30 January 2008

Video Highlights: Boro 1-0 Latics

Middlesbrough 1-0 Wigan Athletic
Extensive highlights

28 January 2008

The JJB pitch - A Simple Solution

Much has been made of the state of the Wigan Athletic pitch on various websites, forums and media sources, and how it does not allow the full expression of The Beautiful Game.

The JJB playing surface does not enjoy respite from the rigours of sport, and as such, cannot recover, especially as it is being worn down in the summer, when the grass should be left to grow and the pitch recuperate.

A simple solution presents itself, that of allowing just one code to ply it's trade at the ground,leaving chairman Dave Whelan with a decision to make.

Should he allow football to be played on the surface? A sport that offers global recognition, with the kudos and distinction that results from playing a sport that transcends all barriers?

Or does he allow Rugby League? Which doesn't.

25 January 2008

King of The JJB

After failing to get his man in the summer, Wigan Athletic manager Steve Bruce has finally landed striker Marlon King from Watford in a deal believed to be worth around £4.5million.

King signed a three and a half year contract and said: “"I just spoke to Steve Bruce and he made me feel very welcome,

"You look at the Wigan team and they have got a good chance of survival, and there is not much more to say than that."

Steve Bruce was ebullient after capturing his long-time target. "I've been looking to bolster our attacking line up and Marlon certainly fits the bill. He's a proven finisher who provides us with a different kind of goal-scoring threat” he said.

"I believe he is the kind of player who could make a real difference to us. He's aggressive, with great pace and a natural ability to finish, something every manager looks for.

"This is tremendous news for us, especially as there were other clubs in for him. It speaks volumes about the potential there is at this club."

View From The North Stand: Chelsea F.C.

Dan Davies from the innovative Chelsea F.C fansite: CFC.net answers a few pertinent questions prior to our 4th round FA cup tie against his team at the JJB tomorrow.......

*How do Chelsea fans view the FA cup? Does this differ from the view Chelsea FC has of the competition? How high is it on your list of silverware priorities?

It's number three on the list behind the "Big Cup" and the Premier League but the fact that we are the current holders makes us all the more keen to keep hold of it.

*Will your tactics/line-up change in anyway from that of a league match?

Probably not initially, though should we find ourselves behind or level going into the last half an hour you could perhaps see us a little more "gung ho" than we would be in a league match, as sometimes the management have felt that it's better to lose as a result of going for the win, than to subject the players to a replay and another match in a busy schedule.

*What do Chelsea fans really think of Wigan? Be honest! Plucky underdogs who’ve fought their way from lower-league obscurity against the odds with a small but passionate and loyal fanbase? Or dirty Northern peasants who have ridden their luck for long enough with a terrible fanbase who can’t even fill their stadium?

Credit has to go to everyone who's turned the team around in the last 30 years - and at least you're one of the few clubs not to chant the pathetic "You've got no history" at us! We probably learned to respect you a little more after we needed to rely on Hernan Crespo's last minute wonder goal in your first Premier League game. Keep letting us take 6 points a season from you and we're happy to have you in the top flight for as long as you like!

*Which Latics players would make a useful addition to the Chelsea squad?

The gulf in class in the Premiership means that sadly, I can't suggest anyone. It's nice to see Mario Melchiot back in English football however.

*Do you think you can do enough to overhaul both Manchester United and Arsenal at the top of the table?

It's what football managers of a certain generation call "a big ask", and realistically to do so we'll need to beat both sides when we play them at Stamford Bridge in the second half of the season. Honestly, I don't think we've been quite up to the standard of Man U this year, and so would be happy to see us bag second place when Arsenal self destruct!

*Do you think that Grant has adequately filled the shoes of The Special One? Would you have Mourinho back?

He's doing a better job than we expected when we digested the news of his appointment. How much is down to him and how much Steve Clarke and Henk Ten Cate have to do with it is open for debate. Mourinho was absolutely fantastic for Chelsea, and we certainly needed someone with his "win at all costs" mentality to turn us from perennial underachievers to Champions twice on the spin. The nature of the man meant that he was never likely to stay as long as Ferguson or Wenger, and he perhaps wasn't the man to fashion us into an exciting, fluid, open & attacking force. Is Avram Grant is that man? I'm not sure.

*What do you think of The African Cup of Nations? How much will you miss Drogba with the arrival of Anelka? Do you think they will play as a partnership when Drogba returns?

Whilst I understand why it has to be played in January, I'm frustrated by the fact it takes place every two years and not every four (like the European Championship). Anelka stands to be the perfect buy and he's certainly intelligent enough to form a potent force next to Drogba - perhaps not for every game, but certainly at home or against weaker opposition.

*What do you make of Steve Bruce? Do you think he can keep us up?

Whilst it was nice to see our old boy Chris Hutchins get a chance at the top level, he never looked likely to form you into a cohesive winning outfit. Steve Bruce would win few awards for loyalty but is certainly an improvement. You're definitely better than Fulham and Derby, so I guess it's down to you, Sunderland and Bolton to battle to avoid that last relegation spot.

*Who will win the league?

Manchester United unfortunately!

*And the FA cup?

John Terry will be lifting the trophy again come May :-)

*Finally, a score prediction please.

2-0 to the visitors, just like last time.

Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to answer these questions.

Lanzaat Sold

Wigan Athletic midfielder Denny Landzaat has moved to Rotterdam club Feyenoord today for an undisclosed fee (rumoured to be up to £1million).

Feyenoord general manager Peter Bosz said: "We are delighted to have been able to add another player of this calibre to our squad. In our view, Denny is the kind of player this team needs right now."

Steve Bruce was philosophical about the departure, stating: "I said I didn't particularly want to lose any other players this January

“He has done well for me. But sometimes in football, you have to make difficult decisions and when the offer came in, it was one we decided to accept. He leaves with all our good wishes."

Landzaat flew to Holland late yesterday to thrash out personal terms after the offer from Feyenoord was accepted by Latics.

Landzaat was full of praise for the Latics faithful: "I'd just like to thank the Wigan fans because they have always been good to me. I'm confident the team will do well and survive this season” he said.

24 January 2008

Latics Rumour Round-Up: Jan 24th 2008

Borussia Monchengladbach’s Ivory Coast international defender, Steve Gohouri, has been linked with Wigan Athletic.

Gohouri is away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations and he featured in the win against Nigeria.

Monchengladbach are likely to be unable to resist a big offer for the player.

After Fulham’s failure to seal the deal with Watford for striker Marlon King, Hornets manager Adrian Boothroyd has stated two more Premier League clubs are interested in signing his player. One of these is rumoured to be Latics. Sunderland, Bolton and Middlesbrough have also been linked with the player.

Steve Bruce has told the Evening Post he wants cover for Emile Heskey.
"The attack is the area I would be looking at if I was looking to do something, someone to give us that bit extra,” said Bruce.

"I'm always worried about losing Emile - you could see how light we were when we were without him earlier in the season."

23 January 2008

Latics Rumour Round-Up: Jan 23rd 2008

Steve Bruce is believed to have offered £2million to Birmingham City for former Juventus winger Olivier Kapo.

Independiente president Julio Comparada says his club have received three offers – one allegedly from Latics - for their 25-year-old striker, German Denis. After finishing top scorer in the Argentinean Apertura tournament with 18 goals in 19 games, he is highly coveted, with West Ham also supposedly interested.

The player's agent, Leo Rodriguez said he has permission from Independiente to negotiate on behalf of his client.

"Denis is going to have his EU passport in June so it will be easier then to transfer him to a European team” he said.

John Brown, agent of Motherwell’s Ross McCormack, reckons Latics and Heart of Midlothian are interested in his client.

"He is free to talk to interested clubs and I have had a chat with Hearts about him as they have been tracking him for some time” he blathered.

Jason Koumas is going nowhere according to Steve Bruce. “I keep reading these stories about Jason. There seems to be something in the papers every day,” said Bruce.

“But I haven’t heard anything from any other club, and I don’t envisage anyone going out.”

21 January 2008

Koumas Shenanigans

Glasgow Celtic boss Gordon Strachan is rumoured to be lining up a £3.5million bid for Jason Koumas.

He is also allegedly a target for Blackburn Rovers, with whisperings of a deal involving Rover's midfielder Steven Reid being struck.

20 January 2008

Video Highlights: Latics 1 - 2 Everton

Cause for Concern, Reasons to Hope

Some people are saying it’s becoming unsafe to be a supporter of Wigan Athletic, especially at derby games, due to visiting supporters being in the home end. When Everton went 2-0 up today, some supporters became rather pugilistic, and the lady in front of me left, obviously deeming it too dangerous for her and her son to remain inside the ground.

The club itself actively encourages this through it’s associations with Get Me In (see official announcement here) and makes the Latics faithful question the club’s loyalty to it’s supporters when it comes to making a few extra quid through the turnstile. Surely the club must employ someone who cares about the club in the administrative team, not just bumbling moron hangers-on such as Brenda Spencer or Matt McCann. Someone who knows the feelings of the fans.

The players themselves however showed nothing but total commitment to the shirt, and were massively unlucky not to come away with all three points in front of an energized Latics crowd. Playing with such vigour every week will surely see them climb out of danger, and may even see them progress in the FA Cup.

Quote of the day: After the game, a man in Everton colours with the broadest Wigan accent you can imagine was heard to say:

“Liverpool aren’t Liverpool’s real team, their fans are all Cockney’s.”

Erm, ok, ever heard of irony?

18 January 2008

Latics secure double signing

Latics have secured the long-term services of Erik Edman and Luis Antonio Valencia.

Edman, signed from French club Stade Rennes and capped 53 times for Sweden, is unlikely to get his international clearance through in time to make his debut against Everton this weekend.

"It's not often such experienced left backs become available and I'm not surprised so many other clubs were interested in him” said Bruce.

Latics have not disclosed the transfer fee.

Valencia, who was on loan from Spanish club Villareal, has put pen to paper on a permanent three and a half year contract for an undisclosed fee (believed to be in the region of £3.5million).

"I am really happy this has been sorted,” said Valencia.

"I have always wanted to play in England, and now that Wigan have given me the chance, I am happy to repay them by staying here."

16 January 2008

Latics Rumour Round-Up: Jan 16th 2008

Latics are close to wrapping up a deal to sign Honduras international Maynor Figueroa on a short-term contract.

The defender has been on trial with Latics in recent weeks and has impressed Steve Bruce sufficiently to be offered a deal.

"We have got Maynor until the end of the season," said Bruce

"It's difficult for a player from Honduras to make an impact in a short trial, but he has done very well and has been desperate to earn a contract."

This will give Latics the luxury of having two left-backs if the signing of Erik Edman is completed.

23 year-old Hibernian left-back David Murphy is apparently a Latics target, with Bolton and Birmingham also competing for his services. It is highly unlikely this report has any substance with the imminent arrivals mentioned above.

Another defender we are linked with is Aston Villa’s Gary Cahill, who has also been has been linked with Bolton, Fulham, Derby and Sunderland.

Porto defender Marek Cech is apparently being watched by Latics and Newcastle United.
Cech himself told Maisfutebol: “I want to be with Porto until the end of the season because we are 11 points clear, we are well placed to be champions and I want to be in the team at the top of the table”.

"We have had an offer from Fulham and we have turned it down," Steve Bruce apparently told the Daily Star about Paul Scharner. It must be true then, if it’s in the Star.

Edman meets Bruce in Rigaletto's

Steve Bruce met with Erik Edman this afternoon in Rigaletto’s, the restaurant adjoining The JJB. The Swedish international was discussing a move from French club Rennes, and is expected to sign a two-and-a-half year contract, with the transfer fee thought to be around the £500,000 mark.

This is Latics' second attempt to sign him – we tried in the summer only to find Rennes reluctant sellers, but with the 29-year-old out of contract in the summer, they have decided to cash in now.

Edman has 36 caps for Sweden and has Premier League experience having played for Tottenham Hotspurs in the 2003/04 campaign.

15 January 2008

Latics Rumour Round-Up: Jan 15th 2008

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has reportedly spoken to Steve Bruce regarding the availability of Latics’ utility man, Paul Scharner. Fulham may offer an initial £3million, but Bruce won’t be keen to let such a versatile player leave.

Rennes are to allow Erik Edman to leave once they have signed a replacement left-back. This has fuelled the speculation linking him with Latics. According to Rennes general manager Pierre Dreossi, the ex-Spurs defender has been contacted by 'two or three' English clubs. Reports in France claim Latics have agreed a deal that will see the 29-year-old move to The JJB Stadium on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

Reports also suggest Latics may be about to sign Olimpia left-back Maynor Figueroa on a permanent deal. The Honduras international would command a £500,000 fee.

24 year-old Ipswich Town striker Jon Walters has apparently snubbed Latics in favour of staying at Portman Road.

Paul Jewell is keen to take Emmerson Boyce to Pride Park to bolster The Rams ailing defence. Jewell originally signed Boyce for Latics from Crystal Palace for £1million in 2006.

14 January 2008

Latics Rumour Round-Up: Jan 14th 2008

Steve Bruce is apparently going to stump up 5 million quid for Reading's want-away striker Leroy Lita. That's if you can believe anything the News Of The World says...

Along with Reading and Birmingham City, Latics are supposedly chasing Rennes Swedish international, Erik Edman. As Edman will be a free agent in the summer, Rennes will be keen to cash in during the transfer window.

Glasgow Rangers' Daniel Cousin is on the market for £3million. FansFC have reported this tenuous link.

Ex-Latic Jason Roberts is another player linked with The Blues. Apparently frustrated with his lack of first team action at Ewood Park, he's eyeing up Antoine Sibierski's spot as Heskey's strike partner.

Speaking of Antoine Sibierski, he's turned down an offer from his first ever club, Lille. "Lille contacted me three weeks ago to ask me if I wanted to get back to France," said Sibierski.

"I told them 'no' straight away, I don't want to go back to France. My family are happy living in Manchester and I'm very happy at Wigan."

Having fallen out of favour with Alex McLeish at Birmingham, Steve Bruce is reportedly interested in signing Olivier Kapo for the same fee he paid Juventus whilst in charge of Birmingham: £3million.

MOTD Highlights: Derby 0 - 1 Latics

13 January 2008

Demolition Derby

Steve Bruce is under no illusions about Latics’ plight after his team ground out a 1-0 victory at Pride Park. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion that we are still firmly entrenched within the relegation warzone.

In a high-stakes fixture, the play was often laborious and was ultimately tedious to watch, despite the hope three points would bring to such teams that are struggling at the foot of football’s elite pile.

Paul Jewell fielded five new players in his starting eleven – handing the captain’s armband to debutant Robbie Savage, but Derby still looked nervous from the off, and Latics dominated.

'One goal was going to decide the game,' said Jewell. 'It's always difficult when you put so many new faces in the squad. You have to hope they get by on adrenaline.'

And so Jewell’s prediction proved accurate. Antonio Valencia’s early effort was blocked by Andy Todd after he picked up a loose ball and Marcus Bent spurned a chance from ten yards out after Emile Heskey and Valencia had linked well during a brisk counter-attack to set him up.

After 33 minutes the linesman ruled Heskey to be in an offside position after Micheal Brown’s blocked shot fell to him. He squared the ball to Bent, who fired home, but the raised flag meant Bent wouldn’t add to his seven goal tally this afternoon.

Antonio Valencia smashed a gilt-edged opportunity wide just before half time. The ball ricocheted around the area before falling to him seven yards out and he amazingly thrashed his effort wide.

Derby had their work cut-out in the second half when Claude Davis was sent off in the 57th minute. Having been booked in the first half, he led with his arm in an aerial battle with Bent and struck him on the back of the head. Referee Mark Clattenburg had no option but to reach for a second yellow, and Davis, after a moments remonstration, trudged from the field for an early bath.

Click to Enlarge

Latics struggled to make their numerical advantage count and the game looked like it would peter out until Steve Bruce brought on Antoine Sibierski to enhance Latic’s attacking options. With his first touch he drove Bent’s header beyond the despairing dive of Lewis Price into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, to send the Latics travelling support into ecstatic waves of relief.

Steve Bruce: 'We should have been out of sight in the first half. It's one of those games when you're thinking: "Are they going to break away and score?" Thankfully, we didn't get punished and the better team won.'

Derby: Price, Mears, Davis, Todd, Mills, Fagan, Savage, Ghaly (Macken 85), Robert (Edworthy 59), Villa (Teale 71), Barnes.
Subs Not Used: Hinchliffe, Lewis.

Sent Off: Davis (58).

Booked: Davis.

Latics: Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Kilbane, Valencia, Brown, Palacios (Koumas 64), Landzaat (Sibierski 81), Heskey, Bent (Olembe 90).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Aghahowa.

Booked: Brown, Boyce.

Goal: Sibierski 82.

Att: 31,658

Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

7 January 2008

The Magic of the Cup returns

“I can honestly say the FA Cup made my career, I know what it meant to me and it’s pretty sad that people look at it differently now. But if somebody like Dave Kitson was fortunate enough to play in a final he would understand that it does mean something. When you reach the stage when you put on your slippers, you will look back and FA Cup memories make your career what it is. If you are lucky enough to win it, then that is up there as the finest achievement and greatest occasion of your career. The final and the build-up with the world watching is all wonderful. Not that long ago, it was probably more important than winning the League.” – Steve Bruce

“We are not going to win the FA Cup and I do not give two shits about it, to be honest. I care about staying in the Premier League, as does everybody at this club. Our Premier League status is not protected by winning the FA Cup and it is a simple as that. It is a fantastic competition and perhaps one day we will be in a position where we can compete for it but not now.” - Reading striker Dave Kitson.

The last time I got myself so excited about the FA Cup was immediately prior to a second round game at Springfield Park against Scarborough many moons ago (a game we won 1-0). Today I spent quarter of an hour huddled up against a radio at work, waiting to see the fate those numbered balls had in store for us in the fourth round.

Football’s continued (yet understandable) obsession with the lucrative Premier League, combined with football television overkill (our fourth round tie against Chelsea is on the BBC on January 26th, KO 5.15), have contrived to strip some of the gloss from the World’s most prestigious club knock-out competition.

Steve Bruce however has stated his love for The Cup, and although fielding a slightly weakened side for the win at Sunderland, with one eye on Premier League survival, must feel that Latics have a chance of winning their way to the final. With a strong squad, and other teams ambivalence towards the competition, it is a realistic vision, and one that as a Wigan Athletic supporter, I am happy to share. All we need to do now, is beat Chelsea.