Behind Enemy Lines: Wigan Athletic

MILLWALL travel to Wigan Athletic on the final day of the Championship season.

Both sides are safe after being in relegation trouble for the majority of the campaign.

Lucas Ball spoke to Latics fan Alex Sarwar ahead of the game at the DW Stadium.



Why do you support Wigan?

Was taken to a game by a Wigan-based relative at an early age and got bitten by the bug.

What’s been your favourite season supporting your side?



I'd say the 2005-06 season, our first in the Premier League.

Not only did we excel in the league, winning many memorable games and defying all the pundits by finishing 10th, but we also reached our first-ever League Cup final, beating Arsenal over two legs along the way.

The less said about the final though, the better.

And the worst?

For me it's the 2016-17 season.

After coming back up to the Championship with momentum, we proceeded to throw it all away.

An awful pre-season and summer transfer window saw us sink from the off. All three managers who saw us through the season weren't of the required standard and all the players were out of their depth.

We couldn't score, couldn't play any decent football and the atmosphere was toxic. An awful season to be a Wigan fan.

What’s your opinion on your manager Paul Cook?

A very difficult one.

He's far from perfect is Cook and twice this season he's probably been one game away from the sack. But his remit was to keep us up and he's succeeded in only his first season managing at this level.

My heart says we won't get anyone better and he deserves the chance to right his wrongs and push us forward next season. But my head says get someone in with more tactical acumen and better nous in the transfer market.

Right now, the heart probably wins out.

Where do you need to strengthen this summer?

Pretty much everywhere.

It's going to be a massive summer for Latics, as we'll be losing our two best players for free.

Reece James goes back to Chelsea following the completion of his loan, and Nick Powell leaves for bigger and better things following the end of his contract. Replacing both with our likely budget will be nigh-on impossible.

Many of our current players have yet to convince me that they have what it takes to hang at this level, so reinforcements will be needed otherwise it'll be another relegation battle next season.

With neither side having much to play for, how do you see it going?

These games go one of two ways: Both teams throw caution to the wind and we see goals galore, or both teams have their flip-flops on and the game peters out into a snoozefest.

Fingers crossed that we get the former.

Millwall won the fixture earlier this season – what did you make of them?

I was at The Den that night and Millwall never really struck me as anything special.

It was your typical Millwall side, physical with an aerial style of play. But as always full of bottle and a team you can never write off at The Den.

I was angrier about how we played that night. Despite being handed the lead and the referee's attempts to gift us the win via the penalty spot, it was one of the worst Wigan performances I've seen in recent times. We got what we deserved from the game – absolutely nothing.

Which players will be threats to Millwall?

The mercurial Nick Powell will provide our biggest goal threat should he play.

But the player you have to most look out for is Reece James. A 19-year-old loanee from Chelsea, he has played over 40 league games this season and been man of the match in 90 per cent of them.

At times he has put our entire team on his shoulders this season, switching from right-back to central midfield just so he has more of a chance to influence the outcome of our games.

I'm excited to see what the future holds for Reece, arguably the best player I've seen pull on a Blue and White shirt since the days of Antonio Valencia and Charles N'Zogbia.

Who do you fear from Millwall?

The silver fox Steve Morison always seems to enjoy himself against us so I'm hoping he gets given the day off.

Millwall don't really have any players that fill me with dread.

What do you make of Neil Harris?

I respect that Millwall fans may grow frustrated with the style of play Neil Harris enforces upon his team along with some of the results they've had this season. But realistically when you look at the budget Millwall have compared to the rest of the league, just staying up should be considered a solid achievement, despite going backwards from last season.

Throw in the two FA Cup runs and I think it's impossible to say that Neil Harris hasn't done a good job since bringing Millwall back to the Championship.

Which one of his players would you sign?

Has to be Jake Cooper. I think he's a very good player at this level and I'll be surprised if bigger fish aren't sniffing around him this summer.

What’s Wigan’s likely formation and line-up on Sunday?

It's very difficult to predict a team as Cook made seven changes for the game against Birmingham last weekend.

He also changed formation from his usual 4-2-3-1. Assuming that he sticks with the experimental 3-2-2-2-1 formation that we saw against Blues and our injuries remain the same, then I'll take a punt at this line-up:

Walton; Byrne, Dunkley, Olsson, Kipre, Robinson; James, Gibson; Evans, Powell; Clarke.

Will you be there?

Of course! I'm looking forward to a final football fix before the summer. Thankfully I'm a huge cricket fan so that will keep me occupied until August.

Finally, a score prediction?

I'll go for an entertaining 2-2. Powell and James to score in their final Wigan appearances. Gregory to score in his final game for Millwall and Morison to get the other goal.

Graphic: @jay_taylor18

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)