Warren Joyce hailed debut boy Callum Connolly for providing the ‘enthusiasm and bravery’ that underpinned Wigan Athletic’s vital 2-0 victory at fellow strugglers Burton.
The 19-year-old was pitched straight in at right-back only hours after completing his move from Premier League Everton on loan for the rest of the season.
And he made an immediate impact, with a bullet header in either half to secure a priceless three points for Latics against one of their relegation rivals.
“Obviously I’ve known about him for a long time,” revealed Joyce.
“A friend of mine put me on to him a few years ago, and I watched him play at Leigh Sports Village, at the age of about 16, and I thought he was the best player on the pitch.
“He played against us a few times for Everton when I was at Manchester United, and he was always a player who was very competitive, aggressive, solid, and looked like a good character.
“They are the type of player who the older players in the squad deserve to have brought in, to help them along in what we’re trying to do this season.
“Obviously when you’re looking at the make-up of players, you’re looking at their attributes and their qualities.
“We’re not really a big side, but it is important in this league and it’s important you’ve got full-backs that can head the ball well.
“Every credit to the kid today, for his enthusiasm and his bravery, he’s won us the points really.”
It was the second week in a row that a loan star had performed heroics just hours after putting pen to paper, after Jakob Haugaard had saved a penalty in last weekend’s FA Cup win over Nottingham Forest.
“So far so good,” smiled the Latics boss.
“I think we’ve maybe got to be a little bit cleverer than other clubs who can go out and spend vast sums of money on exactly the kind of players they need.
“We’ve got to bring in players who are good characters, and it’s the importance of doing the background checks.
“Everyone who’s come in has fitted in well so far, but there’s a long way to go yet.
“I still don’t think the performances have been that different in any of the games.
“We’ve just had periods where small details have cost us.
“It’s a case of getting that consistency, where eventually everything goes right for the 90 minutes.
“We’ve had small lapses in concentration in games that’s cost us, and players not quite doing their jobs as I’d like them to have done.
“I think we’ve been harshly punished for those fine margins, but today - and I know they could have scored a couple of goals - sometimes you earn that luck in football.”
As well as Connolly, Latics were also indebted to experienced defenders Stephen Warnock and Jake Buxton, who literally put their bodies on the line to repel everything the Brewers threw at them.
“They’re top pro’s aren’t they?” added Joyce.
“They can’t be looking at players coming in who aren’t as passionate as they are about achieving our goals this season.
“That’s fundamental really in the way I’ve been viewing players.”
The result lifts Latics to within three points of the safety mark, but Joyce was refusing to get carried away.
“It was a great win - but it’s still only three points,” he added.
“We knew before the game that there would still be 60 points to play for and that remains the case.
“As soon as dust ourselves down and get back into work on Monday, it’ll be trying to do the same things during the week.
“It’s about not getting too high when you win or too low when you lose.
“As long as there’s consistency about the way we play, the effort, the method, then you’ve a chance.”