Plymouth game much bigger than Cup upset, says Cook

Paul Cook admits this afternoon's League One trip to Plymouth is a '˜much, much bigger game' for Wigan Athletic than the midweek FA Cup victory over Premier League Bournemouth.

Saturday, 20th January 2018, 6:16 am
Paul Cook is mindful of Plymouth's 'siege mentality'

Latics caused a major cup-set at the DW Stadium by dumping the Cherries out of the famous competition at the third-round stage after a replay – just as they did en route to lifting the trophy in 2013.

And while Latics suffered the catastrophe of being relegated from the Premier League that year, Cook is determined to ensure his side achieve their goals in League One this time round.

Which is why all talk of the cup has been banned – for this weekend at least.

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“It’s a massive, massive game for us at Plymouth,” he told the Wigan Post.

“What the FA Cup does is it brings all the media attention that goes with the competition and Premier League opposition.

“There’s a tendency for it to go a little bit flat once that’s out of the way – and we have to guard against that.

“We enjoyed Wednesday night, it was a big night for the club.

“But promotion is our priority – and it always will be.

“Plymouth on Saturday is a much, much bigger game for us than Bournemouth on Wednesday.

“And I’m sure Bournemouth will say the same about their Premier League game against West Ham.

“Wednesday was nice, but we have to get over it quickly – because the league game at Plymouth is coming quick.”

And despite their opponents languishing in 13th place, Cook is well aware of the threat posed by Derek Adams’ men, who have won five and drawn three of their last eight fixtures.

“Plymouth are a top side – probably the in-form side in the division at the moment,” Cook said.

“We won’t be going into the game with anything other than full focus on what we know will be a very tough game.

“Derek’s a very strong manager with a very strong character. He knows football, he knows the league, he knows his players. They didn’t have a great start to the season, but managers can come through bad runs.

“Plymouth obviously have great confidence in Derek, rightly so given the success he’s had, and they’ve come through it.”

Having managed on the south coast with Portsmouth, Cook is well aware of the ‘siege mentality’ encouraged by clubs such as Plymouth.

“That’s what happens sometimes in docklands areas, they really get behind their side,” the Latics boss added.

“I’ve had lots of good battles with Plymouth over the years, and we know what type of game we’re going to get.

“The travel is obviously not ideal, but it’s part and parcel of the game. Thankfully, we get looked after, and it shouldn’t be a factor. We make sure the lads get plenty of rest in between games and we’ll be ready to go on Saturday.”

Adams has hailed Wigan Athletic as “the best team in the division”, and said: “They are obviously going to be promoted back to the Championship. They are a very good team.”

Cook is expected to reverse most if not all of the seven changes he made to his starting line-up in midweek.

On-loan Brighton goalkeeper Christian Walton should come back in for Jamie Jones, hoping to keep Wigan’s eighth league clean sheet in a row – which would equal a 15-year-old club record.

Nathan Byrne, Dan Burn and Reece James are expected to be restored to the back four, at the expense of Alex Bruce, Callum Elder and Max Power, whose switch back to midfield should see David Perkins drop out.

And despite sterling midweek shifts from Gary Roberts and Ryan Colclough, the smart money would be on Nick Powell and Michael Jacobs returning to bolster the frontline.

The only injury doubt is striker Will Grigg, who limped off after 51 minutes against Bournemouth with a dead leg.

New signing James Vaughan, who was cup-tied in midweek, is standing by to make his first Wigan start.

It will be an emotional affair for the hosts with Argyle playing their first match since receiving the devastating news mid-week that 24-year-old defender Ryan Edwards has been diagnosed with testicular cancer, and will undergo immediate surgery.

Argyle fans have organised a minute’s applause on the 5th minute of today’s encounter to show their support.