‘It’s time to make some new memories’

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There was a time around about May where it felt like writing a season preview may be one for the memory bank. I don’t think it’s dramatic to state that when we left the Dave Whelan Stadium following the Rotherham game many of us wondered whether we would ever be back.

It seems churlish to even mention this summer’s events in that way, with the turnaround experienced since June but it was a very real threat to the club’s continued existence.

If it wasn’t thanks to the likes of Caroline Molyneux, Lisa Nandy, Jonathan Jackson the remaining members of staff  alongside the management team of Shaun Maloney and Gregor Rioch – many of them of course unpaid and Mike Danson and his team we could well have been facing a situation not dissimilar to that of Bury in 2019.

A word as well to a fan base often criticised but who once again came together to try to secure a future for one of the town’s most important assets – culturally, sportingly and economically.

The situation was that serious, I never thought we would experience anything close to administration again but amazingly the first six months of 2023 under Phoenix 21 felt worse than that historic low. At least we managed to pay the wages on time during administration.

The blows kept coming as a bad situation kept plumbing new depths, and looking back now it was a situation that the owners quickly lost control of.

But this is a preview piece, not a review piece so let’s thank our lucky stars. Offer up our prayers and wishes at the alter of Crusty and look forward to another season following the biggest ‘small’ club in the world.

One of the few good things to come out of last season was the arrival of Shaun Maloney, I genuinely think any other manager would have walked long ago last season. Let alone put up with the five weeks of turmoil between the season ending and the takeover being completed.

Shaun Maloney alongside Gregor Rioch is absolutely crucial to Wigan Athletic and that is being borne out by how the squad is taking shape.

Out are older players on large contracts and in are some of the country’s best youngsters be that players on loan or the likes of Arsenal Under-23 captain Matt Smith (an EFL veteran with 75 appearances in League One already) also crucial has been the steady trickle of contract renewals from some of our most prized assets – Charlie Hughes, Thelo Aasgaard etc.

I’ve been impressed with the sort of character that Maloney has been bringing in and although some of that will be enforced due to a much lower transfer budget and the current inability to spend transfer fees. An EFL punishment laid out thanks to Phoenix 21’s sheer incompetence.

With all of those pressures and the fact we’re starting next season on a massive – minus 8 points we’re still seen as a good strong club for Premier League sides to send their youngsters and for players who want to continue their careers with us.

Pre-season so far has been promising, there’s been blows. The departure of Max Power was sad. A true Latics legend and it should have ended in better circumstances than it did.

Jack Whatmough announcing he would be doing the club out of a transfer fee as he exercised his ‘right’ to end his contract, just after he’d received an all expenses paid trip to Hungary and got his fitness together in pre season. Plus Will Keane signing for Preston.

But other than that it does feel like the lads still here want to be here. We’re going to need that next season. Results have been decent so far. A win in Hungary, a win over Hearts and a narrow defeat to a full strength Everton side where Latics were on top for long parts of the match.

It’s going to be a long tough season. Unlike usual League One season’s we won’t be favourites to go up. Survival is the name of the game and looking to push on next season. But you never know, once that minus eight is turned over the world is quite literally our oyster.

Last season was horrific, this season needn’t be.

Against Derby and Northampton give those young lads the best we’ve got, they deserve our support. In the words of Callum McManaman it’s time to make some new memories.

Sean Livesey

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