With ten games still to play Latics go into the Easter fixtures against Oldham and Portsmouth knowing that automatic promotion is in their own hands. If they can keep up their current form they have the games in hand to finish above both Shrewsbury and Blackburn.
Paul Cook has already achieved remarkable things in his first season in charge at the DW Stadium but he will want to round it off with the League One title.
Cook and his coaching staff have transformed the club from the dark days of last season’s relegation. The atmosphere around the club is now very healthy and this season’s target of promotion is within their grasp.
It is essential that the likeable Scouser is given an extended contract as soon as possible but unfortunately the protracted takeover means the decision may have to be delayed until the new owners are in place.
Hopefully this delay won’t prove detrimental to the relationship between Cook and the club.
Cook’s stock is certainly rising after masterminding an incredible FA Cup run when they knocked out West Ham, Bournemouth and Premier League Champions elect Manchester City.
Latics are in pole position for automatic promotion but Cook could be tempted away by the security of a long-term contract elsewhere.
Unfortunately there are similarities between the situation at Latics and his time at Portsmouth and the uncertainty at the end of last season contributed to his departure from Fratton Park.
At Portsmouth there was the takeover limbo and impending arrival of new owners, the absence of a long-term contract to meet his satisfaction and a feeling of under appreciation.
The destabilising factors at Pompey meant Cook and his coaching team were receptive when Latics came calling at the end of last season.
Cook was seeking long-term security on the south coast but that security just wasn’t forthcoming. The departure of the supportive Chairman Iain McInnes was a further blow to Cook’s long-term plans.
A fan-owned board had run Pompey, but the takeover by former Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner meant Cook’s future was uncertain, particularly as a Director of Football role had been suggested by Eisner.
Cook was also disappointed that there was to be a limited playing budget available to bring in new players.
Finally, he felt there was an absence of enthusiasm from the Pompey board to deliver a new contract in recognition of his performance. Despite winning the League Two title for Pompey he felt undervalued by them.
Latics must not repeat Pompey’s mistakes and should reward Cook with an improved contract as soon as possible, or they risk losing him to a rival and undoing all the good work that has been done this season.
Cook is aiming for back-to-back promotions with two different clubs and ironically his former club Portsmouth will do everything in their power to stop his progress on Easter Monday.
Pompey currently sit just outside the play-off places in eighth place but are only two points behind sixth placed Plymouth.
The scene is set for a high-stakes encounter with two teams striving for the three points in front of the TV cameras.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 30th March 2018.