GARY Galdwell has challenged Wigan Athletic to recover from the disappointment of relegation and bounce back at the first attempt.
Wigan’s relegation back to the Championship was confirmed on Tuesday night after the 4-1 defeat at Arsenal.
It ends eight glorious years of rubbing shoulders with the elite at the top table of English football.
But Caldwell insists there is enough fight within the dressing room to overcome the setback and come back stronger.
“We have to pick ourselves up and regroup, and the fans need to stick by us,” Caldwell acknowledged.
“We have to make sure we get back into this league as quickly as we can, and that’s the challenge to the players.
“It’s obviously a huge blow for everyone at the football club.
“After the huge high at the weekend, winning the FA Cup, it’s hard to take – but it is what it is.
“We put ourselves in this position, and this time we’ve not been able to dig ourselves out of it.”
Latics travelled to the Emirates needing three points to take the fight into the final weekend of the campaign.
Despite Shaun Maloney’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time, they couldn’t build on it and the Gunners ran riot in the final third.
“Right to the end we thought we’d be able to get ourselves out of it, because that’s how it’s always been,” Caldwell admitted.
“We’ve had a few last-gasp escapes, and we still believed we could do it again.
“We went to Arsenal full of confidence, and I thought we were magnificent on the night.
“How we ended up losing the game 4-1 I’ll never know, but I suppose that sums up the season as a whole.
“There have been too many times we’ve played really well and lost, and you can’t do that in this league.
“The injuries have affected us, but that’s an excuse that we’d rather not use.
“We’d rather look at ourselves, and over the course of the season we’ve lost too many games that we should have won.
“Ultimately we’ve gone down because we haven’t picked up enough points.”
The defeat leaves Wigan on 35 points from their 37 matches played, four points behins Sunderland and five behind Sunday’s opponents Aston Villa.
There is sure to be a carnival atmosphere at the DW for the visit of Villa, with the fans looking to celebrating the lifting of the FA Cup last weekend as well as drawing a line under nearly a decade of Premier League football.
And Caldwell admits the Wigan supporters – who have never stopped believing regardless of the odds in recent years – have a part to play in the rebuilding of the club.
“I hope the fans can come out and support us, and help us to celebrate winning the FA Cup,” he added.
“Hopefully that won’t get lost in all this, because it’s still a remarkable achievement.
“We’ll be playing for nothing on Sunday, we’re already down, but the rebuilding starts here.
“Hopefully we can finish on a high and take that into next season, and bounce back straightaway.”