Skipper Stephen Warnock is hoping Wigan Athletic’s togetherness and team spirit can help them to match Aston Villa’s remarkable financial power when the two sides lock horns this weekend.
Former Villa favourite Warnock hasn’t been back to Villa Park since leaving midway through the 2012/13 campaign.
Both Latics and Villa were established Premier League clubs back then – indeed Wigan’s last game in the top flight at the end of that season was a 2-2 draw with the Villans at
Much, of course, has changed since then, with both sides now in the second tier – albeit at different ends.
While Latics are fighting to get out of the bottom three, Villa have their sights set on the top six after an upturn in fortunes under new boss – and former Wigan boss – Steve Bruce.
But Warnock feels it’s the ideal place for Latics to kickstart their campaign.
“It doesn’t get any easier, but these are the games you want to play in,” Warnock told the Evening Post.
“It’ll be an exciting game, the atmosphere will be amazing, and it’ll be a good challenge for us.
“We’ll make sure we prepare in the right way and we’ll go there looking forward to it.
“You want to enjoy the occasion, but you also want to come away with the result, and we’ll go there with a mindset that we can get something out of the game.”
Having played over a hundred times for Villa, as well as for Liverpool and Leeds, Warnock is used to the ‘big club’ factor.
But he is relishing the challenge of being in the opposite corner now, with Latics fighting for their lives against clubs on a completely different financial planet.
“You look at Derby last weekend, who spent £8million on a striker and £6million on a midfielder in the summer,” Warnock explained.
“Now it’s Aston Villa, who spent £15million on (Jonathan) Kodjia and £12million on (Ross) McCormack.
“Incredible amounts of money, and that’s the level we’re competing against.
“They’re looking at trying to bounce back to the Premier League straight away, and those are the gulfs you have to compete against.
“Having said that, we know we have players in our squad who are more than capable of winning games, and we also have a great team spirit that allows us to compete against bigger clubs.
“We’ll go there are underdogs, people will be looking at us as the smaller club, and maybe not expect much of us.
“But we’ll expect a lot of ourselves, and we’ll be going there trying to be adventurous and trying to win the game.”
Saturday’s 1-0 setback against Derby was Wigan’s fourth home game without a win – and even a goal.
But their form on the road gives much more cause for optimism, with Latics defending a five-match unbeaten run stretching back to the unlucky 1-0 defeat at Preston in September.
“I think sometimes it is a mindset,” Warnock addded.
“Sometimes you also need a little bit of luck, which I thought we got against Huddersfield the other week.
“There was a penalty shout against Garbs (Luke Garbutt) that sometimes goes against you, and you look at the header from Max (Power) against Derby that didn’t go for us.
“On another day that falls to one of ours who scores, but it wasn’t to be.”