What a difference a year makes! Last December Latics were mired in a desperate relegation struggle but this season they have been in tremendous form and look likely to go up as the League One Champions.
The appointment of former Manchester United reserve coach Warren Joyce was a massive mistake by Dave Whelan and David Sharpe and it ultimately resulted in an unnecessary relegation.
Joyce was untried at Championship level having spent the last eight years in the protected atmosphere of reserve team football and a more experienced manager might have stabilised Latics after Gary Caldwell’s abrupt departure.
Sharpe’s decision to recruit Joyce stands in stark contrast to his appointment of the experienced Paul Cook who was successful in Football League management having got both Chesterfield and Portsmouth promoted.
This time around one of the world’s youngest football Chairman spent time doing his due diligence, did his research properly, got to know Cook and confirmed he was the right man for the job.
The likeable Scouser has been a breath of fresh air since taking over the hot seat in May. Cook and his coaching team have created a positive atmosphere around the club.
Cook’s good humour and plain speaking has endeared him to the fans and the players have responded with improved performances on the pitch.
Cook has developed a successful system of play at Chesterfield and Portsmouth and his 4-2-3-1 formation has resulted in Latics opening up a four point gap at the top of the table having scored a remarkable 49 goals and only conceding 12 in 23 matches.
Latics were breathtaking at the Kassam Stadium as they demolished Oxford with a superb attacking display scoring some cracking goals in the process. The possibility of emulating Paul Jewell’s team, which conquered the Second Division with 100 points in 2002/03, is now a real one.
The home draw against second placed Shrewsbury maintained the four point gap at the top and Latics will be hoping to further enhance their position with games against Charlton and Northampton.
In recent weeks there has been little news on the takeover of the club by foreign investors but I believe it could still go ahead in the New Year. The K8 online sports betting firm are interested in a possible deal but Latics must ensure that any takeover does not leave them open to exploitation.
There are clearly risks involved in taking on new backers, but the club does require new investment if it is to be successful. Many fans have experienced the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup and are excited at the prospect of new investment and the possibility of new successes.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 29th December 2017.