Cook Faces Former Assistant Richardson as Town Visit Old Club Wigan
Friday, 26th Mar 2021 09:36
Boss Paul Cook goes toe-to-toe with his old assistant Leam Richardson when the Blues face his old club Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on Saturday on what he admits will be a difficult day for him, returning to a club which remains special.
Cook was manager of the Latics from May 2017 to July 2020 and took them to the 2017/18 League One title. He resigned at the end of last season after Wigan were relegated from the Championship having been deducted 12 points for going into administration. But for the points penalty they would have finished 13th.
Richardson, who took over as caretaker-manager of Wigan for a second spell following the departure of John Sheridan in November, worked with Cook at Accrington, Chesterfield and Portsmouth as well as at Wigan and hasn't ruled out linking up with him again at Town in the future.
Cook admits it will be strange for the two to be in opposite dugouts tomorrow.
“I know it will be tough for Leam. As you can imagine, we know each other inside out, we’ve worked together for that long,” he said.
“My only message is to Wigan fans is how pleased for them, how proud I am of them for how they conducted themselves in and around what went on and the time elapsing to the ownership now which is coming to the club, which is imminent and which is absolutely fantastic.
“I’m so pleased, I’m so delighted and especially for Leam. I know how tough he’s had it. He’s seen 22, 23 players leave the club. He’s seen his manager leave, his first-team coach leave, his goalkeeping-coach, his medical staff. They’ve worked with nothing this year, and they’ve conducted themselves so, so well.
“While it will be a difficult day for me, if I’m being truthful, I think the Wigan Athletic fans know how close to my heart they are and how the club is.
“On to Saturday, we want to win desperately, I know Leam will want to beat me desperately and beat Ipswich Town desperately. That’s how we’re built as people. Certainly the respect will be there from both dugouts, I’m sure.”
Asked how highly he rates Richardson as a coach, Cook joked: “Rubbish! I carried him for nine years. He wouldn’t expect me to say anything else! He’s done nothing, he’s absolutely bluffed a living.
“No, Leam’s a great character, he’s a strong-minded person, he’s got a very, very solid background, he’s been a footballer himself, he’s been an absolute rock for me over the time we’ve been together.
“When you’ve been successful as a manager and people look back at what you’ve done, and you’ve done this and you’ve done that, they don’t realise the bad days we’ve had.
“We’ve had loads of them, me and Leam. We’ve had absolutely on-the-floor days. You need to be there for each other and you find out so much about each other and that’s so important in football clubs.
“Me and Leam will be as solid as they come, there’ll be no gaps between us in any shape or form. Leam’s been absolutely pivotal to my, our past success.
“But it’s all in the past. I say that the most important day is tomorrow and as people around the club will realise here, I wake up early every day wanting to be better and it’s something I demand at my club.”
Asked to reflect further on his time at Wigan, Cook said: “I don’t want to discuss the Wigan thing too much if I’m being truthful because it does hurt me to be in the position that we were in where we actually felt we would challenge for the play-offs this year to go into the Premier League. The side, the atmosphere, the whole club was bouncing. We were in a great place.
“The great days are in your memory now, that’s how football is. Football is about memories and it’s about the future. The most important thing is making future memories, and that’s what I’m here to do now.”
As well as being a Wigan manager, the Latics were Cook’s first professional club as a player. The former midfielder made 92 starts and eight sub appearances, scoring 15 goals for the then-Springfield Park-based side between July 1984 and May 1988.
“Unfortunately for them, yes,” he laughed. “They started me off on the pathway. That’s why Wigan’s such a special club for me. For any player to play for a club and then manage a club, it’s special.
“When you have days like I had as a manager at Wigan where you win leagues and cup runs, great days. Some of the wins we had were amazing.
“The staff that I had working for me that I’ve haven’t mentioned, if you know me, you know how close I am to certain people, Anthony Barry [now Chelsea first-team coach] , Nick Colgan [currently keeper coach at Nottingham Forest], Nick Meace [physio, now with Stoke], Andy Procter [physio, now with Blackburn], Ian Craney [kitman], lads who I have worked with, lads who have been in that dugout that will be against me on Saturday.
“It’ll be really tough for me, but I have great memories of all my clubs and Wigan being right up there with the best.”
Following last week’s 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth Cook may be tempted into changes - and is forced into at least one - but has said previously that he’s not one to make wholesale switches of personnel.
Tomas Holy is likely to continue in goal with Cook having said he has a big decision to make on whether to start Kane Vincent-Young at right-back, the former Colchester man having made his return after 17 months out as a sub towards the end at Portsmouth.
With James Wilson ruled out with a knee problem, Cook seems likely to want to move skipper Luke Chambers to centre-half alongside Toto Nsiala with Stephen Ward or Myles Kenlock at left-back.
If Vincent-Young isn’t considered ready, Chambers may well stay at right-back with Luke Woolfenden coming into the team for the first time since the Northampton match prior to Cook taking over.
Mark McGuinness is currently away with the Republic of Ireland U21s and as he is starting this afternoon's friendly in Wales, he won't be involved.
In midfield, Cook could recall Cole Skuse partnering Andre Dozzell with Gwion Edwards and Alan Judge perhaps the widemen, while Keanan Bennetts is another candidate.
Teddy Bishop could move to the number 10 role with Troy Parrott unavailable as he is away with the Republic of Ireland full squad. James Norwood will be the lone striker.
Wigan, who sit 22nd, were beaten 3-1 at Accrington last weekend and 1-1 at AFC Wimbledon the previous Tuesday. However, they had won their two previous matches, 2-0 at Plymouth and 3-0 against the MK Dons in their last home match. Overall, their record at the JW Stadium is a less than impressive won three, drawn four, lost 10.
Off the field, Latics’ administrators, Begbies Traynor, are in advanced talks with Phoenix 2021 Ltd, a consortium led by Bahrain businessman Talal Mubarak al-Hammad, regarding a takeover.
Forwards Gavin Massey and Kyle Joseph, winger Viv Solomon-Otabor and left-back Tom Pearce all long-term injury absentees
Centre-half Curtis Tilt could be involved, despite making his Jamaica debut in a 4-1 defeat to the USA in Austria on Thursday.
Historically, Town have beaten the Latics seven times (six in the league), have lost six times (five) and the teams have drawn twice in the league and in one League Cup tie.
The Blues have won five of their last seven games against the Latics, drawing the other two.
On the opening day of the League One season, the Blues’ Sky hoodoo was finally vanquished as Paul Lambert’s side opened their campaign with a 2-0 victory over Wigan at Portman Road.
Town, who hadn’t won when playing live in front of the Sky cameras for 16 matches going back to December 2015, went ahead through Bishop’s first goal in nearly six years in the 11th minute before sub Edwards added the second on 80.
The teams last met at the DW Stadium in February 2019 - with Cook in charge of the Latics - with Town on their way to relegation from the Championship when the game ended 1-1.
Former Blue Joe Garner netted an injury time equaliser to deny 10-man Town victory after Will Keane’s 32nd-minute penalty had given the Blues a 1-0 half-time lead, seven minutes after Jonas Knudsen had been red-carded.
Blues midfielder Emyr Huws was with Wigan between the summers of 2014 and 2016, initially on loan, but made only 15 starts and one sub appearance without scoring.
Town club secretary Stuart Hayton is a Wigan fan who worked at the Latics for more than 20 years.
New Blues first-team coach Gary Roberts was with Wigan until November, and played in September’s game against the Blues. In just over three years with the Latics he made 31 starts and 35 sub appearances, scoring three times.
Striker Will Keane, who was released by Town at the end of 2019/20, joined Wigan in October following a trial. The former Manchester United trainee made 28 starts and 13 sub appearances for the Blues, scoring nine times, having signed initially on loan in January 2019.
Wigan winger Anthony Pilkington was close to joining Town on loan in January 2019 before opting to move to the Latics on a free transfer from Cardiff.
Centre-half Tilt, who is on loan from Rotherham, almost joined Town in the summer of 2018 from Blackpool after a protracted pursuit by then-manager Paul Hurst.
Saturday’s referee is James Bell from Sheffield, who has shown 71 yellow cards and seven red in 26 games so far this season. Bell, who is in his first season as an EFL official, will be taking charge of his first Town match.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Vincent-Young, Kenlock, Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, Dozzell, Skuse, Huws, Judge, Harrop, Bishop, Edwards, Lankester, Bennetts, Thomas, Sears, Norwood, Jackson, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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