JAMES McArthur has given Wigan Athletic a massive boost ahead of the new season with a remarkable return to fitness.
Roberto Martinez yesterday made Japan international Ryo Miyaichi his third summer signing on a season-long loan from Arsenal. And the return of McArthur ahead of schedule will further increase his options ahead of Sunday’s televised visit of Chelsea.
The Scotland midfielder has been struggling with a back injury for much of the summer, and was given no chance of being fit to play in Wigan’s final pre-season friendly at Celta Vigo last Sunday night.
But McArthur made a surprise second-half appearance in the Balaidos Stadium, and has reported no immediate after-effects from his run-out.
If that remains the case for the rest of the week, he is in line for a starting role when Latics entertain the European champions in the big season-opener at the DW.
And McArthur believes it’s imperative Latics start the campaign with a bang to build on the feel-good factor generated by last season’s sensational finish.
“It’s massively important we try and pick up where we left off, definitely,” McArthur told the Evening Post.
“We left it late last year again, and we need to start the way we finished in order to push ourselves up that table and avoid the annual relegation battle.
“But the squad is looking very strong just now and we’ve got a great opportunity to start with a clean slate.”
It’s been all change at the DW this summer with five players leaving and Miyaichi yesterday becoming the club’s third new signing.
One of the new-boys, Fraser Fyvie from Aberdeen, is well-known to McArthur, who was a mainstay in the Hamilton midfield before moving to Wigan two years ago.
And McArthur says the arrival of a fifth Scot – and a sixth new recruit from the SPL – was very-well received by an increasingly Tartan dressing room.
“It’s great to have another Scot on board, and good for the club in particular to bring in players of his quality,” he added.
“You’ve always got to be looking to strengthen your squad in this game, and hopefully there’s time for another one or two more to come in.”
McArthur has enjoyed an eventful off-season, putting pen to paper on a contract extension at the DW before undertaking a gruelling bike ride between Carlisle and Glasgow to raise money for a local children’s hospital.
He reckoned the experience was one of the hardest things he’s ever done. But with over £6,000 having been raised, it was well worth it.
“It helped my fitness and it also helped me mentally,” he said.
“Unfortunately I got a bit of a setback when I got back and injured my back in training, but thankfully I’m on the mend now.”