GARY Caldwell has tipped Shaun Maloney to be Wigan Athletic’s secret weapon during the relegation run-in.
Maloney came off the substitutes’ bench to inspire Latics to a deserved point at Norwich last weekend.
It was only Maloney’s fourth Premier League appearance – all of them off the bench – since his arrival from Celtic last August, with a mixture of fitness and form issues holding him back. No-one is better equipped to assess Maloney’s ability than Caldwell, a former colleague at Celtic Park and also at international level with Scotland.
And the Wigan captain says the diminutive playmaker is more than capable of making the difference between Latics going down and hopefully staying up.
“I thought Shaun was outstanding at the weekend, and that’s what I know he can do,” Caldwell told the Evening Post “He’s shown a great work-rate and a great desire to get into the team, when a lot of people might have got a little bit disillusioned at not being involved.
“Great credit to him – he’s shown a great professionalism to come in every day, work hard and make sure he was ready for the chance when it came along.
“It came at Norwich and he showed what a great asset he can be for this football club.”
Maloney made an immediate impact when replacing Jordi Gomez just before the hour-mark at Carrow Road, laying-on the equaliser for Victor Moses and almost teeing up Momo Diame for what would have been a last-gasp winner.
And Caldwell believes his old pal’s return to form could not have come at a better time for struggling Latics.
“That’s what Shaun’s about – that’s what he does best,” Caldwell enthused.
“He picks up the ball in the final third and he can either beat his man and he can pick out that killer ball – like you saw with the goal.
“Defenders try and get tight to him, and he skips past them. But when they step off him, it gives him time to pick out the right pass. He gave us a real lift and a real sharpness to our game that we’d been lacking, and he made a real impact.
“Players like Shaun are worth their weight in gold – and that’s probably an area we’ve struggled this year.
“When teams are set and we’ve needed to break them down, we’ve sometimes not been able to do that.
“But hopefully Shaun can do that for us between now and the end of the season – and we’ll need that kind of impact if we’re going to get out of trouble.”