12th Man – You Are My Sunshine When Skies Are Grey


Chey Dunkley

Last Saturday in some of the worst conditions I have experienced at a football match, Latics still managed to stay composed, play controlled football and produce a memorable victory at Bloomfield Road.

In the extremely wet and windy conditions Chey Dunkley had inadvertently gifted Blackpool the lead when he headed over Jamie Jones.

But the big central defender was able to shrug off his disappointment and show great character by first drawing Latics level just before half time and then giving them the lead in the second half.

The icing was put on the proverbial cake when the fans’ favourite, David Perkins, scored his first ever goal for the club much to the great delight of the travelling fans.

The performance was testament to the power of manager Paul Cook’s leadership skills, as many teams would have crumbled in the adverse conditions after going a goal behind so early in the game away from home.

Latics’ players showed their skill and determination by persevering with their short passing football and not resorting to long ball tactics.

Cook and his coaching team have instilled good habits into the players and there was no sense of panic despite going a goal behind.

The strength and depth of Latics’ squad is also paying dividends as despite the absence of the suspended Lee Evans and the injured Will Grigg they have continued their excellent form.

It was an important result, which helped Latics to open up an eight-point gap on Bradford City and Charlton Athletic and kept the pressure on surprise leaders Shrewsbury Town.

After 15 games the League One table is starting to take some shape with many of the teams expected to be in the promotion mix now in the top half of the table.

Latics will face a real test of their promotion credentials on Saturday when they come up against Blackburn Rovers.

Rovers were the close season favourites for promotion and after an indifferent start to the campaign they have now moved into the play-off places with two games in hand on most of the teams above them.

Since Tony Mowbray was appointed as their manager in February this year they have only lost nine of his 32 games in charge, a win rate of nearly 44 per cent.

One of Latics’ former transfer targets Rovers midfielder Bradley Dack is starting to hit some form and has gained many plaudits for his performances.

The 23-year-old former Gillingham star is even being tipped by his manager to one day play in the Premier League.

But Latics have their own special midfielder in captain Sam Morsy and I’m expecting the hard-tackling Egyptian to keep Dack in check on this occasion and help Latics to maintain their excellent home record.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 27th October 2017.

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Bradley Dack, Chey Dunkley, David Perkins, League One, Tony Mowbray, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wet and wild but Wigan do wonders – Blackpool 1 Wigan Athletic 3


Blackpool defend a Latics corner

Chey Dunkley scored an unusual ‘hat-trick’ and David Perkins grabbed his first ever goal for the club as Latics defeated Blackpool at a very wet and windswept Bloomfield Road.

Dunkley gifted the Seasiders the lead after only eight minutes when he headed over his own keeper Jamie Jones and Kyle Vassell followed up.

Despite the setback and dreadful conditions Latics stayed composed and continued to play controlled football and they got their reward in first half stoppage time when Dunkley finished from close range.

Early in the second half Dunkley added his ‘third’ goal to give Latics a deserved lead when Gavin Massey’s shot broke to him inside the area.

Latics sealed the three points on 82 minutes when Perkins scored his first ever goal for the club, much to the delight of the travelling fans.

Paul Cook kept the same team that drew 1-1 at Gillingham on Tuesday night, with Will Grigg injured and Lee Evans suspended.

It was something of a surprise when Blackpool went in front after only eight minutes. Dunkley gifting the home team when he tried to head the ball back to his keeper but instead headed over the advancing Jamie Jones and over the line with Kyle Vassell following up.

In almost torrential rain and swirling wind Michael Jacobs went close for Latics when he headed against the post midway through the half.

Nick Powell volleyed just over, before in first half stoppage time Dunkley levelled from close range after Ivan Toney’s header was cleared off the line.

Much to the players’ and fans’ relief the wind and rain relented in the second half and Latics took control of matters on the pitch.

Dunkley gave Latics the lead adding an imperfect ‘hat-trick’, following up after Massey’s shot fell to him inside the six yard box on 54 minutes.

The visitors were well on top now and went close through Powell, Toney and Massey.

It was all over on 82 minutes when substitute Perkins scored his first ever goal in front of the ecstatic travelling support.

Michael Jacobs’ angled pass found Perkins on the penalty spot and the former Blackpool midfielder slid in to give Latics a very memorable victory.


David Perkins celebrates his goal in front of the travelling fans

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12th Man – Big news in Little Wigan

Dave Whelan

The Dave Whelan era could be coming to an end

This week’s news was dominated by off the field matters – the announcement of the likely takeover of Latics by a Far East sports betting firm K8. It was something of a surprise to most fans even though it has been known for some time that owner Dave Whelan was looking for a buyer for the club and Latics Director and former Manchester City Chief Executive Garry Cook had been brought in to broker such a deal.

A process of due diligence is currently being undertaken by the English Football League (EFL) as they will have to assess if the online gambling and casinos firm are a ‘fit and proper owner’ for Latics.

The EFL has been reappraising its owners’ and directors’ test after a catalogue of disastrous financial and administrative problems at clubs throughout the divisions.

Leyton Orient, Leeds United, Coventry City, Nottingham Forest, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers have all recently suffered at the hands of dubious owners.

The EFL says it has responded and the terms upon which individuals are considered fit and proper to take ownership of a club are being reviewed.

However whether a fit and proper test can prevent the catalogue of bad club owners that have afflicted football remains to be seen.

Whelan has a reputation for driving a hard bargain so it will be interesting to see what the exact deal entails. He may want certain assurances before selling up.

He might, for example, want to retain a shareholding in the club and require the involvement of his grandson David Sharpe on the board as well as Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson.

There are question marks about who will own the Stadium and issues about Wigan Rugby’s tenancy and Whelan is expected to want safeguards about the future running of the club.

There may be similarities about the agreement with the recent takeover at Portsmouth, where former Walt Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner took control.

Eisner pledged to form a heritage board, which would protect the club’s name, colours, and badge and prevent any relocation to a ground more than 15 miles from the city centre.

The K8 investors have big ambitions, are promising to invest heavily and are aiming to get the club back into the Premier League.

Whether they can commit the resources to do that however remains to be seen. Particularly as the sums invested by, for example, Championship clubs are very significant indeed.

The fans seem fairly divided about whether the takeover is for the long term good of the club. Certainly any agreement with K8 should build in safeguards so the club preserves its heritage and identity.

There are clearly risks involved in taking on new backers, but ultimately the club will require new investment if it is to be successful.

Many fans have experienced the Premier League, Europa Cup and FA Cup and are excited at the prospect of new investment and the possibility of new successes.

It was inevitable that the Whelan era would come to an end at some point and we can only hope that the new era will prove to be equally successful.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 20th October 2017.

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Morsy rescues a point for below par Latics – Gillingham 1 Wigan Athletic 1


Sam Morsy’s late strike saves Latics

A superb 20-yard strike by captain Sam Morsy rescued a point for Wigan Athletic as they toiled to overcome League One strugglers Gillingham at Priestfield.

Latics started briskly and should have have been ahead in the opening half as Max Power, Nathan Byrne, and Michael Jacobs all went close but having failed to capitalise on their chances they paid the penalty in the second half when the Gills went ahead on 54 minutes.

The Gills Sean Clare was allowed plenty of space to cross and Tom Eaves got between the two central defenders to head past Jamie Jones.

The home team had three good chances to seal the victory when Josh Parker, Billy Bingham and Elliott List went close but with eight minutes remaining Morsy curled a superb shot into the top left hand corner to draw the teams level.

Latics might even have won it in the dying minutes with chances for substitutes Gary Roberts and Noel Hunt.

Wigan drop to second in the table behind Shrewsbury although they have a five point cushion over third placed Bradford City.

Paul Cook made one change from the team which had beaten Southend United with Ivan Toney replacing Will Grigg up front.

Latics could have gone ahead in the first minute when Max Power’s shot from outside the box was deflected narrowly wide.

Michael Jacobs then forced a save from Gills keeper Tomas Holy and fired another narrowly wide, while Nathan Byrne had a shot saved at the near post.

Dan Burn headed over from a good position as Latics looked to capitalise on their dominance.

Against the run of play Eaves had a great chance to put The Gills ahead when clean through but a brilliant late challenge by Chey Dunkley saved the day.

All square the the interval but the home team went ahead on 54 minutes when Clare was allowed plenty of space to cross from the right and Eaves headed home between central defenders Dunkley and Burn.

Latics were stunned and The Gills then had three great opportunities to increase their lead firstly when Eaves played Parker in on goal, but the winger shot wide of the target. Then Billy Bingham had his shot well saved by Jones before Elliott List had another chance but saw his effort deflected on to the post by Dunkley.

Having had a reprieve Latics desperately searched for an equaliser and they drew level in the 82nd minute. Nathan Byrne fed Morsy on the edge of the box and the captain came to Latics’ rescue with a curled strike into the top corner of the net.

Substitutes Noel Hunt and Gary Roberts went close late on as Latics searched for the winner, but overall they will be relieved to have gained a point from a match they could so easily have lost.

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Title favourites looking good for promotion – Wigan Athletic 3 Southend United 0

Michael Jacobs2

Michael Jacobs

Latics moved to the top of League One with comfortable 3-0 victory against mid-table Southend United at the DW Stadium.

They went ahead after only eight minutes when Michael Jacobs deflected shot evaded the Shrimpers keeper Mark Oxley. It was a something of a surprise that Latics didn’t add to their lead in the first half after another dominant display.

Southend’s Jermaine McGlashan was sent off on the hour mark for a two-footed challenge on Callum Elder.

Nick Powell and substitute Ivan Toney added further goals late on to give the scoreline a more accurate representation of Latics’ dominance.

Wigan made two changes to the starting line up with Captain Sam Morsy returning after international duty with Eqypt and Michael Jacobs returning from injury.

The home team were on top from the kick off with Nathan Byrne quickly forcing Oxley to tip the ball over the crossbar.

It was not long before they were ahead with Jacobs’ shot taking a fortuitous deflection past the Southend keeper.

Nick Powell then blasted his volley from the edge of the box over the crossbar.

Byrne was then denied when he jinked past several defenders in the box but Oxley saved well with his feet.

Dru Yearwood wasted a good opportunity for the Shrimpers in a rare attack. Latics keeper Jamie Jones didn’t have a save to make throughout the half.

It continued to be one way traffic at the start of the second half as Latics created more chances. This time Jacobs drove into the box evading a couple of challenges before his angled low shot was well saved by Oxley.

Chey Dunkley then went close with a header from Max Power’s corner, and Jacobs forced another good save from the Shrimpers keeper.

On the hour mark Jermaine McGlashan made a reckless two-footed challenge on Callum Elder and referee John Busby had no hesitation in issuing a red card.

Despite having the extra man advantage Latics became a little complacent and with the match still in the balance Southend started to pose more of a threat.

Nick Powell was dropping too deep and Latics weren’t creating as many opportunities. However, with the introduction of Gary Roberts for the tiring Jacobs on 78 minutes they upped their game.

As Southend pushed men forward for an equaliser Latics counter- attacked and Roberts’ through ball found Powell in the clear and he showed great composure by rounding the keeper and slotting the ball into the empty net.

Roberts was then involved the third goal when his low cross from the left found an unmarked Ivan Toney who finished with ease from six yards out.

Latics have now won seven of their last eight games and have moved to the top of the table on goal difference. They have confirmed their standing as League One title favourites and who would bet against them on current form.





Posted in Ivan Toney, League One, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell, Southend United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Nick Powell a fragile genius



Nick Powell

Media pundits and football fans are prone to hyperbole but Nick Powell is justifying all the hype this season. Powell is an exceptional talent who is proving to be a cut above most players in League One. He is Latics’ top scorer with six goals so far and he is certainly capable of bagging 20 plus at this level.

The goalscoring midfielder is now showing the type of form that encouraged Manchester United to spend £6m back in 2012. The Cheshire born Powell represented England from U16 right through U21 level and was always regarded as a very unique player.

Unfortunately due to the wealth of talent at Old Trafford, a succession of injuries and question marks about his attitude meant that he was unable to establish himself in the Premier League.

Powell had spells on loan with Latics, Leicester City and Hull City before signing permanently on a three-year contract in 2016.

Injury restricted his appearances to only 21 last season but he still almost managed to rescue Latics from relegation with some startling late season performances including an 11-minute hat-trick against Barnsley.

However until Paul Cook took over as Latics manager he was unable to put together a consistent run of appearances. Cook sent him to Everton’s training facility pre-season in a bid to resolve the niggling injury problems and this appears to have made a difference this season.

The manager has a good working relationship with Powell and although he rarely completes a full 90 minutes he gets plenty of game time. While he is on the pitch he is almost unstoppable and the team have usually confirmed the three points before he exits the pitch and milks the rapturous applause from the fans.

He is supremely confident on the pitch and very difficult to dispossess. He is two footed with tremendous skill and technique. He is a good header of the ball and is usually clinical with his free kicks and penalties but he is also on a short fuse and looks like he might be sent off for haranguing the referee or when seeking retaliation.

He is still only 23-years-old and has a lot still to learn both on and off the pitch. He was arrested for drunk driving back in April 2014 and was subsequently left out of Latics’ team to play QPR in the Championship play-offs that season.

He jokingly calls himself a ‘pure sloth’ which reflects his lethargic approach to off-the-field matters including training. In the past he has been outspoken and could be something of a maverick but he now believes those days are behind him and he is concentrating on his football.

Powell is probably the best player in League One and is producing some of the best form of his career and he may have found the perfect manager in the jocular Cook. If he continues to mature and avoid further injury he can lead Latics back to the Championship and one day he may even return to the top level.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 13th October 2017.

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Latics show quality in depth – Scunthorpe United 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Scuntorpe away.jpg

Scunthorpe defend a Wigan corner

Wigan Athletic showed the quality of their squad with an important 2-1 win at last season’s play-off contenders Scunthorpe United.

Latics were without captain Sam Morsy, who was away on international duty with Egypt, and in-form midfielder Michael Jacobs at Glandford Park but they still produced another impressive performance.

After an even first-half Dan Burn gave Latics the lead after the break with a fine turn and powerful finish from eight yards out.

Latics were reduced to ten men on 57 minutes when Lee Evans motioned to head butt Funso Ojo after he had been fouled.

But despite the setback Latics went two ahead on 74 minutes when Jamie Jones route one goal kick was misjudged by Rory McArdle and Nick Powell nipped in front to finish from the corner of the six yard box.

The Iron pulled a goal back through Ojo on 90 minutes and despite five minutes of added time Latics held on to record their sixth win in their last seven matches.

Without Morsy and Jacobs, Max Power and Gary Roberts came into the team which had defeated Walsall.

As per usual under Paul Cook, Latics started on the front foot and Nick Powell was involved in most of their best moves.

Powell went closest early on when he headed Callum Elder’s cross into the side-netting.

Latics had a scare on the half-hour mark however when McArdle’s header looped over keeper Jones but acting captain Dan Burn made an acrobatic goal line clearance to save the day.

Latics were still pressing though and might have gone ahead when Chey Dunkley headed Lee Evans’ free-kick just wide of the target.

A neat interchange between Powell and Grigg then set up Gavin Massey who fired his shot narrowly wide of Matt Gilks’ left-hand post.

All square at the interval but Latics looked much sharper at the beginning of the second- half.

They went ahead on 54 minutes, when following a corner Burn turned superbly in the box and smashed an unstoppable shot past Gilks.

Latics looked set to go on and add to their lead but they suffered a setback when Lee Evans was dismissed for retaliation after being fouled by Funso Ojo. It was a silly mistake by Evans and it could have proved costly.

Despite being down to 10-men Latics continued to play good football and might have increased their lead but Dunkley’s header was cleared off the line by Kevin van Veen.

At the other end Sam Mantom then forced a good save from Jones.

But it was Latics who increased their lead on 74 minutes when a route one goal kick from Jones evaded McArdle and Powell showed great composure to score from just outside the six yard box.

Powell was soon withdrawn and replaced by Ivan Toney as Latics looked to see the game out.

But as the game progressed they sat deeper and deeper and invited pressure from Scunthorpe which resulted in Ojo pulling a goal back on 90 minutes.

It was a nervous period for Latics as the Iron pressed for an equaliser, but they deservedly held on to secure the three points and close the gap to just two points on League One leaders Shrewsbury.

Posted in Dan Burn, Funso Ojo, League One, Nick Powell, Scunthorpe United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment