The 12th Man: Real treat ahead after ‘transfer circus’

Michael Jacobs
Michael Jacobs

So the window is slammed shut once more, although I always struggle with that metaphor.

What sort of window is open continuously for four months a year, then stays closed for four months, then opens again for a month in the freezing winter and then stays shut again for another four months?

Not to mention, hardly anything trickles through the window for months and then on the last day we try to cram everything through it.

I tend to prefer the period after it’s shut much better as I loathe the rumours and speculation, fabrications designed to fill column inches.

I hate the plaudits celebrating millions of pounds being frittered on blokes who happen to be able to kick a ball about well.

And I hate the circus of Jim White and all the fawning sports presenters who love to tell us how fantastic all these bloated financial transactions are for the game, while further down the pyramid, there’s football clubs who can barely pay the leccy bill.

Back to us however, and I think we had a good window and kept hold of most of our key assets.

I do think the sale of Alex Gilbey will come back to haunt us, he has looked a real force since his return from injury – almost Nick Powell-like, and perhaps therein lies the problem.

Was he only sold because Max Power didn’t get his sought after move to the Championship?

That, again is nothing more than educated speculation.

The much-touted outgoing was Will Grigg, and he has cut a forlorn figure in recent weeks.

He is a goalscorer, a 20-goal a season man, and it’s hard to get 20 goals if you can’t get in the team.

However, he is still regaining his fitness after a serious injury and Paul Cook did absolutely the right thing in bringing a more match-fit Ivan Toney in.

It would be lovely to see Grigg back on the boil and in the team.

But then I’m not so sentimental about players that I’m bothered who plays up front, so long as they do their job.

There’s a long season ahead, and Toney has a very strong incentive to stay fit and score goals, knowing Grigg is waiting in the wings, so let’s not worry too much and see how it plays out.

Competition for places is good, and if anyone is sulking, then they may well get their mojo back if they sit tight and wait for their chance.

The same applies in midfield to Power and indeed, the forgotten man, Shaun MacDonald eventually.

Elsewhere, we look a little short at the back, and I’m not just referring to Nathan Byrne.

Our only recognised right back admits himself he isn’t even a right back!

Plus the three-match ban for Chey Dunkley has perhaps exposed our shortcomings at centre-half given Morgan’s long-term injury.

Yet there is some real attacking quality in the squad throughout with Jacobs, Toney, Grigg and Massey.

Plus if the talismanic Powell can stay fit, we are in for a real treat this season.

Martin Tarbuck

So it’s back to the day job tomorrow, and two weeks since our last league match with Portsmouth it feels like an age since we were in competitive action.

Of course last time out our winning start to the season came to an end, in a match we really should have won.

I still maintain it was a strange decision to postpone the Northampton match last weekend, especially with Northampton in such dire straits at that moment in time. I can see why Paul Cook wouldn’t have wanted to be without his first choice midfielders with Lee Evans and Sam Morsy away on international duty, but at the same time think the squad would have had more than enough to cope.

Nonethless I’m sure it will have been a beneficial week of rest for Cook and his squad, Monday night saw a number of first teamers surprisingly turn out in the Lancashire senior cup defeat to Blackburn. Although a defeat on penalties wasn’t the ideal result, it will have been a good workout for the likes of Noel Hunt, Alex Bruce, Gary Roberts and Will Grigg.

Speaking of Alex Bruce it will be interesting to see if he or the impressive Terrell Thomas get the nod to replace the suspended Chey Dunkley at Shrewsbury tomorrow afternoon.

I’m looking forward to the trip to Shropshire, it was the scene of one of our finest wins back in 2016 and the win that probably saw us go from potential promotion hopefuls to title winners in all but name. What we would give for a similar scoreline this weekend, it certainly won’t be that easy this time around.

Shrewsbury have made an impressive start to the season and with four wins from five sit above us in the League One table, on paper with the strength of our side and the form we’ve been in we should have more than enough – but football is a funny game. It can throw up shocks when you least expect it.

Although we didn’t play last week I think the biggest victory of the week was managing to retain all of our big hitters, if you had asked any Latics fan who they thought would leave at the end of last season no doubt Nick Powell, Dan Burn, Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg would be top of that list. The fact we retained all of them underlies the strength we now have in that squad, and hopefully the commitment from the corridors of power at the DW to the manager. The complaints about losing Alex Gilbey should be tempered, considering he hadn’t started a league game all season and when you see just who we had managed to retain.

Tomorrow begins a crucial run of fixtures against sides at the top end of the table, at the end we should have a good understanding of where we will be at the end of the season. Let’s hope we continue in a similar vein to the way we’ve started.

Sean Livesey

It was only in April 2016 that Latics eased to the top of the League One table with an emphatic 5-1 victory at Shrewsbury Town and they will be hoping for a repeat of that performance tomorrow.

The big win at Greenhous Meadow included a brace from Will Grigg and the Northern Ireland striker’s form has been a major talking point amongst the fans at the beginning of this season.

Grigg has been recovering from five months out after a knee injury required surgery and has made a slow start to this campaign. He hasn’t yet found the net in the handful of games in which he’s either started or come on as a substitute. He was involved with the second team on Monday night against Blackburn Rovers in the Lancashire Senior Cup but he failed to score during the 90 minutes and missed his spot kick in the penalty shoot-out, which Latics lost.

It’s been a quiet period for the striker who was a global centre of attention with the ‘Will Grigg’s On Fire’ song in 2016, but surely it is only a matter of time before he regains his sharpness in front of goal. Grigg achieved a superb 25 league goals when Latics won the League One title and there is still a strong belief that he can replicate that form this time around.

If Grigg can find his scoring boots he could make it a remarkable four promotions to the Championship. He was promoted with Brentford in 2014, then with MK Dons in 2015, with Latics in 2016 and hopefully he will do it again with the club in 2018.

Much has changed at Latics and Shrewsbury since that game in 2016 and The Shrews look like an improved outfit and currently sit above Latics in second in place in the League One table. Like Latics they are unbeaten in their opening games and they have won four and drawn one of their fixtures so far. In fact they are now in their highest position in the Football League since September 1989.

Shrewsbury are also doing some great work off the pitch by promoting safe standing.

They have applied to be the first English club to have safe standing at their stadium.

The plan is to have rail seats fitted and in use, in a section of one stand, before the end of this season.

They have initiated a crowdfunding campaign to create a showcase for safe standing, which should help to bring forward its introduction at other clubs.

All the proceeds from the campaign will support the first installation at Shrewsbury, and after that, future Football Supporters Federation-backed safe standing projects.

Ian Aspinall

The transfer window is closed, and it’s been a successful window.

I’d never of thought we’d hang on to the likes of Nick Powell and Will Grigg.

An added bonus is that Max Power is still at the club, and is ready to fight for his place. Also, once Grigg is back up to match sharpness, then we’ve definitely got the best number 10 and 9 in the league.

In the window Paul Cook has shipped out all eight of Warren Joyce’s January transfer dealings and that shows just what type of manager we have at the club.

As a club we’re definitely heading in the right direction, and it all stems from the manager. We’re fifth in the league and unbeaten in our opening four games. Cook has also been nominated for manager of the month, which he fully deserves.

If it wasn’t for our game against Northampton being postponed due to international call ups, we’d easily be sitting top of the table going into tomorrow’s fixture.

The next two games are against teams who’re in fine form like ourselves. Shrewsbury tomorrow and Charlton on Tuesday. By Tuesday night, we will know which direction we’ll be heading this season.

But tomorrow’s trip to Shrewsbury will be our biggest test of the season so far. They’re the surprise package so far, and are joint top. I’m confident we’ll secure all three points and continue on our unbeaten start to the season.

Joe O’Neil