`

Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook warns: Underestimate anyone at your peril

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

Hardly anyone in Wigan has calmed down from last Monday night just yet.

And in normal circumstances a League One clash against a team trying to avoid relegation five days later might not be enough of an excuse to leave Saturday chores unattended to.

But these sides meet having both shown-up two of the Premier League’s glamour clubs in last week’s FA Cup fifth round, and the high of that will still be being felt despite pressing league agendas for both Paul Cook and his opposite number Keith Hill.

Latics, with three games in hand, are looking to reclaim top spot before they catch up on games played with Blackburn and Shrewsbury, while Rochdale are fighting for League One survival.

But Cook is wary, despite the fact Rochdale also have the distraction of a replay against Spurs at Wembley next week.

“You underestimate any team in our division at your peril. We found that out against Blackpool last week,” warned the Latics boss.

“Everyone has good players, everyone is more tactically aware now. Fitness has improved, so there are no easy games. The games are thick and fast for us both.

“They go to Wembley at mid-week to play Tottenham and it’s hard for lads at our level because no matter what you say, it’s in your mind. Of course it’s in your mind.

“To go to Wembley and play Tottenham, how could it not be?

“For Rochdale it’s as equally an important game as it is for us.”

Despite Latics’ Cup heroics, Cook’s men will be looking to bounce back from two successive league defeats.

Their bid for automatic promotion is still on track, especially when games in hand are taken into account, but the boss insists he isn’t taking notice of form.

“I say all the time, it doesn’t bother me – the runs,” he said.

“The media love putting runs on front of people. For me, the league table tells you where everyone deserves to be.

“If we can catch up on our games in hand, I believe we’ll be where I’d like us to be.”

And both sides have plenty of games to catch up on. Wigan have played three fewer games than the teams above them while Rochdale have played one fewer than Latics.

It’s also the first time the sides are meeting this season after the game at Spotland was twice put back – once in November for international call-ups and once in January because of a waterlogged pitch.

“In the good days I could phone Keith and we could probably play for six points,” joked Cook.“Keith might want to play at home for that one. I’ve got great time for Keith.”

Cook also revealed how highly he rates the Rochdale boss.

“I’m probably surprised a little bit to see them in the league position that they are,” he said. “There’ll be reasons for that. But Keith’s an outstanding manager. In my opinion one of the best outside the Championship for sure.”