Villa v Latics: Opportunity knocks
Paul Cook wants to be open and honest with Latics fans ahead of tonight's EFP Cup clash at Aston Villa.
Returning to the Championship is his, and the club’s, number one priority this season.
He will ring the changes for the trip to Villa Park.
Though there is an important but…
Don’t think Latics are traveling to Birmingham not wanting to win – the opposite is the case.
As Wigan manager, Cook’s first couple of months in the job have gone superbly.
Undefeated, top of League One, big draw in the Cup to look forward to – but as he takes what he calls a ‘freshened-up’ squad to Villa Park, just don’t tell him the pressure’s off.
“Pressure is never off in football, mark my words,” he said.
“You guys (the media) might tell me the pressure’s off, but we want to win.
“We’ve got a good little record going at the minute and we want to continue. It’s a tough game for us all irrespective of what Wigan team takes to the pitch but we’ll be very competitive.”
On choosing his squad for tonight’s game, sandwiched between last Saturday’s win at Oldham and this weekend’s tangle with his old club Portsmouth, Cook admitted fresh faces will be in the line-up, including a possible spot for Max Power.
“For our supporters it’s important they know where we prioritise the game, so for fans traveling down they need to know what we’re doing,” he said.
“I think managers should be open and honest, it’s going to be a very similar team to the one that played in the last round and it gives lads an opportunity who haven’t been playing to play in what is a glamorous tie.”
But for the players handed jerseys for their clash with Championship side Villa, Cook’s expectations are simple.
“Every football club is different in what they want to achieve,” he said.
“For us, every game we play isn’t a must-win game but it needs to be approached like that.
“There’s no point in playing football if you’re not going to be competitive.”
Managed by ex-Latics boss Steve Bruce, Villa got off the mark last weekend with a 4-2 win at home to Norwich, their first in four Championship games.
And Cook is full of respect for his opposite number, who he rates very highly.
“It’s a fantastic game and a great draw,” said Cook.
“For me, the stadium and Aston Villa as a football club, to be going against Steve Bruce in terms of management, who in my opinion is one of the best English managers that’s out there.
“It’s a great night for us all, we’re looking forward to the game.”
And despite reflecting on another win from Saturday’s performance, which had many fans discussing the show from a dominant Wigan, Cook was left unhappy with his side’s second-half showing, and has demanded improvement.
“It was a good win,” he admitted.
“It was a good win for us as a club in the infancy of the season, to have the start we have will please, but there were certainly a lot of areas for improvement from Saturday’s performance for sure.
“From starting the game so well, where we did look a very good team in the early stages of the game, we never saw that through for me and that was very disappointing when it came to reflection time.
“In my opinion we never went and put the game to bed.
“It was more a case of we felt we’d done enough. We showed a bit of idling if you like but for me, as a manager, I want people to show how strong we are and what we can be as a team.”