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Opposition Profile: Wigan Athletic

21 June 2017

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The final entry in our feature where we take a closer look at who Rovers will face in League One this forthcoming season.

Wigan Athletic

Founded: 1932
Nickname: The Latics

Established in following the demise of Wigan Borough, the club spent their first 46 years plying their trade at various levels of non-league football before achieving their goal of reaching the Football League Division Four via the election process in 1978. Replacing fellow north west side Southport.

And it certainly didn't take the Latics long to make their mark, winning promotion to the third division just four years later under then manager Larry Lloyd.

1985 saw Wigan reach Wembley for the first time in the final of the Freight Rover Trophy. They defeated Brentford 3-1 thanks to goals from a couple of familiar names as Mike Newell, Tony Kelly and David Lowe got on the scoresheet.

But despite holding their own on the league front for several seasons, they tasted relegation back to the fourth division in 1993.

However that sadness didn't last long as the arrival of local businessman, and former Rovers player, Dave Whelan proved to be the catalyst for an incredible rise up the divisions to the Premier League in the space of just ten years.

By 1997 the Latics were back in Division Three after winning the league title, and just two years later another visit to Wembley saw them defeat Millwall in the Auto Windscreens Shield Final.

Beaten in the Division Two play-off final by Gillingham in 2001, Wigan brushed aside all and sundry some 24 months later, clinching the 2002/03 league title with weeks to spare after amassing an impressive 100 points.

Just two more seasons passed and they were celebrating promotion to the promise land as the strike-force of Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington fired the Latics to the Premier League as Division One runners-up.

Over the next eight years Wigan defied the odds by remaining in the top-flight, but that run eventually came to an end in 2013. But that season would also mark one of their greatest achievements as they upset the odds with a dramatic last-gasp winner from Ben Watson to defeat Manchester City and lift the FA Cup.

The following year saw them come close to returning to the Premier League only to lose out to eventual winners Queens Park Rangers in the play-offs. They were also back at Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, however they lost on penalties after the match ended 1-1.

2014-15 saw Wigan relegated to League One, and although they bounced back at the first attempt, a disappointing 2016-17 campaign saw them return to the third tier of English football.

The Manager:

Paul Cook was named manager of Wigan Athletic at the end of May 2017, returning to the club where he made his league debut as a player.

Liverpool-born, Cook cut his teeth in non-league football with Marine before signing for the Latics in 1984.

The midfielder spent four years with Wigan and would go on to amass more than 600 league appearances in a career that saw him play for Norwich City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City, Tranmere Rovers, Stockport County, Burnley and Accrington Stanley.

After spells in charge at Southport and Sligo Rovers, it was at Stanley where Cook made his mark, impressing during an eight-month spell as manager at the Crown Ground in 2012.

That caught the attentions of League Two rivals Chesterfield who he joined that October. He just missed out on the play-offs in his first season at the Derbyshire club, but in 2013-14 they won promotion after clinching the League Two title.

Cook's good work continued as the Spirites made the play-offs the following campaign, but by May 2015 he was announced as the new manager of League Two Portsmouth.

In his first season with Pompey, Cook would taste yet more play-off disappointment after defeat to Plymouth Argyle, however they quickly bounced back by clinching the league title in 2016-17.

With Wigan on the hunt for a new manager following their relegation, he couldn't resist the chance to take charge of his former club, signing a three-year contract with the Latics this summer.

The Ground:

Wigan's JJB Stadium was completed in August 1999, with it's inauguration marked with a friendly against reigning European champions, and Premier League title-holders, Manchester United that summer.

Their previous home was Springfield Park, where the Latics would play following their formation until their move to their new ground in 1999.

During their 67 years at Springfield Park their highest attendance of 27,526 came in an FA Cup tie against Hereford in 1953. The largest attendance ever recorded between two non-league clubs - excluding Wembley Finals.

It remains the club's highest home attendance, just beating the capacity 25,133 recorded when Wigan faced Manchester United at the DW Stadium in May 2008.

Last Season:

Wigan had a turbulent time in the Championship last year, a campaign that saw three different managers take charge.

Under then boss Gary Caldwell, they marked their opening home league game with a 3-0 win over Rovers, but it wasn't until the end of September that they would record another victory.

The following month saw Caldwell replaced at the helm by former Manchester United coach Warren Joyce, but having recorded just two more wins before the turn of the year, the close of 2016 saw them second bottom, with 19 points from their 23 games played.

Back-to-back wins in January gave the Latics hope for the second half of the season, but they found results increasingly hard to come by.

That resulted in the club dispensing with the services of Joyce after just four months in charge. Former player, manager, and coach Graham Barrow handed the reigns once more for the rest of the season.

Barrow oversaw two victories for Wigan in their remaining games, but it wasn't enough to prevent them from tasting relegation to League One.

Last Meeting:

The last meeting between the Rovers and the Latics saw one of the season's spectacular goals scored.

Quick thinking from Jason Steele saw the goalkeeper pick out Marvin Emnes on the touchline right on halfway, the Dutch striker took the ball down with astonishing ease before advancing on the Wigan defence and lashing the ball into the corner to secure a 1-0 win for the home side at Ewood Park.

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