Nathan Byrne has finally found a home at Wigan Athletic

Nathan Byrne
Nathan Byrne

Having spent the first part of his career as football’s equivalent of the ‘Littlest Hobo’, Nathan Byrne was just looking for a place to settle down.

And after penning a long-term contract extension this week with Wigan Athletic, the club’s reigning player of the year may just have achieved his goal.

“I’m over the moon to be staying,” said the former Tottenham academy product, whose new deal with Latics runs until the summer of 2021.

“As a footballer you want to be settled, you want to feel you’re part of something.

“And I already feel I do here, with a great bunch of lads and a great staff.

“The first five or six years of my career was loan, loan, loan, loan, couple of years at Swindon, year at Wolves, went to Wigan, loaned out, came back.

“I was at something like eight clubs in six years including Tottenham, and to find a place you can finally settle is all you’re after.

“I’ve been getting further and further north as the moves have continued so I guess I’m an adopted northerner now...this feels like home now!”

Byrne has already experienced the ups and the downs of football during his time with Latics, following his arrival in the summer of 2016.

Having initially been signed by Gary Caldwell, he was loaned out to Charlton by Warren Joyce, before being welcomed back into the fold by Paul Cook.

And while last season was a dream, with Latics sweeping all before them on the way to the League One title, they’ve found the going much tougher this term in the Championship.

“That’s football, you have bad times as well as good times,” Byrne acknowledged.

“You’re always going to be smiley and happy when you’re winning every week as we were for most of last year.

“It was never going to be like that again this year, with the Championship being so tough.

“But we’ll keep pushing ourselves as much as we can to pick up some wins and some points.

“We do feel we’re playing well, we’re in games and we can’t quite make it count.

“All we can do is keep going, stay positive, keep trying to play the right way and hopefully things will change.”

Wigan’s latest setback came at West Brom last weekend, but Byrne reckons the 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup third round may not be a bad thing in the long term.

“We have full respect for the FA Cup, and we were blessed to go on a great run last season and enjoy some fantastic memories,” he explained.

“But the league is far more important this year than it was last year.

“With the league position as it is, I don’t think we’re in a position to be able to focus on two competitions - whereas last year we possibly were.

“The main thing for us is to start winning games in the league and start putting some points on the board.”

The return of injured stars Michael Jacobs this weekend and Nick Powell later this month should certainly help, with Byrne admitting the squad has been stretched to breaking point.

“Obviously the Championship is a very physical competition, and the demands are there for all to see,” he said.

“Every team is going into pick up injuries, but we seem to have picked up more than our fair share this year.

“We’re even having players picking up injuries in the warm-up, but you’ve just got to get on with it.”

Having started the campaign on the bench, Byrne has taken advantage of injuries elsewhere to make his presence felt as a wide midfielder.

He reverted to right-back for the West Brom cup defeat, but says he doesn’t have a preferred position.

“It’s just great to be playing to be honest,” he added.

“Wherever the manager wants me to play I’m happy to do a job.”