What a difference

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What a difference a year makes, a year ago this week Wigan Athletic were facing up to the most uncertain of futures. The fourth of August has been an eventful date in the history of Wigan Athletic in recent seasons. It was the opening day of the season in both 2018 and 2019 with strong wins over both Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday taking place on those dates.

It’s also in the memory for much darker reasons as the fourth of August 2020 also marked the day that Wigan Athletic were ‘officially’ relegated from the Championship.

Of course the damage was done months earlier thanks to that disastrous period but all of that is now thankfully in the past and I can’t remember there being such anticipation for the start of a new season before.

Administration is well in the past, supporters are finally allowed back in to stadiums after over 18 months away and Wigan Athletic are thriving under new ownership.

It could have been oh so different, this coming weekend at Sunderland should be a reward to those that fought, fought to keep Wigan Athletic alive. From all the former players, officials, managers and anyone with an emotional connection to Wigan Athletic who donated to pay the salaries of the players or donated to ensure the club had a future.

A tribute to those who worked so hard to facilitate a sale – chief amongst them the supporters club and in particular Caroline Molyneux as well as that a tribute to those of us who fought and lobbied to ensure our football club wouldn’t die.

We only have to look up the road to Bury to see a story not dissimilar to ours that didn’t end as well, for many points over the last twelve months I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t see my beloved football club again. Thankfully those fears didn’t come to fruition.

So what kind of Wigan Athletic will be taking to the pitch on Saturday against Sunderland? Well a hell of a lot stronger than any of us may have dared to imagine at the end of last season. It was a remarkable achievement for Wigan Athletic to remain in League One last season but with only five senior pros contracted at the end of the season it was going to be an uphill battle to recruit a team that could compete.

What Leam Richardson and Phoenix 2021 have achieved so far is excellent, proven League One talent alongside promising young signings from the Championship and the basis of a really exciting side with lots of attacking talent. Where we’re looking light is in defence and I’m sure reinforcements are being sought for that. Despite the excitement that needs to be tempered, this is a completely new Wigan Athletic.

As well as new players on the pitch, there’s new faces in the dugout with former England and Southampton striker James Beattie and former Leicester manager Rob Kelly. The whole club feels reinvigorated again and one has to hope the nightmare of both Covid and administration is firmly behind us now.

There are going to be bumps along the way for this side and although you know it’s going to happen the last thing they and Leam will need is unfound criticism, as the famous saying goes ‘Let em gel’ and who knows where Wigan Athletic could be in another year’s time and what they could achieve together.

Sean Livesey

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