OPINION: Wigan Athletic chief uses international break to take stock, while England showcase their Euro credentials despite Harry Maguire toil

What is it about international breaks that seem to get longer and longer each time?
Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

It seems like an eternity since Wigan Athletic slipped to defeat at Blackpool, and Shaun Maloney will have spent the last few days righting the wrongs of Bloomfield Road.

Read More
Wigan Athletic starlet sets sights on following close pals into international ar...

Overall, the opening block of fixtures were more than satisfactory.

International matters have taken centre stage in the last fortnight, but it's back to business for Shaun Maloney and Latics this weekendInternational matters have taken centre stage in the last fortnight, but it's back to business for Shaun Maloney and Latics this weekend
International matters have taken centre stage in the last fortnight, but it's back to business for Shaun Maloney and Latics this weekend
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ten points from the first four games possibly created an unrealistic expectation, which has been tempered slightly by back-to-back defeats.

But to be well out of negative points at this stage is, as Maloney has alluded to, above of schedule.

The last fortnight will have given Maloney and his backroom staff time to work with the non-international brigade, many of whom are still in the infancy of their Latics tenure.

And the likes of Sam Tickle and Baba Adeeko will return from their time away with England and Ireland respectively with a huge spring in their step to continue their impressive progress.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Charlie Hughes will also return to the fold after injury, and it's no coincidence the problems of the last two matches came after his unfortunate sending-off against Barnsley.

Surprisingly - or perhaps unsurprisingly - the FA opted not to overturn Hughes' red card, and last night we learned of the reasons why.

It transpires there was even a split on the three-man disciplinary panel, but unfortunately the majority decision went against Latics.

Four goals shipped in the 160 minutes without Hughes underlines what a key man he's already become in the backline.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And his return against Cambridge this weekend will hopefully tighten things up in front of young Tickle.

Speaking of which, Tickle has made the most number of saves in the opening half a dozen games in the league.

Which is great for him...but a slightly alarming stat on the whole, which Maloney and his staff will be acutely aware of - and eager to address.

England took another step towards qualification for next summer's Euros with a decent point against Ukraine, before sweeping aside Scotland in midweek in little more than a training exercise.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Three Lions are in as good a position as could be expected at the top of their group, having safely negotiated their toughest away game.

But it seems by the reaction in both the media and social media, Gareth Southgate still can't please most of the nation.

A huge topic of conversation remains Harry Maguire, who has kept his spot despite a lack of game-time at club level.

While I admire Southgate's loyalty, Maguire's agonising own goal surely must be the last straw.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Don't get me wrong, I'm not jumping on the anti-Maguire bandwagon - far from it.

Most of the stick he gets in my opinion is harsh, unwarranted, and little more than playground bullying of an easy target.

Yes, he has his limitations, but he's rarely let England - and Southgate down - when it matters in the big games.

Besides, there isn't exactly an embarrassment of riches for the spot alongside John Stones, and Maguire has saved most of his best games over the last few years for his country.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having said that, it was horrific to watch the events unfold at Hampden Park as, already being jeered from the stands, he stuck out a leg to try to block a Scotland cross and...well, you know the rest.

For his own good - and his mental health, which is surely shot to pieces - Maguire needs to be taken out of the firing line, and given the chance to take stock away from the public glare.

Other than that, England must have sent out a real statement of intent with their dismantling of a Scotland side, who could have secured their own Euro qualification – before any of the big guns – if results had gone their way in midweek.

With the likes of Phil Foden, James Maddison, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford competing for the three spots behind Harry Kane, in front of an engine room of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, England have as good a chance as anyone as going all the way next summer.

Maybe then Southgate - while far from the perfect manager - would get the credit his achievements possibly deserve...