What a season, what a club! It’s hard to find enough superlatives to sum up Latics’ brilliant season. Nearly everything about it has been so special. Right from the close season everything has been perfection.
When Chairman David Sharpe was looking for a new manager he could so easily have made a wrong choice with plenty of other options available but after doing his research and interviewing Paul Cook he got the best man for the job.
Cook and his coaching team almost immediately re-invigorated the club. The manager may have inherited some good players but he also had to root out the poor performers and bring in some bargain free transfers.
Latics rarely have a good start and it was the first time they’d won their first three games since Paul Jewell’s team conquered the Second Division in 2002/03. Cook’s banter and plain speaking endeared him to the fans and the players responded with improved performances on the pitch.
Latics moved to the top of the League One table at the end of November with a convincing victory at Rotherham United and they would probably have stayed there all season if it wasn’t for the extra games in the FA Cup. But what a glorious FA Cup campaign it was.
Latics may have struggled to overcome AFC Fylde and Crawley Town in the early rounds but they went on to take the scalps of three Premier League clubs AFC Bournemouth, West Ham United and to top it all Premier League champions Manchester City.
Given the current discrepancy in resources and the level of the two teams at the time of the game, it is surely the greatest FA Cup shock of all time. The result will have given hope to other smaller clubs that they can defy the odds and achieve something amazing. It was a night of superlatives and those who experienced it will never forget it for the rest of their lives.
Latics narrowly lost out to Southampton in the quarter-finals and they could then resume their pursuit of the League One title with games in-hand. Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray thought it would be too much for Latics but Cook and his players had the belief and determination that they would do it.
Rovers and Shrewsbury Town pushed Latics to an incredible 98-point title winning campaign, breaking club records with the most goals scored, most clean sheets, best goal difference and the record number of away wins in a season.
It was a gloriously sunny day in Doncaster as Latics were crowned champions of League One. The atmosphere and celebrations at the Keepmoat stadium were something to behold and must rank as one of the best ever away days. It was the culmination of a fantastic season and with news that Cook had signed a new four-year contract the feel good vibe continued.
Cook was an in demand manager after such a successful season, but after being rewarded with a contract until 2022, he has shown his long-term commitment to the club. The positivity and togetherness generated by Cook has been infectious and with him in charge the future looks very bright.
The protracted sale of Latics moved a step closer this week when the Whelan family agreed to sell their major stake in the club and is now dependent upon approval by the EFL and Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Although the International Entertainment Corporation are something of an unknown quantity, it appears there might be a role for David Sharpe and the cash injection should help Latics to make a big impact in the Championship next season.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 11th May 2018.