Everyone knew huge tests would come thick and fast in the Championship for Wigan Athletic.
But now the season is gathering pace, the frequency such tests are already coming round is as exciting as the fearless approach Paul Cook’s side have adopted on the pitch.
A win, loss and a draw from their opening three games is a decent return for last season’s League One winners, and some will have their eyes on tonight’s fixture as a potential scalp given Stoke’s shaky start.
The Potters were in the Premier League last term, and under new manager Gary Rowett have two draws to their name so far, including last weekend’s 2-2 stalemate with Preston.
But Cook is paying little attention to tonight’s opponents’ start – deemed slow by some – and is braced for what he says will be a ‘severe’ test.
“It’s for people to say – ‘feel sorry’ is the wrong term – but we’re forever putting things on people like Stoke, ‘big hitters’ and all the above,” said Cook.
“Gary, like every other manager, has gone into a club and slowly but surely building it to how he wants it to be.
“Through the media and other outlets we’re trying to cram football into a week or a month.
“Stoke as a relegated team will always be disappointed from relegation, and there’s a sense of change with a new manager but Gary’s well-equipped to get that right.
“I think over a period of time everyone will see that.”
Cook is also calling for his players to tread carefully at the bet365 Stadium as his side aim to shuffle further into the Championship pack.
While going out to win games – rather than play simply to not lose – comes with its risks, Cook hopes to soon see his players learn to deal with situations which can arise from playing aggressively with the ball.
“There aren’t many leagues where you get it your own way – I’ll tell you that,” he said.
“I think they key for us is the mistakes that get punished.
“Last year in League One if we did make a mistake or two in the game, sometimes you might get away with it. You don’t get away with it now, that’s for sure.
“You only have to look at the calibre of player on the pitch.
“The standard of player in this division is very good and you have to guard against those mistakes that can cost you.
“We’re all doing our best to win football games, Gary’s no different to me. We’ll just prepare as best we can. We know Stoke have a lot of quality and we know the threat they carry.
“It will be a difficult night and one we have to be very careful of.”
But even acknowledging his Latics outfit could do with tightening-up a defence which has leaked seven goals in three league games, Cook is happy to see his players set the tempo in their clashes so far.
“To create the chances they’re creating against these strong teams is great credit to them,” he said.
“Obviously we know the flipside of that with the goals at the other end but that’s the trade-off in football. Sometimes when you try and stop one at one end it can influence what goes on at the other.”