Kyle Joseph: The Key to Survival?
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Throughout the years, Wigan Athletic have seen an array of talented players breakthrough the academy. In a campaign that saw the Latics lose Joe Gelhardt to Leeds United on a four-year deal, the former FA Cup winners had the transfer solution in their youth setup. Instead of dipping into the market, John Sheridan and Leam Richardson sought to promote Kyle Joseph, who has since repaid their faith in him. Although he has only recently broken into the first team, the 19-year-old scores goals, and that’s what Wigan need in their pursuit of safety. So, can Joseph keep the Latics in League One?
Enjoying a Productive Breakthrough Season
Thus far in his career, Wigan are the only club that Joseph has played for at both professional and youth level. The Scottish striker burst onto the scene during the FA Youth Cup in 2019-20. Although Wigan would eventually suffer a sixth-round defeat to Manchester United, the 19-year-old scored six goals in four matches. Along with finding the net on four occasions in the first round against FC Croydon Jugend, the six-foot-one attacker also scored vital goals against Birmingham and Tottenham in the following rounds.
In 2020-21, Joseph got his first taste of senior football, coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 loss against Northampton Town back in October. Although he went without a goal in each of his first five appearances, he found the back of the net against Lee Johnson’s Sunderland to end the Latics’ ten-match winless run. Wigan had just one shot during the match, but the quality of the finish was enough to secure the points.
Although the 19-year-old followed up his match-winning contribution against the Black Cats with a four-game drought in front of goal, he offered an emphatic response versus Burton Albion. Against Jake Buxton’s side, Joseph netted his first professional hat-trick and helped Wigan secure their fifth win in 21 league matches.
Standing Out Amidst Experienced Forwards
In his first 11 appearances in League One, the Chipping Barnet-born striker scored four goals, and those contributions earned the Latics a valuable six points. As of January 19th, Wigan are 1/4 in the League One betting to be relegated at the end of the 2020-21 campaign. However, should Joseph sustain his current form, then the one-time FA Cup winners undoubtedly have enough to keep their heads above water and avoid back-to-back relegations.
In the second half of the season, the pressure will be on Joseph to deliver following the recent mutual termination of Joe Garner’s contract. Prior to departing the DW Stadium, the 32-year-old had scored three goals in 11 appearances. Will Keane, on the other hand, had five goals in the same number of matches.
When compared to his more experienced teammates, Joseph’s numbers speak volumes about his talent. Despite competition for places, the 19-year-old appears up for the fight, and his goal attempts support that. According to WhoScored, in 12 appearances, the Scottish youth player averaged 2.2 shots and 2.3 aerials won per game. Keane, meanwhile, had one shot each match and won 1.4 aerial battles.
Not Shying Away from the Pressure
In the modern game, young players tend to let their heads drop, especially when their team’s in a rather precarious position. However, that isn’t true of Joseph. In the face of adversity, he has come to the forefront in seeking to spearhead Wigan’s pursuit of survival. In the 19-year-old, the Latics faithful have hope that their side can score the all-important goals to secure their League One status for at least another season.
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