‘Mind’ games from now on in, admits Wigan Athletic boss
Wigan Athletic will have a different mentality when they return from the international break against Brentford this weekend, according to Paul Cook.
The visit of the Bees kicks-off a final eight-game block that will make or break the campaign.
And with the finishing line now in sight, Cook admits the psychology of the situation has switched.
“Yes it does change the mindset, without a doubt – for all the teams involved,” the Latics manager recognised.
“Since we last played, Birmingham have now been dropped into it, rightly or wrongly – but they’re in it.
“Given the form they’ve shown this season, will they be in it for long? I would suggest they won’t be.
“I would suggest the relegation fight is still just the bottom six, and we have a six-point gap to Bolton, who are second bottom.
“If we weren’t to take another point now for the rest of the season, would that be enough? That’s for people to debate.
“As far as I’m concerned, I would like to see us hold on to our Championship status by winning games, rather than by other teams losing.
“It’s better to stay up because of what you do, rather than what other teams don’t do.”
Birmingham’s recent nine-point deduction for financial irregularities saw them drop from the safety of mid-table to the fringes of the relegation dogfight.
And Cook says the huge sums of money involved underline just what a challenge it is for Latics to even compete at this level.
“You’ve only got to look at Birmingham’s financial model to see where this league goes,” he acknowledged.
“Looking at the teams directly above us in the league, you’ve got QPR – who have had their own problems – Stoke City...and so on.
“The waters can be difficult, that’s there for all to see.
“We have to stay on track, and the faster we can gain points and get away from that, the better.
“Three points this weekend would see us go a long, long way towards that goal.”
Latics are looking to avenge a 2-0 defeat at Griffin Park back in September, which flattered the visitors.
They were played off the park that day, with skipper Sam Morsy shown a controversial red card – which was overturned on appeal.
The Bees may have slipped down the table in recent months, but Cook knows how dangerous they can be.
“Brentford are an excellent side, and were far superior to us on the day,” he added.
“And I’d say at the time they probably had aspirations to do a little bit better than what they have this season.
“They are a good side, they have good players who can handle the ball, their rotations are good, their movement is good.
“They carry threats all over the pitch and it’ll be a tough game for us.
“Brentford’s form hasn’t been that dissimilar to ours, to be fair.
“They’ve been very strong at home, and not so strong away from home.
“If you ask me, I would have thought – with the way they play – they would have been more suited to playing away from home.
“They’re probably as mystified as anyone else about the situation, but that’s not our concern at the moment.”