Chelsea and Arsenal considering summer transfer swoop for Wigan midfielder James McCarthy

Youngster has held Wigan's midfield together during another turbulent season to the extent that some of the league's leading clubs are interested

Such has been James McCarthy's form this season – for a faltering and once again belatedly awakened Wigan Athletic – both Chelsea and Arsenal are considering a summer move for the midfielder.

The 22-year-old is currently trying to direct yet another escape from relegation, in which victory on Tuesday night against Swansea City would be crucial. His bravery, skill and vision in three consecutive relegation battles have been noticed and whether Wigan survive or finally drop, there is certain to be a fight for his signature this summer.

McCarthy, yet again one of Wigan's most impressive and consistent performers in a turbulent season, is thought to be open to the possibility of a summer move for the sake of his career, but is not necessarily desperate to leave yet. Should Wigan go down, though, it is implausible that he should play Championship football next season.

There are few midfields in the country that would not be improved by the Republic of Ireland international. In an age of specialists he is a genuine all-rounder, who would add authority where it is lacking at Stamford Bridge and bite where it is missed at the Emirates. He may even prefer a less high-profile club, in the interests of playing more games, as he did in choosing to sign for Wigan in 2009.

But there is a sense that, after four years at the DW Stadium, now might be the time to take the next step and move up, especially given the climactic finish Wigan have this season, with their crucial game tonight, their FA Cup final against Manchester City on Saturday and then league games against Arsenal and Aston Villa left to save themselves.

Those who know McCarthy well feel this too. Billy Reid, who gave McCarthy his Hamilton Academical debut at the age of just 15, told The Independent McCarthy can go on to a team at the opposite end of the table. "I still don't think he's realised his potential yet," Reid said, "that's no disrespect to Wigan, I think he can go and play for one of the top teams in England."

The former Republic of Ireland international Ray Houghton, an old friend of McCarthy's family, also from the Castlemilk district of Glasgow, agrees. "He's at a good age now," he told The Independent, "he's probably at a stage now where he might need to move on to improve."

The impressive thing is just how much McCarthy has improved already. He has grown, under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, into a remarkably complete midfielder. Martinez insists on a very high technical and tactical level from his players, but McCarthy has the brain as well as the touch required to run their midfield.

McCarthy is beautifully balanced, able to pass incisively with either foot and seemingly able to see through the holes of his ears. He is also a ferocious worker, able to call every part of the pitch his own, and a great tracker and marker, as he showed against Tottenham's Gareth Bale last week.

That talent has never been in doubt. It is the growth of McCarthy's confidence and assurance that has made the difference. "James has good qualities," the Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, memorably said earlier this season, "but I have told him 'I will punch you if you don't stop being shy.'" McCarthy has just broken into the Republic of Ireland side but could bring their midfield a nuance they have desperately lacked recently.

It has been a long journey for McCarthy already. He had brief unsuccessful spells as a boy at Celtic and Livingston but was back playing boys' club football at 14 before Hamilton's scouts first saw him.

"When I watched him for the first time I couldn't believe what I'd seen," Reid, then Hamilton manager, remembered. "He just had everything: he had balance, two-footed, he could cover the ground, he was a winner. I asked to speak to his mother and father straight away, we asked to get him off school and get him into training, and the rest is history."

Reid gave McCarthy his Hamilton debut at 15, against Queen of the South in the Scottish First Division. In his second season Hamilton won the title and were promoted; in his next, in the Scottish Premier League, he won Young Player of the Year.

"He never missed a minute for me," Reid said. "He played every game. I used think about moving him about but you couldn't leave him out of the team, all the way through from 15. He was so good at that level. He was just a model of consistency."

Those performances were soon noticed by big clubs in Scotland and England. But a teenage McCarthy rejected moves to Celtic, Liverpool and Reading to continue his development at Hamilton. Eventually he moved, in 2009, to Wigan Athletic, in Martinez's first summer in charge. Martinez's assistant, Graeme Jones, used to work at Hamilton.

The move to Wigan was difficult at first, and the 18-year-old McCarthy struggled on debut, in a 4-1 Carling Cup defeat at Blackpool. He was given a few months out of the team to develop, then Martinez brought him back in January 2010 and he has played fairly consistently since, taking on more and more responsibility to the point where few midfielders in the country carry as much on their shoulders.

Liverpool have since tried again to tempt him from Wigan, but again he stayed. Scouts from a host of Premier League clubs are routinely at the DW Stadium, looking at the quiet young man in the middle of midfield. He has other immediate concerns, but the attention will not go away.

Wigan wizard: McCcarthy facts

19: Age at which McCarthy made his Republic of Ireland debut against Brazil in February 2010

87.7 per cent Pass completion rate in the Premier League this season

£10,700: Cost per league game to Wigan, having made 112 appearances since his £1.2m move from Hamilton

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?