Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook has hailed Jordan Flores as a ‘naturally talented boy’ ahead of tonight’s clash against his former club Blackpool.
And he wants the 21-year-old to use a rare start to prove he has a long-term future at the DW Stadium.
Flores hasn’t started a league game for Latics since the 1-1 draw at Oldham in September 2015, when he was red-carded.
His only start last term was in the League Cup defeat at, ironically, Oldham, and he spent the second half of the campaign at, ironically, Blackpool.
But after helping the Seasiders win promotion to League One via the play-offs, Flores signed a new deal at Wigan earlier this summer.
Flores has filled in at left-back during pre-season, but Cook wants the Aspull-born midfielder to make the most of his opportunity to stake a claim in his preferred position.
“In Jordan’s case, what’s Jordan’s best position in our line-up?” mused the Latics boss.
“We’re going to have a look at him on Tuesday night in a different position, in the front three behind the striker.
“Jordan’s a very naturally talented boy, and I think he’s going to be a great player for Wigan Athletic.
“But again these lads need to play regular, because you don’t learn much by not playing.
“These are the challenges ahead, not just for me but for Jordan and players like him.
“And we’ve got to stick together no matter what the plan is.”
Flores will be one of a number of changes to the line-up from Saturday’s 1-0 win at MK Dons.
But Cook makes no apologies for shuffling the pack so early in the campaign.
“Listen you’ve got to be careful about what you say, and I don’t want to be getting in trouble,” he acknowledged. “These competitions are very, very important to clubs.
“It wasn’t so long ago Bradford got to the final of the League Cup.
“But in terms of the list of priorities, for us, the league campaign is our priority without a doubt.
“For me, the FA Cup is also a priority, and that leaves the other two competitions below that.
“If you look at the number of games the lads have to play over the whole programme, it is a lot.
“You have to prioritise what you do as a club,
and as a club we have done that.
“We’re comfortable as a club with what we’re doing, and I’m sure our fans will appreciate the changes we will be making.
“Some of the lads who have possibly felt a little bit aggrieved will get a chance to show us what they can do.
“And that’s something I’m very much looking forward to.”
Cook’s opening few weeks at the club have been a balancing act between bringing in reinforcements, while offloading several players he sees as surplus to requirements – to make a pathway for the likes of Flores and fellow youngster Callum Lang.
“We have too many players at the club – and that’s no-one’s fault,” Cook recognised.
“We have an academy we’re very proud of, yet the amount of senior players is making it very difficult for those young lads to come through.
“We’ve got to make sure the pathway for everyone is there.
“It won’t necessarily mean we have great players in every position, but it might mean we have young players coming in to compete.
“If you look at Callum Lang, for example, his last two first-team (in pre-season), he’s scored two goals.
“What other industry would that happen and you get left out?”