Latics travel to West London tomorrow for what should be an exciting Championship fixture against Brentford. The former Walsall manager Dean Smith has made a big impact since taking over in November 2015 with some attractive attacking football.
Latics and the Bees have had the highest number of shots in the Championship so far, and some statistics suggest that they should be the top two teams in the division, so I’m expecting plenty of goalmouth action in what could be a high scoring game.
Brentford is one of the best traditional away days in the football league. Like ourselves they are a relatively small club in Championship terms and have even been referred to as a ‘tinpot’ team, but they have finished fifth, ninth and 10th in the past three Championship campaigns and are currently fifth in the table after six games.
It’s usually a friendly experience at the compact Griffin Park where the fans mix well together beforehand. It is the only English football league ground where there is a pub on every corner.
Standing is still available and the supporters are close to the pitch, which helps to create a good atmosphere although the ground only has a capacity of 12,763.
It is going to be one of the last times Latics play at the ground before they move to the new stadium at Lionel Road in December 2019. The new all-seater stadium will have a capacity of 17,250, which should help to improve the Bees finances as they make a push towards the Premier League.
Latics will definitely be without winger Gavin Massey who had an operation on a leg injury this week and Michael Jacobs is also doubtful but Darron Gibson and Dan Burn could be available for selection after long injury lay-offs.
If Brighton bound Burn is available it will be interesting to see if he is selected, particularly after Cedric Cipre produced a Man of the match performance in the last home game against Rotherham.
Burn will complete his move to the Premier League club in January, so I expect Cipre to retain his place in the starting 11.
It was great to catch up with the in-demand Nick Powell before the international break and following Latics’ win against Rotherham he expressed his desire to stay with the club.
The 24-year-old former Manchester United player is out of contract at the end of the Championship season but the very good news is that he wants to stay at Latics and is awaiting a contract offer from the new owners.
Powell is an unassuming character off the pitch and quite unlike his on the pitch persona. Quiet and softly spoken he is the opposite of the rabble-rouser that people expect him to be like. He may be renowned for his on the pitch antics but he is a very different person off it.
Representatives of the prospective new owners, the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), were at the Rotherham game but their protracted takeover of the club from the Whelan family has still to be finalised.
The long-running saga continues to rumble on as completion dates come and go. Further information on the takeover is due to be released on September 21st, but don’t hold your breath on the deal being finalised.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 14th September 2018.