Talking football: Royle occasion in store for new Wigan Athletic owners

Darren Royle
Darren Royle

Saturday’s visit of Reading will be a massive occasion for Wigan Athletic’s new executive chairman Darren Royle.

His first home game in seat number one of the directors’ box at the DW Stadium, following the protracted takeover of the club by International Entertainment Corporation.

Given the (fitting) opposition, a Royal occasion in every sense of the word.

Hopefully it will go a little smoother than the visit of Reading two seasons ago...around this time of year.

When the Royals were two goals up inside five minutes, to give new manager Warren Joyce the worst possible start to his Latics career.

Which to be fair didn’t get a whole lot better over the following months.

Fingers crossed it will be more along the lines of Reading’s visit to the DW six years ago this week, when Jordi Gomez scored a ‘perfect’ hat-trick (left foot, right foot, header) in a dramatic 3-2 win under Roberto Martinez.

Royle has used the international break to get his first messages across to the Latics fans, and it’s been mostly encouraging stuff to be fair.

Reiterating the Premier League has to be the aim for any club owners ‘otherwise you’d have to question their motives’, while insisting there would be no money being thrown at it.

Penny for the thoughts of Paul Cook who, after repeatedly stating that consolidating in the Championship would be an achievement – which of course it absolutely would – has seen the bar lifted a significant notch.

It’s probably best not to read too much into mention of the Premier League for the time being.

If Royle had set out the dream of IEC to merely stand still and remain a second-tier club, that would have been far more newsworthy.

Given the way Royle spoke about Cook and the job he’s done at Wigan, it’s clear how much he is thought of by the new powers-that-be.

Of more pressing concern is Saturday’s game, the first of three in a week that could well shape the season.

Wigan’s four defeats in a row is clearly not great, but three of those came against genuine promotion chasers.

The games against Reading, Blackburn and Bolton will surely be far more significance in the final shake-up, given Latics will hope to finish above all three on the ladder.

A positive return, and all is rosy in the garden again.

A less-than-positive return, and all of a sudden the pressure gets cranked up ahead of the festive period – and the crucial January transfer window to follow.

Will Grigg is hoping to be passed fit for Wigan Athletic’s crunch clash against Reading on Saturday.

And what a boost that would be for boss Paul Cook to have his star striker back in the fold.

Having lost four of the five matches Grigg has missed, it’s been apparent how much influence he has on the side.

And that’s no criticism of the players who have stepped in for him up top, who haven’t exactly been missing chances by the bucketload.

But the sight of Grigg in the starting line-up, leading the line with his typical gusto, would be the perfect fillip for a side who have looked badly in need of inspiration during the recent run of bad results.

The perfect early Christmas present for Cook and the Latics fans.

Great to see Harry Redknapp in the jungle is proving every bit as entertaining as we all hoped it would be.

From the opening show, when a sharp producer had the brainwave of a task involving him leaning out of a car window, it’s been fab telly.

And I can see the big man going all the way to the end.

Having (briefly) met him through our Joseph’s Goal campaign, he came across as a decent bloke, down to earth, and hugely likeable.

Qualities which should come over well with the viewers when it comes to picking a winner in a few weeks.

One of the more bizarre stories of the week was local referee David McNamara leaving his coin in the dressing room before a Women’s Super League match between Manchester City and Reading, and holding an impromptu game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to decide which side would kick-off.

This led to a three-week ban for the whistle-blower – the very definition of cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer – which he says he’ll be appealing.

If only there was an obvious way of deciding whether McNamara should be punished or not, in fitting with the original ‘crime’...let me think...

“FIFA ethics judge arrested on suspicion of corruption”

Sometimes punchlines aren’t even required.