Paul Cook insists he’ll judge Wigan Athletic’s season to have been a success or a failure based on their points tally as much as whether they win promotion or not.
Tonight’s trip to Bradford is the first of four games in hand over leaders Blackburn, who hold an eight-point lead over Cook’s men.
An away win would see them overtake, on goal difference, second-placed Shrewsbury, who are also showing no signs of dropping off the pace.
And Cook feels rather than concentrate on bettering the results of Wigan’s rivals, the best tactic is just to aim for a points tally.
Unfortunately, it’s a total that is having to be revised on a weekly basis!
“Our points target started off about 70-odd, and at the moment it’s about 100!” smiled the Latics boss.
“I wish Shrewsbury and Blackburn would behave – that’s for sure!
“Listen, you can’t control other teams having outstanding seasons.
“But looking back, Sheffield United were top of this league last year, after 35 games, with 69 points.
“We’ve got 68 already...and we’ve only played 33 games!
“You’re always being asked ‘what if’, and the truth is: We don’t know.
“None of us know what the future will bring.
“The only thing you can do is focus on the next game, which for us is Bradford.”
Having won promotion in two of the last four seasons – with Chesterfield and Portsmouth respectively – Cook is certainly used to getting the calculator out at this stage.
“I would like us to get to a certain number of points,” he acknowledged.
“At Chesterfield, we were lucky enough to win League Two with 84 points.
“At Portsmouth, we were lucky enough to win League Two with 87 points.
“Every point we could get north of 90, we’d be able to look back and say: ‘Yeah, we had a good year’.
“And if we didn’t get promoted, I’d still be comfortable with what we’d achieved.
“If you can get 90 points and not be promoted, you’d have to take off your hats to the teams that have got more.
“I don’t think in football sometimes we’re quick enough to credit other people and other teams with how well they’ve done.
“Football’s become a very selfish game, and that’s a shame.”
After topping the table for much of the campaign, Latics have slipped off the pace in recent weeks thanks to a mixture of their FA Cup run, a couple of postponed fixtures and a dip in form that’s seen them win only once in the last five.
Cook, however, prefers to look at the campaign as a whole rather than their recent blip.
“If we win 3-0 at Bradford, it doesn’t mean we’re promoted,” he opined.
“If we lose 1-0, it doesn’t mean we’re not being promoted.
“I’m a big believer that, after 46 games, we’ll amass a number of points, and what will be will be.
“If Shrewsbury and Blackburn manage to finish above us, it’ll be because they’ve deserved to do so.
“There’s 13 games left for us – we might only have to win four to get promoted, none of us know!
“But if you’d have given me 68 points from 33 games at the start of the season, I’d have bitten your hand off.
“And I think every other manager in the division would have.
“I appreciate the stats in terms of current form, but if we can keep averaging what we have been, we’ll be difficult to get past.
“My job is to keep the lads going and, come the end of the season, what will be will be.”