Jun 142013

Wigan Athletic have today confirmed that Owen Coyle has been appointed manager after Roberto Martinez took up the managerial post at Everton.

1. Owen Coyle was a striker and played for 14 different clubs during his career, including the club that recently sacked him, Bolton Wanderers.

2. During his playing career, Coyle scored 249 goals in 668 games.

3. Coyle started his playing career at Dumbarton, a club ten miles away from where he born in Paisley, alongside his brothers Joe and Tommy. who both enjoyed lengthy careers playing in Scotland.

4. Airdrieonians paid £170,000 for Coyle in 1990 and he scored a hattrick on his debut. In his three years at this club he scored more goals than he did for anyone else (50).

5. In the 1992–1993 season, Coyle played for Airdrieonians in the European Cup Winners’ Cup (Scottish Cup winners Rangers, had won the Scottish Premier Division title and qualified for the European Cup).

6. Having been bought by Bolton for £250k two years earlier, in 1995 Coyle scored a 75th minute goal against Reading in the playoff final which gave Bolton a lifeline to peg the scoreline back to 2–1. With 90 minutes on the clock, the score was 2–2 and Bolton won 4–3 in extra time to end their 15-year exile from the top flight.

7. In October 1995, Dundee United paid £400,000 for Coyle, where he was once again part of a promotion-winning side, scoring the winning goal in extra time in the second leg of the playoff against Partick Thistle.

May 192013

Wigan v Aston Villa 16:00


Wigan’s fate was confirmed on Tuesday evening as, just days after their remarkable FA Cup Final triumph over Manchester City, they were beaten 4-1 at the Emirates by Arsenal and relegated to the Championship.


– Wigan look to have unearthed a real gem in Callum McManaman but may struggle to hold on to him after a string of impressive performances. The youngster has quickly become Wigan’s most accurate shooter, with a on-target rate of 76.9% from 13 attempts according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Shaun Maloney is another who may well find himself plying his trade in new pastures next season, with a number of Premier League clubs interested in taking him off the Wigan books. The Scottish international ranks third in the Wigan squad this season for attacking contributions (assist, cross, dribble, on target shot) with 104, at an average rate of one every 29.3 minutes.


– Whether he could have helped stave off relegation is unlikely but Wigan have certainly missed the defensive influence of Maynor Figueroa in the final few games of the season. The Honduran international still leads the Lactic squad for defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions, successful tackles) with 295 for the campaign.


– Despite Christian Benteke’s well-taken goal, Aston Villa were not able to spring a surprise result as Chelsea fought back to claim a 1-2 win through two Frank Lampard goals.


Matthew Lowton will have been desperately disappointed to have missed out on the England squad for the upcoming friendlies due to injury but should he continue his form into next season then another national call-up can’t be far away. Lowton is one of only two players to have made more than 100 tackles to have a success rate of more than 70% (75.2%), the other being Nathaniel Clyne.


– His captain Ron Vlaar is the only member of the Villa squad able to surpass him in the tackle stakes so far this season, ‘Concrete Ron’ currently sitting on 81.9% according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He also leads the Villa squad for clearances with 63.


– Any summary of Villa’s season would not be complete without discussing the mammoth contribution made to their cause by Christian Benteke. The Belgian striker is part of a select group of players to have had more than 100 shots (105)(Suarez, Bale, Ba, Tevez, Van Persie, Defoe, Michu, Cazorla) has managed to carve out one of those chances on average less than once every 30 minutes (28.7). Paul Lambert will be going all out to ensure Villa do not lose out on his services come next season.

May 042013

West Brom v Wigan, 15:00 


West Brom saw off Southampton last weekend with a 0-3 victory with proved to be a dramatic affair with three players sent off. 


Gareth McAuley will have an incredibly important role this weekend, structuring a defence against a Wigan side who will be battling for their lives. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index certainly suggests he is up to the task though, having made a squad-high 303 defensive contributions at an average rate of one every 10.5 minutes he’s been on the pitch. 


Midfielder James Morrison will once again be the conduit through which most of West Brom’s game will flow this weekend. Morrison has successfully completed 595 passes in the opponent’s half this season, the highest in the Baggies squad, at an average rate of one every 4.6 minutes. 


One wonders where West Brom could have found themselves this season without the powerful contributions of Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker having provided exactly a third of their 42 goals this season. His rewards in front of goal can be credited to his accuracy in front of goal, as despite struggling to find the net before last weekend he still has a shot accuracy rate of 66.2%. 


– A late own-goal denied Wigan a much-needed three points as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Tottenham in a result which left their Premier League future still very much in doubt. 


Wigan fans will be keen to Arouna Kone display some of trademark sharp shooting this weekend ahead of the looming fixture against Swansea in the league and the FA Cup Final against Manchester City a week on Saturday. Kone has been in fine form this season, racking up a squad-high 75 attempts on goal, with one of those attempts finding their way on target on average once every 58.5 minutes he’s been on the field. 


Ali Al Habsi may well be set to reclaim his place ahead of a crucial run of games for Wigan. The big stopper has made 138 saves this season at an average rate of one every 19.5 minutes this season, a level of expertise that Roberto Martinez could do with as the Lactics approach a few weeks which will define their season.  


– Honduran international Maynor Figueroa is set to miss the season’s run-in following a groin injury sustained last weekend against Tottenham. Figueroa has been an integral part of Wigan’s season to date, making a squad-high 295 defensive contributions, including 187 interceptions.

Apr 272013

Wigan v Tottenham, 15:00


Wigan fell to a 2-0 defeat away to West Ham last weekend as they remained in the bottom three going into their final five matches of the season.


Maynor Figueroa continues to enhance his already glowing reputation as the season draws to a close. Not only has the Honduran defender completed a superb 291 defensive contributions this season, he’s also completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any other player in the top 20 for this defensive category.


– Midfielder Jean Beausejour is another who has been cementing a solid reputation under Roberto Martinez this season. He currently sits 3rd on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for crosses delivered with 111, one of only four players to have broken the 100-cross barrier this season (the others being Snodgrass, Baines, and Bale).


– Whilst Arouna Kone continue to grab the headlines for some impressive performances whilst leading the line for Wigan, the best shot accuracy rate in the squad actually belongs to James McArthur, his 69.6% from 23 attempts on goal proving Kone has plenty of competition for the tag of Wigan sharp-shooter.


– A breathless few minutes of football saw Tottenham claim all three points against Manchester City at the Lane on Sunday, goals from Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Defoe and Gareth Bale securing a much-needed three points.


– Winger Aaron Lennon is likely to be available for selection this weekend following his return from injury and will bring his usual combination of pace and vision to the table. However, it is not just in his outstripping of defenders that Lennon has showcased his value to Andre Villas-Boas this season. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows the England winger as having one of the best tackle success rates in the Spurs squad, at 70.7% from 41 challenges.


– Even more at home at the back has been Steven Caulker this term, the promising defender having had something of a break-out season. He’s completed 125 defensive contributions this campaign, at a squad-best rate of on average one every 12.8 minutes he’s been on the field of play.


 All Spurs fans will be desperate to see the club hang on to star man Gareth Bale come the summer, the Welshman proving to be the dynamic force the club have been searching for as they push for automatic Champions League qualification. Bale’s made more attacking contributions that any other player in the league (all shots, assists, crosses, dribbles). All this has been done at a quite astonishing rate of on average one every 10.8 minutes, again, the best in the league.

Apr 202013

West Ham v Wigan 15:00


West Ham led twice against Manchester United in their mid week fixture, with goals from Ricardo Vaz Te and Mohammed Diame cancelled out twice in a 2-2 draw.


Winston Reid is one of a number of players to have shone at Upton Park this season, and is in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top ten defenders for tackles won this season, having won 55.


Diame has also had a fantastic season, and has attracted praise from pundits and managers alike. Diame has three goals to his name this season, but has excelled in the tackle. Diame passed the 100 tackles attempted mark against Manchester United, and has now attempted 102 tackles winning 58% of them.


Vaz Te’s goal was his second of the season, to add to four assists. Vaz Te has also completed 208 passes in opposition territory and delivered 20 crosses.


Wigan held Manchester City for 85 minutes at the Etihad in their last game, before succumbing to a 1-0 defeat. Franco di Santo had troubled Joe Hart earlier in the game.


– Despite coming out without a point from Manchester City Shaun Maloney completed 49 passes in the opposition half during the game. That was the second highest from the last round of games, and 10 more than the highest of his Manchester City opponent’s Samir Nasri, who completed 39.


Maynor Figueroa continues to make a name for himself as one of the Premier League’s more attacking minded full backs. Only David Luiz has had more shots at goal than Figueroa, who has had 33 efforts at goal this season. However, with just 10 of those on target while he may be willing he may need to sharpen up on his accuracy before he can score the sort of goals Luiz scored this week.


– West Ham will need to work hard to break down a stoic Wigan defence. The Latics have two of the most effective defenders in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in Gary Caldwell and Ivan Ramis. Ramis has made 193 defensive contributions across tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks, averaging one every 7 minutes 43 seconds. Caldwell has made 256, averaging one every 7 minutes 54 seconds. Only QPR’s Christopher Samba has intervened in opposition play more frequently this season.

Apr 172013

Manchester City v Wigan, 19:45 


Manchester City are on something of a roll at the moment, having now won 4 out of their last fixtures, and dispatching with Man Utd and Chelsea in their last two. They will be looking to sustain any hope of  retaining their title when they meet relegation-threatened Wigan this week. 


Controlling the impact of Yaye Toure will be crucial to any success Wigan achieve this weekend, with the Ivorian midfielder looking to be approaching something near his top form after a powerful performance against Chelsea. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Toure has completed a quite staggering 1072 successful passes in the opponent’s half, on average one every 2.33 minutes. 


Wigan are a side more than capable of springing a surprise on anyone on their day, with players like Arouna Kone capable of capitalizing on small mistakes. City captain Vincent Kompany will need to have his concentration at its peak on Wednesday night, but his squad-high 126 defensive contributions suggest he’s more than up to the task. 


– If he’s available, the trickery of David Silva could b key to unlocking the Wigan defence for one of his team mates, however the stats suggest that he is close to being the man who gets on the scoresheet himself. The Spanish midfielder has the best shot accuracy rate in the City squad at 70.7% from 41 attempts on goal suggesting he will be looking to add to his four goal tally this week, 


Wigan could only reach a 1-1 stalemate in the last Premier League outing against fellow strugglers QPR, Shaun Maloney grabbing a vital goal at the death. 


– Whilst City have a vast array of gifted players at their disposal, Wigan have their own playmakers like Shaun Maloney to rely on. The Scottish international boasts some excellent statistics according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, compiling a 713 successful passes in the opposition half, 24 crosses and 6 assists. 


Arouna Kone will likely be the man that Wigan turn to to try and poach a goal against City, the Ivory Coast striker having already racked up numerous important goals for the Lactics this season. Kone has the most attempted shots of any Wigan player with 67, with an accuracy rate of 64.2%. 


The ability of Maynor Figueroa to disrupt the opposition from playing freely must be utlilised to full effect should Wigan not wish to find themselves on the end of a heavy defeat at the Etihad. Figueroa has registered an enormous 265 defensive contributions this season and is the only Wigan player in triple figures  for tackles attempted with 101.


Apr 152013

Callum McManaman, who has played for Wigan since he was 16-years-old, is a name most football fans are familiar with because of his HORROR TACKLE on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara last month. However, it has become apparent that the 21-year-old is actually a half decent player, and after scoring in the FA Cup 5th Round, quarter-final and semi-final, has started to attract headlines for the right reasons.

The talented youngster, who grew up playing for and supporting Everton, has been linked with a move to top clubs this summer, although the contract extension he signed at the beginning of the year would ensure Wigan are entitled to a fair transfer fee.

April 25th 1991: Callum McManaman is born in Huyton, Merseyside.

1998: McManaman joins Everton’s youth system as a 7-year-old.

2007: McManaman signed for Wigan on a free transfer as a 16-year-old after being released by Everton.

April 2nd 2008: McManaman made his debut for Wigan reserves

May 24th 2009: McManaman makes his Wigan debut as a 78 minute substitute in their 1-0 win over Portsmouth, Wigan’s youngest ever player to represent the club in the Premier League.

2008/2009: McManaman played 1 game in all competitions.

May 25th 2010: McManaman signed his first professional playing contract with Wigan.

January 8th 2011: McManaman scored his first goal for Wigan in their 3-2 win over Hull in the FA Cup.

January 9th 2011, Roberto Martinez (Wigan manager): “Since the first time he participated this season against Arsenal in the League Cup, straight away you could see he is desperate to be on a football pitch. In his first game he showed a little bit of everything; a real magic touch, really hard work, real quality and a street-wise talent that is really rare to see. We’re extremely pleased to have a player that has come through the youth set-up. Since Leighton Baines came into the first team we haven’t had another youngster and I think it’s important we try to give them opportunities because it’s a real sign for the future of Wigan.”

April 29th 2011: McManaman signed a contract extension to keep him at the club until 2013.

April 29th 2011, Martinez: “Callum has continued to progress this season and we are delighted he has now signed this new contract. Callum represents a real example for every youngster at our football club. Technically, he’s a very gifted player with a natural raw talent and over the last 10 months he’s developed immensely, tactically and physically.”

June 29th 2011: McManaman named in England’s 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup squad. He played in all the games.

2010/2011: McManaman played 7 games in all competitions and scored 1 goal.

October 17th 2011: McManaman joined Blackpool on a three month loan.

October 17th 2011, Martinez: “Callum is a vital player for the future of our football club and now we must fulfil his needs in order for him to reach his outstanding potential by playing Championship football, which will be the perfect challenge to test all the good things that he’s been working on over the last few months. We expect Callum to be back with us to help the team with his individual level sharpened up after the loan experience. Loan periods at the right time are needed in the progression of any young footballer to reach their full potential, and one very fresh on our mind could be Tom Cleverley from last season. We wish him all the very best for the next three months or so.”

October 21st 2011, McManaman: “I want to play and I’m expecting to be involved. Hopefully I can show everyone what I can do. My game is all about staying wide, getting at the full-back and trying to make things happen. When I came on the other night, I was aware we needed a goal and so I was positive, getting some shots in and trying to make a difference. Tom (Ince) was doing the same. You want substitutes to get on and change matches. Tom certainly did that and I think I did OK too.”

On being dropped by Everton: “That was a massive shock because I was a huge Everton fan, so it was pretty difficult when they no longer wanted me. But I think that experience made me stronger. I went to Wigan and have been there ever since. Roberto Martinez wanted me to go on loan and get games, and I had no hesitation in coming to Blackpool. Ian Holloway is certainly different to what I’m used to, but it is really enjoyable and a great learning curve for me. I’m here until January and my only aim is to play as many games as possible and prove what I am capable of. Forest is a big game for us but a second win of the week can really move us up the table. I want to be part of a team doing well in the league, and I’ve seen no reason why Blackpool can’t be up there challenging because we have some really good players.”

December 3rd 2011: McManaman scored his first goal for Blackpool in their 1-0 win over Reading.

December 3rd 2011, Ian Holloway (Blackpool manager): “That goal alone was worth the entrance fee. How McManaman did that I don’t know even know, he turned and dragged it back, he had no space to hit it in and slotted it in.”

December 6th 2011, Martinez: “It’s been great to see Callum enjoying his football and growing while at Blackpool. It was important for him to get regular minutes under his belt, and we’ve all been admiring his progress from a distance. He’ll be returning to our club as a more mature and confident player, ready to fight for his place in the first team. And we’re all looking forward to seeing him back here in the first week in January.”

December 6th 2011, McManaman: “I’ve loved every minute of my time at the club. I just hope to spend as much time on the pitch as possible between now and when I go back.”

2011/2012: McManaman played in 14 games and scored 2 goals for Blackpool whilst on loan and scored 4 games and scored 1 goal for Wigan.

September 24th 2012, Martinez: “It’s so important that everyone’s got an opportunity. It’s great to see Callum’s development over the last two or three seasons and I think he showed that he’s ready to help the team in many games to come.”

January 25th 2013: McManaman signed an extension to keep him at the club until 2016.

January 25th 2013, McManaman: “It was an easy decision (to stay). I was just made up to get it completed. The club is very important to me. When Everton let me go earlier in my career, Wigan were the ones who gave me the opportunity and I owe it to the club to stay loyal. It was the best thing that happened for my career. I’ve loved every minute of it so far and I’m still enjoying it now. I want to keep improving, keep making appearances and maybe get more starts under my belt. Hopefully in time that will come, because I believe there is a lot more to come from me.”

February 21st 2013, Martinez: “Callum is a real example of what we want in our football club – youngsters that, if they work well, if they apply themselves well, are going to have opportunities. He’s been working really hard and enjoying his football, and what he did against Huddersfield is going to help the team because that talent is welcome in any group of players. We’re delighted that Callum is developing into an impressive young footballer and he’s going to be very important for us until the end of the season. He’s a player who can create something out of nothing, and those players are quite rare. We need to understand he is still a young man and he’s still developing, and he deserves that time and that patience to allow him to be as good as he can be. But clearly this season he’s put himself in a position where, as you saw in the last game, he can be effective.”

March 10th 2013, McManaman: “I was there for nine years and was released when I was 15 and it broke my heart to be honest but I still look out for Everton’s results. I was gutted when it happened but you just have to get on with it. It was make or break when I left. I either packed it in or went and found another club and Wigan came knocking and I haven’t looked back.”

March 18th 2013, Ryan Taylor (Newcastle player): “Nothing to do with the scoreline an the fact it was a red but as a footballer it’s the definition of a ‘shithouse tackle’. Wow. Not even a yellow.”

March 18th 2013, Dave Whelan (Wigan chairman): “The ball was there. Young McManaman went in for the ball and got the ball as clean as a whistle, but in the follow through they collided. The referee saw it all, he had a clear view on that. He hasn’t gone over the ball. That’s an accident. There is not one ounce of malice in Callum McManaman. He is an enthusiastic young boy. He has got great prospects. He was very upset by it all.”

March 18th 2013, Martinez: “Remember it’s Callum’s full debut in the Premier League. I haven’t seen the replay, I believe he touches the ball and then it’s a bad challenge, but it’s nothing malicious, he’s not that sort of boy. It’s the normal enthusiasm that you get in your debut.”

March 18th 2013, Alan Pardew (Newcastle manager): “It is an awful challenge. The pictures speak for themselves. I thought it was a bad challenge and I was 60 yards from the incident. The players knew because they were on top of it and there was a lot of bad feeling about that incident when it goes unpunished. He (Halsey) said ‘If I’ve missed it I apologise’ – that was at half-time.”

March 19th 2013: FA confirm that McManaman will face no charge or punishment for his challenge on Massadio Haidara.

April 13th 2013, Martinez: “The whole situation has been very unfair on him… but today we saw the real Callum McManaman. It’s great to see that it’s now all about his talent. He’s an attacker, not a defender, and we can see that in how he takes the goal. He seems like he’s been playing at Wembley many, many times.”

Apr 122013

BBC have revealed that Wigan Athletic have sold just two thirds of their ticket allocation for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Millwall. An indicator that modern day football is beyond the affordable for the average fan, perhaps, or maybe a result of the Lancashire club being predominantly a Rugby town. Still, with a population of just 80,000 in Wigan, you could argue that selling tickets to a quarter of the town is fairly impressive, particularly when you consider less than 20 years ago they were in the fourth tier of English football and averaged less than 2,000 a game. Either way, it was hardly surprising when the FA announced that they are planning to allocate the spare tickets to a ‘neutral zone’.

This has been an issue in the UK for a while now, with numerous campaigns and protests highlighting the need for lower prices. If we look back to Arsenal’s Champions League tie with Bayern Munich in February, a ticket for the game would set you back up to £126. A bit of a shock for the fans of the Bavarian club considering the price for a season ticket at the Allianz-Arena starts at just £104.

A match day ticket for a Bayern Munich home game ranges from £13 to £60, whereas Gunners are expected to stump up £25.50 to £126.

With Champions League final tickets ranging from £60 (category 4) to £330 (category 1), it will be interesting to what sort of impact this will have on the attendance.

It is a stark contrast between clubs in England and the rest of Europe which is hard to put your finger on. Whether it is to do with the wealth of the leagues, the financial state of the country itself or just a supply-in-demand situation, it is causing unrest across the country.

Switching our focus to international football, and England’s friendly with the Republic of Ireland in particular, then you can argue that the cost of watching a meaningless national game is also ridiculously priced. To secure yourself a seat for the aforementioned England tie at Wembley Stadium in May, you are looking at coughing up a fee of up to £65.

While we’re on the price of international football tickets, if you were to be interested in tickets to the 2013 Confederations Cup then I hope you have been saving for a while. A single ticket to any single fixture will set you back hundreds of pounds, something which is utterly scandalous for 90 minutes of sport.

However, if people are paying the outrageous prices to enjoy what they love, then why should the governing bodies or the clubs’ bosses lower the prices of tickets?

Mar 302013

Wigan v Norwich 15:00


Wigan claimed a 2-1 victory over Newcastle last time out, a last minute Arouna Kone bagging the Lactics a vital three points given their current predicament at the foot of the Premier League.


– Roberto Martinez will be looking for much greater defensive consistency from Franco Di Santo when he chooses to get involved in tracking back in the latter stages of the season. The striker has conceded more fouls than any other Lactics player with 40.


James McCarthy has been at the centre of so much of Wigan’s play this season. Not only has he made a solid 190 defensive contributions, he’s also completed 717 passes in the opponent’s half, the highest in the Wigan squad, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– Look for Jean Beausejour to be testing the aerial ability of Norwich’s defenders this weekend. He’s delivered more crosses than any other Wigan player this year with 102 to his name.


Norwich survived being reduced to ten men to battle through against Sunderland and emerge with a point after Wesley Hoolahan’s first-half goal earned them a 1-1 draw.


Robert Snodgrass remains Norwich’s main attacking threat as me move closer to the season run-in. He’s had more attempts on the goal than any of his colleagues (56) an has on average taken just 76 minutes to have an on-target effort on goal whilst he’s been on the pitch, the lowest in the squad.


– When on the pitch Wesley Hoolahan has been on hand to help out Snodgrass and taken some of the attacking duties off of his shoulders. On average he’s taken just 3.9 minutes to complete a pass in the opponent’s half during the time he’s played this season.


Sebastian Bassong remains as one of Norwich’s main defensive leader’s this season, his excellent reading of the game providing him with 110 interceptions.

Mar 202013

The FA yesterday announced that Callum McManaman would not face an FA charge over his challenge on Massadio Haïdara at the weekend, following the daily replays and image stills in the media. Whilst some fans have expressed their outrage, the decision should have come as no surprise, as the FA aren’t about to break their own rules when it comes to retrospective punishments. One of the officials saw the “coming together” and therefore no action can be taken. Some may argue this is a silly rule to have in place but it would be unmanageable for the FA to review every possible red card decision. How many times a weekend do you see a challenge that is dealt with by the awarding of a freekick or by dishing out a caution, when hindsight suggests that the player was actually guilty of a sending off offence?

The Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, was asked for his thoughts on the latest HORROR CHALLENGE but claimed that there was nothing wrong with it. “The referee was only 10 yards away and didn’t even give the foul – it was a fair challenge, you have to see it all – our lad went for the ball, and they collided, it is football. It is tough game but it was an accident.”

The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, understandably saw the challenge differently. “It is an awful challenge,” he said. “The pictures speak for themselves. I thought it was a bad challenge and I was 60 yards from the incident. The players knew because they were on top of it and there was a lot of bad feeling about that incident when it goes unpunished. He (Halsey) said ‘If I’ve missed it I apologise’ – that was at half-time.”

Still, for all the apparent shock from Newcastle and neutral fans alike, we should remember we’ve been here before, when Wayne Rooney elbowed Wigan’s James McCarthy in the head out of sight of Mark Clattenburg. The referee reportedly asked Rooney what happened, to which he lied, and claimed he caught him by accident. Clattenburg then asked McCarthy who responded by saying he didn’t know. Clattenburg then awarded a freekick, meaning the challenge had been dealt with and no retrospective punishment could be made (although the FA did get their own back a few weeks later when making Rooney the only player to face a two game ban for swearing).

Despite McCarthy choosing not to tell the referee he had been elbowed, Whelan went on the attack, claiming the reason why the FA hadn’t broken their own rule to punish Rooney was because he played for Manchester United.

“Something is wrong when a top international like Rooney is seen doing something like this, as clear as day, and is allowed to get away without being punished,” he said. “If it was any other club or player, you can bet your life he would have been sent off. But officials seem intimidated by the words ‘Rooney’ and ‘United’. Manchester United are allowed to get away with things the rest of us get pulled up for. And you can’t have one set of rules for one club and another for the rest. I don’t care what the FA say about the matter being dealt with at the time by us getting a free-kick. They, and everyone else in football, know justice isn’t being served here. The FA will be delighted they can hide behind their rules.”

I believe Whelan is now the one who is delighted that the FA have this rule to hide behind, as McManaman has been allowed to get away without being punished. Turns out you don’t have to be a Manchester United player after all.

Two weeks after the Wigan game United went to Anfield to suffer the humiliation of a Dirk Kuyt hattrick and one of our players getting cut open by Jamie Carragher. The Liverpool man went in on Nani similarly to how McManaman did on Haïdara, leaving Nani with a deep gash in his leg, but Phil Dowd opted just to caution him. It was clearly a red card offence but there was no retrospective punishment on offer.

James Lawton, The Independent, wrote at the time: At the end of a week of refereeing controversy it was that Jamie Carragher was merely given a yellow card for a tackle on Nani so sickening, so dangerous, that it rendered more farcical than ever the insistence of the football authorities that they cannot revisit extreme cases of negligence, irresponsibility or – let’s not fail to explore the full range of possibilities in this case – outright failure of nerve by a match official.

Phil Dowd was close at hand, was surrounded by protesting United players and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard – who appeared to be suggesting that his team-mate was not guilty of one of the worst fouls to disfigure any ground in recent memory – and then administered two yellow cards, one to Carragher, still protesting his innocence, and the other to Edwin van der Sar, incredulous that a tackle of such crude violence could elicit such a mild punishment.

We all know what a sterling professional Carragher has been down the years but you had to be living on another planet not to be revolted by this piece of action. Nani wasn’t tackled – he was, in effect, assaulted – and we can re-run the film a thousands times without a softening of that verdict.

The issue is that every week referees make the wrong decision and if the FA can overrule them, not only will the officials be totally undermined, but the FA will be inundated with red card appeals. The only occasion when the FA have diverted from this rule was when Ben Thatcher took out Pedro Mendes and it was deemed that a yellow card wasn’t punishment enough. Referee Dermot Gallagher failed to spot that Thatcher smashed his forearm in to Mendes’ head, leading the FA to retrospectively ban the Manchester City player for eight games.

So, did the FA open a can of worms with this decision? You could argue that the fact Mendes was knocked unconscious and suffered with seizures on the way to hospital meant that this was an extraordinary case. Whilst there’s no denying that challenges like McManaman’s should not be a part of the game, it certainly wasn’t life-threatening in the way that Thatcher’s could have been. The FA and referees tend to act as a result of the damage done, which is why in challenges like the Jonny Evans-Student Holden of a couple of seasons ago, it was Evans that got sent off, despite Holden going in over the ball. Holden got his leg broken though so Evans got a red card. Had Haïdara’s leg broken in a few places and he went in to shock, there might have been more chance of McManaman becoming an exception to the rule and facing a ban, but it was never likely.

Something must be done about this though, fans keep saying, it can’t be right that players get away with such shocking challenges. We can all agree on that but it’s hard to see what the solution might be.

Mar 172013

Wigan v Newcastle, 16:00


Wigan’s last effort in the league was a 0-4  defeat at home to Liverpool, a result they will be keen to banish from memory with the arrival of another dangerous outfit in Newcastle this weekend.


Maynor Figueroa continues to be a bastion of strength in defence for Roberto Martinez’s side this season. He now leads the Wigan squad for defensive contributions with 261.


– Scottish midfielder James McCarthy’s influence on Wigan’s performances this season has been enormous, as evidenced by the fact that he has completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any other Wigan player (702) at an average rate of one every 3.8 minutes.


Franco di Santo may not have been at his most accurate in front of goal at times this season, but it has not diminished his willingness to let fly when he finds himself in promising positions.  He has had 54 attempts on goal this season (55% of which have been on target), second only to Arouna Kone with 56.


Newcastle showed good grit to overcome a Stoke 2-1 at St James Park last weekend, with goals from Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse helping them to come from behind and deservedly claim all three points.


Yoan Gouffran has showed some promising touches in the early stages of his Newcastle career, another in a line of talented Frenchmen to join the Magpies’ squad. He’s already registered 2 assists and 12 efforts on goal since arriving on Tyneside.


– Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse continues to fill the sizeable void left by Demba Ba’s departure. His well taken goal last time out in the league is something we all know him to be capable of and he is steadily improving his general shot accuracy, now sitting at 51.9% from 52 attempts.


– Despite struggling to nail down a regular place in the starting XI at times this season, it has proven difficult for any other Newcastle player to replicate Hatem Ben Arfa’s ability to take the game to opposition defences. The gifted midfielder still leads the Newcastle squad for dribbles with 27.


Mar 012013

Wigan v Liverpool, Saturday 17:30


– Roberto Martinez’s Wigan secured a vital win last week in a 3-0 victory over Reading. All the goals came in quick succession as Wigan hammered a dazed Royal outfit, including a brace from Arouna Kone and another from Maynor Figueroa.


James McCarthy continues to be key to Wigan in the centre of the park. He leads the Wigan squad for completed passes in the opponent’s half, securing 668 at a rate on one every 3.8 minues.


Arouna Kone’s 8 goals have been crucial for the Lactics this season, and the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index would seem to suggest that more goals aren’t far away. He’s been taking only 64.8 minutes to have a an on-target attempt on goal, with 60.4% of his efforts testing the goalkeeper.


– Look for Gary Caldwell to continue to throw his body on the line to help the Wigan cause as the run in to the end of the season approaches. He’s made 12 blocks, more than any other Wigan player.


Jean Beausejour has been quietly carving out a solid reputation for himself for Wigan this season. He’s contributed an excellent 8 assists and currently sits third on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for crosses delivered with 97.


Liverpool’s last foray in the league was an fine 5-0 home win over Swansea. This result will have eased some of the concerns around Anfield after a five-match run without a win, and the players will be resolved to kick on against Wigan this weekend.


Steven Gerrard continues to exert as much influence on games as ever even as he progresses through his 30s. The talismanic Liverpool skipper has now racked up an impressive 829 passes in the opponent’s half this campaign, a feat that has no doubt contributed to his 13 assists.


– Holding onto Luis Suarez is an obvious priority for Liverpool come the summer given the Uruguayan striker’s ability to change the momentum of matches so emphatically. This season he’s looked to do that on multiple occasions with 138 attempts on goal, one of those finding its way on target once every 30.9 minutes.


– Rumours have also been circulating around Daniel Agger, the Danish defender drawing admiring glances from some of Europe’s top clubs with his consistency this season. He’s racked up an excellent 186 defensive contributions this season,  including a squad-high 123 interceptions.


– Youngster Andre Wisdom has made great strides in his debut season under Brendan Rogers. He’s been clearly demonstrating he has the ability to shine at this level, compiling a 70.4% tackle success rate from 27 challenges.


Feb 232013

Reading face Wigan on the back of consecutive 2-1 defeats at the hands of Manchester United in the Cup and Stoke in the Barclays Premier League.


Jobi McAnuff was on target against United and Adrian Mariappa against Stoke. Despite his cup goal, McAnuff is yet to score in the Premier League despite 23 efforts at goal, the third highest number of shots without return in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Mariappa has been more used to excelling in his own box than the opposition box this season. He is ranked 5th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for clearances with 153, and 6th for blocks with 24.


Jimmy Kebe is currently Reading’s top ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in 151st, just one place ahead of Mariappa. Kebe has 5 goals this season from just 16 efforts at goal, an incredible conversion rate of 3.2 shots per goal (the best rating in the Premier League among players with 5 or more goals to their name).


Kebe has also won an impressive 64.5% of the tackles he’s attempted, howing the midfielder excelling in both his offensive and defensive duties.


Wigan have also had the same scoreline in their last two games, although they were on the winning end the second time around as they bounced back from a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League to win 4-1 in the Cup against Huddersfield.


Shaun Maloney scored his fourth Premier League goal of the season against Chelsea. His goals have come from 32 efforts at goal. While his 8 shots per goals is not the most efficient rating in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, his on target percentage of 65.6% suggests he will add to his tally before the season is out.


Maynor Figueroa made 17 interceptions in the game against Chelsea, the fourth highest by a Wigan player so far this season. That took his tally for the season to 93 interceptions.


– Ali al Habsi made 8 saves against Chelsea, his sixth busiest game of the season. That took his tally for the season to 137 saves, the 5th busiest goalkeeper in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


James McCarthy is ranked 11th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for passes completed in the opposition area, keeping company with a top 15 passers compiled exclusively from players from Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea.

Feb 082013

Chelsea v Wigan, Saturday 15:00


– Goals from Frank Lampard and Juan Mata were not enough to overcome a spirited Newcastle as the reigning European Champions returned to London empty-handed after a 3-2 defeat.


Frank Lampard has been in superb form in recent weeks and looks to have turned Chelsea around on offering him a new contract. He’s scored 10 goals this season, building on his shot accuracy rate of 66.6%.


Gary Cahill has been of increasing important to the Chelsea defence since his arrival in Stamford Bridge, with the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index providing some interesting figures on his performances. He leads the Chelsea squad for both interceptions and blocks, with 73 and 20 respectively.


– Midfield dynamo Juan Mata has been in sparkling form this season, generating numerous chances for his team mates to latch onto.  He is second in the league for assists provided with 12, and leads the Chelsea squad for crosses with 64.


– Look for midfield enforcer Ramires to tidy up his defensive work in the run in towards the end of the season. He’s conceded more fouls than anyone else in the Chelsea squad (37) and only has a 52% tackles success rate from 73 attempted challenges.


– A goal at the death from Shaun Maloney garnered a valuable point for struggling Wigan as they drew 2-2 with Southampton last weekend.


– Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney will likely be one of the biggest creative threats to what is a very physical Chelsea defence this weekend. He leads the Wigan squad for assists with 6 this season.


– Expect Arouna Kone to also pick up the ball and test the Chelsea defence this weekend, he’s 26 dribbles is the most of any Wigan player this season.


– Competitive midfielder James McCarthy is always looking to get involved in Wigan’s play. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index he’s the central figure in their passing movements, having completed  a squad-high 612 passes in the opponent’s half this season.


– Despite a couple of errors in recent weeks, Oman international Ali Al Habsi is usually a model of consistency between the Wigan sticks and is ranked 6th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for saves with 129.

Jan 292013

Stoke v Wigan, 19:45


Stoke have been one of the best teams in the league defensively this season, but will need to return to that form to halt a run which has seen them concede ten goals in their last three Premier League games.


The most recent defeat was a 3-1 loss against Swansea, in which Michael Owen scored a late consolation goal.


Robert Huth has been at the centre of Stoke’s best defensive work this season. Huth is ranked third overall for defensive contributions this season with 238 across tackles won, interceptions, clearances and blocks. That means Huth interrupts an opposition attack every 9 minutes and 35 seconds on average.


Jonathan Walters’ season may be remembered for his nightmare performance against Chelsea which saw him score two own goals and miss a penalty, but in fact Walters should be credited as one of the most consistently hard working players in the league. Walters has covered 141.46 miles this season, the fourth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He has been Stoke’s hardest worker in 12 of their 23 league games this season.


Walters has also done more defensively than any other striker in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 77 defensive contributions across tackles won, clearances, interceptions and blocks. 888sport.com have Walters at an industry best price of 6/1 to buck his recent run of bad luck and score first against Wigan.


Wigan were unfortunate to lose 3-2 against Sunderland in their last league game, to make it three games without a win for the Latics.


Ronnie Stam’s shot forced a Sunderland own goal for the first, while Angel Henriquez hit the second. Henriquez is an industry best price of 9/1 with 888sport.com to make it two goals in two games and score first against Stoke.


Stam has delivered more crosses per minute on the pitch than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with one every 18 minutes and 18 seconds, 42 crosses in total.


James McArthur covered the most ground for the Latics in that game with 7.08 miles, the 7th time in 8 games he has topped his team’s charts for ground covered and taking his total mileage for the season to 104.39 miles.


Jean Beausejour has been a constant threat this season delivering 87 crosses so far, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and just one behind the league’s top performer Leighton Baines who has delivered 88 crosses.

Jan 222013

Pete Sixsmith did not expect to be at  the DW Stadium. His original plan involved a trip to Bitton, not far  from Bristol, to see Shildon in the FA Vase but he wisely changed his  mind even before all Saturday’s games in the competition were called  off. So he became one of the 5,000 candidates for Man of the Match at  Wigan as he joined the fabulous travelling army roaring Sunderland to  victory …

There was some clown on BBC Radio Newcastle this week who  worked for a computer game called Football Manager or some such thing,  and he predicted that the three teams to be relegated would be Reading,  QPR and Sunderland.

Sunderland, he said, with all the authority a 12-year-old computer  nerd who supports Nottingham Forest can muster, would finish with 39  points and go down. Newcastle, he calcuated, would finish with 49 points and end up in ninth position.

There were snorts of derision from Marco Gabbiadini and even the  usually phlegmatic John Anderson was a tad critical of the 12-year-old’s assessment.

According to this boy wonder, we will now gather a mere 11 points  from our final 15 games, a performance of Brucian proportions, while our neighbours will garner 28 from theirs. Hmmm.

It goes without saying that the three points that we brought back  from the DW Stadium were of considerable importance, not least in that  the players restored some pride after the Bolton debacle.

It also showed that we can recover after going a goal down, that we  have a superb striker in Steven Fletcher and that we can gird up our  loins and defend as if our lives depended on it when we really, really  have to.

And we did in a second half when Wigan attacked us with a ferocity  that they had reserved in the first half for unpleasant tackles on  Fletcher, Johnson and Sessegnon.

We were deservedly ahead at the break, having given the Latics a  head start with an unfortunate “og” from David Vaughan. Craig Gardner  had been found lacking by Jean Beausejour who got behind the full back,  his cross ending up at the feet of James McArthur whose shot was knocked over the line by Vaughan.

Five Thousand Sunderland fans thought “Oh dear, here we go again”, but we were level 13 minutes later when Gardner answered a question that has been puzzling us all season – “Who gets to take the pens?”. He did  after James McCarthy handled a Seb Larsson free kick and he planted it  firmly in the corner.

Three minutes later, a fine cross from Alfred N’Diaye was met by  Fletcher. The Wigan keeper saved but the Super Scot turned it into the  net to send the freezing 5,000 frantic with delight.

N’Diaye appears a good acquisition on this showing. He covered lots  of ground, made some telling passes and tackles and looked like a player who would grow into the Premier League. He tired towards the end, but  that is understandable; I can’t imagine that his experiences at Nancy  and Bursaspor will have prepared him for the harum-scarum of the Premier League. Great song for him as well; He comes from Bursaspor, To hear  the Roker Roar”. Two good songs in two weeks, lads; keep it up, but drop the offensive one about Titus, please.

Fletcher’s third was the pick of the goals. Johnson set him up well  and his shot was an absolute fizzer, worthy to win any game with. He  really does look a very good centre forward, with no discernible  weaknesses in his game. There is just that worry that he gets injured;  he came in for some rough treatment here from the likes of Caldwell  Minor, Boyce and Figueroa, but got up and got on with it.

At half time, we were coasting it, the general consensus being that  we needed another goal to wrap it up. As they pushed forward, there  would be gaps and we could take advantage of the and we could luxuriate  in a comfortable away win and look down on the many clubs who do not  have the good fortune to be Sunderland.

As predicted, Wigan came at us, led by a straggly haired Honduran  called Roger Espinoza. As not predicted, they did not blow themselves  out after 15 minutes. They had us pushed back, but we did have two good  opportunities to do that wrapping up.

A break from Larsson should have finished with a roll into the path  of Johnson, while Sess got his feet all tied up after running the length of the field and allowed Caldwell Minor to clear.

In the meantime, the Sunderland penalty area resembled a medieval  siege as Wigan threw everything at us. Espinoza picked the ball up deep, Maloney jinked and twisted and it was all orchestrated by McCarthy.

A goal from Henriquez made the last 11 minutes (plus an inexplicable  five of added time) interesting to say the least, but O’Shea and Bramble marshalled the back four well and stood their ground, repulsing the  Wigan attackers by (metaphorically) pouring boiling oil on them and  tipping over their siege ladders. And when they did get through,  Mignolet was there to make a couple of really telling saves.

It was a real team performance, different from last Saturday,  particularly in the second half where Wigan showed much heart and no  little skill. But we did not allow them an equaliser and we should take  enormous satisfaction from this. If we keep on beating the teams around  us (and that number is increasing all the time), we can dispel any  relegation fears by the end of February.

I don’t know where the 12-year-old had Wigan finishing, but I hope  they can stay out of the relegation places. It’s a good day out for  Sunderland fans. The journey is straightforward, we get plenty of  tickets and at a good price so parents can take youngsters and teenagers can go and throw beer around while singing songs about players they  have no knowledge of.

It’s a proper town as well, with decent pubs and an absolute cracker  in The Anvil, which was one of those places where just about every  Sunderland fan you have seen over 40 years turns up.

In the café over the road, I ate steak pudding, chips, mushy peas and gravy, a slice of bread and marge (minus grimy fingerprint; read The  Road To Wigan Pier) washed down with a bottle of water for £4.30 and felt like George  Orwell 80 years ago. You don’t get that at synthetic places like  Reading, QPR or Fulham.

The news from Tyneside meant a happy journey home for the intrepid  bunch of travellers, made better by points dropped by Villa. The 12 year old had a bad day at the office – or should it be a bad day in his  playpen.