Following on from our previous article from this series about Michu, let’s remember another delightful ‘one-season Premier League wonder’ story in Lancashire’s favourite Egyptiani!
If you were a fan of Wigan from around this period and knew of Amr Zaki before he came to the club on loan, then allow me to guide you to the nearest exit at Ultra UTD doesn’t allow liars in this vicinity. Unless you’re a subscribed member, in which case, I really appreciate you and hope you’re enjoying what we’re doing here! Love you!
Ahem, anyway the reason I say this is because it was quite an inspired piece of business from the Latics. Up until this point, their relatively brief stint in the English topflight was peppered (in a transfer sense) with a myriad of ‘sensible‘ deals which reflected both their stature as a club and their need for survival. Therefore, you were more likely to see a headline linking them with a dependable stalwart than an exciting new prospect.
Having said that, they were undergoing a slight face-lift by the time the 2008/09 season had come about. Captained by seasoned Dutch full-back Mario Melchiot, his inclusion in a back line alongside Paul Scharner, Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa paints a picture of what to expect from what’s in front of them.
Personally, the inclusion of a certain Luis Antonio Valencia stands out – as both a close-to-home favourite of mine as well as a former entry here in the Ultra UTD archives. Though before he would become the powerhouse that Manchester United fans remember him in particular, most were raving a little louder about his colleagues. Especially Charles N’Zogbia, before his form sent him to Villa Park in time for their own topsy turvy spell in the topflight.
However, coming into the pre-season window, the Latics board were keen to add a revamped front line to complement their existing assets. Following the brief, Colombian favourite Hugo Rodallega came in on a permanent deal along with two contrasting Egyptian loan players to (supposedly) work either side of him.
Beginning with the elder, Mido was drafted in from Middlesbrough – posing an experienced and less mobile figure to (ideally) complement the movement and guile of Rodallega. Then you have Amr Zaki who, pound for pound, seemed to have a little more about him following his one-in-every-other-game ratio back home with Zamalek.
But even then, I doubt very few expected Zaki to have the impact he eventually had in Wigan colours …
Building on a strong pre-season spell with the Wigan side, Amr Zaki continued this line of scoring form by scoring 5 goals in his first 6 games in the league. Including one on his debut, a brace against Hull and even a cheeky, calm penalty conversion against the nouveau-riche Manchester City. And this caused some to get a bit excited …
“When you look at this lad and his build… He has the same confidence when he gets the ball, he knows where the goal is, he doesn’t need to look up, he has this instinct. Strikers like that have an instinct as to where the goal is. You can’t describe it, you can’t give it to anybody.”Dave Whelan (Wigan Athletic Chairman) comment on the form of Amr Zaki c. 2008
Though most decided to keep Alan Shearer comparisons to a minimum (yes, this is apparently where Whelan was going with this one), Amr Zaki showed certain hallmarks which were essential to being successful in the Premier League. An impressive physique, a distinct show of fearlessness and the showings of a man not weighed down by expectation, it was the freedom with which he played which Wigan fans benefitted from the most.
Sure, things might not have ended how any party would have liked after falling out with the manager based on his professionalism to return to the squad after international duty. But as far as stand-out loan campaigns go …
… few have ever been as prolific and unexpected as Amr Zaki in a Wigan Athletic shirt.