Midweek football returns to The Den this Tuesday night (7:45pm) as Paul Cook brings his Wigan Athletic outfit to South London, with Sky Bet Championship fixtures rapidly arriving.
Neil Harris’ Millwall found ourselves on the losing side at Reading on Saturday despite creating a host of chances, whilst The Latics enjoyed a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at the DW Stadium, keeping a clean sheet against Darren Moore’s free-scoring side. Wigan consequently face The Lions in eighth place in the League, just a point outside the Play-Off positions.
Wigan Athletic were elected into League football in 1978, and won their first promotion from the old Fourth Division four years later. The turn of the century proved successful for The Latics, who enjoyed two promotions in three seasons to make their Premier League bow in 2005/06, even managing a top-half finish in their debut season alongside a League Cup Final appearance. Top-flight consistency continued for Wigan under numerous managers, and the club’s greatest ever achievement arrived in 2013 when Roberto Martinez steered the team to a shock FA Cup triumph after beating Manchester City at Wembley. The Latics were however relegated the same season, and made their European debut the following season as a Championship club, losing their final three group games to be eliminated in the group stage. Wigan have only remained in the same division in one of their last six seasons, having recently won the League One title for the second time in three seasons.
Ones to Watch
Reece James (12) has significantly impressed since signing a loan deal with Wigan for this season from Chelsea. The full-back was brought in by Paul Cook in the summer to aid his development, with the 18-year-old repaying his faith with a string of assured displays which have helped The Latics up to eighth in the Championship. A Chelsea academy prospect since the age of just six, James captained the club’s U18 side to FA Youth Cup success, earning the Academy Player of the Year award at Stamford Bridge. He also starred for England U20 as they retained the Toulon Tournament title, and was part of the national U19 squad who won the European Championship, both in 2017. A reliable defender with plenty of potential, James is certainly one for the future.
Sam Morsy (5) leads the Wigan side, nominated as skipper at the start of last year’s League One triumph season by the incoming Cook. Morsy had already lifted a title under Cook, namely League Two with Chesterfield, where the midfielder spent two-and-a-half years before moving to the DW. An enforcing, combative presence in the middle of the park, Morsy has shown his leadership credentials in Cook’s side and featured in all but five of last campaign’s matches, after initially struggling to hold down a starting place and being loaned out to Barnsley the previous season. After nine years in the Wolves academy, Morsy moved to Port Vale, where he made his professional debut in 2010. Qualifying for Egypt through his father, the 27-year-old has earned six caps for his national side, including one appearance as part of the Egyptian World Cup squad in the summer as he featured against Uruguay.
Josh Windass (10) is another player who has been in the thick of the action for Wigan this season, moving south from Rangers to join Cook’s squad in the summer. Like his father Dean Windass, the 24-year-old also operates as a forward, as well as in an attacking midfield role – as has recently been the case at the DW Stadium. Despite his young age, Windass has played regular first-team football for five years, having joined Accrington Stanley in 2013 after coming through the Huddersfield Town youth system. The forward’s potential and encouraging goalscoring record brought him to Ibrox in 2016, before being recruited by Cook as a number of new signings for the task ahead of staying in the Championship.
Nick Powell (25) has been a consistent performer for Wigan in the last two seasons, having arrived at the club in 2016 from Manchester United. The forward began his career at boyhood club Crewe Alexandra, whom he joined at the age of just five, making his first-team debut at 16. Powell’s final contribution for his hometown side came with a stunning Play-Off Final strike as the Cheshire club won promotion to League One, before making a huge move to Old Trafford – where he scored on his Premier League bow, notably against Wigan. An initial loan spell with The Latics was followed by more short-term stints with Leicester City and Hull City, before signing a permanent deal at the DW two years ago. An all-round player who can operate up top or in behind, and still just 24, former England U21 man Powell has notched four goals and four assists so far this season, continuing the form which saw him in the PFA League One Team of the Year last term.
In the Dugout
Paul Cook has been in management for 12 years, and has proven his coaching expertise at several levels of the League pyramid. After nearly 600 EFL appearances as a central midfielder in his playing days for clubs including Wolves, Burnley and Accrington Stanley – with whom he won promotion to the Football League in his final season on the pitch – the Liverpudlian moved into coaching with Southport. Five years in Ireland with Sligo Rovers helped Cook make his name as a manager, before a stint back with Accrington was succeeded by three years at Chesterfield. With The Spireites, Cook won promotion to League One and followed it with a Play-Off place the following season, before winning the League Two title with Portsmouth in 2017. Arriving at the DW Stadium at the end of the 2016/17 campaign, Cook went one better, steering The Latics to the League One title and reaching the FA Cup last eight.