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Wigan Athletic: “Leam Richardson is already a Latics legend!”

“I'm pleased that we still have a club, so to be favourites not only for promotion but also the title is beyond belief.” - Barry from Progress With Unity Podcast reflects on a memorable season for Wigan as they close in on a Championship return.

Gab Sutton

Wigan Athletic are on the verge of securing a return to the Championship after a two-season absence.

The Latics’ 1-1 draw at home to Plymouth Argyle was not quite enough to get Leam Richardson’s side over the line, but only three points are required to guarantee their promotion from League One in their final two games – trips to Portsmouth and Shrewsbury Town.

Given all the uncertainty the West Lancashire club had faced prior to Talal Al Hammad’s takeover back in March 2021, this is a great time for supporters, as Barry Worthington from Wigan fan podcast Progress with Unity discusses.

“What a season! The contrast to the stresses of last season is incomparable, so to say I am delighted is an understatement.

“To be honest, I am more pleased that we still have a club, so to be flying all season, now very much the favourites not only for promotion but also the title is beyond belief.

“All credit must go to Leam Richardson: a top manager, a leader and already a Latics Legend.”

Richardson’s role in the club’s title charge is huge: in fact, after just two seasons as a number one, having previously been a long-standing assistant to Paul Cook, Barry regards him to be in the “top three” favourite Latics managers of all time.

“He led the whole club through the traumatic experience of administration, he never shirked an interview, never publicly criticised any players and he did an exceptional job with both hands tied behind his back.

“To keep us up last season was a great achievement and then to kick on this season is testament to his ability as a manager and coach.”

To say Wigan have kicked on would be putting it mildly: the WN5 outfit won 13 league games last season and have already doubled that tally this term with three to play.

Not only that, they have shipped just 40 goals, 37 fewer than in the previous campaign, helped by Portsmouth recruit Jack Whatmough.

The defender had frequently struggled with injuries previously in his career, yet has been fit to start all 43 league games this term and thrive in them, to the point that Barry describes the 25-year-old as “the League One Bobby Moore”!

“He has sensational positional sense,” says the Latics fan, “he reads the game so well, he’s dominant in the air, is good on the ball and has a great range of passing.”

The form of Whatmough and others has meant fewer obstacles for the management team to overcome this season, helped by the club’s improved squad, infrastructure and financial health, but they have had to deal with the loss of Charlie Wyke in painful circumstances.

The striker collapsed in training in November due to a cardiac arrest and was saved by the heroics of Richardson and club doctor Jonathan Tobin; fortunately, Wyke is now in a stable condition after a period in hospital.

“Losing Charlie Wyke in the circumstances that we did was hard for everyone connected to the club.

“In footballing terms, we have adapted well: bringing Josh Magennis in during the January window was excellent recruitment and now he’s settled into the club, so we are really strong at the top end of the pitch.

“Great news on Wyke: he is set to start pre-season training in June and be back vying for his spot in the team come the new season.”

Will Keane has also been key to Wigan’s attack, being joint-top scorer in the division with 23 goals, Callum Lang has chipped in with 14 while Max Power has managed 12 assists, having only played right-back or central midfield.

Nonetheless, Barry reserves credit for midfielder Tom Naylor, who has started all bar three league games this term and averages 1.9 tackles per game, the same for interceptions.

“Naylor is simply outstanding: 8/10 every game and recognised by the fans as one of the main components to our team.”

With Naylor pulling the strings in midfield, the Latics podcaster sees his side finishing the job.

“I expect us to go on to secure the title at Portsmouth on Tuesday.”

It wouldn’t be the first time: in fact, if Wigan do take top spot, it would be their fourth third-tier title in 20 years and third in seven years.

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