Wigan Athletic CEO reflects on first year under Phoenix

"Our aim is to under-promise, and over-deliver."

The opening communication from Phoenix 2021 Limited after taking control of Wigan Athletic.

And with this week marking one year into the 'new era', it's fair to say they've been true to their word so far.

Read More
Wigan Athletic stars make FourFourTwo 'Top 50' list
Mal Brannigan, with Talal Al Hammad at CheltenhamMal Brannigan, with Talal Al Hammad at Cheltenham
Mal Brannigan, with Talal Al Hammad at Cheltenham
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Whisper it quietly, but a return to the Championship is within touching distance under the watchful eye of Leam Richardson.

The club is continuing to lay a solid platform off the field as well, with the 'Believe' campaign a massive hit.

Season tickets are already on sale too - in March!

After the worst year in the club's history, the supporters have their club back - one which they came perilously close to losing.

Speaking exclusively to Wigan Today, chief executive Mal Brannigan has every reason to be shouting from the rooftops this week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But in keeping with the last 12 months, the message is cool, calm and collected.

A good first year - but not the time to be resting on any laurels.

"Leam and the players have got us into a tremendous position," acknowledges Brannigan from the boardroom at the DW Stadium. "One that probably nobody thought we would be in, approaching the first anniversary of Phoenix 2021 coming in.

"We're obviously all delighted the club is in such a strong position, and the good thing is it's all in our control.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Everything's so positive, you see that momentum, and it's something we all want to see happen."

Having been drafted in by the new Bahraini ownership group to oversee the day-to-day operations, Brannigan - whose CV includes spells at Everton, Hull City, Coventry City, Derby County and Sheffield United - admits it's been a whirlwind first year.

"It's certainly been an eventful 12 months, and it's also been very enjoyable," he said.

"I've got so many good people working alongside me here, and that's been key to it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It's credit to everybody involved, it's been a real team effort over the last year.

"And also the support we've been given by Talal (Al Hammad, chairman) and Mr Al Jasmi (owner), in terms of encouraging us with what we want to achieve, and giving us the resources to do that.

"Yes, it's probably happened a little earlier than what we all would have thought.

"But what we talked about at the beginning - to bring some stability to this football club, and make it a Championship football club - we seem to be on the right track at the moment."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Latics even came within a penalty shoot-out of marking the anniversary of Phoenix 2021 Limited taking over with a Wembley appearance in the Papa John's Trophy.

Instead, League Two outfit Sutton will take on long-time leaders Rotherham in the final this weekend.

Latics, meanwhile, have the small matter of a local derby against Bolton at the DW, knowing victory would see them leapfrog Rotherham at the top - still with a game in hand.

And while a trip to the capital would have been the icing on the cake, Brannigan knows the cake itself - promotion back to the Championship - is the most important thing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Look, a trip to Wembley is something that everybody wants to do - whether that's the players, manager, anyone associated with a club, and obviously the fans," he added. "So it's naturally disappointing.

"Was it one of our goals at the beginning of the season? No, it wasn't.

"We saw the competition as one where we could look to develop our young players, and give them the experience of first-team football they don't get at Under-23 level.

"We had a relatively small squad in terms of the first team, so that also affected the way we were going to use the competition.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"But obviously the closer and closer you get to Wembley, it becomes more and more of a focus.

"We're disappointed to have come so close and not made it to the final.

"But we still have to remain very focused on what we set out to do when the club was taken over.

"That was to bring this football club back into the Championship, in a very stable and financially secure way.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"If we can reach the Championship - and we will do it – everything else will follow.

"We're looking good - although there is still a long way to go, and a lot of hard work to put in.

"This sort of thing doesn't happen every single year - and you've got to grab it while you can."