Talking football: Wigan Athletic have recipe for success
'Judge me at the end of the week,' pleaded Paul Cook after raising one or two eyebrows with his team selection for the recent defeat at Brentford.
Six days later and the verdict was in: A pass with flying colours!
After a fortnight off thanks to the international break, three games in less than a week looked a brutal way of returning to action.
And given the way Latics were dismantled at Brentford by, let’s be fair, the best side we’ve seen in the Championship so far, the back-to-back home games against Hull and Bristol City took on extra significance.
It wasn’t the two best performances of the campaign by any stretch of the imagination.
But to pick up six points from six was a massive statement from Cook and his side.
Especially considering how many recognised first-teamers were unavailable for selection.
For the Bristol City game, Latics were missing Will Grigg, James Vaughan, Gavin Massey, Callum McManaman and Dan Burn – half of an outfield side that could easily be passed off as first choice.
That Cook’s men could overcome that collective absence and still grind out a win – against an established Championship side like Bristol City – speaks volumes.
As those players recover full fitness, Cook’s job will become increasingly tough to choose his first-choice line-up.
But it’s a problem the gaffer will relish as he – along with his players – seeks to prove himself at this level.
There was a new face at Euxton this week, in the shape of former England defender Steven Caulker.
It’s not too long ago – six years in fact – since Caulker was signing a long-term contract at Tottenham, and representing Team GB at the London Olympics before making his Three Lions debut.
Since then it’s gradually unravelled for the big man – an £8million move to Cardiff ended in relegation from the top flight, and it’s been downhill ever since.
He admitted in a national newspaper interview last year that problems with alcohol, gambling addiction and depression have been huge factors in his career stalling.
But he’s still only 26 – the same age as Dan Burn.
Who – admittedly without such off-field problems – managed to kickstart his own career at Wigan Athletic after a fall from grace at Fulham.
Paul Cook has already shown he’s not afraid to take a chance on a player with off-field baggage, and the early signs are Darron Gibson looks to be a shrewd acquisition on modest outlay.
Caulker will be hoping for a similar pathway as he tries to earn a similar deal at the DW Stadium. Let’s hope it works out for all parties.
This week saw the ‘Best FIFA Awards’ dished out at a glittering ceremony – but not much of it made sense.
For example, how on earth did Real Madrid new-boy Thibaut Courtois win the ‘Best Goalkeeper’ category over Manchester United’s David de Gea... who was then named in the all-star ‘Team of the Year’?
But even more head-scratching was Mo Salah winning the ‘Puskas Best Goal’ category, for his winning strike for Liverpool in last December’s Merseyside derby against Everton.
A decent goal, admittedly, but one that didn’t even win ‘Goal of the Month’ in the Premier League (that was Jermain Defoe’s effort for Bournemouth against Crystal Palace).
How on earth it got the nod over Cristiano Ronaldo’s overhead kick for Real Madrid against Juventus, never mind Gareth Bale’s jaw-dropping acrobatic volley in the Champions League final, is anyone’s guess.
Salah’s team-mate James Milner summed it up quite well on social media with this tongue-in-cheek putdown: “Congrats Mo Salah on your seventh best goal from last season winning goal of the year.”