Following reports that Graeme Jones has turned down the Swansea job, it looks as though Wigan will survive through to the start of the European Championships with their management team intact. That such high-profile clubs are even interested is somewhat surprising, especially given the club’s situation not six months ago – the dramatic upturn in fortunes since then has certainly left an impression on many high-profile observers.
Yet for all the attention surrounding Latics’ own Catalonian chief, naturally exacerbated by the media’s insatiable appetite for a dramatic story, one always felt it likely he would remain right here at the Dee Dubya. Though I have no doubt Liverpool’s interest was real, our Bob was always going to be further down the (seemingly inexhaustive) list of candidates, if not only due to his relative inexperience and average results record. Of course, that didn’t stop The Reds appointing Brendan Rodgers, but a good debut season in the Premier League can do wonders for your managerial career – just ask Paul Lambert.
Truth be told, a good portion of the reactionary nonsense in the press has been carefully and methodically stoked by Uncle Dave. Well, did you expect anything else? We’re all aware of his shrewd business sense, and he wasn’t about to miss out on an opportunity to further promote his brand. I’ll admit it hasn’t done much good for our stress levels, but I believe Wigan Athletic has actually emerged the other side a stronger commodity for it. A month’s free publicity, and we haven’t kicked a ball in anger for weeks? Yes please.
Most importantly, it’s all been wrapped up in a matter of weeks rather than months. One senses Mr Whelan has one eye on a scouting trip to Poland and the Ukraine, which might not be as glamorous as Miami or Barbados, but this is football, serious business. Bobby, bored of the Soccerdome, wants a £1.5million indoor training pitch. A lot of stuff needs to be ironed out before we take to the pitch in August, and the squad is in need of bolstering for another tough Premier League campaign.
Hugo Rodallega, as expected, has been released. It hasn’t been a vintage season from Rodders, who has suffered from injury and a lack of form that’s seen Franco Di Santo seize the centre-forward berth, something one never would have foreseen some twelve months ago.
The lack of a goalscorer in the first half of the season hit us hard and made getting results rather difficult. It wasn’t the only problem –the oft-overworked defensive line was prone to chronic errors–, but at this end of the table, scoring goals can sometimes ease stress in other areas of the pitch. Thus, finding another frontman will be a priority, otherwise we may have to fall back on Mauro Boselli.
Chris Kirkland is off to Championship-bound Sheffield Wednesday. Poor Kirky has had a torrid time of late, that recurring back injury a severe hindrance to his game, which has been characterised by a lack of confidence. Since Al Habsi’s arrival at the club, he’s been resigned to the bench –and the physio’s table– and subjected to loan moves that haven’t really worked out.
It’s sad to see him go, but now is the time to move on and give the opportunity to a young understudy. A Mike Pollitt-mentored Lee Nicholls is certainly an option, but my suspicion is that Roberto would want to bring in fresh blood.
Towards the end of the season, Mohamed Diame fell out of favour. Some of this may well have been injury-related, but it’s more likely that McCarthy and McCarthur’s partnership in the centre of the park was too strong to break up. Because of this, I think we’ll miss him much less than first anticipated, but a couple of extra midfielders would be great for competition.
Steve Gohouri is the final man of the departing quartet. He played a greater part in the first half of the season, when injuries and poor form saw our defence stretched further than a particularly obese elephant’s pants. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Stevie G was caught up in all of this, because he’s provided more than able backup for three seasons now. All things run their course, however, and this new-fangled ‘three defenders’ thing might just require a different kind of player.
Wigan Athletic is evolving rapidly and there is no room for hangers-on or wage leechers. Not that I’m accusing any of the above guys of such heinous crimes, but I suspect such high-profile characters might have commanded a hefty wage bill – if they aren’t playing, it’s no use wasting valuable resources.
Will we see further departures in the coming months? Victor Moses’s agent definitely wants there to be, but whatever path the man himself ultimately chooses to traverse, let’s hope it’s not purely money-motivated. *Sniggers*