Wigan Athletic have made a promising return to the Sky Bet Championship and sit comfortably in tenth. What have you made of what you’ve seen so far?
It’s been really good. Wigan performed well in League One last season and the question was whether they could carry that momentum into this season. They weren’t quite able to do that two years ago when they won the League One title because they made, by their own admission, too many signings - the players who had got them promoted were worth a shot in the Championship. That affected them from the off, so Paul Cook was determined not to make the same mistake this time. To be fair, the players have responded and stepped up to prove that most of them, if not all, belong at this level.
Do you feel that the international break will halt their progression?
It could work either way; we will only really know after the game whether the break came at a good or bad time. There are still quite a few new players who are trying to find their feet. Maybe after the first month of the season it was a good opportunity to take stock and settle down. There are still a couple of injured players waiting to come back, including Dan Burn and Darron Gibson, and the pair of them may be in contention to play at Griffin Park. Wigan don’t have one of the biggest squads in the division, so they may have been grateful to rest some weary legs.
The club made some shrewd signings in the summer, including Joe Garner and Darron Gibson who have previous Championship experience. How important will they prove as The Latics seek to survive?
Neither player has really featured much yet; the signings that have made the difference have come at the other end of the field. Three of the back four were new on the opening day of the season: Reece James and Antonee Robinson have come in on loan from Premier League sides Chelsea and Everton, respectively. They’ve been revelations in the full-back slots and Cédric Kipré has come in from Motherwell at centre-back. Not much was known about him beforehand, but with Dan Burn injured, he was thrust straight into the heart of the defence and he’s been fantastic so far - he’s really embraced the challenge. It will be interesting to see what Paul Cook does when Burn comes back into contention.
Which of the summer signings has stood out most for you?
Lee Evans has been great. He was on loan at Wigan for the first half of last season and then got recalled by his parent club Wolverhampton Wanderers before he was sold to Sheffield United. He was the one that got away because with the takeover going on, Wigan weren’t quite in a position to complete the deal on a permanent basis. But for some reason he became available again this summer. Paul Cook came straight in for him and Evans had no hesitation in coming back. He’s fitted back in superbly alongside Sam Morsy in a partnership that started last season - it has been a case of simply picking up where they left off. The pair of them provide Wigan with a good engine room and a platform from which to build.
What’s the aim for Paul Cook this season?
For any team coming up from League One who find themselves among the massive clubs in the Championship, the first priority has got to be survival. The opening month of the season has shown that there is no reason for Wigan to be scared of anyone. They’ve got ten points from their first six matches and it could have been more when you consider they conceded stoppage-time goals against both Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest. I know it doesn’t work like this but, if you take those goals away, they’d be well in the Play-Off hunt with those points.
How are The Latics likely to set up at Griffin Park?
Every week is the same, there are no surprises with Paul Cook. It will be 4-2-3-1 and though the personnel occasionally differs with injuries, assuming nobody comes back and there are no fresh injuries, the team will be as follows: Walton, James, Kipre, Dunkley, Robinson, Evans, Morsy, Powell, Windass, McManaman, Grigg. There is always faith in the system and if it doesn’t work, it’s a case of writing it off and trying again the following week.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
It’s always a difficult task coming to Griffin Park, particularly with Brentford’s good home record, and Wigan never seem to get any joy there. However, the way they have started this season means they will approach the game with confidence. I think they can hope for at least a 1-1 draw.
The Bees are back at Griffin Park on Saturday to face Wigan Athletic and we expect lots of Bees families in and around the ground on the day. Kids tickets are only £1 and Adults just £20 so book yours now.