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Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Focus: Wigan fan Ian is backing the club to avoid the drop ahead of their Sunderland clash!

Ahead of Sunderland’s away trip against Wigan, we spoke to Latics fan and Let’s Hang On writer Ian Aspinall to discuss their pursuit of League One safety, their recent takeover, as well as what Sunderland fans can expect from the match!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: The takeover of Wigan was finally completed at the end of March, how big of a relief is it just to finally know that the club is now safe from liquidation?

Ian Aspinall: It was a massive relief when Latics came out of administration. It’s been a traumatic season because of the administration, losing our best players, manager and support staff.

Under the new Bahraini group Phoenix 2021 the mood around the club has changed.

The long-term future now looks positive and the new owners can start to put the structures in place to move the club forward.

MC: Wigan are currently one point from safety with six matches to play, are you confident the team can avoid consecutive relegations?

IA: It’s been an extremely difficult season and we’ve suffered numerous setbacks but despite this we’ve defied the odds and are in with a fighting chance of survival.

The current players can’t be faulted for their effort but they have sometimes lacked that extra bit of quality required to make the difference.

Team spirit is good and the desire and commitment to stay up is there. It’s going to be a nervous end to the season but I think we will have just enough to survive.

MC: One man who has performed well in incredibly difficult circumstances is Wigan boss Leam Richardson, do you think he deserves credit for giving the club a fighting chance despite everything going on off the pitch?

IA: Leam has done a tremendous job keeping us in contention and deserves huge credit for his work in extremely difficult circumstances.

He has been offered the manager’s job by the new owners but he has not yet made a decision about his future.

He is wanted by Paul Cook at Ipswich as his assistant but if Latics stay up I think he might stay.

Accrington Stanley v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Wigan boss Leam Richardson joined the club in 2017 as Paul Cook’s assistant manager.
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

MC: Wigan possessed an excellent side who would have finishing around mid-table in the Championship last season, how difficult was it to see that squad torn apart for such minimal fees?

IA: It’s been a devastating experience to see practically the whole squad leave.

Many of the players left for ridiculously low fees and many have gone on to have an excellent season in the Championship or Premier League.

There is naturally a lot of anger towards the former owners but we must now rebuild and move forward under Phoenix 2021.

MC: In light of those wholesale changes, many academy players have stepped up such as Kyle Joseph, Thelo Aasgaard, and Christopher Merrie - has that been refreshing to see?

IA: The Academy has been the saviour of the club during administration, firstly by obtaining fees to keep the club running, with Joe Gelhardt going to Leeds, Jensen Weir to Brighton and Alfie Devine to Spurs and secondly by providing a crop of good young players for the first team.

Unfortunately both Merrie and Joseph are injured, but Aasgaard has been impressing for the first team recently alongside young full back Luke Robinson, who has covered for the injured Tom Pearce.

Fortunately the new owners have recognised the importance of the Academy and have said it will be the bedrock of our future development.

MC: Aside from the youngsters mentioned above, who are Wigan’s current best performing players who Sunderland will have to be wary of?

IA: Latics have struggled for goals recently but against Doncaster a new attacking trio of Viv Solomon-Otabor, Joe Dodoo and Will Keane were extremely effective.

In midfield Thelo Aasgaard is an exciting young talent and Lee Evans is capable of delivering a killer pass.

Defensively Rotherham loanee Curtis Tilt and Feyenoord loanee George Johnston have been solid performers.

AFC Bournemouth v Wigan Athletic - FA Cup - Third Round - Vitality Stadium
Max Power made 143 appearances for Wigan across his four years at the club, winning two promotion twice from League One.
Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Sunderland captain Max Power is currently operating at right-back, a position he played on occasions for Wigan, how did you rate him in that position?

IA: I think Max was most effective in midfield for Wigan, but he’s very capable at League One level and I’m sure he’ll do well for you at full back as well.

MC: Who are the eleven Wigan players you believe Richardson will select and what style of play can Sunderland expect to encounter?

IA: I’m expecting the same line-up which defeated Doncaster 4-1 on Saturday.

Jones (GK), Darikwa, Tilt, Johnston, Robinson, Evans, Ojo, Solomon-Otabor, Aasgaard, Dodoo, Keane.

Latics usually play a 4-2-3-1 formation but against Doncaster they used a 4-1-2-1-2 formation and I expect them to use this against Sunderland.

We both need the points so I’m expecting an attacking game.

MC: Wigan shocked everyone by beating Sunderland 1-0 back in December, can you do it again tonight?

IA: Much has changed since we last played Sunderland but I’m expecting another close game on Tuesday night.

Don’t rule out a Wigan win despite Sunderland‘s excellent form.


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