Wigan once again look destined for what has become their annual relegation scrap. The pattern is familiar; attractive but largely ineffective football leave them stationed towards the foot of the table before finding a rich vein of form in the final few weeks to ultimately steer clear of danger. Their fight back tends to be inspired by their resident star turn, resulting in a move to a more affluent Premier League competitor. Last year it was Victor Moses and before him Charles N’Zogbia excelled. Roberto Martinez will be hoping that James McCarthy can replicate the feat this season.
A prodigy, McCarthy made his Hamilton Academical debut at 15 and made just shy of 100 appearances before departing for Wigan in 2009. He is now a few games short of a century of games for the Latcis and scored his first goals of the season last weekend, a brace in a 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers. The performance seems to have raised his profile and transfer speculation is sure to ensue with the January window opening shortly, but McCarthy has been in fine form throughout the current campaign.
With more than three years remaining on his current contract, McCarthy would not come cheap, although Martinez is already on record revealing that he would not stand in his way should interest materialise. “James McCarthy’s got the potential to play anywhere in the world and whenever he’s ready we’ll never stop him,” claimed Martinez in an interview with the Wigan Evening Post. He added: “James McCarthy is at a very good club now and we want top players to stay here for as long as we can.”
McCarthy is a mainstay in the Wigan side and it will not go unnoticed that Moses is a bit part player at Chelsea, while N’Zogbia is struggling to break in to Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. McCarthy has formed a solid duo with McArthur at the heart of the Wigan XI, a partnership that may have also blossomed at international level, had Scotland been quicker off the mark in approaching him.
Glasgow born, he was approached by the Republic of Ireland, due to the Irish ancestry of his grandfather, representing them at every youth level before making his competitive debut in March 2011. His international career has yet to take shape due to a combination of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reluctance to integrate youth and personal issues, which resulted in McCarthy withdrawing from the European Championships in the summer.
Wigan face a difficult trip to Carrow Road on Saturday, with Norwich in the midst of 10-game unbeaten run in the league. The Canaries have managed to climb to 12th in the table and Wigan will be looking to emulate their achievement sooner rather than later. If they are to replicate this impressive feat, retaining the services of the in-demand McCarthy will be essential.