Matthew Crichton: Wigan currently sit three points clear of MK Dons with three games in hand. Do you think Sunderland and Wycombe’s recent collapses in form have taken all the pressure off your side for those extra games?
Barry Worthington: I wouldn’t say the pressure has been lifted, there is still a long way to go and we know that we must be on top of our game for the remainder of the season.
History proves that nothing can be taken for granted and we must keep picking the points up, I do think that having been here and done it twice in the recent past gives the club that experience needed to get us over the line.
We’re all about results now, if performances come along that’s all good but it is the results that matter at this stage and keeping that buffer between ourselves and the third placed side.
So has the collapse in form of both Sunderland and Wycombe taken the pressure off us? I hope not because we need that external drive to keep us going until we are mathematically up.
MC: After doing a remarkable job to keep Wigan up last season, Leam Richardson has now done extremely well to solidify The Latics’ place in the automatic promotion spots. I imagine he is a god-like figure amongst your fans currently?
BW: Absolute dream of a manager, everything about the man oozes quality, top class coach, great leader, communicates well with the fans, says all the right things, extremely measured when talking about games and the opposition and never gets dragged into the mind games.
When Charlie Wyke collapsed at training, Leam was the first to respond and started CPR, he is a legend.
The South Stand at the DW Stadium has been officially named the Leam Richardson Stand, I think that says it all really.
MC: Given the depth and experience of your squad, are you hoping that the team can push to deliver two trophies with the league title and the EFL Trophy?
BW: That would be lovely, thank you. We have to get past Sutton first though, we are at home but have been fielding largely a youth side in the PJT this season and I am sure that Sutton would also love a trip to Wembley and will probably play a strong side.
I’m not sure what strength of side we will put out as we are currently on two games a week until the end of the season and we will rotate for the game, hopefully it’ll be a strong enough side to get the job done and get us to Wembley.
As for the title, ourselves and Rotherham are very evenly matched and it’ll be close between the two clubs where ever we finish in the table, maybe separated at the end by goal difference. Promotion is the goal, anything else will be a bonus.
MC: Charlie Wyke has not played since November due to a heart condition. What is the current update on our former striker?
BW: There hasn’t been much news coming out of the club regarding Charlie’s current status, it’s been kept private and well respected by the fans, but I believe he has returned to light training so that is a great sign that things are improving.
He is a regular spectator at both our home and away games too. I’m sure he’ll be there on Saturday, be great if both sets of supporters could join in with a chant of his name.
MC: One former Sunderland player who has shone for Wigan this season is Max Power, assisting 11 goals in all competitions. What are the factors behind his return to his best form?
BW: It felt like Max was returning home when he signed in the summer.
He is a great character off the field as I am sure all Sunderland fans will know, and he had a great rapport with the Latics fans from his previous four years with us, so it was easy for him to fit back in.
He’d worked with Leam Richardson previously too, so the gaffer knew all his strengths and weaknesses.
He’s played both right-back and midfield for us this season and been excellent in both roles, he plays with a maturity and is very responsible with his use of the ball.
He’s been given the role of set-piece taker and these have been real quality, he is our top assister and has been involved with the majority of our goals at some point in the build-up.
Simply though, I think he just came home.
MC: On the other hand, Jordan Jones was loaned out to St Mirren in January and appears to have struggled for game time at Wigan. Would you say he has been a failed signing?
BW: Jordan Jones was signed before James McClean became available and indicated his desire to sign for us, obviously you can’t turn down an opportunity to bring in a player of that quality on a free.
This undoubtedly affected Jones’ opportunities with us as they both play in similar positions.
We saw glimpses of Jones where he looked good, but these were late in games and he was being used as an impact sub with 10 or 15 minutes left to play.
The move out on loan to St. Mirren is probably in the best interest of all parties.
MC: Another player that Wigan re-signed this summer was James McClean, who has scored seven goals while assisting six. Is he simply a class above at this level?
BW: McClean has been outstanding, full of drive, determination, aggression and a large amount of quality, another player who ‘came home’ in the summer.
He is loved by the Latics faithful and he is repaying our faith in him with some excellent performances.
MC: Aside from the above-mentioned players, who will Sunderland need to be wary of during the match?
BW: Callum Lang is destined for the very top – he’s playing out wide right but is equally effective through the middle or in the ten role. He has bags of ability, pace, tenacity and full of goals.
Langy came through the Academy at the Latics and is playing with his heart on his sleeve, we tied him down with a four-year contract earlier this campaign, he has been pivotal to our success this season.
Will Keane is also having the season of his career, has been excellent in the number ten role and is currently our top goal scorer.
MC: What style of play can we expect from Richardson’s side and which eleven players do you think he will select?
BW: We went 5-2-2-1 against Rotherham recently with three centre backs and it worked a treat, but I think we will play our normal 4-2-3-1 for this game, possibly going:
Amos, Darikwa, Whatmough, Tilt, McClean, Naylor, Power, Lang, Keane, Massey, Magennis.
MC: Sunderland have beat Wigan twice already this season - what is your prediction for the final score this time around?
BW: I’m going for a 3-1 Latics win, not through cockiness, but going with the form.
We always concede a goal and you are in a dreadful run at the moment, so I see us winning but not without a little jolt to the system first, 1-1 half-time, 3-1 final whistle.