Former Norwich City skipper Matt Jackson believes Wigan are building momentum
- Credit: Archant
Former Norwich City skipper Matt Jackson believes Wigan's experience of relegation battles could prove crucial when the two sides meet in the Premier League this weekend.
The Latics have proved themselves to be the escape artists of the Premier League under Roberto Martinez, preserving their top-flight status last season by taking 21 out of a possible 27 points from their last nine games.
And Jackson, who is now the Operations manager at Wigan, warned City fans the Latics have started their survival charge again and could drag Chris Hughton's men into the relegation mire with victory at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
'It's a crucial game for both sides – Wigan's need is perhaps slightly greater than Norwich,' said Jackson. 'Wigan are used to dealing with the pressure down there and it does seem to bring the best out of the players when they need to.
'We've had a crippling injury list this season and that hasn't helped but fortunately that seems to have settled down. If Norwich were to lose then it would drag them back into the mix – they are not safe and they will know that. They need more points to make sure of Premier League football next season.'
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The Canaries will hope Wigan will also have one eye on their FA Cup semi-final against Millwall at Wembley a week later, but Jackson insists the Latics have already proved they can juggle a Premier League survival battle with a cup campaign.
'Wigan are playing really well at the moment – they have a Cup semi-final to look forward to and there's a bit of momentum building,' said Jackson. 'Obviously Premier League survival is the priority but they have already shown this season they can cope with both.
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'The Cup has been a great chance for some of the squad players to get their chance and they have taken it.'
Despite the international break Wigan have had to ride out a media storm following Callum McManaman's horror tackle on Newcastle defender Massadio Haidara.
McManaman faces being public enemy number one for the remainder of the season after escaping a ban following an FA ruling that they could not re-visit the incident as one of the officials had seen it at the time.
Norwich fans are likely to give McManaman a hot reception but Jackson believes the young winger will be able to handle the inevitable jeers if he can shake off an ankle injury.
'Everyone at the club has been really supportive of him,' he said. 'Some of the stuff that has come out since the tackle has been ridiculous but he is a level-headed lad and it won't affect him.'
Despite expecting Wigan to emerge as victors on Saturday, Jackson believes Norwich will also preserve their top-flight status by the end of the season. He has been impressed at the job manager Chris Hughton has done at Carrow Road and feels the club's future is in very safe hands.
'Norwich have have got a very good manager in Chris, who works incredibly hard with his players on the training field,' he added. 'He is a really nice guy but people probably don't realise just how hard he and his staff work with their players.
'When you're managing a team like Norwich or Wigan then that can make all the difference.'
Jackson has been impressed by the Canaries' ambitions for next season after splashing out £8.5m on Ricky Van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon.
'It's a real sign of the club showing where they want to go – the new scouting structure they have in place means they can attract big players and I think it's a massive show of intent,' he said.
Jackson looks back fondly on his time at Carrow Road with the popular defender enjoying a five-year spell with the Canaries after being brought to the club by Mike Walker for £450,000 in 1996.
'I was there for a long time and my kids grew up there so it will always have a place in our hearts,' he said. 'We absolutely love it there. It's great the club is back in the Premier League because that's where it belongs.
'They are a result I look out for and, although obviously on Saturday I will be supporting Wigan, I hope Norwich can go on and finish the season well.'