The new league season is here, host of Express FM’s Football Hour and Pompey Live pundit Jake Smith completes his club-by-club previews with a look at Wigan Athletic.
Intro: The Latics are fortunate to be even starting the 2020/21 campaign, having been placed into administration before the end of the last one.
Since winning The FA Cup for the first time in their history in 2013, following a shock victory over Manchester City in the Final, things have gone completely downhill at the DW.
The club, which were formed just 88-years ago in 1932, are now accustomed to yo-yoeing between the second and third tiers, winning the League One title on three occasions overall and twice in recent memory – 2016 and 2018.
1978 served as the year in which Wigan were first elected into the Football League structure and, since then, have moved from their Springfield Park home and into the DW Stadium, as well as competing in the Premier League between 2005 and 2013.
The nickname ‘The Latics’ comes from the local pronunciation of the suffix, according to ‘The Beautiful History of Club Crests, Club Colours & Nicknames’.
Wigan’s primary colours are blue and white stripes, though all-blue shirts have also featured prominently throughout the club’s history. In the early days however, they wore red and white halved shirts, which remained all throughout the 1930s and up until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Home Ground: DW Stadium, Wigan (Greater Manchester), 247 miles (by car) from Fratton Park – Capacity: 25,133
2019/20 Table Position: 23rd (Relegated from the Championship) – 47 points after 46 games.
Overall Head-To-Head Record: Wigan Athletic Wins: 5 – Draws: 4 – Portsmouth Wins: 10
Previous Meeting With Pompey: Portsmouth 2-1 Wigan Athletic, 2nd April 2018, League One
2020/21 Fixture Dates:
Saturday 26th September, 2020 – Fratton Park
Monday 5th April, 2021 – DW Stadium
Manager: Former Republic of Ireland midfielder and experienced Football League manager John Sheridan was appointed as the new boss by administrators earlier this week.
Sheridan has made Wigan Athletic his ninth club since turning to management in 2006, having taken control of two caretaker roles at Oldham Athletic prior to his managerial debut, also at Oldham.
Since then, the 55-year-old has managed teams such as Plymouth Argyle, Newport County and Carlisle United in the EFL, more recently however taking up the role at League of Ireland outfit Waterford, whom he only represented for two months.
His only managerial achievements to-date came during his time at Chesterfield, where he won the League Two title in 2010/11 and the Football League Trophy the following season.
One To Watch: 21-year-old forward Joe Piggott, not to be confused with AFC Wimbledon striker Joe Pigott, could finally make his breathrough for Wigan this season.
The Latics have been unable to replace the goals scored by Will Grigg, who left for Sunderland last January, and will be crying out for a young, hungry forward to take centre-stage and become the bagsman they so desire
Paul Cook had tried to replace the Northern Irishman, who scored 53 times in 133 competitive appearances for Wigan before his departure, with Pompey winger Jamal Lowe – who adopted the No. 9 shirt at the DW.
Whilst Lowe’s career at the club was not necessarily a failed one, Cook’s decision to try and convert him into an actual No. 9 returned him only 6 goals in 46 appearances, before Swansea secured his signature for just £800k this summer.
Piggott, who has experienced short loan spells at Morecambe, Altrincham and Stockport County, has adopted the No. 33 shirt for the new campaign.
Signing of the Summer (So Far): With administration in place and a new owner yet to be put in place, it has been difficult for Wigan to secure the signings of high-profile players ahead of the new season.
The player I have picked out is Viv Solomon-Otabor, who joined on September the 4th from Bulgarian First League side CSKA Sofia.
Solomon-Otabor, who plays on the left-wing, made seven appearances whilst on-loan at Pompey toward the back-end of the 2018/19 campaign, scoring once.
The 24-year-old has been assigned with the squad No. 17 this campaign.
Season Expectation: This is somewhat of a difficult one to decipher.
Any relegated side, under normal circumstances, would be assumed to be challenging for promotion straight back up in their return campaign, however things are looking a little different for The Latics, who kick-off the season whilst still in administration.
For this unsettled team and hastily thrown together squad, seeing out the season and playing the full 46 matches is the first priority.
If the situation at the DW worsens as the season goes on, the club could be hit with further points deductions, leaving them vulnerable, as Bolton Wanderers were in 2019/20, to relegation down to League Two.
Assuming that Wigan are able to fulfil all of their fixtures with their current squad and potentially with a new, financially stable owner, I think a fair expectation of the side would be around mid-table.
My Predicted Finish: 12th
Wigan in Turmoil – Low Expectations for The Latics
Will Jones, who supports Wigan Athletic from the United States of America, is predicting a difficult return to life in League One, as a result of off-field issues which are yet to be resolved.
“I’m hoping to see us finish 20th – it seems doable but at the moment it’s so hard to say. I will state my prediction as 20th, though.”
The Latics, who were sold by IEC to Hong-Kong based company Next Leader Fund on June the 4th, head into the new campaign under administration, as a result of an extremely messy situation at the DW Stadium.
Wigan were eight points clear of relegation when it was announced they were entering administration and therefore insolvency on July the 1st, news which prompted the EFL to apply a 12-point deduction to the club’s final Championship points tally – this saw Wigan relegated and Barnsley stay up thanks to a last-gasp winner for the Tykes away to Brentford on the final day.
Next Leader Fund had failed to provide proof of funds, therefore not investing the money they promised to when they took over.
Yesterday, the club were given verbal permission from the EFL to start the new League One season, of which they begin with a trip to Ipswich Town on Sunday. The administrators had set an initial deadline of August 31st for the club to be sold, but that date has since passed.
Supporter Will fears what may be to come for his side if these issues are not settled soon: “The biggest fear is that we can’t finish the season and will be liquidated, so it’s a bit of a terrible spot we find ourselves in. However, we have signed some players on short-term deals and the administrators met with the EFL recently, assuring them that we will soon have new owners – a few parties are now lurking.
“Our season will largely depend on who we get in as owners and how many signings they are willing to make. I think that if we are taken over before say, the end of the month, we will end up just fine, though promotion seems a long way off.
“I think Kal Naismith will be our best player. He really came on at the end of the Championship campaign last year and will be integral to the team in League One.”
At the end of last season, former Blues boss and fan-favourite Paul Cook resigned as manager of Wigan Athletic, leaving long-term assistant Leam Richardson to take caretaker charge until a new boss was found. The 53-year-old, who led Pompey to promotion and the League Two title in 2017, was subject to rumours linking him with the vacant positions at AFC Bournemouth and Bristol City, though those have since been filled.
“Nobody blames him for leaving nor has anything bad to say about Cook – we all understand why he left.” Will explained.
“The funny thing was that he was hated about eight months ago but now everyone is gutted to see him leave.”
You can follow Will on Twitter – @willjones8210