Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.31 – Wigan at home

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, February 14th, 2021  

SEASON 2020/21 No.31 – WIGAN AT HOME

Our opponents

The last time Wigan visited the Kassam, the day before Christmas Eve in 2017, they humiliated us beyond understanding to the tune of 7-0. There were no lessons learned for Pep Clotet in the manner of a Ralph Hasenhüttl after Leicester put nine past his Saints in October 2019. (Second time around for the Austrian though I’m not so sure).

After the game PC came out with utter nonsense that convinced just about no-one. A month later he was gone. Wigan went straight back up to the Championship as champions. We finished 42 points worse off than them in sixteenth place.

What a difference three years brings. The Fan’s View I wrote covering the thrashing was at a time when I was dabbling, in my amateurish way, into the ownership and finances of our opponents. Their latest available accounts had been to year ending May 2016 when the club were still in receipt of Premier League parachute payments. Overall net liabilities were £16m and it was noted that Wigan, which was purchased by Dave Whelan, owner of JJB Sport, in Feb 1995, is still his but he stepped down as chairman in March 2015 handing that position to his grandson David Sharpe.

Under Whelan’s ownership Wigan rose from the old Division 3 to the Premier League. We’ve now moved on from local man or boy making good and investing in their local club for evermore. The money sloshing around the Premier League has largely brought in a new type of owner.

After we won at the DW Stadium back in November I included a quick paragraph on Wigan’s demise but now, given the state they’re in and the fact that nothing has changed for the better, have taken the opportunity to go into greater detail.

In November 2018 Whelan sold the club to Hong Kong-based company International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) for a then reported £22m. IEC said this provided them with a “good opportunity to further diversify their group”. Their business interests included hotel operations, leasing of properties across Asia and running a casino in Manila. They were registered in that well known tax haven the Cayman Islands

How loud were those alarm bells in Greater Manchester? They should have been deafening. What was Mr Whelan thinking? I guess at 81 he just wanted some return as he must have spent a considerable amount during his 23 years of ownership. Surely he can’t have been naïve enough to think the Latics were being passed to safe hands.

In late May last year IEC announced that they’d sold the club for £17.5m and stated that the £24.5m they had put into Wigan had been repaid in full. On June 4th the club announced they’d been taken over by Next Leader Fund (NLF) who are also Cayman registered.

Why would NLF want Wigan for the quoted amount and IEC think it was good value to sell for that price when Dr Choi Chiu Fai Stanley, an HK businessman, owned more than 50% of both these companies?

It didn’t end there, oh no. On June 24th Au Yeung, who initially had been a minority shareholder in NLF was stated to now own 75%. Or more.

Having approved both the NLFs takeover and Au Yeung’s the EFL’s vetting process can once more be held up to ridicule. One wonders why they even allowed IEC to get control in the first place but I have to say what right, legal or moral, have they got from stopping an owner selling to whomever they want? And even if they did, once they’ve approved a company from taking over a football club there’s absolutely no way in a million years that they could then do anything about the change in ownership or board structure of that company. They’re on a hiding to nothing but are making a terrible job of it.

What’s the answer? Money paid up front into an escrow account to be a condition that must be met before a club can start a league season? But plenty of owners don’t give a shit if a club dies. I give you Steve Dale and Bury.  So there is no answer.

Some owners we like. Some have their hearts in the right place – and heads too. Put them together and you’re on much sounder ground. I have not dared look at our accounts for a while but my heart says we’re doing okay and if we are there’s plenty of people we need to thank.

So, back to the sad story of Wigan Athletic and back to June 24th.  Allegedly on the day he took over Au Yeung’s lawyers approached Begbies Traynor (nice name but that’s as far as it goes) about being administrators.

This is bizarre and murky beyond belief. Murky and odious. So Au Yeung bought Wigan for £41m and immediately decided that he couldn’t fund a loss making club so got the administrators in meaning he’d lost the club and likely all of that £41m.

On the pitch after not doing very well at all, Wigan had picked up nicely and had won six, drawn three and lost just one of their previous 10 league games. They’d clawed themselves up to 20th in the table and were far from the nailed on relegation certs they appeared to be in mid-January of that year.

Administration brings with it a 12 point deduction. Wigan went down with 47 points and a positive goal difference. Fifty nine points would have placed them 13th.

EFL Chairman Rick Parry has been heard on camera saying “There are all sorts of rumours. There’s rumours that there is a bet in the Philippines on them being relegated because the previous owner has got gambling interest in the Philippines.” In some quarters that was described as a red herring. Even more curious as to why buy then.

As administrators Begbies Traynor’s duty is to act in the best interests of Wigan Athletic’s creditors and get the best price they can on realisation of the assets. So just about every player was sold or allowed to leave and none of the players that were in the team that drew with Fulham in the final game of last season are still around.

Begbies Traynor are obviously also trying to sell the club. In September they accepted a bid from Spanish investors and gave them exclusivity rights. Other bids therefore were not being considered or sought. This Spanish bid was led by Felipe Moreno Romero, President of Spanish second division side Leganes. Here the EFL did get involved. In early December they rejected the takeover because individuals involved in the consortium did not meet their requirements. Once more they are looking for new buyers.

At the start of this year the Spaniards reduced their offer by half meaning the administrators would not have been able to pay non-football creditors the necessary 25p in the pound to avoid a further 15 point deduction and almost certain relegation to L2.

Wigan are 21st in the table anyway. In their last 10 league games they’ve lost four, drawn four and have only beaten the bottom two. They even lost to Swindon who are in a real state themselves.

This is a cautionary tale indeed, not that football fans who have their eyes open need to be reminded how quickly their club can be dragged to the abyss. I feel deeply for all genuine Wigan supporters and hope they one day soon get good news. I’d be devastated if we were in their position.

Putting that aside I want them to have a miserable weekend result wise. Feeling sympathy for a club in dire straits does not extend to the field of play.  As ever though this weekend’s is a game that will have to be won. Players have professional pride whatever situation they’re in. They won’t roll over without a fight.

OXFORD UNITED 2 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1

If I was to wake up tomorrow morning and look out of the window to see a pink unicorn wearing blue clogs doing a jig and singing “I’m a little bit mad, me” I probably wouldn’t be that surprised given what keeps happening in the world.

If the world was a sane place a raving deluded dangerous lunatic like Donald Trump would never be in a position to be able to run for the US presidency again.

If the world was a sane place a scheduled 3 o’clock kick off for our beloved yellows wouldn’t have commenced 25 hours later and concluded well over two and a half hours after that.

When kick off did eventually arrive the telling factors were the wind, which is nothing new and the pitch which was rather bobbly. In the circumstances that was to be expected.

Another thing that was very noticeable was Brett Huxtable. We’ve seen him before and he has not got the build of your typical referee. Referee he was though and he’s no better or worse than the average of the species. A species we can’t do without.

For a team being where they are Wigan set about their task with great spirt and came at us. From an Oxford United perspective it was just Anthony Forde clearing ball after ball after ball. Whether the visitors had him labelled as a makeshift right back and were targeting him or it was just a coincidence that the ball kept ending up in that area of the field I don’t know.

This was not our best first half showing by any means although I always had the feeling that if we applied considered pressure to their defence we’d get our rewards.

It was a frantic game of football and the way we like to play was alien to what was taking place. Fair play to Wigan, they were getting stuck in and for many reasons our passing game was nowhere to be seen. That was possibly due to the changes Karl Robinson had sensibly made with so many fixtures on the horizon. That and the conditions and the way the opposition were going about their business.

Few of our players were showing as men who could win this for us. Liam Kelly wasn’t in the game much and Cameron Brannagan’s touch wasn’t what it was before his lay off.  I’d written before that once Sam Winnall gets a goal he’ll get more. Now I was beginning to wonder if he will ever be again the player he was of old.

The closest we came to a first half goal was an Alex Gorrin shot in the 14th minute. Keeper Jamie Jones struggled with it but did enough to keep it out. It was very well struck by Gorrin who on the day showed that he has a lot more skill on the ball than we all sometimes give him credit for.

We did improve towards the end of the first 45 minutes and went in at the break level pegging. For that Rob Atkinson has to take much credit because he produced one of the best tackles you’ll ever see in his own penalty area.

That break turned out to be considerably longer than expected.

Floodlights out. Where’s Alan Marshall when you need him? If he can sort out Vicarage Road, a three sided stadium would be no trouble.

Oh, something to do with fire and as the Move would sing, “Get the Fire Brigade”.

I’d gone for a Newcastle Brown given the way the first half had gone and wouldn’t have been disappointed if everyone had been instructed to return another day.

But at 10 to 6 it was game back on.

After the re-start we were that bit sharper. We looked more likely to deliver. An Atkinson run ended with a shot.

A goal was coming. And it did. For bloody Wigan.

In the 57th minute Jack Stevens confidently caught a high ball and looking to keep the momentum we had introduced into our play going, threw it quickly out to Brandon Barker. You can count the times our loanee from Rangers has lost the ball for us on the fingers of a hand without many fingers on it, but he did here, turning into trouble with a Wigan man on him in a flash. A couple of passes later and Callum Lang had thumped the ball into our goal.

This was probably more of a setback for me as a fan stuck in the confines of my own home ready to explode than for the men in yellow who continued to press. Confidence was not noticeably knocked but goals have to be earned.

Unlike in many games when we have a team on the back foot that can do little more than just make high clearances into the centre of our back line, our defenders were not allowed to head the ball back unimpeded. Yes, the Latics were working extremely hard.

Our first changes were made in the 68th minute. Gorrin and Kelly went off and on came Elliott Lee and Olamide Shodipo. This did not weaken us. The level of threat we were posing rose a notch.

Wigan knew that. Curtis Tilt knew that. Down he went and down he stayed after a challenge that merited nothing of the sort. Mr Huxtable knew what he was up to and had a word. Up Tilt jumped and away he went with no need to apply for a blue badge.

Barker gets his cross past two defenders practicing martial arts

This time the goal that was coming came from the team we wanted it to come for. Barker, who’d not been in the game quite as much as we’d have liked, other than for their goal had done everything else right that he’d been involved with. Now instead of going on the outside he just put over a tempting cross. Winnall couldn’t resist the temptation and got on the end of it to head down and past Jones as a man with an eye for goal does. The defenders had no chance.

There were still just under 20 minutes remaining and we were the team in the ascendancy but the clock now sped up as it does.

Mark Sykes, after a positive flowing move, had a shot from distance wonderfully tipped over by Jones.

Barker was now really on it. Winnall was swapped for Matty Taylor and a couple of minutes later and still with seven to go we took the lead.  A corner on the left was played low to Lee outside the box. He moved the ball across field to Brannagan who did likewise to Sykes. Wigan would have been expecting a cross from the left but now had to face one from the right. What trickery is this they’ll have been thinking. Sykes’s ball in was of equal quality to that produced by Barker for his assist.  Moore just shy of the six yard box rose and nodded the ball down, his sheer presence legally swatting away two red shirts. We were now getting magic to go with the hypnotism. The ball did not head goalwards but disappeared for a split second only to reappear at our captain’s feet. From just over a yard out he did what was required leading to yet another case of people going bozonkers in our living room. Love it. I never want to grow up.

But shit, there were still seven minutes plus stoppage time remaining. Tension kicked in, and the Newcastle Brown. That was an excuse to go and hide in the toilet for a minute or so. That did help run the time down.

What a strange day this was. I can now say how wonderful. If every match day was the same wouldn’t it be boring? Granted, if we’d not got the three points I’d likely have a very different take on this.

My final analysis reaches another conclusion that says we deserved the win. For all Wigan’s endeavour they only had one shot on target. We had seven to go with our 68% possession.

So what if Oxford United ruined some planned intimate Valentine Day early evening meals? Didn’t one of the Ultras used to have a banner declaring, “I Love You. But I Love Oxford United More”.

I’m so lucky to have a wife who is every bit as passionate about OUFC as I am.

We need time to recover from this. So, when is it we play again? In less than 48 hours you say? Crazy.

But these are not normal times.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 14th, 2021 at 11:39 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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