Talking football: Yanic must fulfil Premier potential

No-one could accuse Warren Joyce of downplaying Yanic Wildschut's performance at Huddersfield on Monday night.

Thursday, 1st December 2016, 6:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:36 pm
Yanic Wildschut

‘Similar to Rashford’, ‘faster than Ronaldo’, and ‘better than some £30million players I’ve coached’ were among the plaudits uttered by Joyce in the direction of the flying Dutchman.

And after a display like that, when he single-handedly terrorised the Terriers and ensured three precious points returned home to Wigan, it was hard to argue with any of them.

When Yanic is on his game – as he was at the John Smith’s Stadium – he is quite simply unplayable.

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Joyce pointed that out on Monday night, but Latics fans have known it from virtually the day he joined from Middlesbrough, initially on loan, just over a year ago.

The problem clearly is consistency, and how he goes about ensuring that becomes the norm rather than a tantalising glimpse of what he’s capable of.

Let’s be honest, if he played like that every week, there’s no way Middlesbrough would have allowed him to come to Wigan in the first place – he’d be a big starring in the Premier League.

Pace, power, direct running and a clinical finish – it’s what every club in the top flight is constantly looking out for.

Given his background, at the famed Ajax Academy in Amsterdam, Wildschut certainly has the grounding to become a major success.

We saw him terrorise many a full-back in League One as Latics swept to the title last term.

But this term it’s been slightly harder going, with full-backs a bit more shrewd and a bit more savvy about his threat.

Instead of inviting him in on his favoured right foot – which Joyce likened to the kick of a mule – they’ve kept him out on his weaker left side, and got tight to him at every opportunity.

Having watched him, and the rest of the squad, closely in training at Euxton, Joyce believes Wildschut’s long-term future lies down the middle – with the length and breadth of the backline to exlore, and acres of space to run in behind.

And on the basis of Monday night, who can argue?

It’s no exaggeration to suggest Wildschut could have had a hat-trick in either half, such was the magnetic force he seemed to have with the ball.

As it was, a goal and an assist was enough to give Latics their first win under Joyce.

And a timely shot in the arm ahead of a run of fixtures that sees them take on Derby, Aston Villa and Newcastle in the space of 10 days.

Three clubs that will feel they belong in the Premier League. The challenge for Yanic is to prove he does to.

I remember asking my Derby-supporting mate about Stephen Warnock when the ex-England defender joined Latics – initially on loan – at the beginning of the year.

“I can’t believe we’re letting him go,” was the immediate reply. “He’d still be in the team if I was picking it.”

Fast-forward almost a year, and not only is Warnock now a Championship player with Latics, having helped them to the League One title last term, he is also the deserved owner of the captain’s armband.

Ahead of this weekend’s reunion with the Rams, Warnock can reflect on a move that has gone pretty much as well as could have been hoped.

And Latics can look back with satisfaction on one of the best pieces of transfer business they have ever done.

Cast your mind back six months, and the name of Will Grigg was on the tip of the tongue of every football fan.

Not just every Latics fan, but every football fan.

Having banged in 29 goals during Latics’ League One title-winning campaign – which saw him pick up the Golden Boot – he went to the Euros on top of the world.

Sadly for him, the frustration he felt during the summer, when he was left on the bench, has continued into this season at club level.

I’ll be honest, I thought Grigg – one of four Wiganers in League One’s ‘Team of the Year’ – would have been a central figure again this term.

Two other members of that quartet – Craig Morgan and Yanic Wildschut – have also struggled to get a regular start, while Reece Wabara wasn’t even kept on.

It’s this turnover in staff that’s partly contributed to the side’s poor start. But as Latics hopefully pick up under Warren Joyce, it’s inconceivable there won’t be a part to play for the man with fire still somewhere in his boots.

Steven Gerrard has, as expected, hung up his boots, and we await to see whether his next destination will be the technical area or the TV studio.

Inevitably, his retirement reignited the age-old question: Who was better? Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard?*

Firstly, I’ve always thought that ‘debate’ was akin to Edmund Blackadder making reference to ‘One of the great universities: Oxford, Cambridge...Hull’.

No offence to Lampard, fine player he’s been over the years, but he’s punching well above his weight there.

We digress. Secondly, it underlines exactly what an embarrassment of riches England produced in the so-called ‘Golden Generation’.

Add Beckham to that midfield trio, behind Rooney and Owen, and in front of a back four including Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole...and compare it to the current lot.

How we never got beyond a quarter-final with the class of 2004/2006/2008 remains an absolute mystery.

And probably says a lot more about mis-management than any lack of talent coming through the ranks.

* Scholes – all day long.