Summer recruitment and a tricky start in our first season review.
- First in series of Latics' 2015-16 season review.
- Gary Caldwell recruits in numbers during summer months.
- Latics faced with mixed start, but collect two wins in August.
Gary Caldwell, David Sharpe and co. were tasked with building a new squad in their first full season at the helm after the side relegated from the Sky Bet Championship last time out was allowed to move on with the club having to cut its cloth accordingly.
It wasn’t just about building a team that was good enough in numbers to sustain a season, though, boss Caldwell knew simply he had to build a team capable of making an immediate return to the second tier.
The Scot’s early business saw him cherry pick out of contract players from elsewhere; David Perkins was the first to arrive from Blackpool before Donervon Daniels (West Bromwich Albion), Craig Morgan (Rotherham United) and Richard O’Donnell (Walsall) followed suit.
As the pre-season campaign kicked in, trips to La Manga and Scotland included, more bodies arrived with Max Power coming in from Tranmere Rovers and, perhaps more notably, strikers Craig Davies (Bolton Wanderers) and Will Grigg (Brentford) coming in to hopefully score the goals that would lead Latics back to the top.
David Sharpe and Gary Caldwell oversee the signing of Will Grigg.
Sharpe’s intent was clear, he’d parted with £1,000,000 to buy Grigg, who had helped both Brentford and MK Dons to promotions in the previous two campaigns with over 20 goals, whilst fees were also paid for Michael Jacobs (Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Reece James (Manchester United).
Later in the window, experienced additions arrived in the form of Kevin McNaughton (Cardiff City) and former Bolton Wanderers stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who came in following the expiration of his contract at West Ham United as cover for O’Donnell.
Jussi Jaaskelainen proved to be one of the signings of the season.
As the window had progressed, James Tavernier and Martyn Waghorn had left for Rangers, James Perch moved to Queens Park Rangers and James McClean was sold to Premier League West Brom.
The loan market also brought about its ins and outs; Francisco Junior and Jonjoe Kenny came in from Everton, Sean Murray arrived from Watford and Shaq Coulthirst (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordy Hiwula (Huddersfield Town) and Haris Vuckic (Newcastle United) all complimented the squad come the end of August. In the opposite direction, Andrew Taylor (Reading) and Emyr Huws (Huddersfield) both moved to the Championship on season-long loans whilst Billy Mckay moved back north of the border with Dundee United.
League Form - W2 D1 L2
Position - 11th
The campaign kicked off with a trip to Coventry City as Latics, backed by 2,000 supporters at the Ricoh Arena in our first-ever game at the stadium, went down 2-0 in a game in which Caldwell fielded 13 debutants – Chris McCann the only player to have previously donned Latics’ colours.
Three days later, Latics were back at the DW Stadium as they began their Capital One Cup campaign with the visit of local rivals Bury. Grigg opened his Latics account from the penalty spot to give us a lead early in the second-half, but former Latics loanee Leon Clarke levelled just after the hour mark before scoring the winner from the spot a minute from time to send the Shakers through and make it two defeats out of two for Caldwell’s men.
A goalless stalemate with Doncaster Rovers in the opening home league game of the season the following Sunday was far from the kick-start Latics’ season needed, and they were thankful to O’Donnell for keeping them in the game with a string of fine saves.
Scunthorpe United’s visit to the DW was next in an action packed first 11 days of the season, but the frequency of games helped Latics find their mojo and they were in destructive form to defeat Mark Robins’ side as a Grigg penalty made it 1-0 before Daniels and Davies scored either side of half-time to give Latics a resounding victory.
That win sent Latics into their long trip to high-flying Gillingham with renewed confidence but that was short-lived as Bradley Dack, later named Sky Bet League One Player of the Year, scored twice to secure a 2-0 win for Justin Edinburgh’s side with Caldwell ruing the loss of Kevin McNaughton, who withdrew with a hamstring injury on his first league start for the club, an injury that would rule him out for the next six months.
The final game of the month saw a young Crewe side visit the DW Stadium on a fine summer’s afternoon. Ryan Colclough, who would later sign for Latics, was impressive for the visitors but the game was decided by Jacobs’ first goal for the club as he headed home at the back post after just 12 minutes.