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Club News


14 March 2016

Wigan Athletic offer professional contracts to six Academy scholars.

  • Six Wigan Athletic Academy apprentices to be offered pro contracts.
  • “Pro contracts are reward for outstanding season” – Gregor Rioch.
  • “We have an outstanding crop of young players” – Gregor Rioch.
Wigan Athletic are delighted to announce that six of the current crop of second year Academy apprentices have been offered professional contracts for the forthcoming season.

Striker James Barrigan, defenders Arnie Baxendale, Luke Burke and Alex Lingard, midfielder Josh Gregory and goalkeeper Kelland Absalom will all join the Wigan Athletic Development squad for the 2016-17 season.

The Under 18s, coached by Will Ryder, have had another outstanding season, having played 30 games in all competitions so far, scoring 55 goals and conceding just 24, keeping 16 clean sheets in the process.

They are still top of the Football League Youth Alliance, four points clear of second and third place with nine games to play, while run to the fifth Round of the FA Youth Cup was the first time in club history such a feat was achieved, culminating in an outstanding performance against Manchester City at the DW Stadium.

Academy Manager Gregor Rioch is delighted to be confirming the news:

“It really has been another great season and we’ve got a really good crop of talent.  These players can be the future of the club and it is now up to them how far they can progress.

“I want to congratulate each and every one of them for their outstanding commitment during their time at the club, they have all shown the desire and talent we look for at Wigan Athletic and I am really so pleased for them all.

“They now have an outstanding opportunity to make that next step in their career.”

Rioch also had this to say about midfielder Matty Rimmer, who sadly has not been offered the chance to progress at Latics.

“The first thing to say is that this is not the end of the road for Matty, and our duty of care as a club now is to try and find another club for him, or help him to progress to the next stage of his life.”



Born: Swansea – 05/01/1998

U18 Apps: 7

U18 Apps: 25, 16 clean sheets
Development Squad Apps: 1

Joined on a two-year apprenticeship in 2014, has gone on to win eight caps for Wales’ Under 17s, before making his Under 19 debut in a friendly against Czech Republic last week.

Absalom has kept 16 clean sheets so far this season for the Under 18s.

Gregor Rioch says: “Kelland has been progressing well and performing consistently for the club and at international level with Wales.  His challenge for next season will be to break into the Development Squad and play more matches against senior players.”


Born: Eccleston – 22/01/1998

U18 Apps: 28, 2 goals
Development Squad Apps: 3

U18 Apps: 23
Development Squad Apps: 10

Powerful full back who joined the club at Under 9s, has operated in both defence and midfield this season, stepping up from the Under 18s to feature 10 times for the Development Squad.

Baxendale made his Development Squad debut as a first year apprentice, and has since been involved in the first team travelling squad against Crewe Alexandra in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Gregor Rioch says: “Arnie’s a local lad who was outstanding in the FA Youth Cup campaign.  He’s got natural strength and power and can be exciting as a modern day full back.”


Born: Liverpool – 22/02/1998

U18 Apps: 22
Development Squad Apps: 11

U18 Apps: 24, 1 goal
Development Squad Apps: 14

Captain of the Under 18s, Burke has been with the club since Under 13s and has already progressed as far as being involved with the first team squad against Bury in the Capital One Cup this season.

Commanding in the air, the 18-year-old has predominantly played as a central defender this season, but can also operate as a right full back.

Gregor Rioch says: “Luke leads by example, and he’s a natural captain.  He’s played in numerous positions this season and will have ambitions to challenge for a first team place next season, having already been involved on the bench this campaign.”


Born: Wigan – 26/02/1998

U18 Apps: 29, 1 goal

U18 Apps: 22, 1 goal
Development Squad Apps: 14

A strong and quick left full back who has featured heavily for both the Under 18s and Development Squad this season as a wing back, making his Development Squad debut in the Lancashire FA Cup victory over Bolton Wanderers earlier this season.

Lingard joined Latics as a nine-year-old and was a ball boy at the DW Stadium alongside current team mates Arnie Baxendale and Josh Gregory.

Gregor Rioch says: “Alex is another local lad and modern day full back with strength, power and pace.  He’s got a left foot which could be as good as Leighton Baines.  It’s difficult not to try and make comparisons with Baines, having come through the system here as well.”


Born: Billinge – 05/06/1998

U18 Apps: 33, 2 goals
Development Squad Apps: 4

U18 Apps: 21, 2 goals
Development Squad Apps: 3

Central midfielder who has been at the club for 11 years, progressing through the Academy system to make his Development Squad debut last season as a first year apprentice.

Gregor Rioch says: “It’s been tough for Josh this season because he was ill during pre-season and has always been playing catch up on his fitness.

“He’s been through another growth spurt recently and now he can start working on his power.  His strengths are with the ball at his feet and he sees passes that others don’t, he can also control the pace and tempo of the game from the middle, he’s a very exciting talent.”


Born: Liverpool – 25/01/1998

U18 Apps: 31, 4 goals
Development Squad Apps: 1

U18 Apps: 24, 14 goals
Development Squad Apps: 11

Liverpool born striker who has been with the club for six years.  Currently the leading Under 18 goal scorer with 14 goals.

Barrigan made his Development Squad debut last season as a first year apprentice, and has so far featured 11 times this campaign, five of which have been starts.

Gregor Rioch says: “He scored a lot of goals in the first half of the season and has then been used in a number of different positions across the Under 18s and Development Squad.  James has got the energy to run the opposition into the ground, and has very good quality with his left foot.

“He’s got a natural eye for a goal, all great attributes for a forward.”

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