Talking football: Player of the Year call is four-midable!
It's already time to start thinking towards the player of the year nominations.
On Wednesday, the shortlist for League One player of the year came out...without a single Wigan Athletic name on it.
Apparently, the best three League One players have been Bradley Dack (Gillingham), Nicky Ajose (Swindon) and Romaine Sawyers (Walsall).
First thing’s first – three very good players.
Of the three, I’d plump for Dack, without whose injury Gillingham would possibly be in a position to take advantage of Burton’s recent stutter.
But if you were sitting in the Latics dressing room, you’d be forgiven for looking around and wondering why no-one in the room had been put forward.
A team on a 20-match unbeaten record, without a loss on the road for seven months.
Three of the five league defeats occurred in the opening month, when the players were (understandably) still getting used to each other.
Since then, only Blackpool and Burton have got the better of Latics in 34 league games.
The kind of form that’s taken the club to within two games of possibly securing promotion back to the Championship.
If you asked 10 fans to name the player most responsible for that, you’d probably get five different answers.
A split vote which, of course, explains why no Latics players made the shortlist for the divisional award.
But who is worthy of being voted Wigan’s own player of the year?
The task of deciding won’t be easy.
Just like last year – when it was a real struggle to fill a top three – this time whittling a squad full of quality down to a trio, let alone one, is tough.
It might have been a bit easier had Michael Jacobs not got injured in January, having led the team with his guile and his creativity for the first half of the season.
Boss Gary Caldwell reckoned Reece James was Wigan’s most consistent player up to Christmas, but he was another who picked up a January injury and has yet to return.
Also affected by injury this term have been Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce, with Latics looking a different team when the pair have both played.
Incredibly, Latics have never lost with the duo at the heart of the defence.
One of the players to fill into the backline during either of their absence – as well as his more customary midfield role – was Chris McCann, and he’s another who can be well proud of his efforts this term.
Further up the field, Yanic Wildschut has provided the X-factor since his arrival from Middlesbrough, initially on loan in September, and then permanently in January.
Utterly unplayable on his day, the signing of Wildschut helped kick Latics into gear after a sluggish start and, perhaps just as importantly, was a real statement of intent.
Will Grigg’s goals have been a huge factor in the charge up the league, with his winner against Coventry at the weekend his 15th in 16 games.
The first Latics striker since Nathan ‘Duke’ Ellington to hit 20 league goals – and 23 in all – the Northern Ireland man will be looking to push towards 30 as he tries to book his spot at the Euros this summer.
Behind Grigg, dynamic duo David Perkins and Max Power have been pushing each other all season in the engine room.
Perkins, Wigan’s first signing of the summer, arrived to little or no fanfare on a free from Blackpool.
While that ‘no-frills’ approach has continued to sum him up off the field, on it his performances have spoken for themselves, with Perkins rarely dipping lower than an ‘8’ on the player ratings.
Alongside him, Power’s arrival made more of an impact – and not least because of his fabulous name!
But Power’s grown in stature with each game, and displayed a penchant for scoring goals right out of the top drawer.
And while Latics are the division’s top scorers, the impact of the bloke at the other end of the field shouldn’t be under-estimated.
Jussi Jaaskelainen was another whose signing – seemingly to provide back-up to newly-signed Rich O’Donnell – barely raised a ripple at the time.
But the veteran custodian quickly made the No.1 jersey his own, and has kept a staggering 17 clean sheets in 34 appearances, finishing on the losing side only twice as a Latics player.
All right, I’ve waffled on long enough – to be honest, putting off having to whittle down the contenders!
My final 4 (in alphabetical order):
* Will Grigg;
* Jussi Jaaskelainen;
* David Perkins;
* Max Power.
And with five big games to go – just like the League One title – it’s still all up for grabs!