Opposition view: Impressive start has fired Championship play-off hopes for Latics fans
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Ahead of today’s Carrow Road clash Wigan fan Adam Pendlebury, from the Progress with Unity podcast crew, discusses the Latics’ fine start on their return to Championship action.
It’s been quite a start to the season for Wigan – has it surprised you?
It has and it hasn’t. I expected us to do okay, but, quite clearly, after two previous poor seasons in the Championship there was an element of trepidation. I’m not surprised that we are well clear of the bottom three, but I am pleasantly surprised by our positioning in the top six. Moreover, the level of performance and quality of spectacle has been way beyond my wildest dreams.
Paul Cook has made a huge impact at the DW Stadium – what’s his secret?
The first thing I want to say about Cookie is that he has a refreshing honesty about him. He is not the atypical walking cliché. This resonates well with the fans and has brought the manager and team closer to the fans. This is crucial at any club as the atmosphere at games is so important. Cook is also very positive and the team buy into it. Let’s not forget, however, that his tactics are superb. He has a formation – 4-2-3-1 – that he likes to employ but realises that he does need to tweak the implementation of it depending on personnel. He is also open to changing things during the course of the game. In my view though, his number one quality is getting the best out of his players. Exhibit A is Nick Powell. The last 12 months have seen Nick play his best football since his days at Crewe. Credit Cook for surrounding himself with talented backroom staff who can assist in managing the tactical, motivational and fitness side of players such as Powell.
Has the squad changed much since promotion?
We had an exceptional League One campaign so it was a case of evolution rather than revolution. Christian Walton, Powell, Cheyenne Dunkley, Sam Morsy, Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs have contributed positively to our season so far and they were the mainstays of our League One record breaking title winning campaign. We have added Josh Windass, Joe Garner and Callum McManaman to the forward line, but only Windass has really been involved. The biggest changes are in defence with three of the four making a first day debut, though they have started all but one game together.
Which players have been performing well so far?
Powell is a class above but Lee Evans in midfield has been fantastic. Jacobs and Grigg are much improved on our last attempt in the ‘big league’. Antonee Robinson at left back has pace to burn and set up a couple of goals. However, player of the season so far is Reece James, on loan from Chelsea. In our Wigan Athletic Progress with Unity podcast, episode one, I said he was one of the best Championship summer signings. Being Chelsea academy player of the season is a fantastic achievement and the friendly matches I watched made me think we had struck gold. I’m usually wrong but not with Reece. He is superb in attack and defence, so much so he is keeping out last season’s player of the season Nathan Byrne.
And which players are yet to make an impact?
Garner has been injured and McManaman has only flirted with the first team. I’m sure they will have a big impact as the season progresses.
Do you think a play-off push is possible this season?
Absolutely – Brentford were a class above us but we have been the better side in all other games. As alluded to above, the defence is new so lots of improvement to be made. I’m quietly confident.
Norwich are unbeaten in six and have won their last four; are you nervous about the game?
Nervous is probably the wrong word as we have lots of quality and good momentum. Realistically, though, we have to be slightly concerned playing a side in such good form at a place we struggle at. Our slight weakness is in defence and I believe Norwich’s attack, with Jordan Rhodes in form, will cause us problems.
Will you be wary of any of the Canaries players?
Always liked Rhodes and will surely start after Tuesday. Only seen highlights so far but Teemu Pukki looks a threat we need to look out for.
And finally, what is your prediction for today’s game?
I’m going for an entertaining 1-1 draw.