Gary Caldwell says Saturday’s visit of Coventry will act as a painful reminder of the ‘wake-up call’ Wigan Athletic were given on the opening day of the season.
Latics, the pre-season favourites for promotion, were well-beaten 2-0 at the Ricoh Arena – one of three defeats inside the opening month of the campaign.
Thankfully it was a lesson quickly learned by Caldwell’s men, who have lost only twice since September 12 and are looking to extend their unbeaten run to 20 games this weekend.
But Caldwell – who celebrates a year in charge at the DW today – has revealed the pain of that opening-day setback has helped propel Latics to the summit of League One.
“The Coventry game will be a reminder for us that any team can get punished if you’re not right on the day,” he told the Evening Post. “Obviously we started the campaign full of hope, and that game acted as a wake-up call as to how difficult this league was going to be.
“I feel we have improved a lot since then, and we do look forward to the challenge of facing Coventry again at the DW this Saturday.”
Latics were always going to experience teething problems, given 13 of the 14 men on duty at Coventry were making their debut after a summer of upheaval.
Caldwell, though, reckons that fact actually helped, rather than hindered, him as he kicked off his own management journey.
“It was probably easier for me in many ways, because it was a new group,” he revealed.
“I almost had a blank canvas to start from, and to get my ideas across.
“The players were all new, they were all players who wanted to be here.
“It wasn’t as if they were stuck here – they’d all chosen to come here ahead of other clubs.
“They were all keen to buy into what we were doing, so in that respect it made it easier.”
The fortunes of both clubs could not have been more stark in recent months, with Coventry falling into mid-table after a sensational start, while Latics have slowly but surely climbed to the top of the pile.
Not that Caldwell is counting any chickens just yet.
“We said at the start what a long season season it was, and that it would be a marathon not a sprint,” the Scot added.
“The rewards would go to the teams that stay in there for the whole season.
“Coventry probably haven’t got the results their performances have merited in recent weeks.
“But they’re still a very dangerous side, with a lot of threat in attacking areas, and we’ll have to be on our guard on Saturday.”