WHEN Uwe Rosler walked through the DW Stadium doors for the first time in December, Latics lay just two wins above the relegation zone.
Now, with five games remaining, they’re two wins away from all but cementing a place in the play-offs.
The Rosler transformation has taken some doing, and of course included a dream return to Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final last week.
All that is in the past though and the ambitious German wants to make all that effort count with a top six finish and a chance to return to the famous ground on May 24 in the play-off final.
Rosler is impatient too. He doesn’t want to leave qualification for the play-offs until the final game against Blackburn, he is urging his players to get it confirmed within the next few games starting with a victory against Reading at the DW Stadium today.
The Royals are three points behind fifth-placed Latics and a win would be huge for either side.
“I don’t really care if we are third, fourth, fifth or sixth as long as we are in it and as soon as possible,” he said.
“It is important to, against a direct rival, to make that home advantage count.
“We’ve had a few days off, the players and staff and trained from Tuesday onwards. Preparations are clear for Reading, I feel the squad is mentally in the right frame of mind.
“Everybody is hungry to finish in the top six and try and get back to Wembley. Going into Reading, for us it’s a game we want to win and that’s what our focus is on.
“The squad is looking good, we have a lot of players to our disposal.”
Many may say the FA Cup has been a distraction for Wigan this term.
Not Rosler though, especially when talking about last Saturday’s penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal. Wigan put in a fantastic performance against the Gunners and he believes the positives from that have more than soaked up the disappointment from the previous league game against Millwall.
“I think that is the case,” he acknowledged.
“Everybody knows we played very well against Arsenal. The only person who felt we didn’t play well was Alan Smith on Sky, he must have watched a different game.
“Everybody knows we did ourselves more than justice, we had them over 90 minutes and drew 1-1.
“You can’t ask for anymore than that, I’m very happy with how we performed and coming back from that everybody got a few games off and now the players are ready to go again.”
The Millwall game is in Rosler’s mind still. Up until then, he was unbeaten at the DW Stadium as Wigan manager.
With just two home games remaining this campaign, he wants two wins from two.
“I think that against Millwall we should not be losing at home and that puts extra pressure on the next home games to have because at this stage of the season you have to win your home games, away games are a bonus,” he added.
“Away we are very strong though so that doesn’t mean we can’t win away from home - quite the opposite.
“Reading are a top team, they were one of the favourites before the season. They have top international players and are one of the big hitters in our league.
“They are in the top six more or less all season, we expect to face a lot of quality.
“We want to win our home games, the Millwall game was a big defeat in terms of our home record under me broke.
“To cement our place in the top six, it is crucial to get a strong three points against Reading,” he added. “It will be difficult, there are no guarantees but with our preparation and team selection we have put ourselves in a good position to perform and hopefully get three points.
“We are selecting players who are fresh and ready to go, physically and mentally, so obviously when you put that sort of team in I, as a manager, expect good performances.
“Everyone in our camp expects good performances and that we have to deliver.”
Rosler has a few selection headaches ahead of today’s fixture.
There were outstanding performances at Wembley with very few players putting a foot wrong. Ivan Ramis is the only additional absentee after hobbling off in the semi-final.
But he says he will pick his fittest players and that some “top players” will be left out again.
“I had to make decisions last weekend to leave good players out of the squad, players who have performed well,” he said.
“It will be the same for this game, there will be top players who are not involved but they might start on Monday.
“That is how it works and now in the last five games, it’s not about individuals it’s about us as a club getting into the top six.
“From our starting point when I came in in December, we were on the catch up all the time.
“We did very well and the accumulation of games in such a short time not only in the last two or three months but 10 months, it’s tough and everything comes down to the last five games.”
Reading have a number of injury concerns ahead of today’s match.
Boss Nigel Adkins has been forced to play players out of position and some who may not be 100 per cent fit in recent weeks.
It’s an issue Rosler is all to aware off with big stars Chris McCann and Ben Watson out for the season while there have been lengthy lay-offs for the likes of Shaun Maloney, Gary Caldwell and Ivan Ramis too.
“We never made a big issue on it,” he said.
“Of course, sometimes you can’t deny the facts and you have to mention them but I’ve always believed that from day one, until now, when players are missing they are missing so you have to get on with what you have and that is what you do.
“We had large spells this season and still have key players out but we just try to get on with our business focusing on the players we have available and working with the players we have available and try to select the right ones.
“It’s a tough, tough, tough league. When you have the chance to go into the play-offs after 10 months you must be mentally ready and you must sniff the chance to go up to the Premier League.”