The 12th man column: ‘Transfer window could be indicator of club’s ambitions’

Paul Cook's Latics have kept six clean sheets in a row
Paul Cook's Latics have kept six clean sheets in a row
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Our 12th man columnists talk profits, form and the transfer window...

Ian Aspinall: This week Latics released their financial results for the year ended May 31, 2017, which showed a net profit of £4.3 million. This demonstrates that they are in a relatively good financial position compared to many other Football League clubs. However, the next challenge is to secure the additional resources to enable the club to compete at a higher level.

Nick Powell deserves to be in the League One 'team of the season so far', says Jack Unsworth

Nick Powell deserves to be in the League One 'team of the season so far', says Jack Unsworth

It is now clear that the Whelan family is no longer prepared to finance the large sums required to compete in the Championship, so outside investment looks inevitable. All the current indications are that a takeover is likely to go ahead. Talks are at an advanced stage with the K8 consortium and it is expected that it will go through if the club can get Football League approval.

If this is the case, the January transfer window could provide a strong indicator of the future ambitions of the club. Paul Cook has done well to assemble a talented squad on limited expenditure, which looks capable of securing automatic promotion.

However if extra resources are available, he will certainly not want to lose any key players and will want to add more quality during this transfer window. Leading goal scorer and top wage earner Nick Powell has attracted interest from Aston Villa and media reports suggest that they have already offered in the region of £1.5m, although Powell is valued at over £5m. The mercurial Powell has been crucial to Latics’ success and Cook would be reluctant to lose him at this stage of the campaign. Whether the club can resist an increased offer is likely to depend on the takeover going ahead.

If resources are available Cook will want to add that extra quality and a striker and a winger are likely to be high on his wishlist. Latics are reported to have made an ambitious bid for Sunderland striker James Vaughan. Although Vaughan has struggled to score goals with the Black Cats, the former England Youth international scored 24 goals for Bury during 2016/17 and featured in the League One Team of the Year.

Latics have also reportedly made a £300,000 bid for 24-year-old Hearts winger Jamie Walker. The Scottish Under-21 international was voted Hearts Player of the Year in 2016/17 and he has been the subject of transfer interest from Glasgow Rangers.

As the club look to strengthen there are also likely to be outgoings, with several fringe players currently out on loan that could be released or transferred. I expect Latics to be in a stronger position by the end of this window.

Latics will be looking to cause an upset tomorrow in the FA Cup third round at AFC Bournemouth as they seek to follow in the footsteps of the historic FA Cup winning team of 2013. This January could prove to be hugely significant in the history of Wigan Athletic. It is an exciting time for everyone associated with the club. Latics sit at the top of the League One table with a top manager, potential new owners, new investment and some significant new signings in the pipeline.

Jack Unsworth: Journalist Paul Smith sparked controversy on Wednesday amongst Wigan fans after including just Dan Burn from the Latics in his Team of the Season so far, via Twitter. So this week’s piece will not be strictly Wigan as I thought I’d have a go at my starting XI from English football’s third tier.


Dean Henderson: It seems as if the Shrews win 1-0 every week, so a lot of praise must be sent in the direction of the on loan Manchester United keeper. Henderson prevented Michael Jacobs and Ivan Toney at New Meadow in September, and also Nick Powell at the DW saving from point-blank range.

Chey Dunkley: No nonsense centre half Chey Dunkley has exceeded expectations at Wigan since his summer move from Oxford and has formed a formidable partnership with Dan Burn. Missing only three games in the league – all due to suspension, Dunkley has been a very shrewd bit of business.

Charlie Mulgrew: Blackburn skipper Charlie Mulgrew has arguably been Rovers’ key man this year. As well as headlining a defence which held Latics to a 0-0 draw with 10 men, he has scored nine goals in the league this season, two more than Latics striker Will Grigg. A remarkable return, come to think of it.

Dan Burn: Known as Superman by the Wigan faithful, Burn has been rock solid from the first game of the season, a 1-0 away win at MK Dons until our most recent game, another 1-0 win away at Northampton. The Geordie is the main reason Wigan have been able to grind out so many close victories this season.

Nathan Byrne: Despite playing in a back four this campaign, he could easily makes the transition into a back five if needed. His ability to constantly overlap Gavin Massey has been a factor in many goals this season. He’s also the only player to have appeared in every league game so far this season for the ‘Tics.

Sam Morsy: For me, simply the best player in the division. The Egyptian holding midfielder has been the Latics’ most consistent performer this season, sitting in front of the best defence in the division. Morsy has the small matter of a World Cup in the summer to look forward to and will be able to showcase his talent to the world.

Jon Nolan: A midfield engine for Paul Hurst’s Shrewsbury, Nolan’s performances have made him the subject of interest from Championship clubs such as Norwich City.

Conor Townsend: Irons wing back Townsend has developed into a top player under Graham Alexander. Solid in both boxes, Scunthorpe have the best defence outside the automatics and he has also chipped in with three goals this term.

Bradley Dack: Rovers gaffer Tony Mowbray suggested Dack has the attributes to take him to the Premier League, and not many would disagree with this sweeping statement. The former Gillingham attacking midfielder has scored 11 times in 19 starts.

Nick Powell: Not many would disagree that Powell is by far and away the most talented player in the division, and would walk into most Championship sides. Paul Cook has managed to get Powell firing on all cylinders and he’s been the focal point of Latics’ attack.

Jack Marriott: Former Luton front-man Marriott is League One’s top scorer this season with 17 goals to his name. The Posh number 14 has created an almost telepathic relationship with Marcus Maddison, who was very difficult to leave out of this team.

Jay Whittle: As the hectic festive period has finally come to an end, I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved.

I sensed frustration in the atmosphere from the Latics fans after the scoreless draws against Shrewsbury and Charlton, with remarkably even a few boos in the air and I can only hope that they were not aimed at our own players.

Fans were correct to be frustrated, as it is very infuriating that teams aren’t coming to the DW Stadium in search of three points. But I feel that just shows the fear factor that Wigan have built in the division.

Monday’s victory against Northampton will be a vital moment of the season, especially due to Blackburn’s late slip up at Rotherham to only leave the New York Stadium splitting the spoils.

The result meant Latics gained a seven-point advantage over third-placed Blackburn, and with the Rovers hosting second-placed Shrewsbury Town in the next round of League One action, it could create an opportunity for Wigan to distance themselves further from the play-off positions.

Powell continued his fine form as he grabbed his 11th goal of the season. Powell has been amid transfer speculation of late and his form for Wigan has understandably found him some admirers.

But I feel the January window will shape the ultimate finish of the season. If you look back to the January window last year, Wigan sold Yanic Wildschut to Norwich for a large fee, and although the fee worked wonders and helped the club make an annual profit in 2017, you feel that Wildschut would have been key for our relegation fight and could have guided us to safety.

It is so important to keep our star-men and with our squad working well we need to do all we can to keep them together come February.

We make the very-long trip to Premier League side AFC Bournemouth in the FA Cup third-round on Saturday, and I’ve got to say it’s a very exciting opportunity to show how good of a team that we truly are against a high calibre opposition.

Five years ago Premier League Wigan hosted League One’s AFC Bournemouth in the third round of the FA Cup, so we have done a full circle and reversed the roles from the previous cup meeting. But we all know what happened last time that Wigan played Bournemouth in the FA Cup- Mauro Boselli actually scored a goal, and a great one at that.

Stuart Glover: It is true in all sorts of areas of life. Often after a period where things are easy and (how can I put it?) loose, there follows a period when things are much harder and (how can I put?) constipated!

This may describe what we are currently seeing at Latics. After our free-flowing and very productive attack scored eleven goals in just two games before Christmas, we then found that they seemed a little more clogged up and scored none in the next two.

Happily a little relief was found when the goal drought ended with an early goal at Northampton on Monday.

It is worth saying that this return would please most teams. And while it is tempting to suggest that a more even spread of the goals would have been better, especially with us keeping clean sheets in all of these games, who amongst us would want to give up scoring seven goals in one game?

Think about Latics last season. What would we have given to see 12 goals in five games then? No goals in two games was not a drought last season, it was the norm.

The disappointment with not scoring in the two home games over Christmas is surely not because we have become a set of supporters who expect to score in every game. Rather it is reflective of our success so far this season, because they were big games against good opponents. A quick word on Charlton manager Karl Robinson. After we outplayed them and beat the handsomely earlier in the season at The Valley, Robinson said that they hadn’t played anywhere near their best. He added that Latics had been at the top of their game, couldn’t play better than that and that it would be a different story when the two teams met at the DW.

Well he was right. Kind of. He was wrong about us playing at the best of our ability. Charlton were worse than they had been at their place. Last Friday it never looked like they were trying to get three points. They had clearly come for a point and looked to the occasional counter attack to try and steal an additional two. And fair play to them. They came for a point and they got one. That may be frustrating but it is a perfectly legitimate way to operate. Paul Cook was very generous in his post-match comments, highlighting the number of injuries that Charlton had which forced Robinson to set the team up in the way that he did. It is certainly not a way I’d ever want Latics to play. Perhaps the lesson is that managers shouldn’t make over the top, unsubstantiated claims when they are suffering from post-match disappointment, which may come back to bite them.

Before Christmas we wondered how many points from the four festive games would be acceptable. Most of us would have thought that getting all 12 points on offer would be unlikely and we noted that seven was our minimum target. Nine points was an appropriate target and we ended up with eight. Our lead at the top of the table has been cut to two points but the more important gap to third place has grown to seven.

While we are within one slip up of losing top spot, and our next league game is a tough one against Peterborough, this provides us with a chance of revenge against one of only three teams who beat us in the first half of the season, and at the same time, Shrewsbury will be playing at Blackburn in their own tough game.

This weekend we return to FA Cup action. Third round day always used to be one of the greatest days of the football season, but it has been undermined in recent years with so many clubs making so many changes to their teams.

You can make the case that Latics should rest players for the cup games, especially after the hectic Christmas programme. We also need to remember that in the glorious FA Cup campaign of 2013, we did not start playing a full strength side until the quarter-final at Goodison.

We all agree that the league is our priority this season, but I am sure that we’d all love a good cup run as well.

However I am equally as sure that if we go out of the cup at this stage, very few fans will be very disappointed.

Sean Livesey: It was a case of start as you mean to go on in 2018 for Latics. After Nick Powell put the Latics in front against Northampton with just five minutes on the clock you could be forgiven for thinking another demolition job was on the way. As it was 1-0 was how it would stay despite the best efforts of Paul Cook’s forward line.

The frustration of finding a goal keeper in inspired form like Northampton on New Year’s day and against Shrewsbury on Boxing day is something that we’re getting used to. At the end of the day all victories count. With the new year festivities out of the way it’s time to look at the dreaded transfer window – many will disagree with me but I think it’s more about conservation this January than revolution. We’ve had two January transfer windows in recent years where wholesale changes were made that arguably damaged the make up of the squad and contributed to our downfalls. We already supposedly have the strongest squad in the division with Craig Morgan & Shaun MacDonald to come back from injury too. Arguably we could do with some fresh firepower up front and perhaps another winger but other than that I’m struggling to see what we need. As ever Latics accounts for 2016/17 made fascinating reading. On one side a sizeable profit was posted for the first time since 2014. On the other a worry of what will make up for the shortfall in income now the parachute payments have ended. Latics really need fresh investment from somewhere. Simply to keep the club solvent if nothing more. The results should once again credit Dave Whelan and his family for keeping the club afloat, contrary to what many Wiganers will tell you. He hasn’t creamed millions off the club like the Oystons at Blackpool. He’s kept us as a going concern for the best part of 23 years. He may have made mistakes but without Dave Whelan Wigan Athletic as we know it simply wouldn’t exist. Anyway back to the football and it’s Bournemouth away in the cup this weekend. Last time we played Bournemouth in the FA Cup we were treated to a rare Mauro Boselli goal on arguably the coldest night I’ve ever had watching Latics. It’s startling to see how the club’s have effectively swapped places since that match in January 2013. I’d love to see us get the win on Saturday and progress in the cup, but I suspect Latics will make changes. Either way it’ll be fascinating to see how we size up against Premier League opposition again.