We’re fighting ‘negative energy around this place’ - Wigan Athletic boss
Paul Cook has challenged his Wigan Athletic side to ‘revert to type’ for the massive six-pointer with Bolton that could make or break the season.
Latics entertain their closest rivals this weekend with only goal difference keeping them out of the bottom three.
Second-bottom Bolton are in an even worse predicament, with seven points fewer on the board, meaning a real Lancashire hot-pot in store.
While Latics have the worst away record in the Championship, their form at the DW Stadium is play-off contending.
And Cook wants them to make full use of home comforts to help to alleviate some of the pressure caused by their slip down the table.
“For all teams now, all the games become bigger and more important,” the Latics boss acknowledged.
“The biggest thing for me is that we play well. As a manager, I can control my own players and how we play.
“The biggest factor is how we restore confidence when it seems to be falling away.
“You revert to type. What is our type? Hopefully we’ll see that on Saturday.”
Latics will be glad to be back home after three damaging defeats on the road – at Derby, Reading and Blackburn – inside seven days.
The latest, a 3-0 drubbing at Ewood in midweek, saw Latics put to the sword by a Rovers team without a win or a clean sheet since January.
But Cook says now is not the time for hauling his players over the coals.
“As a manager, to a supporter, I don’t feel the need to discuss that,” he said.
“Because what you have now is a situation where we need to go and give our best display of the season, on the back of feeling our lowest.
“How can that naturally happen? It can’t, can it?
“The manager slaughters you in public, tells you how bad you were, the bad feeling grows...that’s not football.
“Football is at the end of the season, everyone will finish where they finish, everyone will have their highs and their lows.
“We’ve had ours. But the finishing line comes in sight soon, and whoever gets across that line will feel they’ve had a great season. We need to be that team.”
After spending most of the last decade at the top end of the table fighting for play-offs and promotion, Cook is having his first taste as a manager of a relegation dogfight.
And despite the precarious position, he says he can’t understand why there’s so much ‘negative energy around this place’.
“You know that the natural reaction of 99 per cent of supporters is to want a change of manager,” he said.
“That’s what everyone believes makes you feel better.
“We haven’t been relegated yet. Yet some people have already hung, drawn and quartered us.
“It doesn’t shock or surprise me. It just makes me more determined to do well.
“Fans have opinions, managers have opinions...debating gets you where?
“All you can feel is negative energy around this place at the moment.
“If we win 4-0 this weekend, what would you feel? With me coming out telling everyone to shove this, and shove that.
“Or if we lose 2-0, Paul Cook gets sacked, and Wigan Athletic get relegated for a third time in five years.
“Does that work? Football clubs are about life, and support, and energy.
“Because of social media, I feel things are now being dissected after every single game, every single result.
“For me, football has always been about longer-term objectives.
“It’s now become about if the manager can’t get you to where you want to be, just sack him! Good luck with that.
“If I was to be sacked now, I would still be at the DW on Saturday supporting Wigan Athletic.
“If I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes. If I keep us up, I’ve done well.
“What will the challenges bring after that? We’ll wait and see.”