Wigan Athletic relegated to League One

Emmerson Boyce and Marc-Antoine Fortune during Latics' defeat to Wolves
Emmerson Boyce and Marc-Antoine Fortune during Latics' defeat to Wolves

WIGAN Athletic will kick-off next season in the third-tier of English football.

Their drop to League One was confirmed as Rotherham beat Reading 2-1.

It was a result which secured survival for the Millers and also condemned Millwall to relegation.

Latics’ 1-0 defeat by Wolves last Saturday left them clinging to their Championship status by their fingernails.

Gary Caldwell needed Rotherham to lose to Reading as well as this weekend, and Millwall not to win their final match - as well as claiming all three points at Brentford - to avoid their second relegation in three seasons.

It was always going to be a tall order and, in truth, most fans had resigned themselves to their League One fate long before the Yorkshire hammered in the final nail.

They would already have been relegated had Rotherham not been docked three points for fielding an ineligible player.

Caldwell has overseen four matches since succeeding sacked Malky Mackay as manager.

And while he has been drumming home the ‘believe’ message in the hope the club could conjure the greatest of escapes, he has also been working on a long-term plan to repair the club’s problems and, ultimately, restore them to the Premier League.

His own position would seem safe, given new chairman David Sharpe comments when he promoted the Scot to the hot-seat with the task of reviving the club’s culture and identity.

Now they know their fate - and their likely budget - they can begin preparing for life as a League One outfit.

The loan players will return to their parent clubs, while eight players are out of contract this summer: Ali Al Habsi, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Kim Bo Kyung, Gaetan Bong, William Kvist, Jermaine Pennant, Lee Nicholls and Emmerson Boyce.

Caldwell may have others not prepared to step down to League One next season.

While fans will have wait to see how the squad is shaped over summer, for now they are left to reflect on a sharp and unexpected tumble in fortunes.

It was less than two years ago when Latics stunned the sporting world by winning the FA Cup.

Even last season, they just missed out on the Championship play-off final, in a campaign which saw them return to Wembley to push Arsenal all the way in the Cup semi-final.

They began this campaign among the bookmakers’ favourites for promotion. But instead, they have lurched from one bad result to another, swapped Uwe Rosler for Mackay and now Caldwell, lost a clutch of their best - and highest-earning - players, and been relegated with a game to go.