DUNLAVY: Malky has to be Wigan’s best sweeper
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.
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.