Wigan Athletic are dead certs to be promoted from League One this season!
That’s the verdict of Rochdale manager Keith Hill, whose side pushed Paul Cook’s men all the way at the DW Stadium, only to fall to an early Michael Jacobs goal.
“When the Wigan team was named I’d actually forgotten some of the players Cookie has!” mused Hill.
“The squad of players he has at his disposal...and you look at their bench...it’s the best League One squad I’ve seen.
“And they probably won’t suffer in the same way as they did the last time they got promoted...and they are going to get promoted.
“Cookie’s a great leader, he knows how to lead a team over the line.
“But for him to be able to change the players the way he did, it’s been absolutely seamless.
“I look at their team...I forgot they’d signed Devante Cole!
“James Vaughan also came in last month...I think (Michael) Jacobs is a superb player, (Max) Power too...they’ve got (Gavin) Massey on the bench!
“It’s just...wow. It’s brilliant what Cookie’s doing, working with the pressure of having to get promoted.
“It’s a different kind of pressure to what I’m dealing with, but I’m sure he’ll steer this club into the Championship.”
The gulf between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ was underlined with a first league start for Latics of the season for Donervon Daniels, who was recalled from Rochdale by Cook on transfer deadline day last month.
“It’s a shame we don’t still have Donervon, I love him to bits,” added Hill.
“When he arrived, it took Donervon a little bit of time to catch back up with the speed of the game.
“I think he took it a little bit for granted when he came to the club that he’d play.
“But he quickly realised he’d have to work extra hard, not just because he was a new player, but because you have to earn respect in a new environment - regardless of whether you’re at the top or the bottom of the league.
“He eventually got the respect of the players to play on a regular basis, and I think everyone was so disappointed, almost deflated when he went back to Wigan.
“I certainly was! When I was driving into work, and I got the phone call off Cookie!
“He’s a big loss to us, but he’s a big gain for Wigan, and he’s got the experience to see Wigan over the line.”
In the final reckoning, it was only a lone Jacobs goal that separated the two sides, with Hill left to bemoan a lapse in concentration at the back.
“I’m devastated really, because the goal that’s decided the game was a terrible goal to concede,” he assessed.
“At the other end, every opportunity we’ve had, we’ve earned.
“I just don’t feel they earned the opportunity that’s won them the game.
“It was novice defending at best, and I’m disappointed.
“It’s just difficult at the minute, because the players are going through the same roller-coaster as I am, they know they’re better than the position they’re in the table.
“Two-thirds of everything we’re doing is as good as it was last year, but results dictate where we are in the league.
“They’re giving me everything, but it’s just the brains, the intelligence, is not quite 100 per cent.
“That’s going to cost us, and it has done again.”