Hard work starts now, says Jones

GRAEME Jones admits the hard work starts now as Wigan Athletic prepare to jet out for their pre-season tour of Sweden.

The Latics assistant boss took charge of training when the players returned from their summer jollies at the end of last week.

And after a couple of days back at Christopher Park, the setting now switches to Sweden for a five-day training camp.

Having been a player himself – his 31-goal tally in 1996/97 remains a Latics record to this day – Jones knows better than anyone the value of getting as much quality work done at this time of year.

“I think everyone’s had a long enough break and got over the rigours and challenges of last season, and are ready to go again,” Jones told the Evening Post. “We’re all creatures of a habit, and I think you miss your routines sometimes.

“Some of the players have maybe eaten and drank a little bit too much over the summer, and they’ll be glad to get back to work.

“We’ve got three different places of work again – Wigan, Sweden and a third base that is still to be decided.

“The work will dictate the third base, because you have to be able to get in as many different areas of work as you can – the gym, the pool, the training pitch, etc.

“The programme will be slightly different to last year, because you do need to keep it fresh for the players, but the ideas and concepts will remain the same.”

As the players get back into shape, all eyes are firmly focused on August 13 and the visit of Norwich to the DW Stadium.

And Latics will need no reminding of the dangers of taking on newly-promoted opposition first up, after their 4-0 opening-day drubbing at the hands of Blackpool last term.

“We need to learn our lessons from what happened last year, and the way we started,” Jones acknowledged.

“There was no intention to start like that – it was just that Blackpool came out with some fantastic stats, they were on a honeymoon period, and we need top make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’ve got a similar start this year – with the three promoted clubs up first – but we need to be ready to take advantage of it.”

After two successive relegation battles, there is a quiet optimism around the DW that this term may see Latics pushing on towards the ‘right’ half of the Premier League table for a change.

Jones, however, is determined not to get carried away with the weight of expectation.

“This league is so tough, and the job is so tough, all we can do is try to improve again – and we’re not looking beyond that at the moment,” he added. “If you can do that year on year, your standing in the Premier League will improve, and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”