It’s been a typically hectic close season at Latics with a new manager Paul Cook, new coaching staff and the usual high turnover of players.
For some fans transfer speculation can be unsettling as their favourite players seek a move away or they are told that the players are not in the manager’s plans.
I was disappointed with the departures of experienced defenders Stephen Warnock and Jake Buxton and keeper Matt Gilks but that may have been down to the large wage bill rather than any shortcomings of the players.
Max Power has expressed his desire to leave while Omar Bogle doesn’t apparently fit into Cook’s style of play. Both would’ve been assets in League One but Latics do have strength in depth in most areas with some promising new signings.
Young forward Ivan Toney joined on loan from Newcastle United on Wednesday but I’m still expecting a few more ins and outs before the end of the transfer window with Peterborough midfielder Marcus Maddison among those linked with Latics.
However, competition for a starting place will be tough with an array of options particularly in midfield with Sam Morsy, David Perkins, Alex Gilbey, Lee Evans, Jordan Flores, Nathan Byrne and Michael Jacobs.
Going forward, youngster Callum Lang has had an impressive pre-season and if Will Grigg and Nick Powell can get back to full fitness they will surely score plenty of goals at this level.
Looking at League One as a whole I think Blackburn will be the favourites for automatic promotion as they have a strong squad and have done well since Tony Mowbray took over. There’s about eight or nine teams who could be in the hunt for the play-offs. Cook’s former club Portsmouth look strong and I expect them to be amongst those challenging at the top end alongside Latics, Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Bradford.
New manager Cook looks the right fit for Latics and has made a good impression with the fans in pre-season. He certainly has the potential to be successful, like another Liverpudlian Paul Jewell who led the club from the third tier to the Premier League between 2001 and 2005, but only time will tell if he can reach those heady heights.
The season kicks off tomorrow at one of Will Grigg’s former clubs MK Dons and everyone will be hoping that the striker can reignite the fire that took Latics to the League One title in 2015/16.
Same again, please
So here we go again, just two short years since our first game back in the third tier we’re back again. Ready for another attempt at League One and as Joe Fagin sang in Auf Wiedersehen Pet ‘Get it right this time’.
It’s been a summer of change in the corridors of power at the DW Stadium and with it the last connections to our Premier League days left as Graham Barrow and numerous members of the backroom team departed in May.
Paul Cook’s appointment was met with an unusually high level of approval from the Latics fanbase and following the divisive appointment of Warren Joyce last season the club have hopefully got the right man this time, a manager that the supporters can get behind fully.
Some would say Latics had been going about their business quietly, that was until it was revealed that Max Power, Omar Bogle and Jack Byrne were training with the under-18s and seemingly without a future with the club. I don’t know the ins and outs of either of the players’ situations but it’s particularly disappointing. A statement posted by Max Power and swiftly retracted seems to indicate he sees his future back in the Championship, whilst the situations surrounding Omar Bogle and Jack Byrne are more mystifying.
The one thing I do know is that no player is bigger than the club and although Max Power in particular should be commended for his service to Wigan over the last two seasons he is simply one player, and no player is bigger than our club.
It’s time for the club to put itself first and if Paul Cook is putting the club’s interests first then he’ll get the backing from the terraces.
And what of the aforementioned Mr Cook, he’s made a quiet if impressive start to his second (third if we’re counting the loan from Burnley) spell at Latics.
You can’t help but be impressed by what he has to say and the ideas he has for the club. If he’s as successful at Wigan as he was at Chesterfield and Portsmouth we’ll have made the right choice. Cook spoke a couple of weeks ago of trying to get the club back to how it was under Gary Caldwell the last time we were in League One and he’s of course right.
Despite what some will have you believe Caldwell achieved an awful lot in his short spell in charge and sadly all the hard work was undone by a combination of factors last season.
Cook hopefully recognises that, and the need to get that feel good spirit back in the club. If we can get the players, the vast majority who were part of the squad the last time we played in League One believing in themselves again, it could be an enviable squad, compared to the rest of the league.
Happiness is a big part of that, Cook seems to be big on motivation, with Peter Reid also in the background the club shouldn’t be short of a laugh or two, if that can be harnessed in the right way it’s a brilliant addition to your armoury.
If the club manage to hold on to the bigger names of Grigg, Powell, Jacobs and Burn we’ll have one of the strongest sides in the division.
Too many players underperformed last season, add that to the instability off the pitch and sadly there was only one way we were heading but that was last season. It’s a clean slate for the club now and with Blackburn also looking to get back to the Championship at the first time of asking. League One will once again be compelling viewing. Last season felt like a near carbon copy of the 2014/15 season, if we can have a near carbon copy of the last time we were in League One I think Wiganers the world over would snatch your hand off right now.
With well over 1,000Wiganers descending on Milton Keynes at the weekend what better way to start?
Three points please lads.
Smells Like Team Spirit
Roll up, roll up and stand in line for your chance to ride the Wigan Athletic roller coaster once more. Height restrictions apply, ride not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition.
The season hasn’t even started and already things are looking as turbulent as ever. A confident performance against Liverpool, followed by one or two lacklustre outings, unsettled players being ostracised and finishing with an exhilarating 14-0 pummelling of nearby neighbours Chorley, albeit in somewhat dubious circumstances.
The Waltzer of players is spinning faster than ever with players getting thrown in all directions and it’s looking ever more like a repeat of two years ago, with numerous signings and loanees coming in and a few names seemingly heading for the door.
With that in mind, we can be forgiven if we do have a slow start – albeit I fully expect the meltdown to commence in some quarters should we not return from the ridiculously named stadium:mk with all three points.
It was the same two years ago when a bunch of strangers took to the field at Coventry and got taught a lesson. Looking at where the two clubs finished up has taught us nothing if not that the old adage of it being a marathon not a sprint really does apply.
The parachute payments have gone but we have (so far!) retained the core of a squad that, in my opinion, was more than capable of avoiding relegation last year had it not been for a farcical turnover of managers and players.
We can only hope for a turmoil free season this time out but some of the stuff going on behind the scenes isn’t exactly re-assuring.
Yet, I’ve been really happy with the straight talking Paul Cook and, far from creating instability, I’d wager that by getting rid of players who don’t want to be here or aren’t buying into what the manager wants, he is actually removing instability.
There have already been comparisons between Paul Cook and another scouser called Paul, and I’d be delighted if he can achieve half of what Jewell did. Yet Jewell had a torrid few months before he got the squad he wanted.
And never under-estimate just how difficult it is to build that team spirit and cohesion, and it’s got much more difficult in the 10 years since Jewell left the club.
That team spirit has always been the holy grail for every manager to achieve but in years gone by it was much easier to keep any discontent out of the public domain and these days it’s practically impossible.
Freedom of speech and social media are a real enabler in one sense but quite dangerous in other ways and one can only imagine the egos that exist in your average football club.
It must be tremendously difficult these days to get a squad of players who all want the same thing and are all fighting for the same cause.
We can’t read too much into a 14-0 trouncing of a non-league club’s youth team but it gives us a glimpse that the squad are all willing to fight for a place in the team rather than sulk about not being in it, then that is exactly the sort of collective attitude we will need as we go into a new season.
Not a man to get on the wrong side of...
Tomorrow we once again embark on a League One campaign. It’s fair to say the last time we played in the third tier, we didn’t do too badly, did we?
A new season and there’s a new manager at the helm.
Ex-latic Paul Cook, who is looking for back-to-back promotions after guiding Portsmouth to the League Two crown last season.
So far in his Wigan reign, Cook seems to have a bit of a Paul Jewell approach about him or maybe that’s just because they’re both scouse.
But nevertheless, he doesn’t seem the type of man you want to get on the wrong side of.
It seems if you aren’t committed to the cause then you won’t be in the starting 11.
Also, Cook has done remarkably well up to now to keep the spine of the squad from last season.
I was expecting the likes of Nick Powell, Will Grigg, Sam Morsy, Michael Jacobs all to be playing football elsewhere come the first day of the season.
I don’t much about the players whom Cook has brought into the club, but my guess is they can only add to the quality already at his disposal.
I haven’t seen us play so far in pre-season, so I’m looking forward to seeing the style of play Paul Cook has adapted to the Wigan side.
I’m confident that tomorrow we can kick start our season with a win over MK Dons.
Last time around we were champions of League One, and yet again, I can only see ourselves towards the right end of the table battling it out to gain promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.