I won’t go into great detail about Latics’ transfer window activity or I’ll be here until 10pm musing over the finer points of Shaun Wright-Phillips’ (somewhat surprising) decision to snub Latics and Bolton in favour of Queens Park Rangers. Come on Shaun, the pies are surely much better (and cheaper) in the north. For a more in-depth viewpoint –minus the pastries–, fellow This Northern Soul contributor Rowba Fett has drafted a comprehensive list of ins and outs over the summer period, which I recommend you at least take a glance at.
Notwithstanding tabloid sensationalism, which has definitely cost Latics the odd high-profile signing in years past and will undoubtedly hinder us in seasons to come, things have been fairly predictable. It was a minor shock that Hugo Rodallega was never in too much demand, at least in the Colombian’s own mind, considering the feverish mainstream media attention he garnered at the end of May. What’s the odds it was another piece of shrewd theatre by the backroom boys, led by Mr Pooles himself, to accrue an astronomical transfer fee for Rodders? To be honest, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Whatever the case, Hugo is still well and truly a Latic, at least for the time being.
Less surprising was Charles N’Zogbia’s whopping £9.5million move to Aston Villa. Initial reports suggested interest from the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, but they were in all likelihood fabricated codswallop (at least for the most part). The French international became an instrumental part of Roberto Martinez’s continental masterplan and finished last season the club’s leading goalscorer. Most notably, he grabbed two crucial goals in the West Ham great escape that set up survival for Latics, so it’s no surprise he commanded such a hefty fee when Villans supremo Randy Lerner somewhat reluctantly scribbled that extra half a million quid into his chequebook. I bet Victor Moses was grinning like a madman as the move was confirmed on Sky Sports News, and most likely awarded himself a celebratory cereal bar in anticipation of a season of first team football.
The other great transfer ‘saga’ of the summer was a long-running squabble a little closer to home. At the centre of it all was Wigan’s Player of the Season Ali Al Habsi, already a firm fan favourite despite only being at the club on loan for a little over eight months and still under contract at Bolton. This all changed when a £4.5million fee to bring the Omani talisman to Wigan Athletic was eventually announced in July. Somewhat unsurprising considering he actually played his first game for Wigan in 2008 when, as Bolton keeper, he allowed Emile Heskey to score the winning goal in a narrow victory for Latics. Oh, I forgot to mention you were supposed to read that last sentence with tongue in cheek.
The Latics squad was further bolstered by the capture of David Jones and Nouha Dicko, who both featured briefly in pre-season friendlies. More recent additions are tailored to cover the relatively sparse left wing, with Albert Crusat and Chelsea loanee Patrick van Aanholt presumably brought in to relieve poor old Hugo of his left-sided exile. Sometime Scotland international Shaun Maloney completes the summer shopping list, adding fire-power to the Latics front line. Cup competitions will present an opportunity for the new guys to stake a claim for Premier League first team football, which they will no doubt all taste at some point before June 2012.
Departures that may have slipped under the radar include Daniel de Ridder and Jason Koumas, two players we initially had high hopes for. The Koumas affair, as I like to call it, was more dramatic than Pobol y Cwm, spanned four seasons and charted the ups and downs of the Welsh international. He will perhaps be best remembered for his goal in Roberto Martinez’s opening Premier League game, a 2-0 win over Aston Villa – well, in my view at least. On the whole, he struggled to hold down a regular first team place and spent the whole of last season on loan at Cardiff City, and I guess he’ll always be one of those players you describe as ‘too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premier League’. Just you watch, now I’ve said that he shall immediately waltz into Swansea City and become a 20-goal hero to keep them in the Prem.
Steven Caldwell and Antonio Amaya also left quietly having ‘done a job’ in the Carling and FA Cups as understudy to Alcaraz and Gary Caldwell. We wish them every success in the future and hope their time in Wigan hasn’t damaged their view of the good old English meat and ‘tater. Which brings us full circle to talking about pies once again – why does this always happen? I don’t even like them that much.