Talking football: Two weeks for Wigan Athletic to end window pain

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

It’s exactly two weeks until the transfer window slams shut for another summer.

Possibly the only window in the UK that won’t still be open during this current heatwave.

And Paul Cook, for one, will be sweating about getting his business done before the deadline.

By his own admission, the Wigan Athletic boss remains ‘frustrated’ at the movement – or lack of – in the market.

Yes, plenty of work is being done behind the scenes to put deals in place.

But the simple fact of the matter is Latics are far nearer the bottom of the food chain than the top.

And that means having to play a waiting game in terms of recruitment.

As Cook acknowledged earlier this month: ‘We’re watching, waiting, hoping’...but having to stay patient.

Which sadly isn’t compatible with the world of 24-hour rolling news and social media.

Goalkeeper David Marshall and midfielder Lewis Macleod both look useful additions.

And the return of the Jedi – Antonee Robinson – provides not just quality but also a bit of continuity after his successful loan spell last term.

But there still look to be gaping holes in the rest of the squad that need addressing.

Some 13 players moved on to pastures new over the summer, either completing their contracts or returning to parent clubs.

Christian Walton and Darron Gibson have been replaced by Marshall and Macleod, which look decent enough additions.

But Latics will do well to replace two others who will leave far bigger boots to fill.

After months of speculation, Nick Powell finally confirmed his exit, for Stoke.

Despite missing a chunk of all three campaigns since joining from Manchester United in 2016, he was top-scorer in both Championship campaigns, as well as being shortlisted for the League One player of the year in 2018.

Even Powell had to play second fiddle last season to Reece James, who featured in 45 of Wigan’s 46 Championship fixtures.

The only game he missed was the penultimate fixture at Birmingham – which came five days after safety had been assured.

And the emotional standing ovation he was given after skippering the side on the final day against Millwall underlined his incredible contribution to the cause.

Latics face the task of replacing both of those central figures, having received no money for either of their departures.

To be fair to IEC, they have made money available, as shown by their failed attempt to sign Southampton striker Sam Gallagher, and their ongoing efforts to land Jordan Hugill from West Ham and Portsmouth’s Jamal Lowe.

But even that kitty is small fry in this day and age, against Championship rivals who are spending 10 times as much, thanks to much bigger crowds and far greater revenue.

And let’s not forget IEC have been putting in around £1million a month since taking over just to keep the club going – eye-opening figures that, given events at ‘the club down the road’ should not be taken lightly.

The lack of signings has at least allowed several youngsters some decent game-time this summer.

And without bigging them up too soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir – plus maybe a couple of others – featuring in the first-team squad this term.

Especially remembering the homegrown-player rule, with Callum McManaman having moved on and Owen Evans looking at another loan to further his development.

Cook must also consider whether Callum Lang has done enough during his own loans with Morecambe and Oldham to warrant consideration for a first-team spot.

With Joe Garner the only other senior striker on the books, it certainly looks a position in which Latics are worryingly light.

The pursuit of Hugill was always in the 'optimistic' category, given his wage packet rumoured to be in the £40,000-a-week vicinity.

And Latics have been unable to prise Lowe away from Portsmouth despite weeks of pursuit.

Fair play to Pompey - they clearly don't want to sell, especially to Latics, with memories of Cook's exit still relatively fresh in the memory.

But you also can't blame Latics for not bending over backwards and paying the full £3million asking price- for a player, let's remember, who has never played above League One, whose position is the least in need of strengthening.

Only time will tell if either deal gets over the line.

Most transfer business this time of year is a 'who blinks first' situation.

Loans are sure to become available - a market Latics have manipulated well in the last couple of years.

Whatever happens, it promises to be an eventful end to the window.

But when has that ever not been the case with Latics?