James the First has already endeared himself to Wigan fans. (©PAphotos)
by Andrew Kirby
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Wigan fans could be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu this summer when they heard the news the Latics had signed the promising youngster James McArthur from Hamilton Academical.
Almost exactly a year earlier, Wigan announced the arrival of a certain James McCarthy, another promising youngster with an almost identical name, again from the Hamilton stable. So I thought we'd play a little game of spot the difference between these two real 'ones for the future.'
First, James McCarthy, who signed for Wigan in July 2009. This James was born in Glasgow but represents the Republic of Ireland at international level, much like the former Liverpool and Aston Villa star Ray Houghton.
And the Houghton comparison doesn't end there; McCarthy's cultured playing style is reminiscent of Ray. He is a creative midfielder with an eye for goal, a combination which has already led to a number of notable achievements in his burgeoning career.
McCarthy has achieved a great deal despite his tender age. The 19-year-old had already played over a hundred times for Hamilton before Wigan pinched him from under the noses of Liverpool and Everton . At Hamilton he broke a number of records, becoming the youngest scorer in the club's history and, although he's not yet set the world alight at the DW Stadium, all the signs are there.
Last season, he scored in the FA Cup against Hull City and also scored on his Premier League debut against Wolves at Molineux. He's also been a regular scorer at international level for the Republic of Ireland at a number of levels.
James McArthur, meanwhile, is a little older at 22, but is again Scots born. He's captained Hamilton and represented Scotland at Under 21 level. Before he signed for Wigan, he also interested a number of leading clubs, including West Brom, Sheffield United and Steve Bruce's Sunderland. But that, along with their strikingly similar names, is where the comparison ends. These two are very different players.
James McArthur has been handed the 16 shirt for the 2010-11 season, the shirt number made famous by Roy Keane at Manchester United. Like Keane, McArthur is tough-tackling midfielder with good distribution skills, hardly ever giving the ball away.
This season, Latics fans can expect to see both former Academicals rising to the fore as real ones to watch for the future, and if they can live up to the reputations of either Houghton or Keane, the DW could be in for a real treat.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.