Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas City)

Scouting isn’t rocket science! Every time a Premier League side signs a good foreign player the nation goes crazy. Who is this mystery guy? Where did he come from? Anyone with a decent knowledge of the game outside the UK would have known that the likes of Santi Cazorla, Oscar and Papisse Demba Cissé were likely to succeed, and there are plenty more of them out there. So who’s the next “secret” star to watch out for? Who is the next Cabaye?

So here’s a player who certainly will be coming to the Premiership – his work permit was granted today – and Espinoza has all the attributes required to be another shrewd Roberto Martinez acquisition.

Consistently signing good quality value-for-money players is no accident, and although the traditional approach of the old fashioned British manager relied on intuition and nods and winks from a network of old pals, the fact is that there’s no substitute for hard work when it comes to finding good players.

Martinez and his scouting team have been tracking Espinoza for two years, seeing him develop into a quality all-round midfielder, a non-stop feisty competitor who can also create. With the conditions for a successful bedding-in period in place – the Honduran will be greeted at the DW Stadium by three fellow Hondurans in Wilson Palacios, Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas, and is already fluent in English having lived in the USA since he was 12 – the out of contract Espinoza appears to be anything but a risk.

His experience in the MLS will have been useful too. The American game is characterised by the primacy of athleticism over artistry: watching Thierry Henry’s more limited team mates attempt to get onto the same wavelength as him could be painful.

The fact that Espinoza played for Sporting Kansas City is also a good sign for The Latics. Consistently successful over the last couple of seasons, the side is built on an excellent defence and are probably the best drilled side in the MLS. Espinoza’s leading role for them shows that he is no passenger. When he has the ball he’s a threat, but when he doesn’t, he puts in a good shift with positional discipline.

The fulsome tribute his manager Peter Vermes paid Espinoza, referring to both his playing qualities and his personality off the pitch, further suggested Espinoza is the sort of personality who will adapt well.

So Espinoza should have little difficulty adapting to the physical nature and fast pace of the English game. He’s also experienced genuine recent success on these shores.

Espinoza was the shining star of Honduras’ over-achieving Olympic team last Summer, which knocked Spain out in the group stages and was then desperately unfortunate not to eliminate Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Espinoza turned in a superb display, delivering incisive passes and carrying the ball with energy. He set one up, scored a fine solo goal, and when he picked up a second yellow card late on the St James Park crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation as he walked off, which clearly offered him some consolation as his nation went out 3-2:

“At one point, I thought they were celebrating that I got the red card, but then I clapped my hands over my head again and I saw the crowd go even crazier.


“They knew I was acknowledging their clap, and all the sudden it hit me that I was getting a standing ovation at the Olympics.”

He deserved it. He’ll probably earn a few more from Wigan’s fans before the season ends too.


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