Gary Caldwell admits he’s looking forward to a proper crack at Championship management – without both hands tied behind his back.
The Scot takes his Wigan Athletic side down to Bristol City this afternoon looking to kick-off his second spell as a second-tier boss with a win.
Caldwell did briefly manage Latics in the Championship 14 months ago, when he took over from Malky Mackay.
But his appointment came far too late in the day to prevent the inevitable relegation to League One.
Only youngsters Tim Chow and Jordan Flores, and out-of-favour Andrew Taylor, remain from the squad that went down, such has been the remarkable turnaround on Caldwell’s watch.
And the manager is desperate to make up for lost time – and help Latics give a far better account of themselves this time round.
“Last time I was in the Championship, when I got the job for the last few games, it was a very difficult situation,” Caldwell acknowledged.
“The players weren’t mine, but this time I’m going in with a group of players I have 100 per cent faith in.
“I know that these players, when they perform, they can cause problems for many teams.
“The aim is simply to be better than we were last year – both individually and collectively.
“Where that takes us, we don’t know yet.
“We don’t know the league, we don’t know all about the teams who have come down from the Premier League.
“Our targets will change as the season progresses, but all we can do is be a difficult team to play against and be as good as we can be.”
After a season of largely plain sailing last term, Caldwell is relishing the challenge of testing himself in surroundings he admits will be ‘unforgiving’.
He continued: “The Championship is an unforgiving league.
“I knew that as a player, having played in there, and it’s the same now.
“You can go on runs of games where you struggle to find a win, and at the same time you can go on runs where you’re picking up good results.
“It’s important you always keep your feet on the ground, and focus on the process the club wants to go through to achieve results.
“We will go into the first game full of optimism, full of hope and full of belief that this group of players can take us to great heights.”
First up for Latics is a very difficult trip down to the south west to face a Bristol City side who ended last term on a high after a disappointing start.
Part of the reason for the turnaround was the appointment as manager of Lee Johnson, who helped to mastermind the elimination of Latics from last season’s JPT before being headhunted for the Robins’ vacancy.
“They’re well-organised, they have a good manager who was at Barnsley last year, and started the process that saw them get promoted with us,” acknowledged Caldwell.
“He will have them ready play against us, very well-drilled, and we have to be prepared for that.
“I’ve seen them twice in pre-season, and they have key players high up the pitch that can hurt you.
“At the same time we have to play our own game, and I still be believe the most important thing is to focus on ourselves.
“We have to go into games wanting to cause teams as much problems as we can, and we’re confident we’ll be able to do that.”