Guest Latics column - David Sharpe
It's been very hectic over the last few weeks as we finalised the squad ahead of the transfer deadline, but we finally got there.
And I hope it’s better equipped than the last time we were in the Championship – because we ended up going down! But in all seriousness, I think it is.
The spirit and the belief we have now is a lot better than it was back then.
That season we went down, there were certain cliques within the group – the Spanish lads, the Scottish lads – and it was very much individuals.
Everyone had their own personal agenda, but now it’s much more about the team.
The squad are together, and they have been going back all the way to last season.
Obviously we’ve added to that over the summer, but the new lads have fitted into the group straight away.
We’ve kept it UK-based again. We could have gone abroad if we’d wanted to, but I didn’t see a reason to do that.
It can work out going that way, but for this football club, at this moment in time, it was the right thing to do.
The most important thing was bringing in quality, and we’ve been able to do that.
To be able to bring in players like Nick Powell, Jordi Gomez, Stephen Warnock – they’re quality, quality footballers.
As good as it is having a great spirit and a great belief, you also need great quality.
And I think we’ve managed to get that.
To get somebody like Nick, who had four, five, six clubs chasing him – in the Championship and the Premier League – shows how ambitious we are, and how well we treated him the last time he was here.
He had bigger offers on the table for more money than we could have paid.
I know he gets labelled as a player who doesn’t always care, but believe me he cares a lot.
When he’s out there on the pitch, he does the business, and that’s what we want at this football club.
Jordi only played around 50-60 minutes in pre-season at Sunderland, so he’s still catching up fitness-wise.
When I speak to Gary (Caldwell), he’s got him on a fitness regime that’s building him up.
This is his pre-season really, and we probably won’t see anywhere near his best for at least a couple of weeks.
But when he does hit that top gear, we all know what he’s capable of.
People might look at it as an emotional decision to bring in Nick and Jordi.
But it wasn’t like that.
In my opinion – and in Gary’s opinion – they were the best players available at that moment in time.
I’ve also seen people highlighting the fact we’ve now got so many players who used to play for Bolton, having obviously having already bought their training base at Euxton.
It’s one of those...(smiling)...I don’t really mind.
At the end of the day, footballers are always going to have former clubs.
As long as they’re good players, that’s all that matters.
It actually makes a lot of sense because, if they’ve played for Bolton, they know the area.
Look at Adam Le Fondre – and he’s played for a lot of clubs other than Bolton.
He’s from Stockport, he’ll know a few of the lads having played with them at Bolton, and he’ll obviously know the training ground.
That will allow him to adapt to the club and the move quicker than if he’d moved up from, say, London.
There you’d have a player who wouldn’t know the north, wouldn’t know the area, wouldn’t know the weather, maybe wouldn’t know any of the other lads, and it might take him six months to settle in.
In my opinion it’s actually a good thing rather than a bad thing to be signing so many players with Bolton ties.
And as long as they end up playing well for Wigan Athletic, I don’t care which clubs they’ve played for – Bolton, Manchester United, non-league, whoever.
This weekend sees us travel to Sheffield Wednesday, one of the biggest sides – and the biggest budgets – in the Championship.
In League One, whenever we won a game, it was always mentioned by opposition managers and directors that we had the biggest budget.
So I would never sit here and complain about budgets, like we didn’t when we were in the Premier League.
Obviously I know Newcastle are spending silly money, as are Norwich, as are Sheffield Wednesday, as are Derby.
But we’re in the same league as these teams, and at the end of the day it’s only ever 11 men against 11.
When we go on the pitch, we’re competing against them as equals, and you forget about the money.
I honestly think we are well equipped to compete against any team in this league, and that’s what it’s all about.
Money is one thing, it’s there to be spent, and it is difficult to compete against some of the figures being thrown around.
If we tried, we’d risk leaving this club in a terrible state.
You only need to look at Bolton...you try and compete, and you’re riddled with wage bills of £20-plus million.
With our parachute payments about to come to an end, the crowds we get on average around 10-11,000, the income we generate wouldn’t be anywhere near significant enough to cover those wages.
We have to look after the club, and I will always try and do that. We’ll never go crazy and throw daft money at it.
At the end of the day, it’s my grandad’s money. He’s got me in to run the club, and I will run it sensibly.
What we did this summer, I felt, was run it sensibly, while also retaining our ambition.
Sheffield Wednesday this weekend is a massive game to come back to after the international break.
They’re one of my favourites to go up this year, and it’ll be a really good test for us.
It’s obviously a big stadium, big crowd, and also in the back of my mind I know we’re also going to Norwich next Tuesday.
They’re probably two of the three toughest away games of the season, along with Newcastle, and to have them in the space of three or four days makes it even tougher.
It’s quite a good run of fixtures for us after that, and hopefully we can pick up three or four points from the next two games to kick us on.
There will be targets that Gary has set the players, within the group, and you’ll probably only find out about them at the end of the season if we’ve achieved them. I’m not even sure what they are to be honest with you.
But we have to understand we are fighting against some massive teams.
It’s not like last year, when I could sit here and be pretty arrogant about it, and say I wanted us to win the league.
I’m in a different seat now, and I can’t say things like that.
As long as the team and the players put in 100 per cent every week, and the manager believes in them as much as he keeps telling me he does, then you never know.
I do know we have a great bunch of lads and a great staff, and I won’t be putting extra pressure on them to get into a higher position in the league.
Hopefully we’re in for a great season, and what will be will be.
I honestly think we’ll be fine.
I just want us to consolidate, because we’ve had too much chopping and changing over the last few years – different players and different managers.
A little bit of stability around the place would be nice, and I think we’ve got that under Gary.
Yes we’ve had a high turnover of players, but that comes with success and getting into a higher league.
The long-term aim obviously has to get back in to the Premier League – I’m not going to sit here and say I’d be happy to be in the Championship for the next 15-20 years.
But we also have to recognise what we’re competing against, and that’s a hell of a lot of massive clubs with a lot of money.
We have to remain realistic...it’s about having ambition, but also being sensible.
The last thing I want to do is saddle this club with debt, and run it into the ground – I will never let that happen.
I think it’s important there’s a team here that the fans can always come and watch.
In previous cases, some football clubs have been very lucky to survive – Bolton were very lucky to get away with what they did.
It’s my job to ensure this football club remains, and make sure it’s in a very good place for years to come – and I think that will be the case.
David Sharpe was speaking to Paul Kendrick