In form Wigan left high and dry by owners and EFL - Interview
Tuesday, 7th Jul 2020 16:19 by Clive Whittingham
Chris from The Pie At Night podcast kindly took time out to try and shed some light on just what exactly is going on at Wigan Athletic, who QPR face away from home on Wednesday night.
Can you tell us, as best you can and in as much detail as you have, just what exactly the hell is going on?
Dave Whelan sold Wigan Athletic to a consortium from Hong Kong. All seemed ok for 18 months. In June, there were a number of changes on the board, and what was reported as a takeover was effectively a coup. The fella who was the main man behind the purchase from Dave Whelan, effectively loaned himself £28m to sell Latics from / to himself. At the same time, he brought his mate on board and they "owned" the club together in a 51% / 49% split.
Following so far? good?
On the same day, the shareholding split went from 51% / 49% to a now 25% / 75%. Now his "mate" is the major shareholder, and straight away called in the administrators, after refusing to put any more money in.
The whole thing stinks of malpractice / fraud and quite rightly has raised a million and one questions which Wigan Athletic fans have been forced to ask, which maybe (definitely!) should have been picked up by the EFL's (in)famous "fit and proper persons test".
There's a belief amongst the supporters that the 'mate' is a patsy / fall guy, used to put the club into administration, and the actual ownership of the club has not actually changed hands.
The other rumour is that it's all linked to a Far Eastern betting syndicate (including the owners) who have staked a large amount of money (£m's) on Wigan Athletic being relegated, and following our recent upturn in form, that was looking increasingly unlikely.
To protect their 'investment' in that bet, they opted to "switch" ownership in order to not lose face on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, place the club in administration and trigger the automatic 12 point deduction and almost guarantee relegation / their bet coming in.
Following this, Wigan Athletic social media has been awash with amateur sleuths uncovering all sorts of seemingly dodgy practices, not dissimilar to those seen in Netflix film The Laundromat (Google it!).
Will the 12-point deduction stand or is there chance of an appeal? Do you fancy your chances of staying up regardless, given the run of form you were on prior?
The EFL (apart from Rick Parry's sandals who first brought the betting rumours into the public domain) have been very very quiet. I suspect there is a lot of conversations going on in the background with legal representatives. They are probably hoping that we will end up relegated regardless of the 12 points and watching the rest of the season pan out.
Form-wise, last Saturday aside, we have been playing very well, joint top of the form table with Derby. All we can do is recapture that form and hopefully win our last 5 games. It sort of felt like we had pulled away and were only a couple of wins from safety, now with the 12 point deduction hanging over us, we need to finish at 12 points (+goal difference) above 3rd from bottom. That unfortunately means to some extent it is out of our hands as we now need them to stop picking up points and closing that gap.
What does help however is that three of those aforementioned last five games are against teams below us. (v Barnsley, Hull & Charlton.) The final game is v Fulham who by that stage could be safe in the play offs and have players who are careful of getting injured before those games, and therefore don't play with the usual intensity.
With regards to an appeal, I am not convinced that one would be successful. The EFL have been shown they can't be trusted to handle these sorts of things properly, the way they have handled finishing the season in Leagues 1 & 2 have been met with widespread complaints in particular by certain clubs; Tranmere Rovers being relegated by points per game yet the League 2 playoff winners effectively taking their place for example is another EFL scandal.
Wigan (16th/24th) remaining games…
How and why has the form turned round so dramatically, you looked in a real state at one point and now can’t stop winning (Brentford notwithstanding)?
We have a long running joke that we play better with the white ball i.e. before and after the winter. We've played quite well all season, results not necessarily always reflecting what the performances 'deserved' - the problem for quite some time was a defence lacking confidence, and conceding a lot of late goals. We've dropped 31 points from winning positions. Can't honestly expect to win them all but even half of that would have us pushing for playoffs.
What's changed? We've tightened up at the back and have started controlling and seeing the game out far better than we were. We've also been better and scoring the second goal and giving ourselves a bit of a cushion...
Wigan Athletic league results…
Thoughts on Paul Cook and the job he’s doing?
There were a lot of rumblings for his head when the results were so poor, and not unjustified in my opinion. We lost Nick Powell in the summer and replaced him with Kieffer Moore. That seemed to spark a change to going a bit longer, quicker and many fans lay that at Paul Cook's door. He's the manager so the way we play is down to him but whether it was something he was encouraging or it was happening because we were conceding goals and the defenders were a little nervy, who knows?
The run of poor results and him not losing his job has since been linked to the Relegation Bet rumour in the current goings on i.e. the owners were happy he wasn't doing that well cos it helped their wager, and therefore didn't sack him.
An honest view would be that he has done well considering and no-one can fault the form since the turn of the year. It looked like he'd worked out what the issues were and fixed them and the results reflect that. He's an ex-player and I think the current situation has actually galvanised the fans behind him and the squad, I wouldn't want anyone else leading us through the next five games.
Stand out players and weak links?
Depends who plays, we have a few injuries at the minute so not quite full strength but Kieffer Moore and Jamal Lowe are forming quite a decent strike partnership. Moore spends a lot of the time working his socks off as a lone frontman, has scored some very nice goals and is due another. Robinson at left back (whose move to AC Milan in January collapsed) has been very good all season, and finally Sam Morsy and Joe Williams in central midfield set the tempo and drive the team. It all stems from them.
Weak links? Just a massive black hole in the accounts.
Summer Ins: >>> Jamal Lowe, 25, RW, Portsmouth, £2.43m >>> Kieffer Moore, 27, Barnsley, CF, £2.43m >>> Antonee Robinson, 22, LB, Everton, £1.98m >>> Tom Pearce, 22, LB, Leeds, £295k >>> Lewis MacLeod, 26, CM, Brentford, Free >>> David Marshall, 35, GK, Hull, Free >>> Dujon Sterling, 20, RB, Chelsea, Loan >>> Charlie Mulgrew, 34, CB, Blackburn, Loan >>> Bright Enobakhare, 22, CF, Wolves, Loan
Summer Outs: >>> Callum McManaman, 29, RW, Luton, Free >>> Nick Powell, 26, CF, Stoke, Free >>> James Vaughan, 31, CF, Bradford, Free >>> Shaun MacDonald, 32, CM, Rotherham, Free >>> Jamie Walker, 27, LW, Hearts, Free >>> Owen Evans, 23, GK, Macclesfield, Loan >>> Devante Cole, 25, CF, Motherwell, Loan >>> Jonas Olsson, 37, CB, Retired >>> Darron Gibson, 32, CM, Wetherspoons, Free
Winter Ins: >>> Kieran Dowell, 22, AM, Everton, Loan >>> Jan Mlakar, 21, CF, Brighton, Loan >>> Alex Dobre, 21, AM, Bournemouth, Loan
Winter Outs: >>> Devante Cole 25, CF, Doncaster, Undisclosed >>> Josh Windass, 26, AM, Sheff Wed, Loan >>> Oliver Crankshaw, 21, CM, Dundee, Loan >>> Charlie Jolley, 19, CF, Curzon Ashton, Loan
We usually ask what the consequences of a relegation would be but I guess it’s very difficult to say at this point?
Relegation is the least of our worries at the minute, we just want a club to support next season.
Can you please ask anyone who is able to chuck the price of a matchday pint or two in the supporters' club crowdfunder...? It would be much appreciated.
The Twitter @Elbalson, @pieatnight_WAFC, @loftforwords
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