Steve Bruce is ‘100 per cent’ sure Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic will be able to establish themselves as a Championship side after watching his Aston Villa side sneak a 94th-minute winner at Villa Park.
Latics came from behind to lead 2-1 on the hour mark thanks to goals from Nick Powell and Callum Connolly before being pegged back by Villa, who secured all three points thanks to Birkir Bjarnason’s close-range effort with virtually the last kick.
“I watched Wigan last week against Sheffield Wednesday and they were very close to blowing them away,” acknowledged Bruce.
“I knew they are a good side, who play attractive stuff.
“You can see how they won League One last year, you can see how they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup.
“They’re a good team, and I’ve got the hugest amount of respect for them.
“Fair play to Wigan for coming here and doing what they did.”
When asked whether he thought Latics would be okay this season in their quest to consolidate at this level, Bruce replied: “Oh yes, absolutely, 100 per cent.
“They looked okay to me...didn’t they look okay to you?”
Bruce did, however, take exception to some of the treatment dished out by the Latics side to Villa’s stand-out star Jack Grealish, who appeared to spend more of his time on the turf than on his feet.
“Referees need to protect Jack - that’s for sure,” Bruce added.
“It’s a free-for-all at the moment...they’re kicking lumps out of the kid.
“But they’re kicking lumps out of him because he’s that good.
“He’s got to take that as a compliment, but we’ve certainly got to have referees stronger than what he was today in terms of showing yellow cards.
“If not, you’re not going to see talent like that, because they’re repeatedly fouling him.”