Wigan Athletic boss targets Tyler Blackett and Oliver Burke

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook has lined up urgent reinforcements to both his defence and attack to give his ‘stretched squad’ a January boost.

And the Wigan Post understands Reading left-back Tyler Blackett and West Brom winger Oliver Burke are at the top of Cook’s wish-list.

After an impressive start to the campaign, Cook’s men have been running on empty for a while now, with a run of one win in the last 13 games seeing them drop to 20th place in the Championship.

Star man Nick Powell won’t be back from a hamstring injury for a few weeks yet, while American international left-back Antonee Robinson is also out until next month after undergoing ankle surgery.

And with Gavin Massey – who’d already missed four months of the campaign – suffering a recurrence of his own hamstring problem on New Year’s Day, Cook’s options have reduced further.

That has cranked up the need for new blood, and new owners International Entertainment Corporation are believed to be receptive to Cook’s needs.

“I think if fans will be fair, looking back over the last few weeks - and I know the results haven’t been great – the squad has been stretched,” Cook told the Wigan Post.

“We’ve had different players filling in at left-back while our first-choice is out injured.

“And it’s obviously not ideal to be doing that. You might get away with something like that for a game or two, but sooner or later it will catch up with you.

“You are only as strong as your squad, and in this league our competitors are very, very strong.

“Without making any stupid statements, January will be important for us as a football club.

“If we want to continue moving forward as a football club, we must sign more good players.”

Blackett, who joined Reading from Manchester United in 2016, would cost in the region of £400,000. As well as left-back, he can also cover centre-back – another position in which Latics are light after Dan Burn’s transfer to Brighton.

Burke, who would be a loan target, has struggled for game-time at West Brom – Wigan’s opponents this weekend in the FA Cup third round – after returning to England following a short spell in Germany with Red Bull Leipzig.

But Latics fans will probably be more familiar with his time at Nottingham Forest, for whom he scored a match-winning brace in a 4-3 victory over Gary Caldwell’s visitors in August 2016.

Latics had also been linked with Exeter striker Jayden Stockley, whose buy-out clause of £750,000 had been met by Preston and MK Dons.

But the 25-year-old – well known to Cook, having worked under him at Portsmouth – has signed for Preston.