Paul Cook has laughed off any suggestion of a ‘bust-up’ with Nick Powell – after restoring him to the Latics squad for tonight’s trip to Derby.
Powell was a surprise absentee from the 18 on duty against Middlesbrough at the weekend, with social media and message boards immediately full of rumours of a ‘clash’ with the manager.
Some fans claimed Powell had ‘stormed out’ of the DW before returning for the game, with a photo emerging of him watching from the West Stand on his own.
Cook, who said last Friday Powell would be involved, revealed afterwards the player missed a couple of training sessions through illness and wasn’t ready to play.
And he could not have dismissed talk of a fall-out in any more uncertain terms.
“I’m sure the fans think I’m some kind of tyrant...with all these bust-ups I keep having with all of my players!” the Latics boss laughed.
“How can I best allay any fears fans may have? To say that the suggestion (of a bust-up) is so far from the truth would be an understatement.
“Nick Powell will be in the squad for Derby.
“So if there has been a bust-up, Powelly’s clearly won the bust-up – that’s all I can say!
“Look, we all want Nick Powell in the squad. He’s been such a good player for me since I’ve been here.
“I just felt on Saturday that, given the way the training had gone, giving him another couple of sessions was the best way of getting him back to where we want him.
“But the fans can rest assured that fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on their viewpoint! – there has not been one cross word between me and Nick Powell, in any way, shape or form.”
Cook says there will be ‘one or two changes’ to the squad for tonight’s game, with left-back Antonee Robinson pushing for a recall after four months out injured.
Michael Jacobs or Anthony Pilkington could return if Cook switches back to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, after fielding a back five against Middlesbrough.
Latics can extend the gap between themselves and the drop zone to six points with a win – although they haven’t won away since August.