Gary Caldwell has challenged his Wigan Athletic players to end the season on a high – and celebrate their promotion to the Championship with three points against Barnsley.
Latics have already all-but secured the League One title on account of their incredible goal difference, and there’s been a real party atmosphere in the town since last weekend’s 4-0 romp at Blackpool.
However, Sunday’s game is far more than a dead rubber, with Barnsley having to better the results of Scunthorpe and Gillingham to retain the final play-off spot.
And Caldwell says no-one will be able to claim Latics are giving less than 100 per cent despite their season objective having already been achieved.
“I think that would be disrespectful to this group of players if anyone was to think that,” the Latics boss said.
“They will be hungry to finish in style, because they’re winners. They’ve shown that every day in training, and they’ve shown it throughout the league campaign.
“The players will be going out with a real focus to win the game in front of their home fans and a lot of their families.
“I think it tells you everything about a footballer when you play games like this.
“You find out a lot about who wants to win the game, even though there’s probably not that much at stake.
“A defeat would put us on a downer, and we don’t want to end like that. We want to finish on a high, and go into the summer with real positivity going right through the club.
“We’re going to have an incredible backing from the fans on the day, and we want to make sure we give them something to cheer about and do the job.”
One of the few lows of a phenomenal campaign was bowing out of the JPT to Barnsley just before Christmas, with Wembley in sight.
Caldwell, though, says his men have already avenged that loss, with a crucial victory in the league the following week.
“We hadn’t won in a while and, when I look back, it was a fantastic performance that was a big turning point in the season,” he acknowledged.
“The cup defeat was undoubtedly a setback, at a time we were struggling, but we came through it.
“If we hadn’t have had that, who knows, we might not have finished where we have.
“The main thing was promotion, and winning the league, and hopefully we’ll have that moment on Sunday.”
Unsurprisingly, Caldwell has reported a clean bill of health for the game.
“If you don’t want to play in games like this, then you shouldn’t be a professional footballer,” he added. “They’re all raring to go.”