JAMES Perch admits Wigan Athletic are playing for much, much more than three points at relegation rivals Rotherham on Saturday.
Latics – eight points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Championship – know anything other than three points is unthinkable as they attempt to pull off the greatest of Great Escapes.
There’s a lot more at stake in the position we’re in – if the worst comes to the worst we stand to lose our Championship statusJames Perch
With only 10 games to save their skin, Latics need five or perhaps six wins to give themselves any chance of avoiding the drop.
For Perch, who has spent most of his career in the Premier League or at least competing to get there, it’s a harsh reality check which could have far-reaching ramifications.
“We’ve all dealt with tough situations in our careers, and this is another one,” Perch told the Evening Post. “It’s probably a different kind of pressure to when you’re doing well and you’re winning stuff.
“You’ve got confidence as well when you’re doing well, while it’s different, a lot harder, when you’re in the position we’re in.
“When you’re at the top you’re competing to win stuff, whereas when you’re at the bottom you’re competing not to lose stuff.
“There’s a lot more at stake in the position we’re in – if the worst comes to the worst we stand to lose our Championship status.
“It’s everything. Pride in your own performance is what you’re doing it for, because that’s why you become a footballer – to do your best.
“But then it filters down and you’re also doing it for the staff at the club, the people behind the scenes who you don’t see, and we know how massive it is for them as well as us.”
While the Millers were widely tipped to be involved in a relegation scrap, it’s still baffling to comprehend how Latics – one of the pre-season favourites for promotion – could find themselves in this situation with so much riding on Saturday afternoon’s outcome.
“It’s a massive game for both sides,” Perch acknowledged.
“Looking at the way the fixtures have panned out, and the way it’s gone for both sides, it was always going to be a big one.
“It’s another must-win for us – very similar to the Blackpool game.
“We had to win that game and we did. We’ll go into the game with the same mentality as Blackpool, and try our hardest to get the three points.”
That win at Blackpool was one of three successive away wins that should at least give Latics great cause for optimism as they head for South Yorkshire.
“We’ve won our last three games away from home, so it obviously doesn’t faze us going on the road,” Perch recognised. We should be taking a few fans with us so hopefully there will be a good atmosphere that we can thrive on.”
Having been given the captain’s armband in recent weeks, there will be extra responsibility on the 29-year-old’s shoulders, which he is more than happy to take on.
“I love being captain,” he added. “I’ve done it before, it’s not like it’s something new.
“I’m just enjoying it and thriving on it at the moment.
“You have different kind of captains - some rant and rave, while I think I’m more of a lead-by-example kind of type.
“That’s how I am, that’s how I play, and it’s working so far.”