Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook is hoping not to be burned this weekend by a player he says is ‘one of the most talented I’ve ever worked with’.
Latics make the short trip to Stoke looking to pull away from the foot of the Championship table.
But among those standing in their way is Nick Powell, who left for the Potteries in the summer after his contract at the DW expired.
The 25-year-old hasn’t made the expected impact with Stoke as yet, due to injury and fitness issues.
But Cook is in no doubt as to the capabilities of a player he clearly still has a lot of affection, and admiration, for.
“Am I looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Powelly? I always look forward to seeing Nick!” acknowledged Cook. “He is without doubt one of the most talented players I’ve ever worked with.
“In terms of technical ability, his natural football ability...what Nick sees on a football field, other players do not see.
“He is an absolute elite level footballer who, for whatever reason – and injuries have played their part – his appearance record over the years probably hasn’t been good enough.
“That’ll be as disappointing for Nick as much as anyone.
“But in terms of talent...you look at the Championship, and you won’t find a more talented player in this division.”
Latics pushed the boat out – and then some – to try to keep Powell, going to a figure that would have made him the club’s highest earner.
Still that fell way short of what Stoke could afford to offer, but Cook is not bitter in the slightest.
“He’s gone to Stoke and, for whatever reason, at the minute it doesn’t appear to have worked out like everyone would have hoped,” he said.
“But we only have fond memories of Powelly, and what he’s done for my career, my staff’s careers, and Wigan Athletic Football Club.
“Football needs those people who you can look to and light up games and stadiums.
“There’s not enough of them players about – and he’s definitely one.”
Powell could well be on the Stoke bench, but Cook says he has a plan to prevent him getting on to the field.
“If he’s not in the starting line-up, he’ll have to warm up, and to do that he’ll have to get past me,” laughed the Latics boss. “And I’ll make sure I tell don’t you dare go out on that pitch!”
Latics are hoping to welcome back Charlie Mulgrew from a hamstring injury, but Cook hinted there are problems elsewhere.
“Yes, we have some injury concerns, but again we’ll keep that to ourselves,” he added.