Football: `Pub player' exposes flaws of provincial plutocrats

Wigan Athletic 0 Stoke City 1

A LOCAL newspaper suggested last week - mainly, but perhaps not entirely in jest - that, if there is a potential new Chelsea lurking in the land, it could be Wigan Athletic.

There are similarities. Both play all in blue and, given the way they are bankrolled by wealthy men, are unlikely ever to be in the red - not that Dave Whelan's millions are a match for Roman Abramovich's billions. Wigan are the richest club in their division, just as Chelsea are in theirs, but the fragility of their dream was exposed at the unlikely hands of Stoke on Saturday.

Last season, it was not until the finishing line was in sight that the Latics got the staggers, losing their place in the play-offs on the last day of the regular season after leading much of the way. This time, the uncertainties have set in earlier. After a very ordinary November and December, Wigan have now failed to fire in their last two home games, scratching a draw against Watford and now losing to a side which had not won - or even scored - for six games.

No wonder that Tony Pulis, with his team of free-transfer signings, was elated at putting one over on the provincial plutocrats. The irony for Wigan, though, is that, for all Whelan's financial clout, they are having great difficulty putting together a squad good enough and deep enough to take them up, let alone keep them up.

The problem with the current side is that too many players are sure of their place. Thus the division's leading scorer, Nathan Ellington, could have a series of infuriatingly anonymous performances like this one and still not find himself under serious pressure.

Not that the lack of alternatives is for want of trying. Over the last few weeks, the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell, has enlisted only the Swedish midfielder, Andreas Johansson, who made a first, cameo appearance in this match, but he has also attempted to sign Robbie Blake, Stoke's own Ade Akinbiyi, and Brett Ormerod.

Not only did he fail to get any of them, but the supplementary question is whether any of them - with due deference to Blake's recent elevation with Birmingham - is really a Premiership goalscorer. Those, as Abram- ovich would be able to tell Whelan, really do not come cheap.

Wigan are now five points behind Ipswich and look vulnerable to others coming up behind them. The dream of Premiership football in a rugby league stronghold still burns bright, but the sort of player who gives them problems gives some indication of how far they have to go to make it reality.

Not only did Gifton Noel-Williams find the net on an afternoon when the Latics never truly looked like locating it, but the veteran defender Gerry Taggart proved a sizeable stumbling block. At 34, Taggart looks, from a distance, more like a pub footballer than ever, but his uncomplicated approach proved more than equal to the division's most expensive and prolific strike partnership.

"He can't run and you think he's going to be struggling against two quick strikers like theirs," said Pulis. "We coax him through in training, but he's a warrior. He loves the battle." It was literally a battle at times, with five Stoke players going into Mark Clattenburg's book for a combination of agricultural fouls and time-wasting.

To his credit and by contrast with some of Jose Mourinho's recent complaints, Jewell had no whinges about their tactics, arguing instead that his own side need to sharpen their approach when faced by opposition intent on defending in depth.

Other sides in the division will have noted how fallible Wigan can become when confronted with that mind-set. It is a tendency that will have to be overcome if they are ever to appear in the same league as the other big spenders in blue.

Goal: Noel-Williams (38) 0-1

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan; Eaden, Thome, Jackson, Baines (Graham 81); Teale (Johannson 74), Bullard, Mahon, McCulloch; Roberts, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), Breckin, Jarrett.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Buxton, Hill, Taggart, Hall; Greenacre, Brammer, Eustace (Henry 47), Clarke; Noel-Williams, Asaba. Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Neal, Gudjonsson, Gudmunsson.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).

Booked: Wigan: Thome, Teale. Stoke: Simonsen, Buxton, Taggart, Hall, Asaba.

Man of the match: Taggart.

Attendance: 9,938.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee