it has now become the playground of billionaires with designs on global domination.

The Illustrated History of Football by David Squires.

The Guardian cartoonist David Squires’ first book ‘The Illustrated History of Football’ provides a wonderfully entertaining take on some of football’s big moments. Squires provides a humorous and insightful journey through the evolution of the game commencing with primal man and moving right up to Jamie Vardy. Well maybe not so much of a journey then?

Whatever happened to Billy Parks? By Gareth Roberts

Whatever Happened to Billy Parks? by Gareth R Roberts.

This is a fictional account of wasted talent but with the possibility of a remarkable redemption. Right from the beginning we are emotionally drawn to Billy; he has a difficult upbringing and his football success comes as a welcome relief. We care about him as we follow his developing football career, and relationships with his family and friends. Then his self-destructive tendencies start his degeneration into drinking and womanising. Finally there is an opportunity to make things right.

World in Motion -The Inside Story of Italia ’90, The Tournament That Changed Football by Simon Hart.

Simon Hart revisits Italia ‘90 with an entertaining journey through one of the most culturally significant World Cups. It was a rare tournament with Scotland, Ireland and England all qualifying. It was a time of Gazza’s tears, Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ and New Order’s ‘World In Motion’. Italia ‘90 was to prove groundbreaking in so many different ways.

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Tough opening to Latics’ Championship campaign

Football on the pitch

The Championship fixtures for 2019/2020  have been announced and Wigan Athletic will face Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City at home on the opening day of the season.  This is followed up with an away game at local rivals Preston North End, a home game against Leeds United and another away game at Middlesbrough.

It’s a difficult start for Paul Cook’s team against three of the promotion favourites Cardiff, Leeds and Middlesbrough and at PNE where they suffered a 4-0 defeat last season.

The League Cup first round fixtures are scheduled for Wednesday 14 August and the draw will take place tonight.

There’ll be local derbies against Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers but Bolton have been relegated and are now in League One.

The derbies are scheduled as follows:

Saturday 10 August 2019 – Preston North End (A)

Saturday 21 December 2019 – Blackburn Rovers (A)

Saturday 8 February 2020 – Preston North End (H)

Wednesday 18 March 2020 – Blackburn Rovers (H)

Christmas and New Year fixtures have Latics at home against Derby County on Boxing Day, away at Nottingham Forest on 29th December and away at Birmingham City on New Year’s Day.

Latics will round off the campaign at home to Fulham on Saturday 2nd May 2019.

The full fixture schedule is available on the Wigan Athletic official website at https://www.wiganathletic.com

Posted in Cardiff City, Championship, Fixtures, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

End of season run offers promise of better things to come – Wigan Athletic 1 Millwall 0

Nick Powell

Nick Powell may decide to stay with Latics

Latics ended their Championship season on a high with a 1-0 victory against Millwall at the DW Stadium.

Joe Garner scored the only goal when he finished smartly after Nick Powell’s strike was parried by Millwall keeper David Martin.

The Lions had a goal disallowed when Ryan Leonard’s effort was ruled out for a foul on Jonas Olsson and Powell was later on hand to clear off the line from Jake Cooper’s goalbound strike.

But Latics enjoyed the greater possession and had more shots than the Lions and just about deserved to take the three points to continue their fine end of season form.

With important wins against Leeds, PNE and Millwall and draws against Norwich and Birmingham they have climbed to 18th in the final Championship table.

Paul Cook made four changes for the last match of the season with Christian Walton returning as keeper, Anthony Pilkington and Kal Naismith and Reece James coming in for Jamie Jones, Josh Windass, Nathan Byrne and Darron Gibson.

Latics started brightly and forced an early corner which Chey Dunkley headed just over the crossbar.

Millwall responded and former Latics loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe crossed for Lee Gregory but the striker’s effort was off target.

Latics then took control of the game creating several good goal scoring opportunities before taking the lead after 15 minutes.

Garner forced a good save from keeper Martin with a strike from 25-yards and Antonee Robinson crossed too powerfully for Pilkington, with Powell also well-placed for a cut back.

Soon afterwards a neat back heel by Naismith set up Powell who saw his powerful shot pushed out by Martin only for Garner to smash home the rebound.

Millwall had a chance to draw level as Steve Morison headed Shane Ferguson’s cross just over at the back post.

The Lions had a goal disallowed when Leonard’s effort was correctly ruled out for a foul on Jonas Olsson in the penalty area.

Latics then struggled to clear a Millwall corner but Powell was on hand to deny Cooper with a goal-line clearance.

The hosts went into the interval with a 1-0 advantage but the visitors should’ve drawn level early in the second-half after Gregory’s initial strike was well saved by Walton, Tunnicliffe blazed the follow up high and wide.

Prolific youth striker Charlie Jolley was handed his Latics debut on the hour mark replacing Pilkington, and he quickly showed he wasn’t afraid of the step up as he met Robinson’s cross but fired wide of the target.

Captain for the day Reece James was substituted with three minutes remaining and received a rapturous standing ovation from the home fans.

The almost impossible task to replace the Chelsea loanee will now commence but the impressive 19-year-old will surely become a Premier League and England star in the near future.

Neither side had been able to create any clear cut chances in the closing stages and Latics were able to hold on for the victory and maintain their good end of season form.

It’s been pleasing to see so many promising young players coming through from the Academy recently with Charlie Jolley, Joe Geldhardt and Jensen Weir all getting their Championship debuts.

On another positive note, rumours have been circulating that Nick Powell may decide to stay with Latics after he was offered an improved financial package.

The club will still need some significant additions if they are to challenge in the top half of the table next season but the prospects are now looking much better than they did just two months ago.

Posted in Championship, Joe Garner, Millwall, Nick Powell, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment