Our achievement shouldn't be downplayed - Wigan Athletic boss
Having jumped four places in the Championship table over Easter – securing their safety in the process – Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook would surely appreciate another month of football to see if his side can get themselves into play-off contention...
“Ha I’m not thinking about another month – I can guarantee you that pal!” laughed Cook, who is more than ready for some down-time after his first crack at the second tier as a manager.
“And I’m sure most of the fans will be delighted there’s only two games left, they’ll be the same as me!
“It’s been such a tough campaign for everyone, it really has.
“Last year, we were coming from games and we’d been breaking all sorts of records.
“This year, how can I put it...I’m not so sure some fans realise what that entails sometimes.
“I think managers these days get criticised far too quickly.
“Teams lose and it all comes out – manager’s inept, players aren’t fit enough, tactics aren’t good enough.
“When you jump up leagues, you jump up a calibre of player.
“You’ve only got to look at clubs like Stoke to see what they’ve got, and where they are in the league.
“It’s such a tough league, and our players can take heart from achieving the objective of staying in the Championship.”
Seven points from the last three games – against the top-two (at the time) Norwich and Leeds, as well as play-off chasing Preston – secured Wigan’s safety with two games to spare.
And Cook feels it was right to complete the job of survival by their own means rather than needing help.
“It was important for us that we weren’t coming off the field relying on other teams losing for us to retain our status,” he recognised.
“You only need to look at the run we’re on to see we’ve done it ourselves.
“We’re nine games unbeaten at home – and nine games unbeaten at home at this level is all right. There’s not nine duck-eggs in this league...that’s for sure!
“We’ve lost one in seven at home and away – and that was in the last minute at Hull.
“So I actually think the lads have been doing okay.
“Within that ‘okay’, we’ve managed to stay up comfortably. And the next step is whether we can get to 50 points, and whether we can climb any more league positions.”
Latics can leapfrog Garry Monk’s Birmingham with a win, although City’s recent nine-point deduction for financial irregularities gives the table a misleading look.
“Birmingham have had an excellent season, although the problems are there for all to see,” Cook added.
“Garry’s done well to overcome those struggles – from being on the verge of the play-offs to suddenly being on the verge of the bottom three – with his usual style.
“I’m not so sure they were ever in any kind of trouble, looking over the shoulders.
“Their players are too good for them to have got involved with that – albeit the points tally doesn’t reflect that.
“Garry will want to finish the season well, and I believe they’ll be one of the strongest teams in the division next season for sure.”