Skipper Stephen Warnock has admitted Wigan Athletic have learned ‘the hard way’ about how tough and ruthless the Championship is.
Only a freak series of results on the last two weekends of the campaign can prevent Latics making an unwelcome return to League One at the first attempt.
The current sense of doom and gloom is a far cry from this time last year, when Latics were sweeping all before them on the way to the third tier title.
“It’s very difficult coming up from the level we played at last season, and trying to get your bearings within this league,” Warnock told the Wigan Post.
“You just don’t get time – that’s the difficult thing.
“It’s a ferocious league. And we’ve learned that the hard way.”
Warnock, 35, is out of contract this summer, and he is waiting to hear whether the club would like him to stay on.
Meanwhile, Latics have confirmed Wales Under-19 goalkeeper Owen Evans, along with striker James Barrigan, have been offered 12-month contract extensions.
They join Luke Burke and Josh Gregory, who have already signed for another year.
However, seven youngsters – striker Sam Cosgrove, midfielders James Boyd and Danny O’Brien, and defenders Arnie Baxendale, Adam Anson, Liam Langford and Alex Lingard – have been released.
“This is always the most difficult day of the year,” admitted Academy chief Gregor Rioch. “The work all the players have put in during the season has been exceptional, and it was fitting we won the EFL Central League Cup.
“However, decisions have to be made, with the criteria that we are keeping players we feel have a chance of breaking into the first-team squad.
“For those who have not been offered contracts, we will offer all the advice and help we can in terms of trying to find them another club, choosing another career or to move into further education.”