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Talking football: Wigan Athletic approach worth its weight in gold

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

Seventy two hours is a long time in football.

On Saturday night, Paul Cook would have come away from Griffin Park, Brentford, with little to cling to after seeing his Wigan Athletic side beaten in every conceivable area.

Fast-forward three days, however, and the Latics boss watched his side bounce back in perfect fashion to grind out a well-deserved victory over Hull City.

Parts of the midweek performance showed exactly why Latics currently stand on the fringes of the play-off picture.

Their passing and moving was a joy to watch, and they were creating chances at will.

But just as impressive was the way they dug in when required, and soaked up all the pressure being thrown at them – especially in the final quarter.

Two games, two hugely different performances, three points on the board.

A better return than if Latics had played okay in both matches, and shared the points against both the Bees and the Tigers.

And it’s this refreshingly attacking approach from Cook that has underpinned Wigan’s fine start.

Not for him the philosophy of Warren Joyce two years ago, looking to protect the point you start with, and anything else being a bonus.

Which more often than not ended up led to goals being conceded and the team coming away with nothing.

This time, it’s all about what Latics can do – and putting the onus on the opposition to have even more in its armoury.

If that is the case– like at Brentford, or Aston Villa last month – well, fair enough.

But with three points for a win, it’s clear every victory is worth its weight in gold...and why Cook is content to take the odd bloody nose in pursuit of knockout punches.

Next up for the Tics is tomorrow night’s visit of Bristol City – ironically the opposition for Joyce’s final game in charge, 18 months ago.

One pitiful display too far – with zero attacking intent and a defensive switch-off right at the death – saw the then-manager fall on his sword.

This time, whatever the result, the Latics fans – and the watching millions of Sky Sports – will at least get to see Cook’s men give it a go.

Which at the end of the day, is all you can really ask for in this game.

It took only 21 minutes on Tuesday night for the footballing Gods to work their magic once again.

Just hours after apparently being suspended for the game, Latics skipper Sam Morsy waltzed through the Hull City midfield like Franz Beckenbauer, before unleashing a blistering shot into the net that Bobby Charlton would have been proud of.

Underlining exactly why boss Paul Cook was so desperate to overturn the unfortunate red card Morsy picked up at Brentford on Saturday.

Despite Brentford claims of an elbow/forearm on Yoann Barbet, the only TV footage of the incident saw Morsy simply arrive a split-second late into a 50-50 aerial challenge.

Unquestionably a foul.

But a red card? For being a fraction of a second late to a genuine attempt to play the ball?

That seemed harsh in the extreme, and fair play to the FA for righting the wrong and clearing the name of Morsy.

Whether the player’s reputation went before him is anyone’s guess.

But if, say, Michael Jacobs or Gavin Massey had been involved in the collision, would the red card have been quite so quick in coming out?

We can but speculate. But one thing’s for sure.

If Morsy’s available, he’s among the first names on the team sheet for a manager who see the Egyptian as his on-field lieutenant.

But with Darron Gibson now available after injury, it creates a very welcome selection problem for the gaffer in terms of central midfield positions.

Penny for Nathan Byrne’s thoughts...

Four months ago he was the toast of Wigan after sweeping the board at the Latics Player of the Season awards.

One pre-season injury later, and he finds himself on the substitutes’ bench, wondering when his next run-out is going to be.

Of course, something else has happened in that time.

The arrival of Reece James from Chelsea on a season-long loan.

I remember speaking to the 18-year-old at Euxton on the day he signed for Latics in the summer.

Alluding to Byrne’s status as top dog at the club, I asked Reece whether he was looking to fill in elsewhere in the team to ensure game-time.

“No,” he replied. “I’m a right-back and I’m here to play right-back.”

While impressed by his confidence, some may have been tempted to laugh about a young lad just arrived from Chelsea – yet to make his pro debut – being so self-confident with little experience.

Well, they’re certainly not laughing now.

And if the teenager’s early-season form is anything to go by, the likes of Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold won’t be laughing either.

Because I’d put money on this lad breaking into the England team in the next couple of years – and staying there for a very long time.