Will Grigg Relights the Fire
The JPS CC BY-SA 3.0
The famous song goes, Will Grigg’s on fire, your defence is terrified… but recently… not so much. It has been embers at best. Why? It’s evident he’s dreaming of third-tier football where he flourished, yet plateaued.
Four goals is a poor return for a striker in half a season. Maybe you would consider it a deficiency, yet the Wigan Athletic fans would turn a blind eye to Grigg’s poor statistics given his tenure and legend within the club. He was the top scorer for the side in the last three seasons across all competitions. His synergy with the Latics will serve as a long-lasting memory of this contemporary Wigan Athletic era.
What could possibly go wrong? The fans love him, at points in time, he was scoring goal after goal and earned two promotions during his tenure with Wigan (albeit one relegation too). the Northern Ireland international found a new home in Greater Manchester. He, unfortunately, however, got comfortable in the English third tier.
2015/16 and 2017/18 he played in League One, scoring 25 then 19 goals respectively. The first of which earned him his affectionate song as sung by the DW Stadium faithful, later the Northern Ireland national team fans too. His two stints in the Championship were not nearly as fruitful. His combined tenures in League One on average saw him score 0.53 goals per appearance. In the Championship he played 50 games yet on average scored drastically less with 0.20 goals per game. [See season by season data below] (It is worth noting that with a mere seven goals in all competitions, the striker still finished as the team’s top scorer in 16/17).
He played enough games in both divisions for the same team to treat the data with validity as well as accuracy, thusly concluding: “the Championship with Wigan Athletic was too hard for Will Grigg to score goals consistently.”. Staying in the second-tier would assimilate Icarus who flew to close to the sun and died. For staying in the Championship may ruin his career, it does fall short of drowning him like the Greek myth.
What is the solution for the Solihull-born forward? Not all roads lead to League One. Yet, the M6 essentially does. The 150+ mile stretch takes you from Lancashire to the North East of England, where you’ll find the most popular League One team. Sunderland AFC. Grigg has made this drive up the country as part of the January transfer window. This allows Grigg re-entry to the competition he made his name. What bigger incentive? Sunderland with its large ground is probably still in a much better financial situation than Wigan; (irrespective of the divisional differences) henceforth they could offer the player more money. The Latics themselves couldn’t say no to the £4million placed on the table for the player.
Yet one has to wonder, with this acquisition are Sunderland plotting a jaunt to the very place that Grigg is cursed to succeed in. They lost their top striker, Maja, so are looking for a replacement to come in and succeed at this level. Isn’t this short-sighted? Best case scenario: Grigg comes in, score exactly 0.53 goals or more which earn Sunderland a place in the Championship. As a result, Grigg loses out because he’s then flung back in the league, he can’t score in.
Worst case? Grigg doesn’t adapt to the pressure that the Stadium of Light brings, doesn't score enough goals, becoming a scapegoat for why they didn’t go up. His half season ends up being labelled as a waste of transfer money, potentially regretting moving if Wigan goes down. He could have kept the playing the with the same manager, same teammates and ends up being unhappy in the North East; and comes across in a bad light in their next Netflix documentary. That’s how bad it could get.
Can he become a better player with the Black Cats? Can he replicate the fiery form he had before? Could he re-write his Championship career and actually succeed there with a club other than Wigan? These are the questions that Sunderland AFC and its supporters only hope that Grigg can answer positively.