Caldwell: Real party will start next weekend

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell admitted the celebrations to mark Wigan Athletic’s promotion from League One will be a mere curtain-raiser to the main event of securing the title next weekend.

Latics mathematically secured their place in the Championship next term thanks to a 4-0 drubbing of beleaguered Blackpool in the early Saturday kick-off.

They came within a couple of minutes of winning the title outright later in the day, with Burton’s 93rd-minute winner over Gillingham meaning that, mathematically at least, it’s not quite confirmed just yet.

“I think we’ll celebrate tonight, because we are promoted,” revealed Caldwell, whose men host Barnsley in the final game of the season next Sunday.

“But once that’s out of the way we’ll knuckle down next week and prepare to go and win it in style and have a big party back at the DW in front of our own supporters.”

Caldwell’s first full year in management has gone like a dream, and he reckons success gained as a manager is on a different level to that he enjoyed as a player.

“It means more as a manager, because you know how many people it affects,” he admitted.

“As a player, you get on with your job, and it’s exciting and great.

“But as a manager, you understand the whole club, and what it means to so many people.

“I’ll enjoy it, but also understand it’s my responsibility to think about next season, and keep taking this club forward.

“It wasn’t easy - it was far from easy. It was a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work, and not just me.

“My staff - Graham Barrow, Joe Parkinson, Mike Pollitt, Peter Atherton - the medical staff, the chairman has been immense.

“There’s a lot of people who care for this club, and have worked very hard to start to bring success back.

“And this is only the beginning.”

The scenes of jubilation at the end were a far cry from the opening month of the campaign, when Latics were defeated three times in the league and knocked out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle.

While questions were asked outside the DW, Caldwell says - with a brand new playing squad still finding its feet - there was never any temptation to reach for the panic button.

“No not from me, and I don’t think from the players either,” he countered.

“They understood the process we had to go through, and there was a lot of learning - about each other as players, about what I wanted as a manager.

“And I think you can see the way the season’s progressed, we’ve been excellent - and I still think we can get even better.

“Next year will be a huge challenge, but I still believe this group will be competitive in a very difficult league.

“I’m thinking positive, and I’m thinking about building a proper football club, and we’re well on the way towards doing that.

“We want to work hard in the summer, and if everyone does that - and wants to be better than they were this year - then I’m sure we’ll be a difficult team to play against.”

Latics didn’t have it their own way at Bloomfield Road, with the Seasiders having the best of the opening 45 minutes without being able to translate that on to the scoreboard.

And Caldwell’s men made them pay for their profligacy with a devastating second-half performance that included goals from Chris McCann, Yanic Wildschut (2) and Will Grigg.

“It’s difficult - I’ve been there as a player and I understand the feelings my lads were going through,” said Caldwell.

“It’s not easy to play a game like that, where there’s tension and excitement where you want it to happen, but you have to know how to go about it.

“I thought in the second half we calmed down a little bit and we showed our quality in the final third.

“The players are the ones who go out and win games, and I think you saw in the second half the way they responded.

“It wasn’t anything I did, they responded by taking the game by the scruff of the neck, on the front foot, and the success we’ve had is largely down to them.”