Jake Buxton admits he’s had mixed feelings about the timing of the international break that’s seen Wigan Athletic’s players stewing for a fortnight over back-to-back defeats.
On one hand, Buxton and co have been desperate to get back on the field to right the wrongs of a first month of the campaign that produced only four points from five matches.
It’s been particularly frustrating for the 31-year-old defender, whose red card in only his second game for Latics – at Oldham in the League Cup – meant he’s had to sit out three of the last four matches.
But on the flip side, with so many new-boys joining Buxton at the DW before the transfer window slammed shut last week – 14 in total – it’s meant invaluable time for them to bed in behind the scenes ahead of Saturday’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday.
“The international breaks are a great time for a new squad to get to know each other, and welcome in new arrivals,” Buxton told the Evening Post.
“On a personal level, I’ve been here a few weeks but, with the suspension, I’ve already been in and out of the side, so I’d probably have preferred the games to have continued.
“But we’ve used the time to get out there on the training pitch and improve the understanding between the boys, and hopefully it’ll help us pick up from this weekend.
“The majority of clubs in this division will take a little bit of time to find their feet and a style of play now the window’s closed.
“You’ll find the quicker a side can settle on the structure and personnel and stability, the better they’ll perform in the league.”
Buxton had been hoping to hit the ground running at the DW following his summer signing from Derby.
But an unfortunate – and disputed red card – at Oldham caused him to kick his heels on the sidelines.
“You want to hit the ground running at any new club, and impress right from the off,” Buxton acknowledged.
“The sending-off at Oldham meant I’ve had to start all over again, and performance is key if I want to stay in the side.
“I was disappointed with the sending-off itself, which we didn’t even think was a foul let alone a red card.
“But that’s gone now, and I can only look forward to the weeks and months ahead.
“We’ve got a tough run of games coming up, and we need to settle into a rhythm and pick up as many points as we can.”
Ten goals shipped in their opening six matches in all competitions was clearly not the way Buxton and Latics wanted to start the campaign.
But with so many changes to the backline – including a new goalkeeper in the shape of Adam Bogdan – it was perhaps inevitable there were going to be teething troubles.
“As a team, we are very much a passing side, we play with fluency, we think forward and we pass forward,” Buxton recognised.
“We defend from the front and, as a group, we need to get that stability and solidity, as quickly as we can.
“Finding that togetherness and unity is key, and that’s what we’ve been working on.
“We’ve picked up four points so far from five games – and we’d probably have liked at least four more.
“I certainly feel we deserved four more points than we’ve picked up, given the performances we’ve put in.
“It would be nice to combine the performances with the result now, and start to move up that table.”
Buxton was immediately restored to the Latics starting XI following his suspension, at the expense of fellow summer signing Dan Burn.
It wasn’t enough to ensure a clean sheet or a point, however, with Latics falling 1-0 to QPR at the DW a fortnight ago.
Since then, Latics have added right-wing back Nathan Byrne and centre-back Reece Burke from Wolves and West Ham respectively.
All of which means an interesting selection dilemma for boss Gary Caldwell ahead of Saturday’s tough trip to Hillsborough – and a situation Buxton would not have any other way.
“There is very healthy competition in all areas of the team,” the big centre-back added.
“And it’s up to the players now to grasp the opportunity when they get it to keep the shirt.
“Knowing there’s somebody behind you, champing at the bit for a chance, will inspire those players lucky enough to be in the team to raise their efforts even more.
“If enough players are playing well, you’ll hopefully win games.”