Latics have exceeded many people’s expectations by making an excellent start to the Championship campaign. On paper they had some very difficult fixtures against several of the promotion favourites but they have now won two and drawn one of their opening four games and are eighth in the table.
The performance at Stoke City was particularly pleasing as Latics demolished the high-spending Potters on their own patch.
Latics weathered some initial Stoke pressure and went on to dominate with some superb attacking play.
Nick Powell was probably Man of the Match but there were some top performances all round with Will Grigg, Gavin Massey, Lee Evans and Reece James all outstanding.
Paul Cook sensibly isn’t getting carried away however and is keeping his players grounded, after the Stoke game, he said, ‘It’s gone our way on the night, the key moments went our way. But we can be put on our bum at any time in this league.’
Cook is right to keep his players focused but if they can maintain this level of performance and iron out a few of the defensive rough edges they will surely prosper in the Championship this season.
Tomorrow Latics travel to Queens Park Rangers for their fourth Championship fixture of the season but they could have had a very different future if Rangers hadn’t deliberately breached Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules back in 2014.
Latics narrowly lost to QPR over two legs in the Championship play-off semi-final in 2014, but if Rangers hadn’t broken the FFP rules Latics might now be playing Premier League football.
As a Latics fan it’s hard not to be a little bitter about the QPR owner’s decision to flout the rules and profit from promotion to the Premier League.
QPR’s manager Harry Redknapp spent massively at the time recruiting top players on big wages in a desperate attempt to achieve promotion while Latics and Derby County who subsequently lost to QPR in the play-off final, stuck to the rules and remained in the Championship because of it.
It has taken four years for the English Football League (EFL) to impose a fine of £42m on QPR. They will also be under a transfer embargo for the January 2019 transfer window.
But surely this financial penalty is not commensurate with the magnitude of the offence at the time and its implications for all the other clubs in the Championship.
Independent experts such as Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool, and Dr Rob Wilson, a sport finance specialist at Sheffield Hallam University, both said the fine could have been bigger.
“QPR have earned £148m in broadcasting fees and parachute payments since committing the offence so the fine does not act as a disincentive for clubs in the future,” said Maguire.
“The owners made the decision to go ahead with ignoring the FFP rules in the first place and they are independently wealthy to absorb the true penalty, which should have been at least twice the sum charged.”
But does a financial punishment alone really fit the crime?
Many football fans believe that the EFL’s punishment does not go far enough to put clubs off overspending in pursuit of promotion.
Surely a points reduction would have been a more appropriate penalty at the time and would stop clubs from breaking the rules in the future.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 24th August 2018.