What a momentous year it’s been for Wigan Athletic: the League One title, a magnificent FA Cup run, the end of the Whelan era, a new beginning with the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) and a Jekyll and Hyde first half to the Championship campaign.
Latics may have struggled in the early rounds of the FA Cup to overcome AFC Fylde and Crawley Town 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.
Latics may have ridden their luck at times against City but it was an awesome effort by the team. Immense concentration was required as they had to defend in depth and make some great blocks, last ditch tackles, and there were a couple of excellent saves from Christian Walton.
Paul Cook prepared his players psychologically and tactically to perfection. Despite all the hype around City, he got the message across that City’s players were in fact only human and could be beaten.
Overall Cook’s team showed great spirit, work ethic and a determination to win. That spirit and determination was epitomised by striker Will Grigg who despite having only two chances in the whole game was able to execute a superb finish to deliver the knock out blow and send Latics into dreamland.
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 other ideas.
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 into the summer.
Part 2 to follow next week.