It has been a mixed week for all at Wigan Athletic.
On one hand, the team progressed to the FA Cup quarter-final and continued their fine league form under Uwe Rosler with a 2-0 victory over Barnsley on Tuesday.
During that match though they lost midfielder Ben Watson to a double leg fracture, ruling him out for the rest of the season and possibly longer.
The FA Cup hero is a hugely popular figure in the dressing room and the injury has been hard to take for the players, especially after most of them watched him break his leg just 15 months ago against Liverpool.
Rosler, though, has praised his players for the way they have reacted to the injury and says there is very much a “Let’s do it for Ben” attitude going in to today’s game at Brighton.
“The team have coped very well with that incident and also in the days after,” said the manager.
“Ben is a fantastic footballer for this football squad and also a fantastic person.
“I think there will be a lot of affection for all who travel down to Brighton to get it right for Ben.
“It’s the feeling from the players that they want to do it for Ben.
“Ben is a crucial player for us but we will never use the miss of Ben, as much as we will miss him, as an excuse.
“We have to cope without him, sometimes such tragic a thing is also a time for others to step up to the plate.
“That is what we are looking for now, we are looking to get a result against a team that is fighting for the same aims like we do and we also try to get the result for Ben.”
Rosler took training at Christopher Park yesterday before heading down to the south coast with the team.
They do so, once again, without top scorer Nick Powell who is still missing through injury.
Despite the injury woes though, the manager insists the spirit in the camp remains high and that his players don’t need any added motivation for today’s match.
“In general, confidence is growing,” he said. “I am very happy with the spirit in the camp. We looked sharp in training, I didn’t need to animate the players to raise themselves.
“They were very sharp, they knew exactly what it will take against Brighton but they also knew that we are good.
“Our away record is quite decent against good sides. Every time we have played away from home, apart from maybe Doncaster, we have played a team in form.
“Now we face another team who have won four games at home in a row 1-0 now but I think we can cope with that and we will push for a win.”
Brighton manager Oscar Garcia has been quoted this week saying that Wigan are one of the best sides in the league, pointing towards the squad size.
There is also plenty of depth in his squad too, with Albion making seven changes in their last two games.
While Rosler knows the quality he possesses, he believes that a larger depth has been vital this campaign with the number of matches.
Latics have played 42 games so far this season, just six less than the whole of that last one put together. As it stands, they will play a minimum of 59 games which potentially could go up to 65 depending on the FA Cup and play-offs.
“That is why this club needed to invest in the squad before the season,” he said. “For a championship team, for any team, to play in Europe is a massive, massive task.
“Also, since I came here we had three centre-halves out. Gary Caldwell had not kicked a ball, Shaun Maloney long-term out, Nick Powell now out for a while, Ben Watson now out but we never talk about other squads.
“The intensity of the Championship on top of the fixture list in the Euro League, plus a very good cup run, it takes its toll and you need bodies.
“You need a squad when you want to live up to the expectation you have to have a decent squad.
“But that is the price you have to pay when you have been successful because the teams who have been successful play in Europe and this is why they have to invest in bigger squads to cope on all fronts.
“It’s very important that the truth is always on the pitch, not with what is on paper. I can only talk about since I came here and the players have been on the pitch living up to the expectations this football club has and that is fantastic to see.”
Rosler refused to play up today’s trip to Brighton, despite the implications it could have at the end of the season.
The two sides are currently level on points and goal-difference with just goals scored giving Latics the edge to put them in seventh place.
“Brighton will be just another tough test but I wouldn’t call it the biggest challenge,” added Rosler.
“We know what it is at stake, we know they have a good team. We know they aren’t conceding many goals but they’re not scoring many neither, I think it’ll be an even game in many ways. We will be prepared, we will be up for it.”