RYAN Shotton admits Wigan Athletic are finding out fast how tough life in the Championship is.
Latics are enjoying a well-deserved international break after a gruelling schedule of seven matches in the space of 22 days.
They signed off with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Blackburn that keeps them on the coat-tails of the promotion pacesetters – albeit with two games in hand.
It wasn’t pretty, but Latics dug deep and got the job done thanks to a last-gasp goal from Emmerson Boyce.
“That’s what the Championship is all about,” Shotton told the Evening Post.
“Sometimes teams will let you play your lovely, pretty football – but sometimes they don’t.
“You’ve got to understand that, especially in a local derby like Sunday, it’s not going to be pretty.
“You have to fight for every first ball, second ball and every cross that comes in.
“I thought we competed well on the day, and it gives us a solid platform from which to build after the international break.
“The games have been coming thick and fast, but if we think it’s tough now it’s going to be even worse come November and December. But we’ll be ready for it.”
Latics have several players away with their countries at the moment, with the rest of the squad having been given a couple of days off to recharge batteries. The recent schedule has seen the games coming thick and fast, and Shotton – who experienced a similar situation during his time at Stoke – says it’s a mental battle as much as physical.
“The first couple of games you can deal with the Saturday/Thursday/Sunday because you’re well rested,” he recognised.
“But at the end of a block of games like we’ve just had, it is difficult to keep going, and it’s vital to freshen things up.”
Shotton played more football than most in the last block of fixtures, featuring in each of the last six matches.
That meant the defender was out on his feet after an hour against Blackburn, when he was replaced by Emmerson Boyce.
“I’d run out of steam, and the manager saw that and made the change,” he admitted. “Boycey’s come on and he’s ended up being the match-winner.
“What a great header it was, and he deserves it because he’s a top bloke. It shows how much we were pushing on and that’s what happens.”