In the space of the last ten days Wigan manager Owen Coyle has made seven signings. Despite the club undergoing massive change, with Roberto Martinez, his backroom staff and many of the star players leaving, Coyle has lost no time in recruiting quality players to bolster his squad. Grant Holt, Marc-Antoine Fortune, James Perch, Scott Carson, Stephen Crainey, Thomas Rogne and Chris McCann have all been added in quick time. In this piece we look at the seven players in more detail and assess their potential roles as Latics attempt to make a quick return to the Premier League.
It is no coincidence that nearly all of the players recruited so far have Championship experience, and in the case of Carson, Crainey, Holt and McCann, all have achieved promotion to the Premier League from the Championship.
Coyle’s first signing was Midfielder Chris McCann from Lancashire rivals Burnley.
The 25-year-old was signed on a free transfer and reunited with the manager who worked with him as Clarets boss.
A number of clubs from the Championship were believed to be interested in McCann, but Wigan won the race for his signature.
“He’s a powerful, attacking midfielder who scores goals, plays from box-to-box and isn’t scared to put his foot in when it comes to winning the ball back.
I had the pleasure of working with him at Burnley, and on a number of occasions we turned down some big-money bids for him, such was his importance to the team and the integral role he played in helping the club win promotion to the Premier League at a young age.
He’s still young in football-terms, has plenty to offer and I hope to see him playing a big role at Wigan Athletic.”
McCann made 238 league appearances for Burnley between 2005 and 2013 and scored 27 times, following his arrival from Home Farm.
The Irishman was part of the Burnley team that won promotion to the top flight in 2009 and he will be hoping to repeat the achievement with Latics in 2013/14.
Another signing on a free transfer was the 23-year-old centre-back Thomas Rogne. The highly regarded Norwegian international signed a three-year contract at the DW Stadium after his contract with Celtic expired.
Rogne has two senior caps, as well as helping Norway to the Under-21 European Championship semi-finals this summer.
His career has been plagued by injury, he suffered cruciate ligament damage in 2008 and missed a full season with his Norwegian club Stabaek. His time at Celtic was also troubled by injury and he only made 50 appearances during his 3 seasons at Celtic Park.
Rogne’s signing is something of a calculated risk by the Wigan manager. The big Norwegian certainly has the potential to become a top defender, Ex-Celtic player Vidar Riseth described him as “the best young talent to come out for Norway in the past ten years”. But he must stay fit and avoid any recurrence of his previous injuries, if he is to reach his full potential.
Wigan acquired full-back Stephen Crainey on a free transfer from Championship rivals Blackpool. The Scotland international joined on a one-year contract after turning down the chance of another season with the Seasiders.
It is likely that Crainey will take up the left back position vacated by Maynor Figueroa who signed for Hull City.
The former Celtic, Southampton and Leeds United defender will no doubt be looking forward to linking up with the rest of Wigan’s Scottish contingent.
Crainey has been a mainstay in the Blackpool defence during their time in the Premier League and Championship making 214 appearances and scoring 4 goals.
The addition of Crainey looks like a good short-term solution to Wigan’s left back position. The 32-year-old’s experience in the Championship could be invaluable. He helped the Tangerines win promotion to the Premier League in 2010, and he will be hoping to be part of another promotion winning team in 2013/14.
Another signing to strengthen the defence is former England international goalkeeper Scott Carson from Turkish side Bursaspor for a fee of around £700,000. Reports suggest that Carson was performing well for his club side, but wanted to return to England for personal reasons.
He will now compete with Ali Al-Habsi (who is currently injured) for the number one jersey after signing a three-year contract.
The 27-year-old Cumbrian won the last of his four England caps in 2011, and has played in the Premier League for five different clubs including Liverpool and Aston Villa.
Carson is another player who has previously won promotion to the Premier League with another club, West Bromwich Albion in his case.
Competition for the goalkeeping jersey should prove beneficial to Latics as they try to regain their top flight status.
The signing of Newcastle defender James Perch, for a fee in the region of £700,000, was quite a surprise to Newcastle’s fans. ‘Perchinho’ played 37 games for the Magpies last season and many were surprised when the new Director of Football, Joe Kinnear, allowed him to leave.
The right footed 27-year-old, who began his career at Nottingham Forest before joining the Magpies in 2010, has agreed a four-year contract with the Latics.
Mansfield-born Perch played 80 times for Newcastle, his only goal coming at Manchester United last season.
Perch previously helped Forest win promotion from League One to the Championship by claiming the runners-up spot in the third tier.
Perch is a versatile player who gives 100 per cent and can be used in defence or in midfield and is another astute signing by the Wigan manager.
Wigan’s strike force was reinforced by the well-travelled striker Marc-Antoine Fortune, signed a two-year deal at the DW Stadium following his move from West Bromwich Albion. The French forward began his career in France with Angouleme in 1998, before joining Lille four years later, going on to spend time with Rouen (loan), Stade Brest, Utrecht, and Nancy before moving to the UK.
Fortune signed for West Brom in 2010, having already spent time on loan at the club during the 2008/09 season. In total he made 80 league appearances for the Baggies either side of a year at Parkhead with Celtic, whom he joined from French side Nancy.
The 6ft striker also has Championship experience following his short loan spell at Doncaster Rovers in 2011.
The 32-year-old had reportedly been coveted by a number of clubs following his exit from The Hawthorns at the end of last season.
Coyle was very pleased with his acquisition, saying:
“To bring a player of such calibre to the football club is a great piece of business.
He’s shown his qualities at the very highest level, and when I spoke to Steve Clarke at West Brom he told me how he didn’t want to lose him, which goes to show how important he has been at his former club and proof that he has the capabilities to be a Premier League forward, never mind a Championship one.”
The big striker could be a useful addition to the Wigan squad, particularly if Owen Coyle goes with the 4-4-2 formation that he has used in the past.
The signing of striker Grant Holt for £2m from Norwich City was quite a coup for the club.
Coyle was clearly delighted to have added the 32-year-old to his squad. He said,
“This is a fantastic piece of business for us at a really good price.”
Grant is a proven goalscorer at every level and he will definitely bring something new to the table that we were missing in the squad.
There is already a great buzz about the place since the new boys have started coming through the door and this is another one that will really lift the place.
He’s been a hero to the fans at every club he’s been and I know the Norwich fans are sad to see him go, he’s been one of the icons of their success in recent years. But now it’s the Wigan fans’ turn to enjoy him and we’re all delighted he’s coming on board.”
Holt scored 78 goals in his four years in Norfolk, including 15 league goals in Norwich’s first season back in the top flight in 2011/12, and scored eight Premier League goals last term.
During the Canaries’ first season in the Premier League, the centre forward scored 15 goals to finish the campaign as the division’s second highest English scorer, behind Wayne Rooney.
Holt has won his fair share of personal honours which include Player of the Year awards with Nottingham Forest, Shrewsbury Town and with Norwich on three consecutive occasions between 2009 and 2012.
He has been named in three PFA Teams of the Year, for the Championship, League One and League Two.
Holt is renowned as a fierce competitor, he is a proven goalscorer, with an excellent record in both the Premier League and Championship.
Norwich fans were full of praise for him and suggested that we got a bargain for around £2 million. If he goes onto score 15 or 20 goals, his signing will be regarded as masterstroke by the Wigan manager.
Verdict: Owen Coyle is building a squad capable of challenging for the top places in the Championship.
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Can’t wait to see them all in action. One thing that seems apparent from all the signings is that they are keen to play for Wigan and hungry to play football, think Coyle’s enthusiasm mixed with our high profile FA cup success has helped and is driving us in the right direction to have a good go at getting back up, obviously time will tell but it’s a positive start.