Wigan Athletic forward scoops our 'Player of the Year' award

It's a sign of how much of a collective effort Wigan Athletic's League One title success has been that it's almost impossible to select a player of the year.

By Paul Kendrick
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 9:40 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 9:44 am

In fact, it's possible to make a case for as many as half a dozen players.

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But only one can win the coveted Wigan Post 'Player of the Year' award...and here's our working out!

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Will Keane with his Wigan Today 'Player of the Year' award

Firstly, let's start with the honourable mentions...kicking off with James McClean, who returned to the DW last summer after six years away at West Brom and Stoke.

The Irishman was already a huge fan favourite from his previous spell, and further endeared himself to the Latics fanbase by revealing he'd turned down neighbours Bolton because there was 'never any chance' he'd go there.

Which predictably went down over in Horwich.

On the field he made a similar splash, with 10 goals in 45 appearances for club and country, making a mockery of his status as the club's oldest player at 33.

He even made a startling recovery from a knee injury to return for the last game of the season at Shrewsbury, with a man of the match performance helping Latics over the line.

McClean's selection in the EFL League One 'team of the year' was well deserved, and he's expected to extend his stay at Latics for a further 12 months after admitting he and his family 'love it here'.

Also impressive after joining Latics last summer was Tom Naylor, who was incredibly about to sign for League Two Mansfield Town - due to geographical reasons - before Leam Richardson made the call.

The midfielder had been labelled as 'injury prone' by some sections of the support at previous club, Portsmouth, but his 48 appearances in the engine room made an absolute mockery of that.

He also popped up with massive goals on the road at Wycombe and MK Dons to prevent a couple of promotion rivals closing the gap at the top.

And at the age of 30, he'll be relishing the chance to have a crack at the Championship in a Latics shirt.

Naylor's partner in central midfield, Max Power, also narrowly missed out on a podium place.

The fan favourite was another returning hero, after spending three years unsuccessfully trying to win promotion with Sunderland.

But his third title in his three seasons at this level with Latics appears to suggest he wasn't part of the problem in that area.

His 54 appearances in all competitions were more than anyone else, and his 12 assists - mostly from wide areas - placed him third in the division.

And his off-field antics - including the recent trip to Las Vegas - have further cemented his status as a cult figure.

Narrowly pipping all three to third place was Callum Lang, who has thrived in his role as poster boy for the Academy, and being 'one of our own'.

His return from a loan spell at Motherwell last season helped to spark a rally that saw Latics pull off the greatest of Great Escapes against the odds.

And Lang picked up where he'd left off last term by providing a cutting edge to the Latics attack from the right-hand side, as well as ploughing the lone furrow himself in the absence of Charlie Wyke.

His 18 goals exactly doubled last season's half-season tally of nine, but it was his all-round contribution - including seven assists - that so impressed.

At the other end of the field, the figure of Jack Whatmough was a massive reason why Latics were so difficult to break down, with only Rotherham boasting a meaner defence.

Along with old pal Naylor, Whatmough arrived from Portsmouth with mutterings of discontent from the natives about his fitness record.

However, the answer was emphatic, with Whatmough playing all but half an hour - against Cheltenham back in September - of the 46-game campaign.

He was the one constant in a backline that changed around him, and it beggars belief that the only side to rival Latics for his signature was Shrewsbury - scene of last week's title triumph.

Whatmough joined team-mate McClean in the League One 'team of the year'...but he is edged out in a photo finish for Latics player of the year.

Step forward Will Keane, whose 26 league goals saw him come flying up on the rails and win the golden boot.

It capped a quite staggering career comeback for a player whose early promise at Manchester United had been blighted by regular injuries at several other clubs.

His arrival at Wigan in the summer of 2020, shortly after administration, was a gamble - for both parties.

But it's one that's paid off handsomely.

His 10 goal return last term was a personal best, which has been absolutely blitzed this season.

Indeed, his 27 goals in all competitions make up more than half of his career total of 53.

And his 45-goal partnership with Lang matched the club-record tally banged in by Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts in 2004-05.

The best thing is, at the age of 29, his best years could still be in front of him...roll on next season!