Can this Wigan striker fire Northern Ireland to success at Euro 2016?
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill recently announced his 23 man squad for the upcoming European Championships. It’s proven to be a successful squad during the qualifying campaign, albeit without many household names. Jonny Evans, Steven Davis and Aaron Hughes are among the most established members of the squad. As Northern Ireland prepare for their first ever European Championships however there is only one man that people all over the UK are talking about. He scored 28 goals in all competitions last season; he recently scored his first senior goal for Northern Ireland against Belarus; and he has an infamous chant based on the 90s dance anthem “Freed From Desire”.
Safe to say it’s been an incredible season for Will Grigg. There was a lot of expectation when he signed for Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2015, for a fee of around £1 million. At the age of just 23, Grigg had already been successful at Walsall and at MK Dons. Originally signing a scholarship deal at Walsall back in 2008, he remained at the club until the summer of 2013. To show the extent of his progression, in his last season Grigg won Walsall player of the season and the Players’ Player of the season for his 20 goals that season.
His time at Brentford, who he signed a 3 year deal with in July 2013, was a frustrating time in his young career. He found himself behind in the pecking order, at a time when Brentford were firing on all cylinders as they chased automatic promotion from League One. A mixture of being played out of position and substitute appearances meant the statistics of his time at Brentford don’t make for great reading; 4 goals in 36 appearances.
As a result he was sent on loan during the 2014/15 season to MK Dons. Like Brentford the season before, they were pushing for promotion to the Championship, but unlike Brentford they had Will Grigg up front and scoring goals. They finished the season in 2nd place, securing a sought after promotion spot and with an outstanding 101 goals scored along the way. 20 of those were scored by Will Grigg, who showed once again that he was still a natural goal scorer.
Despite helping MK Dons reach the Championship for the first time in their short history, Grigg once again found himself in League One the following season as he completed the move to Wigan. Although many fans thought he had earned his chance to play Championship football, Wigan were no ordinary League One team. They were on a mission at the first time of asking to gain promotion back to the Championship. A sign of their intent was spending £1 million on Will Grigg, a hefty sum for a League One side.
Given Griggs record however he was seen as a player worth investing heavily in. He didn’t disappoint either. 28 goals in 43 games helped Wigan win the division, but the impressive statistics don’t stop there. Grigg scored 2 or more goals on seven separate occasions over the course of the season, and finished the season with 14 goals in 14 games. Fantastic form to have going into your first season playing Championship football. It seemed as if it couldn’t get much better for Will Grigg as the 2015/16 season came to a close. Sure enough, it did.
Despite a stuttering international career, his form at first MK Dons and now Wigan Athletic has seen Grigg reintroduced to the Northern Ireland squad. It’s proven to be a good time to be bought back in as it has coincided with Northern Ireland securing qualification for France this summer. There was still some doubt over whether Grigg would make the final cut, as O’Neill was forced to decide between him and Liam Boyce of Ross County, telling BBC Sport, “Liam had a great start to the season in Scotland before suffering a hand injury. Meanwhile, Will just kept on scoring – 28 goals for his team and helping them to promotion.”
Ultimately the form of Grigg was too much to resist, helped by the fact he scored his first international goal just days before against Belarus. This news came much to the delight of not just Northern Ireland fans, but fans around the UK as well who will be hearing a lot more of the now notorious Will Grigg chant. What started as one guy creating a chant in his living room about his favourite striker has now become an internet and footballing sensation thanks to the power of social media. The Will Grigg bandwagon is showing no signs of slowing down, and if Grigg can continue his goal scoring form at the European Championships then defences really should be terrified.
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