The 12th Man: In Nick we trust!

Nick Powell, with Will Grigg
Nick Powell, with Will Grigg
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Our panel of Latics experts run the rule over an eventful transfer deadline day - when Nick Powell made national headlines...by doing precisely nothing!

Martin Tarbuck

You could forgive any Latics fans doing Dry January for reaching for a celebratory tipple an hour early on January 31 after what was an almost flawless transfer window but let’s first of all say – Nick Powell: WHAT A GUY!!!

I don’t know everything about Nick Powell and some of what I do know isn’t relevant so perhaps the best way to put it, is that he is not a conventional footballer.

By that I mean his mentality, character and approach to the game as much as his genius like qualities on the field. And in this day and age, when you’ve got players like Riyad Mahrez throwing tantrums over in the East Midlands because he can’t get a move, that is remarkably refreshing.

Imagine if you had all the bright lights at a young age, had some issues and had to move around a bit, injury troubles and are finally having a season where you are enjoying your football, playing every week and winning regularly at a club where you feel settled.

Why on earth would you want to move?

Money? Oh yes there’s money but footballers are well paid enough anyway, even at our level unless they are craving more supercars, mansions and offshore tax funds.

Nick Powell, it strikes me, prefers the home life, spending time with his mates and family, turning up on a Saturday, doing his stuff and then switching off again.

The signings Paul Cook has made haven’t been bad but his greatest achievement this season is getting such a great response from existing players who perhaps might have looked to move on given the turmoil of last year.

Grigg, Morsy, Burn, Byrne, Jacobs, the list goes on.

It speaks volumes that when he walked into the club, he recognised that here was a lad with superb natural talent, who perhaps just needed an arm around him and to be managed correctly.

That’s the reason Nick Powell didn’t leave on January 31, not money.

Of course, it is also a brave move by the club to retain him given the size of some of the purported cheques being waved in front of them but we are at a critical stage of the season with an exciting few months left and we are going for trophies.

Yes, those shiny things which define a player’s career – not playing for a team who are desperately trying to finish 16th in a higher league so that they can rake in another £100m of cash.

I always knew I was going to run out of words quickly when I decided to show a bit of love for Nick Powell but let’s not overlook the rest.

Jamie Walker and James Vaughan haven’t really played, but look the right pedigree, both for now and the direction the club is headed.

Devante Cole has had “mixed” reviews shall we say, from Bradford and Fleetwood fans.

From my perspective, watching him earlier this season, the polite description would be that he looks a bit raw.

The extension and return of two great lads in Shaun MacDonald and Jordan Flores is great to see even if they will have little immediate impact due to injury.

So all is good in the world of Latics, with a massive game in the cup to come and a hefty backlog of league fixtures queued.

Let us hope that we can return to the business of winning football matches on tomorrow and re-assert our dominance at the top of the table.

Sean Livesey

I’m fast running out of superlatives to describe this very special Wigan Athletic side, that has emerged from the ashes of a terrible 2016/17 season.

Usually the FA Cup can distract from a poor league campaign, it can offer struggling clubs the chance to play without fear and upset the odds with results that wouldn’t be expected in the humdrum of a league campaign.

That isn’t the case with Wigan Athletic, the form of Paul Cook’s Latics side in the cup has mirrored our league form.

People said it wasn’t clear who was the Premier League side and who was the League One side against Bournemouth in the third round, and that was even more true for the win over West Ham.

I went in to Saturday’s match feeling slightly confident but still expecting a defeat.

I expected us to give West Ham a game but that the Hammers quality would shine through – how wrong I was.

We didn’t only give West Ham a game but we were completely in control, for all the match.

It felt comfortable, far more comfortable than many of our games this season.

A lot of the press put that down to David Moyes, his ill thought out comments about Wiganers preferring to have a another season of Premier League struggle rather than winning the FA Cup had set West Ham up for a fall.

But I prefer to concentrate on our lads rather than West Ham, once again Wigan Athletic and Paul Cook’s side showed that they’re worthy of playing at a higher level than they are.

The atmosphere of the biggest crowd of the season at the DW no doubt played a part and one can only hope anyone who came along on Saturday decides to come back for the rest of the season.

The DW is often maligned and is clearly at its best when there’s more people in it.

We’ve now played three games against Premier League sides in the last few weeks and have arguably been the better side each time, these aren’t fluke results, they’re down to the fantastic players in our squad and the management team that are getting the very best out of them.

Latics reward for the win over West Ham? A re-match with a certain Manchester City.

You couldn’t have really made it up when we were the last two balls left in the draw on Monday night, I had been praying for a more favourable draw like Coventry beforehand but in hindsight the Manchester City game is probably the one the club would have wanted more than anyone else.

A glamour tie, at home on BBC One no less means the club can bank some much needed cash and hopefully we can show the world once again – just what we’re about.

Finally in the midst of the FA Cup you may have been forgiven for not realising that the transfer window closed last night and as with the summer Wigan Athletic have managed to keep hold of all the key members of our side.

None more so than Nick Powell and Will Grigg, with one being subject of three bids from Brighton & Hove Albion totalling around £10m.

It was Powell himself who turned the deal down, declaring himself happy at the DW and that he didn’t want to leave.

What a clear distinction in the atmosphere around the club from this time last year, FA Cup progress, top of the league and players not wishing to leave.

A year ago Warren Joyce signed 12 players and the club never looked as directionless.

Maybe relegation was the best thing that could have happened to us last season.

As with the 2015/16 season it’s allowed us to re-set and in Paul Cook we’ve got a manager who is doing absolute wonders for our football club.

Let’s hope that continues as we return to league duty on Saturday.

Stuart Glover

OK, so according to public health officials, cup fever in Wigan has now reached epidemic levels.

Whether we were able to be at the game or not, I think we all enjoyed the way we beat West Ham on Saturday.

The fact that we were apparently favourites to win before kick-off is a statement on how seriously they seemed to be taking the game, how injury hit they were and how well and confidently we have been playing.

I think it is clear that the most important of those factors was our team confidence.

Some of our best cup runs have been when we’ve had teams playing with confidence in the league.

We had a confident play-off bound side in 1999 when we won the Auto-Windscreens Shield.

When we won the third flight in 2003 we made it to the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

When we were doing well in our first Premier League season we found ourselves in the League Cup final. Our FA Cup semi-final appearance on 2014 was during our excellent second half of the Championship season.

I suppose the one apparent anomaly is the successful FA Cup run in 2013 when we were also fighting relegation.

But perhaps we can claim that Roberto Martinez was always able to instill confidence into his teams, even when results were not going their way.

So cup fever is at dangerous levels. How has the cup draw affected that?

Well drawing Manchester City was a disappointment for some.

I think most of us wanted to play as lower ranked team as possible to help us progress to the quarter-finals.

But there are upsides to playing City as well.

Obviously it gives us yet another chance to reminisce about the cup final, but also it is not often that you get the chance to play against a team who have a genuine claim to be the best in the world at the moment.

This should be a huge occasion for the club and one that the fans and team should relish.

While we certainly won’t be favourites going into this game, hopefully we will put in a good performance for the BBC One audience and, if we do manage to win, which is certainly not impossible, then cup fever will be at unprecedented levels and we really will start believing our name is going on to the trophy again.

And we will be owed a better draw in the next round!

I actually thought that our cup win in 2013 might have ruined the FA Cup.

I mean that in the sense that we’d completed it and I would certainly never see that happen again in my lifetime.

So what would be the point in our cup games now?

But actually it has made the cup even better.

When we played in the fourth and fifth rounds in 2013, I never actually thought we’d get to the final.

I never actually thought we’d make the semi-final. But now I know that it is possible.

The belief that it could happen is backed up by the knowledge that it could.

Rather than ending the dream, it has reinforced it!

It was a happily quite transfer window for Latics.

With none of our stars leaving and a few new players coming in.

Adding Devante Cole, who has already scored 10 times in the league this season, to the squad now gives us four forward player capable of scoring over 70 goals between them at this level.

It is very good to see the club trying to strengthen the squad, while keeping their best players.

And this against the background of an on-going takeover and the club not being in a very strong financial position. When there are so many bad football club owners out there, it is great to see that our current owners have the best interests of the club at heart.

At least we did not repeat the mistakes of the past by signing lots of players on deadline day.

It is always a mistake and I know that the club realise that last year was a mistake.

Hopefully the players that we have signed this window will make a difference for us and those we signed “permanently” will still be with us this time next year.

It’s back to league football this weekend after the inevitable but disappointing postponement of the Rochdale game. While we still have games in hand, points on the board are more important and with Blackburn now breathing down our necks there is pressure on us to get all three points against Gillingham.

Hopefully the fact that all the players are still present and correct will be the encouragement the team needs to put on a good display and score a few goals.

Ian Aspinall

Latics achieved what could be their best ‘result’ of the season when they managed to hold onto their best players while adding extra quality during the transfer window.

In the context of the modern game it was quite a coup for chairman David Sharpe and manager Paul Cook to keep their stars when Premier League predators pursue them.

Latics have been excellent in all departments this season but several players have stood out from the rest.

Nick Powell, Sam Morsy, Dan Burn and Will Grigg all look very capable of being successful at Premier League level and retaining these star players with Latics at the top of the League One table and in the fifth-round of the FA Cup is a massive boost.

Nick Powell in particular was the focus of major speculation about his future but the player and the club issued an unequivocal ‘No’ to a potential move away from the DW Stadium.

Despite reported interest from Brighton, Bournemouth Crystal Palace and Swansea. Powell told the chairman he was happy at the club and he wanted to stay.

In these times of unchecked player power it was refreshing to see a 23-year-old reject a move to the Premier League when he would have significantly improved his wages and personal wealth.

Powell’s decision also reinforced the view that Paul Cook has done a fantastic job since taking over as manager.

The atmosphere around the club has improved hugely since the days of Warren Joyce, the team spirit is on a high and Powell has shown that he is enjoying his football and wants to be part of the team that gets Latics promoted.

The club should be very satisfied with their transfer window business overall.

They did lose midfielder Lee Evans and striker Ivan Toney early in the window but they have retained their best players and have recruited some talented additions in winger Jamie Walker, striker James Vaughan and midfielder Jay Fulton on loan.

Perhaps the biggest surprise capture of the transfer window was striker Devante Cole from Fleetwood Town.

The 22-year-old son of former Manchester United and England striker Andy Cole was Fleetwood’s top scorer this season with 12 goals and despite significant interest from other clubs he decided to sign for Latics.

Cole is an exciting prospect and will add even greater depth to a squad, which should be playing Championship football next season.

After a totally dominant performance against Premier League West Ham in the FA Cup, Latics will be hoping it is not a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show tomorrow as they face an in-form Gillingham.

The Gills have won six and drawn two of their last eight games defeating play-off contenders Scunthorpe and Charlton on the way.

They are a difficult proposition under manager Steve Lovell who has galvanised the club since taking over in October, winning 11 of his 22 games in charge and guiding them to 10th in the table.

They held Latics to a 1-1 draw at the Priestfield Stadium in October when captain Sam Morsy rescued a point late in the game.

The Gills could still conceivably reach the play-offs and Latics must be wary of a potential banana skin.