Talking football: How actions spoke louder than words for Wigan Athletic
"We know that we will have to earn your trust through actions rather than words...”
Talal Al Hammad, on behalf of Phoenix 2021 Limited, after completing the takeover at the end of March.
Well fast forward five months, and it’s fair to say a fair amount of trust has already been earned.
It’s no surprise Latics were among the busiest movers and shakers in the summer transfer. Having ended last season with only five contracted players, it was always going to be that way.
A further four senior figures signed new deals, but that still left a relatively blank canvas from which to plan the rebuild.
Although daunting on the one hand, however, it actually allowed a smoother rebuild than would otherwise have been possible.
No ‘deadwood’ to shift, or high wages to prove a millstone. Leam Richardson was able to bring in 15 new men.
Enough to make senior figures at other clubs raise their eyebrows, but borne out of absolute necessity.
For the last 12 months, Latics begged, stole and borrowed players from elsewhere, as well as dipping into the Academy more than they would have liked.
All we heard from outside was sympathy that such an ‘injustice’ had taken place, and hope that the club would soon get back on its feet.
Sadly, much of that goodwill was withdrawn when Latics had the temerity to start to assemble a squad capable of causing waves at the top end of the table.
It’s worth pointing out that, despite shelling out on the likes of Jason Kerr, Stephen Humphrys and Jordan Jones, Latics have actually more than balanced the books this summer.
Well in excess of £1million was generated as a result of Brighton staying up, the sales of homegrown gems Kyle Joseph and Sean McGurk, and sell-ons for, among others, Jamal Lowe.
Of course, the wage bill will have been significantly increased from last term.
But one presumes top players at other clubs are also playing for more than BFH (bus fare home – copyright: Jim Bowen), rendering this another lame stick with which to beat Latics with.
Of course, even with such a positive window, there are no guarantees.
To coin another famous phrase, we need to ‘let Latics gel’.
Which we will.
Because, on the basis of what we’ve seen so far, we can trust those in charge to deliver.
And then...just like that...he was gone.
Back home to Bahrain, but having packed more into a three-week visit than most would manage in three years.
There can’t have been many Latics fans who didn’t meet Talal Al Hammad during his whistle-stop tour of Wigan.
In terms of a PR exercise, it was right out of the textbook.
But you also got the feeling none of it was for show, for effect, for the cameras.
The way he treated everyone he met – from Council leader to eight-year-old supporter – showed how much he, and the new owners, care about the town and the community they’ve quickly become a huge part of.
After the last lot, it’s like chalk and cheese.
He’s expected back in October – when hopefully Latics will have cemented their place as one of the teams challenging for promotion.
Chelsea look to be the biggest transfer market ‘winners’ as far as the Premier League is concerned.
The Blues have added one of the strikers in Europe, Romelu Lukaku, to a squad that won the Champions League last year, and look set to give Manchester City a far closer run than anyone was able to manage last term.
City themselves, while breaking the British transfer record on Jack Grealish, missed out on Harry Kane, which – given the loss of Sergio Aguero – might leave them light.
I say ‘light’, Pep Guardiola has more than enough quality attacking midfielders to use in the ‘false 9’ position to be cope.
Manchester United had added a couple of great additions in Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho before things got really interesting at the weekend.
It was probably the position they least needed an extra body, but no club in the world would turn the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo.
But central midfield still looks their Achilles heel, which may limit their ambitions to third spot.
Fit-again Virgil van Dijk is Liverpool’s major addition, though they will do well to improve on last season’s fourth place.
Tottenham still look too ‘Tottenham’ to challenge for the top four, with Leicester and possibly West Ham looking the best of the rest.
Everton have started well under Rafa Benitez, but you get the feeling they’re only a couple of bad results away from the fanbase showing what they really feel about the appointment of a
Special mention for Arsenal, who have spent £150million - more than any other club in Europe - and have somehow ended up with a worse squad than last season.
At the bottom, it’s hard to see past Norwich for bottom spot, with possibly Watford and Crystal Palace also set to struggle.
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