The blueprint for Latics' future ...

Despondent Wigan fans watch their team play before being relegated into League One in 2015
Despondent Wigan fans watch their team play before being relegated into League One in 2015

It’s been five long years since Wigan Athletic slipped out of the Premier League.

In economic terms, it may as well have been a lifetime away.

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Since parachute payments ceased last summer, and the Whelan family have phased back their investment, ahead of the imminent change of ownership, Latics have gone back to being the small club they have happily been for the vast majority of their 86-year history.

This weekend, Latics will make their return to the Championship, as one of the smallest fishes in an increasingly massive pond.

Five years ago, after relegation from the top flight, they were up there with the biggest fishes, swimming around in search of Premier League bait.

Sadly, that proved agonisingly out of reach and, as the years have ticked by, a return to the top table of English football looks ever more unlikely.

Gone are the days of multi-million pound signings, as was the norm under Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez.

Paul Cook, who took charge 12 months ago, didn’t spend a penny after taking over, instead bringing in loans and freebies to launch his promotion push.

This summer, he has made a further five signings, and only one of them – Leonardo Da Silva Lopes – has cost a fee.

At only 18 years of age, though, it’s hoped he will repay that outlay many times over, helping Latics in the short term before moving on to bigger and better things in the long term.

And that’s pretty much the blueprint for the future.

Cutting the cloth accordingly...unless the new owners come armed with a suitcase of cash.

It might not be what the younger end of the fanbase – brought up on Premier League football – want to hear.

But at least it guarantees there will be a Wigan Athletic for future generations to enjoy.

Which can’t necessarily be said for a number of more established clubs who’ve overstretched themselves.