DUNLAVY: Malky has to be Wi­gan’s best sweeper

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

EX­ACTLY two years ago, Karl Henry was asked whether Wolves’ mid-sea­son col­lapse gave rea­son to fear rel­e­ga­tion. “It has been dis­as­trous,” he said. “But we’ll be fine. I know the phrase ‘We’re too good to go down’ is a stupid thing to say, but we’ve got more than enough here.”

Ex­cept, as ev­ery­one knows, they didn’t. Mid­fielder Henry and his pals didn’t even put up a fight, los­ing 2-1 to Burn­ley on the penul­ti­mate week­end to ef­fec­tively seal a sec­ond rel­e­ga­tion in 12 months.

There is more to a good team than good play­ers.

Take Wi­gan Ath­letic. Like the men from Molineux, the Lat­ics’ ros­ter sug­gested it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore they pulled out of their tail­spin and swooped into play-off con­tention.

Ev­ery de­feat and ev­ery in­sipid per­for­mance served to show not im­pend­ing catas­tro­phe but tem­po­rary un­der-achieve­ment. Pa­tience, not panic, was the buzz­word.

Un­en­vi­able

Yet the facts are stark. When Henry passed his fate­ful judge­ment in Fe­bru­ary 2013,Wolves had amassed 34 points from 31 games.

Head­ing into the week­end, Wi­gan had taken just 21 from 27. They’d need to win their next four straight just to reach the un­en­vi­able – and ir­re­triev­able – po­si­tion oc­cu­pied by Wolves two years ago.

Given that the Lat­ics have won just four games all sea­son and none at home since Au­gust, there’s more chance of Arsene Wenger see­ing a dodgy dive.

Right now, Wi­gan aren’t too good to go down. They’re too bad to stay up. And the ori­gins of their plight can be traced back to that fairy­tale FA Cup win in 2013.

Had Wi­gan re­mained in the Pre­mier League, that would have been fine. But rel­e­ga­tion with a Europa League cam­paign on the hori­zon spelled dis­as­ter.

Dave Whe­lan should have been hawk­ing his play­ers to the high­est bid­der and eject­ing those un­suited to the Cham­pi­onship. In­stead, he was build­ing an army to con­quer the con­ti­nent.

Though 12 play­ers were sold, ten came in, the ma­jor­ity on two or three-year deals. Bids for big names were re­jected. By March, the squad was 33 strong!

That’s 33 egos to keep happy and mo­ti­vated; 33 em­ploy­ees be­ing paid vastly dif­fer­ent sums to do the same job; 33 bod­ies to be squeezed into 11 shirts.

Owen Coyle couldn’t man­age it. Uwe Rosler tried his best, even reach­ing the play-offs. But when it came to the sum­mer and he wanted to sign his own play­ers, the Ger­man couldn’t shift the vast pile of dead­wood he’d in­her­ited. Eleven went out. An­other ten came in. The squad re­mained a bloated mess.

Now it is Malky Mackay’s turn and he’s wield­ing the axe. Ben Wat­son has been shipped off to Wat­ford. The want-away Roger Espinoza has joined Shaun Maloney in the MLS. Big money sum­mer sign­ing Adam For­shaw has been flogged to Mid­dles- brough and Cal­lum McMana­man to West Brom for £4.5m.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that they are all – with the ex­cep­tion of For­shaw – well-paid relics of a Pre­mier League past.

That’s not to sug­gest they all had a big-time at­ti­tude, though it’s fair to say not all of them per­formed to their pay grade.

Rather that when player X is paid £30,000 a week and player Y is paid £5,000, player Y will get pretty re­sent­ful, pretty quickly, if player X isn’t the best on the park. Team spirit suf­fers.

Wolves found that out the hard way. Only when Kenny Jack­ett marched in and bru­tally os­tracised the big egos and big-earn­ers did the at­mos­phere change and re­birth begin.

Un­like his pre­de­ces­sors, Jack­ett re­alised that the play­ers sup­pos­edly too good to go down were ac­tu­ally the ones re­spon­si­ble for the club’s demise.

Mackay knows that, too. It’s why he’s sweep­ing out the DW like a de­mented jan­i­tor. The worry is that it’s come one trans­fer win­dow too late.

MUCH has been made of Chris­tian Erik­sen’s free- his kick prow­ess spec­tac­ula af­ter Sh­effield r opener against United this week. Plenty of pun­dits now rate him best set-piece spe­cial­ist the for my money, in Eng­land. no­body beats But Daniel Tozser. Wat­ford’s

The Hor­nets’ scored five Hungarian times this mid­fielder has sin­gle one sea­son – ev­ery di­rect from a free-kick. His pre­ferred method – a blast of power sav­age Mi­ha­jlovic – is more Sin­isa than David Beckham.

But he finds net and he the finds it quick.

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