Warren Joyce is hoping to have Reece Burke available for Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa – and expects to keep the on-loan West Ham for the rest of the campaign as planned.
Burke has been struggling with a hip problem that forced him to miss last weekend’s home defeat to Derby.
But he is back training with the group, and hoping to pass a late fitness test to feature at Villa Park.
“Reece has started doing a little but, he’s trained again on Friday, so we’ll assess the situation before the game,” confirmed Joyce.
There is less positive news concerning Nathan Byrne, with the ankle problem that kept him out last weekend continuing to be an issue.
“Nathan’s a bit further away than Reece,” revealed Joyce.
“They both did really well at Huddersfield, so they’ve both really had one step forward and a couple of steps back.
“That’s a normal situation in football...and in life really.
“Sometimes it is one step forward and two steps back...that’s why my nose looks like it does!”
Having Burke available would be a real shot in the arm for Joyce, who has found the right-back position a massive problem since taking over last month.
“We don’t have really one in the group, do we?” the Latics chief mused.
“I don’t think Reece classes himself as one, and neither does Nathan.
“One’s a centre-back, one’s a wing-back, so we’ve not really got an experienced right-back in the club.
“We got Garbs (Luke Garbutt) to play there last week, and I thought he did really well, against international-class players.
“Every credit to him to be able to do that, in a position he’s never really played before, but it is difficult.
“There was literally nobody else we could have played in that position.”
While Kyle Knoyle, 20, was brought in over the summer on a season-long loan from West Ham, he broke his elbow in his first training session and is not yet ready for a run in the side.
“Kyle’s a young boy with no league experience, who’s just coming back from a difficult injury,” Joyce acknowledged.
“I’m looking at him on a daily basis, reviewing his improved fitness, and seeing where he could pitch in to help the cause.”
Joyce’s options at right-back could be limited further if West Ham exercise their right to recall Burke midway through his loan in January.
Reports had suggested the Hammers had already made enquiries in that direction, but Joyce insists that’s not the case.
“I know the people at West Ham quite well and I’ve had three separate conversations with three different members of staff,” added Joyce.
“We’re just keeping them up to date with how Reece is doing, and how I see him progressing here.
“Having developed players before (at Manchester United), it’s also about telling them where I think he needs to improve, to become a Premier League player, which is obviously what West Ham and the player want.
“He’s here – as well as do well for Wigan Athletic, and help us in our plight – to continue his progress and work towards that aim.”
When asked specifically whether West Ham had indicated they’d want him back in January, Joyce replied: “There’s been no discussions really about that, it’s not one that you assess. It’s just a week-by-week report I’m providing.
“I know that, on the flip side, I always wanted that about my players if they were out on loan, that’s just normal courtesy between club to club.”