Darren Royle answers the questions Wigan Athletic fans want to ask - about Paul Cook, survival and recruitment plans

Wigan Athletic executive chairman Darren Royle gave an exclusive Q&A interview into the first few months of the new-look club under IEC ownership.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 9:45 am
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 10:48 am
Wigan Athletic's executive chairman Darren Royle gave an exclusive interview to the Wigan Observer

First things first...how good was Saturday's 5-2 win against Bolton?

“It was a great win, and lovely to score five goals at home for the fans. It was almost like a pressure-cooker to be honest.

“After the defeat at Reading, I think we all felt sorry for ourselves, it was a real feeling of unjust.

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Latics' survival hopes were boosted by a 5-2 win against Bolton in their last match

“We certainly deserved more from that game, and you always wonder about the reaction to something like that, plus the Blackburn result last midweek. But what’s come out of that double setback is something far more powerful, which we saw against Bolton.

“Hopefully that will propel us towards the rest of the season, and help to restore a bit of lost confidence. But no-one is being presumptuous about that being it for the season. There’s a huge task still ahead of us, and it’s already back to work and planning the work for the international break.”

Has your faith in Paul Cook ever wavered, during a difficult few months?

“It was a great win on Saturday for Paul, who I’m sure has been feeling it – he’s only human after all. I’ve always said it’s important to study the past if you want to predict the future

"And Paul has a great CV, having been successful wherever he’s been. You’ve always got to add a layer of context when you’re looking at a run of results and performances.

“You look at some of the teams and the players we’re going up against, and this is a hugely competitive division.

“There’s something like 18, 19, 20 of the clubs have been in the Premier League and have designs on getting back up there.

“We’re going up against clubs with much bigger turnovers and budgets than ourselves, in the fourth most watched league in the world.

“So there needs to be a level of context applied to stuff. We’re delighted to have been promoted into this league, and we’re desperate to stay there.”

How many points do you think will be needed to stay up?

“I’ve looked at the average points tally over the last five years, and the first target is to finish over that. But obviously you go out to win every game you have left and it will take care of itself.”

You must be at a loss to explain the away record, which is in stark contrast to the solid form at home?

“It’s one of those age-old questions in football, and it’s very difficult to explain. You can sort of think back to games where we’ve been unlucky, but I suppose what goes around comes around. Maybe one or two rubs of the green in the right way might have given us greater success on the road.

“Ultimately, I don’t know, but it’s certainly something at the end of the season we’ll have a sit down with the staff and see if there’s anything we could have done differently. I know an area of research at the moment is focused on what you do after a game, and whether you’re better staying over and training locally before travelling home. But I don’t think we do anything different to any other team.”

This season was always going to be about staying in the Championship, but are the long-term targets even higher than that?

“I said right from the start you can’t just arrive in the Championship and solely hope to consolidate. There’s got to be a bigger objective – and that’s obviously to try to get into the Premier League over the coming years.

“To do that, we have to build as a club, and we’re doing lots of great work with the academy as well as focusing on player recruitment and trading. Paul’s always been very successful at developing players and improving players, so there’s that as well.

“Paul’s plan has always been to finish the season in the Championship, and then look to improve it next year. Maybe then in the third year the target might be to aim for the play-offs, and you look at the likes of Preston – whose budget isn’t massive – as proof it can be done.

“We certainly aren’t looking to consolidate in the Championship as an end goal. The long-term aim is certainly to try to get back in to the Premier League.”

Have IEC been worried about the recent run of results, and the slip down the table?

“Again there is a level of context, and the fact we are newly-promoted to this level. The owners are desperate to maintain the Championship status first and foremost. But they also understand the nature of injuries, and the competitiveness of the league.”

Some fans have questioned why there hasn’t been more direct communication from IEC since the takeover - is that going to change?

“The owners have been great, they’ve trusted in our experience to do the job. And they are very keen for the football to do the talking, rather than them. They are certainly not in this to raise their own profiles.

“It’s more about gaining a presence in the entertainment business and sport. Football is global entertainment, whether we like it or not, and with TV rights and exposure internationally, that’s why the Premier League is so massive.

“But certainly from their perspective, it’s not about using this to raise their own profiles. I can understand why, after being owned by Mr Whelan and run by David Sharpe, who had regular contact with the fans, they’ve become used to that.

“But IEC have entrusted in me the responsibility of running the club, and that’s their view on it.”

Assuming Latics stay up, how are things moving with regards recruitment for next season?

“Recruitment has been a very active area. Chris Brass, who heads that up, has been looking at a lot of different markets. And it’s something we’re actively building up, our intelligence in other markets, and looking at players.”