Nathan Byrne has vowed to keep working on his fitness as he fights his way back into the Latics side.
Having struggled to break into the team since recovering from a pre-season groin problem, the 26-year-old made his first home start of the season in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over West Brom.
He backed that up by coming on as a late substitute in Tuesday’s loss to MIllwall, but he won’t be changing his priorities yet.
“I was just focusing on my fitness since I’ve been out of the team and I’ve just been trying to get as fit as possible until I’m called upon really,” he said.
“I felt good all the way through the game, was pleased with my own performance levels and fitness levels more than anything.
“A lot of people don’t see but the boys do work really hard here.”
Having been player of the year and players’ player of the year last term, Byrne admits he isn’t used to having to fight his way back into the squad, but says despite disappointing results on the road fans will be content with their current position.
“It’s a different start to the season from what I’m used to but the boys started really well and I think if the fans were asked, they’d have taken where we are sitting right now,” he said.
“We have to build on that and I was happy to be playing on Saturday, I really enjoyed it and I just have to build on my own fitness now and hopefully stay in the team now.
“We have a big game coming up and you have to turn around and recover quickly.”
Reflecting on last Saturday’s win over West Brom, Byrne says the task now is to replicate that performance in their next run of games, starting with the trip to Sheffield United tomorrow.
“We have to do the same again really, just stick to what we’re doing,” he said.
“We believe we are good enough to be here and we want to go as high as possible so every week we need to go out and try to get a result and see where it takes us really.”
But Latics have experience bouncing back from difficult defeats.
They returned from the international break, before which they lost 4-0 to Preston, to beat West Brom, with 34-year-old Gary Roberts starring after a surprise call-up.
“We get pushed every day. We’re trying to get fitness, do extra work and our gym work and it showed when they brought me and Gary in and we both could keep running,” said Byrne.
“Everyone’s performances were down against Preston and it wasn’t like us really so the whole two weeks we were just working on how we should play and how we know we can play. I feel we executed that perfectly.
“I think the manager never moans at us if we don’t win games or don’t get the result we want, he always wants us to play the same way and we know we were miles off it against Preston so that’s all it was.”