Wigan Athletic Academy challenged to 'do it again'

Gregor Rioch has challenged his Academy set-up which has propped up Wigan Athletic on and off the field to lick its wounds – and ‘do it again’.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 11:26 am
Gregor Rioch
Gregor Rioch

The youth set-up – revolutionised by Jonathan Jackson and Roberto Martinez, and spearheaded by Rioch since 2013 – had seen Latics competing with some of the biggest clubs in the land before the administrators last summer.

A few months before, the Under-18s had beaten Tottenham in the FA Youth Cup at the DW Stadium before narrowly losing 2-1 against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Sadly, the Academy has taken a hit during the last 12 months, with Spurs having their revenge by pinching England starlet Alfie Devine, and fellow Three Lions aces Joe Gelhardt (Leeds) and Jensen Weir (Brighton) also leaving.

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Kyle Joseph (Swansea) and Sean McGurk (Leeds) have recently joined the exodus but, with Latics now able to look forward under Phoenix 2021 Limited, Academy chief Rioch says the focus is on strengthening the system.

“The players know they’re in good hands, and the parents know their children are in good hands,” he said.

“And I think that means there’s possibly been less collateral damage done to the academy than to certain other parts of the football club.

“There’s always going to be some fall-out, and we’ve not quite got what we wanted for the lads who have left in terms of their development.

"It wasn’t what we expected, what we hoped for, but the target now is to go and do it again.

“The challenge now is to roll up our sleeves, and say ‘we’ve done it once, we can do it again’.

"And there is still a belief at this club – for the coaches to keep doing what they’re doing, and for the young lads coming through to see the progression that is possible here.

“I’m really confident and really excited about the future of the Academy, and what can be achieved.”

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