Latics legend Mike Pollitt will be trying to keep a relatively low profile this weekend when he makes his first return to Wigan in enemy colours.
If only to avoid a clip round the ear from good mate Graham Barrow!
“I hope he doesn’t start on Saturday like he did at Newcastle last week – or it’ll be me who ends up getting some!” laughed Pollitt, now goalkeeping coach of Saturday’s opponents, Rotherham, referring to Barrow’s altercation at St James’ Park with the home bench.
“We’ve both got previous for that haven’t we? We’ll be all right if me and Graham start kicking off on the side!
“On a serious note, I’m looking forward to going back to Wigan, it’ll be nice.
“It’ll be a bit strange, a bit surreal, but nice all the same.
“There’s not been much else to look forward to at the moment to be fair, with the league position.
“I’m not sure how many other people have been looking forward to Wigan away all season, but it’ll be nice to see a few familiar faces.
“It’ll be strange to be sitting in the opposition dug-out, but it’ll be good.
“Once the game starts, you just want to win the game.
“I’m sure we’ll all have a few beers after the game, and a good chat.”
The landscape has changed so much since the start of the season, when Pollitt – who first joined Latics as a player in 2005 – was part of Gary Caldwell’s backroom team and looking to build on the momentum of last season’s League One title win.
“At the start of the season, we all knew it was going to be a tough league,” Pollitt acknowledged. “I remember thinking if we could consolidate in mid-table, that would be classed as a good season.
“It’s not like we got off to a disastrous start. We weren’t getting battered by anyone.
“We just had a few too many draws and losing a few games by the odd goal.
“The club saw fit to change things around, with Warren Joyce coming in, and things didn’t really improve.
“When you’re changing your managers, it’s always difficult keeping people focused on the job, when you’ve got new managers coming in.
“Graham’s tried to steady the ship, and from what I’ve heard he was doing all right, although obviously it wasn’t great in midweek at Ipswich.
“The situation’s not looking great for them at the moment, you have to say.
“Seven points from safety with only six games to go is a big ask – especially with some of the games they’ve got to play.
“I obviously want them to stay up. It’s a club I spent a long time with, and I want them to do well. But it’s going to be a tough ask.”
Anything other than a Wigan win would almost certainly see them facing the already-relegated Millers in League One next season.
But Farnworth-born Pollitt points to Bolton’s resurgence this term – as well as Wigan’s own success last season – as proof that there is life outside the top two divisions.
“Look at Bolton now – they were rock bottom last year, and they’re flying this season,” he acknowledged.
“You drop into League One from the Championship, and let’s be honest that’s not really the level you want to be at.
“But suddenly you’re winning games, the supporters are happy, they’re travelling around in their thousands, and the feel-good factor comes back.
“It’s so hard to compete in the Championship with the budgets at the top end.
“With the majority of the teams in there, you’re fighting a losing battle. But if you drop into League One with a decent squad, there’s always a chance you can bounce back.
“Walking around Bolton now, everyone’s suddenly supporting Bolton again – it’s crazy what a few wins can do.
“That’s what happened to us at Wigan last year, and I’m sure if they do drop again they’ll have a good enough squad to compete again next season.”
This stage of the year has become known in the game as ‘Wigan time’, because of previous Great Escapes.
Perhaps the most memorable was back in 2011, when Latics came back from the dead to beat West Ham 3-2 to set-up a final-day escape at Stoke.
Pollitt – suited and booted – ended up on the field after Charles N’Zogbia’s injury-time winner relegated the Hammers, and he smiles at the thought of history repeating itself.
“If they go into the Leeds game on the last day needing a win to stay up, I wonder if one of them will be on the pitch in their suit, the old ‘David Pleat’ moment,” Pollitt chuckled.
“I won’t be doing that again, but I just hope they give themselves a chance. Especially with Graham being a very good friend of mine, I really hope he can keep them up.”