OWEN Coyle admits Emmerson Boyce was the only one choice to lead Wigan Athletic into Europe tonight.
The Latics chief will ring the changes for tonight’s clash against Zulte Warege, in an attempt to freshen up his side.
But he says Boyce was literally the first name on his team sheet in recognition of being “a terrific player and a terrific captain”.
Coyle recognised: “It was important to me as a manager for Emmerson Boyce to lead Wigan Athletic out for this game.
“It’s a very prestigious game, and it was important for me that Boycey, who led the team out for the FA Cup final at Wembley, did the same in the first European game.
“It would have remiss of me to have allowed someone else to captain the side. That’s why he’s there.
“As well as being a terrific player, he’s also a terrific captain, and I wanted him to be captain when this club enters European competition.
“Nobody has given Boycey anything in his career - everything he’s had, he’s earned.
“There’s no better feeling in football than knowing that you’ve earned something, and to lift the FA Cup as captain is something really special.
“Leading the team out for their first ever European fixture is incredible. It doesn’t get much better.”
Boyce, in his eighth year at Wigan, acknowledges a maiden European campaign is reward for both the Wigan players and the supporters. “To be able to lead Wigan out for the FA Cup final was a great honour, and to do it for the first European game is exactly the same,” he said.
“The Wigan fans have been through the ups and the downs with the club, following us through thick and thin.
“We’ve had a few difficulties in recent years with always fighting against relegation, but this is a nice reward for them.
“The initial allocation of tickets sold out in a couple of hours, and it just shows you the level of support they give us.”
The defender also believes Latics are as capable of causing a shock in Europe, as they did in the FA Cup last term.
“No-one expected us to win the FA Cup, but we go into every game trying to win it,” Boyce added.
“This game will be a unique experience for the football club, being our first ever game in Europe, and we’re desperate to get the right result.
“Anything is possible in this game – and this club is proof of that.”