DAVE Whelan is looking to forward to the FA Cup final more than most - but even the Wigan chairman admits tomorrow’s trip to West Brom pips it in terms of significance.
Latics have four games to save themselves from the deaded drop, and have plenty of work to do.
They currently lie five points adrift of the safety zone, but they do have a game in hand on their rivals. That game is Tuesday’s visit of Swansea City but, as Whelan is well aware, it may be too late if Latics don’t return from the West Midlands with a positive result.
“It’s a massive game for us – and we all know that,” Whelan told the Evening Post.
“We have to go there and win. We have to win.
“We actually went to West Brom last year and won 1-0, and it will be a real fight again this time.
“They’ve played well this season, even though they have had a bit of a patchy run of late.
“They showed last week at Southampton what they are capable of, when they won 3-0, and we have to be ready for that.”
Having bankrolled Latics all the way up from the old Division Four, Whelan is acutely aware of the significance of retaining top-flight status.
“Survival in the Premier League remains the number one priority for this football club,” he recognised.
“Winning the FA Cup would be amazing, but not if it comes at the expense of us losing our Premier League status.
“You always have to concentrate on one game at a time, and for us that is West Brom in the Premier League.
“The feeling in the camp now is one of total concentration ahead of the West Brom game.
“They’ve put the FA Cup to bed for a week or so while we concentrate on the league games ahead.
“We’ve got a couple of massive games in the league before we go to Wembley, and the lads will be up for them – big style.”
Latics will again have to contend with injury problems ahead of the trip, with Maynor Figueroa joining a casualty list that already includes fellow centre-backs Antolin Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis.
Gary Caldwell has also struggled with a hip problem of late, but the Wigan skipper is willing to play through the pain barrier to help the side.
And the Scotland international admits it’s absolutely imperative Latics – whose performances, if not results, have been decent of late – arrest a three-game winless sequence if they are to stay up.
“It’s getting to the stage of the season where we’d much prefer a bad performance and the points rather than playing well and missing out,” Caldwell said.
“But as the gaffer says, if we can maintain the performance levels we’ve been showing of late then it won’t be long before we turn it around.
“A lot of what we’ve done in the last three games has been right, and we just need to maintain the belief in what we’re doing.
“We just need to tighten up in both boxes and I’m sure we’ll be fine.”