We are now entering the business end of the season and bookmakers have made Wigan the overwhelming favourites to secure promotion to the Championship.
Latics currently lie in second place, sandwiched between Shrewsbury and Blackburn, but they have crucial games in hand and they enjoy a relatively kind run-in to the campaign. In the next couple of weeks they face Oldham, MK Dons and Rochdale, who are all languishing near the bottom of the table, and they can surge clear of their rivals. Latics are now expected to win the title, which would give the club a huge boost ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
Betting sites have odds for all games of Wigan and if you check them out you will see they are just 4/9 to beat Oldham on Friday. They are 11/10 favourites to go away to eighth placed Portsmouth and secure victory, and heavy favourites to beat relegation threatened MK Dons and Rochdale. The bookmakers have now made Wigan just 4/11 to win the title this year, and some are going as low as 1/33 to be promoted.
They feel that Blackburn will follow Wigan up to the second tier of English football, as they are 2/9 to be promoted, while Shewsbury – currently top of the table, but having played two more games than Wigan – are 10/11, so they may well have to take their chances in the playoffs.
It has been a largely positive season for the Latics after the disappointment of last year’s relegation. They have won 23 of 36 games in League One, given them the best win percentage in the division, and they have its meanest defence. If they score two or more goals in their game in hand over Blackburn, they will also have the best attacking record in the league. When a team gets relegated it is easy to slip into a spiral of doom and plummet down the divisions – just ask Sunderland fans – but Wigan’s players have bounced back admirably, and they should feel confident in their chances of lighting up the Championship should they secure a return for next season.
Even more impressive than their League One exploits has been their remarkable FA Cup journey, which sadly ended with defeat against Southampton in the quarter-finals. But before that they beat three Premiership sides to nil, scoring six goals in the process. That shows they can cut it in the top flight, let alone the Championship, and if they keep this group of players together and add quality in the right departments, they should be back in the Premiership within a few years.
Beating Bournemouth 3-0 was a stunning result, but these things happen in the cup. You get shock results and giant killings in the early rounds. A 2-0 victory over West Ham was seriously impressive, even if the Hammers had a man sent off, but what happened next was positively sensational. Wigan were expected to take an absolute pasting against runaway Premiership leaders Man City, but Wigan held firm to secure a breath-taking 1-0 win. Only two teams in England have beaten Pep Guardiola’s men all year: Liverpool and Wigan.
How can you not take confidence from a sentence like that? Man Utd, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and many more teams have all failed to beat them. Only two teams – Crystal Palace and Wigan – have managed to keep a clean sheet against an expensively assembled side containing the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
That should give Wigan a huge dollop of confidence as they tackle the business end of the season, and they could roar into the Championship season full of confidence and challenge for a playoff place at the very least. Relegation is always painful, but it could be just what Wigan needed to restore confidence and galvanise the group for a push back up to the upper echelons of the Championship. You look at Burnley thriving in the Premiership, challenging for a European place, and that could be Wigan in a couple of years if they maintain their momentum.
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