As the dust settles on the 2018/19 season, we’re naturally already looking ahead to August, when the 2019/20 season will begin. It’s really not that far away, although of course it’s still far too early to be making predictions. Nevertheless, given the club’s recent history, Latics fans can’t help but speculate.
How will we fare? Will we avoid regulation? Will we advance up the league? And dare we even hope for a return to the premiership come 2020?
Before we are intoxicated by such ambition, let’s take a moment to ground ourselves. Wigan’s record last season wasn’t great. The best we can say is that we survived. It was our first season back in the Championship since 2017, and our first under new ownership. Our first priority had to be to consolidate our position and to some degree that was achieved. We stayed out of the relegation zone and, for the most part, played at Championship level.
We can now say, without fear of exaggeration, that Wigan is a Championship club. We deserve to be there. We finished the season in 18th place, with 52 points. That’s a solid 12 points above relegation. We could have done better though, and that is what next season has to be all about.
In 2018/19 we held our ground and moved a little way up the league. This season we need to increase our momentum in order to finish considerably higher.
That’s very much a realistic prospect. Let’s remember some of last season’s highpoints, like the time we thrashed promotion hopefuls Leeds United 2-1 while a man down for most of the match. That’s the kind of form we need to replicate next season.
There are going to be obstacles. It looks highly likely that top goal scorer Nick Powell will be moving on. Having rejected a sizeable offer from the management, Powell is now a free agent, with several other clubs vying for his contract.
It looks like Powell will be heading for the Premier League regardless of the Latics’ fortunes, and we’ll doubtless hear more over at the Sportsbet.io soccer news portal.
We’ve also willingly let a few players go. Callum McManaman had a frustrating season: expectations were high when the man of the match from our 2013 FA Cup win returned to Wigan, but he was barely used and has been snapped up by Luton Town. With Darran Gibson and Shaun McDonald disappearing from midfield, alongside striker James Vaughan, defender Jonas Olsson and goalie Dan Lavercombe also now free agents, it’s clear we’re going to see some new faces coming in.
Arguably a shake-up in the first team roster is just what’s needed right now. Portsmouth forward Jamal Lowe is said to be in the picture. The Pompey star has grown into a championship-level player, and he’ll join a fine tradition of players coming from Portsmouth to Wigan over the years.
We’re also said to be chasing Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn on loan. The Reds’ youngest ever goal scorer had struggled with injury and is being given time in the Championship to recover his form. Last season saw him help Sheffield United to promotion, and he’d certainly be an asset here at the DW Stadium.
For the last two seasons we’ve had Christian Walton on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion, doing an excellent job in front of the net. There’s a possibility he’ll stay on for 2019/20: Walton has said that if the Seagulls agree, he’d be more than happy to spend another season up north. We’d certainly benefit from that as well.
Otherwise, we have a tremendous resource right under our noses in the form of Wigan’s Youth Academy. There’s some amazing potential being nurtured there, and if some of that talent can make its way onto the first team rather than be snatched away by other clubs, then it’s got to be good news for the Latics.
Finally, let’s dare to ask the big question. How well can Wigan really hope to do next season? As we said earlier, finishing higher up the league than last time is definitely achievable. If we don’t improve on our position at all then questions will need to be asked. But as for the top spot, right now it has to be said Wigan aren’t really in the running. Fulham, Cardiff, Leeds, Stoke, Huddersfield, Derby County, West Bromwich and Swansea City are all being tipped as contenders, but not your Latics.
But did anyone really expect Norwich to win last season? Did anyone expect Sheffield to win promotion either? Leeds were favourites and failed to live up to expectations. So it just goes to show that there’s still everything to play for. We can still dare to dream.
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