Friday, 29 January 2016

Smashing The (Transfer) Window

We want to smash it” said recently-installed Latics chairman David Sharpe at a fans forum event in the summer. His enthusiasm has since been misread by many as ‘arrogance’ – what he actually said was ‘we WANT to smash the division and get 100 pointsnotwe WILL smash the division and get 100 points’. That’s an important difference. Personally, that's exactly what I wanted to hear after a terrible season full of changes and poor performances. Currently, we’re in 4th place in League One, just 5 points off an automatic promotion place, with 18 games to go. We’ve not exactly smashed anything yet, but we’ve certainly shown signs of doing so, with our swashbuckling style of football led by our young officers on the good ship Wigan Athletic, which by the way, was sinking without trace 12 months ago.

We underlined our ambitions yesterdays by announcing the signings of Sam Morsy and Ryan Colclough from fellow League One clubs Chesterfield and Crewe. Both are highly-rated, both are under 25 and both reportedly converted by clubs in The Championship – the exact profile of player the club should be signing. We are rebuilding the squad with mostly young, hungry players who are on their way up – not players who are on their way down. It’s an exciting time to be a Latics supporter, as evidenced by the away followings this season, which have dwarfed that of our followings in the Premier League. The price of tickets, the shorter distances, new grounds to visit and of course, the competitiveness of the games have all contributed to those followings; the supporters are enjoying their days out, which is what supporting a club should ultimately be about. The transfer policy of the club this season has made it that extra exciting!

Signing these players has mostly been made possible by the fact the club are receiving parachute payments from the Premier League, which has riled some fellow League One supporters. Let’s get this right here – the gulf in television money between the Premier League and the rest isn’t the fault of Wigan Athletic; we earned those parachute payments by staying in that league for 8 years. The payments (which are spread over a four-year period) are designed to make up for the shortfall in television money following relegation from the Premier League to pay the wages of players acquired whilst you were there. Latics have been intelligent about this – we’ve traded and cashed in on two separate squads since relegation (even sacrificing a second relegation), meaning that in reality, we’ve got a wage budget of a Championship club, playing in League One, rather than a Premier League budget, which we couldn't afford to pay with the parachute payments anyway. This foresight has given the club extra room in the transfer market and freed up funds to bring in the two players mentioned, as well as Yanic Wildschut and Reece Wabara this transfer window alone. Young, exciting players who could help the club to The Championship and beyond, or be an asset for the club to trade on in the future. It’s great business, from a forward-thinking club and I’m very proud of them for being so.

Meanwhile, down Horwich way, Bolton Wanderers have ran out of money in their final year of parachute payments, as they occupy bottom spot in The Championship and are looking likely to be in League One next season. I don’t know enough about their finances to make an in-depth comment, I just don’t understand how the club have lost all of that money (over £100m) when they too, have had a turnover of their squad in the last 4 years. They are an example of how having parachute payments DOESN’T mean an unfair playing field for the rest (in fact, if you look closely, those with parachute payments rarely win promotion back to the Premier League from The Championship). It makes me think how fortunate I am being a Wigan Athletic supporter (despite Bolton being a league higher – the long term is more important than the short term) which in itself is a fallacy, thinking myself ‘lucky’ for supporting a club who is able to responsibly run its finances. There’s a lot of myth about money in football and people do tend to look at short term success and equate it with throwing money at it in order to garner a short-term fix when a sit down and think, then eventually investing in the right areas is the right way to go to sustain success in the long term.

Port Vale are next up at the DW Stadium tomorrow, with new signings Morsy (a former Vale player) and Colclough (grew up around the corner from Vale Park) expected to feature and hopefully contribute to 3 points in our bid to reach those automatic promotion places. And you know what? I’m more excited at the prospect than a match against a Man Utd or an Arsenal.

Let’s smash it!

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