Last season saw a truly remarkable transformation at Wigan Athletic. The club had been in administration the previous season and had only escaped relegation by one point, but under the new owners Phoenix 2021 Limited and manager Leam Richardson they secured the League One title in magnificent fashion.
Latics only had three players under contract at the start of last season but they recruited superbly and created a title winning squad without spending excessively.
The squad had only been together for a matter of months but they made huge progress in a short space of time.
Despite this success, there have been rumblings from some of the fanbase about the lack of signings in the close season.
Latics have allowed Adam Long to be sold, Gavin Massey to be released, Jordan Jones and Luke Robinson to leave on loan. The club have not yet replaced loanees Kell Watts, Tom Bayliss and Glen Rea with Charlie Wyke, Gwion Edwards and Jordan Cousins currently out injured.
The only signing so far has been 24-year-old defender Ryan Nyambe from Blackburn Rovers. Nyambe, a Namibia international, spent 11 years with Blackburn, and played nearly 200 games for them. He has all the attributes to be an excellent addition to the squad.
However, I expect more signings in the coming weeks but not in the numbers of the previous season. The Latics recruitment team will be working hard to bring in more players before the transfer deadline on 1st September.
Richardson will know there is a need to strengthen in key positions but the club will not be panicked into buying or loaning the wrong type of players.
The possibility of loaning some young Premier League players could provide significant extra quality but the deals will have to be beneficial to both parties. During the 2018/19 season the loan of Reece James from Chelsea proved to be a masterstroke and helped Latics to stabilise in the Championship.
Richardson will want to give his League One winning team the opportunity to prove themselves at the higher level but it’s worth noting that there are quite a few players in the current squad who have Championship experience. The team spirit and camaraderie is high and the club have very experienced coaches in Richardson, Rob Kelly and James Beattie.
Promising Academy players James Carragher, Chris Sze, Scott Smith and Charlie Hughes have all featured in pre-season and could be pushing for a first team opportunity.
Latics are usually involved in promotion or relegation but this time around I’m predicting a season of consolidation and a mid-table finish.
Predicted Final Championship Table
- Sheffield United
- West Brom
- Bristol C