Talking football: ‘Will Grigg’s desired...Wigan Athletic fans are terrified!’

Will Grigg
Will Grigg

We’re only just over a week into 2019, but already matters are coming to a head for Latics – both on and off the field.

January is always a huge month, with clubs desperately trying to shuffle their packs for the run-in.

For Latics, with the takeover by IEC having been finally completed, it was always going to be particularly important.

But while we all assumed the focus would be firmly on incomings – with Paul Cook desperate to bolster his stretched squad – much of the talk so far has been about the possible exit of Will Grigg.

Yes, it’s been another frustrating campaign to date for the Northern Ireland hitman, who must have thought this was finally the year he proved to the doubters his ability to thrive in the Championship.

Three goals in the first four games of the season certainly appeared to underline his credentials.

But since then, the wheels have come off somewhat – for Grigg and Latics.

His brace at Stoke on August 22 was the last time Grigg got on the scoresheet, aside from the penalty he converted at Bolton last month.

But that night – Wigan’s only away win this term – was also the last time Latics were able to field the holy trinity of Michael Jacobs, Gavin Massey and Nick Powell in the forward line together.

Massey was cut down by a freak hamstring problem at QPR later that week, with Jacobs suffering the same injury in October and Powell completing the unfortunate hat-trick in November.

In fact, Powell’s absence has coincided almost exactly with Grigg’s descent down the pecking order, with Joe Garner and James Vaughan being preferred in recent weeks.

There’s an argument to be had that both possibly offer more of a physical threat to Grigg, especially in a side nowhere near as fluent as it was at the start of the term.

But with Powell, Jacobs and Massey all scheduled to be back by the end of the month, Grigg should be rubbing his hands in anticipation.

Instead, we’re all wondering if he’ll still be at the club come January 31.

It’s no surprise Sunderland apparently see Grigg as the striker to get them over the line in their bid for promotion back to the Championship.

He has four promotions from League One already on his CV, and is as close to a cast-iron guarantee of going up as there is.

But why would Latics even entertain the thought of losing the 27-year-old, who has 18 months left on his contract and has expressed no desire to want to leave?

The stats show his four goals this term is only one less than he managed in the 2016-17 season under Gary Caldwell and Warren Joyce.

But just like this season, there were mitigating factors, such as injury problems, not to mention woeful tactics that saw him more isolated than Tom Hanks in the film ‘Cast Away’, and a hap-hazard January recruitment drive that all-but killed any chance of staying up.

With IEC having confirmed they will not be ‘throwing money’ at it, Cook may have to generate some funds of his own if he is to splash the cash.

And Grigg would clearly be one of his most saleable assets.

But would the loss of such a fans’ favourite - especially to a side in the division below - rock the boat too much, at a time when unity is needed more than ever?

The memories of Manchester City, Doncaster and THAT song are still fresh in the minds of a fanbase who’ve taken Grigg to their hearts and clearly worship him.

At the moment, there is no decision to make, with Sunderland - or anyone else for that matter - still to make any official contact.

But there is no smoke without fire, and the water is clearly being tested...and it could be choppy water indeed if Grigg were to be sacrificed and the gamble didn’t pay off.

A gamble the powers-that-be may argue they have to take - but one they will also live and die by.

If the worst comes to the worst, and Latics suffer a third relegation in a row from the Championship, who would be the perfect man to fire them to a third League One title in a row next term? Will Grigg.

Will we be looking back on this seemingly anxious time with a knowing smile come the summer? Fingers crossed.

The next three weeks certainly will be interesting.

It always is with Latics.

Birmingham City’s recently-released financial figures certainly take some digesting.

The loss before tax more than doubled from £16.4m to £37.4m, with wages rising a whopping 71 per cent to £39m.

To put that into context, it is the highest amount ever paid in the Championship by a club not in receipt of a parachute payments.

The wages to turnover ratio stands at a jaw-dropping 202 per cent...miles ahead of nearest challengers Blackburn (147 per cent)

To be fair, more than half of the Championship have ratios in excessive of 100 per cent – underlining the level of desperation for clubs chasing the Premier League dream.

Latics, meanwhile, are operating at a wage bill of ‘just’ 66 per cent of turnover.

Very sensible management, and ensuring there will be a club to follow in years to come.

And certainly worth bearing in mind the next time you hear anyone moaning about the club’s inability to mix it with the big-spenders in the transfer market.

Quote of the week:

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder after his second string were bundled out of the FA Cup by non-league Barnet:

“We are third in the Championship because none of those players today are normally in the first team. The only curious thing was that the supporters didn’t boo loud enough.”