Latics return to the Championship on Saturday after a brief absence and in excellent spirits. The players that were so ignominiously relegated under Malky Mackay have all left the club and the bad atmosphere which pervaded Latics has been transformed into one of positivity.
Gary Caldwell hit the ground running as a first time manager, not only winning promotion, but also the League One title. Caldwell’s achievement should not be under estimated.
The prospect of replacing a relegated team with a new set of players, establishing a new style of play and achieving immediate promotion would have crushed many young managers.
The early games in League One did not go to plan but Caldwell didn’t panic and persisted with the right style of play which ultimately brought success. The recruitment during the League One campaign was excellent with very few players not making a contribution to the promotion.
The strengthening has continued in the pre-season with some promising signings. The permanent signing of Stephen Warnock was a no brainer for Caldwell as the former Derby, Liverpool and England defender had been superb during Wigan’s drive to the title.
The experienced centre-back Jake Buxton has also signed from Derby and will provide strong competition for a starting place.
Midfielder Alex Gilbey was a Player of the Year at Colchester United and the 21-year-old has a big future ahead of him.
The return of former Manchester United loanee Nick Powell has divided the fans. He is a hugely talented player who initially did very well for us but unfortunately lost his way towards the end of his loan period.
He’s struggled during his loans elsewhere but if his attitude is right he has the talent to be a major player this season. Caldwell certainly thinks it’s worth taking the risk.
Adam Bogdan’s signing is another one which has divided the fans’ opinion. The former Bolton keeper has joined on a season long loan from Liverpool and will be hoping to challenge one of last season’s top performers Jussi Jaaskeleinen for the No.1 spot.
Centre-back Dan Burn has been recruited from Fulham. The young defender had a difficult time at Craven Cottage and a poor preseason but he has the potential to become a good central defender under Caldwell’s tutelage.
Defender Kyle Knoyle has also joined on a season long loan from West Ham, but unfortunately he broke his arm on the pre-season tour of Portugal and will be out of contention for the early part of the season.
At the time of writing Latics were still looking to recruit another striker, but a big bonus has been the news that last season’s top scorer Will Grigg will be staying at Latics. Despite all the transfer speculation, Will is a level headed guy who knows he can continue to improve with Wigan.
He’s proven that he’s good with both feet and gets his fair share of headers, his movement off the ball means that he will always be a problem for defenders. He is ‘Mr Right Place Right Time’ and I’m sure he will score goals in the Championship.
It’s going to be tough season with some big guns dropping down and some big city clubs already in the Championship. I expect Newcastle to go straight back up, but as for the rest it’s going to be a very competitive division. If Latics can maintain their momentum they can secure a top half finish, but a play-off place is not an unrealistic aim.
A version of this article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post Kick Off Supplement.