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31 December 2018

The gaffer gives his thoughts ahead of Latics' first game of 2019 against Sheffield United.

  • iFollow Latics: Paul Cook's Sheffield United preview.
  • The gaffer on Lee Evans' availability against the Blades.
  • "We're all being challenged and tested, that's what happens in the Championship." - Cook.

Sheffield United H
Cash turnstiles operating on the East and South Stands.

Speaking at his press conference at the Wigan Athletic Training Centre on New Year's Eve ahead of Latics' clash with Sheffield United on New Year's Day, Paul Cook took time to update us on his squad options, his thoughts on Sheffield United and his appreciative words for the departing Dan Burn.

Starting with his thoughts on the outgoing defender, Cook said:

"Dan Burn has left us now, which is a massive blow for any club to have such an outstanding player and lad leave.

"He goes with all my hopes that he does really well at his new club Brighton. He's a fantastic lad who has had 18 outstanding months with us within what we've achieved as a club.

"As staff we wish him well, the players wish him well, but now it's about the future and what life's going to be like without Dan Burn."

With one change guaranteed at the DW Stadium against the Blades, Cook is confident he won't be forced into a second switch in personnel, given that Lee Evans' loan from the visitors is due to be made permanent on New Year's Day.

Cook continued:

"I fully expect to have Lee Evans available. I understood the first time around why he couldn't play and I haven't got a problem with that, but Lee must take to the pitch tomorrow. We get on great with Sheffield United and I'm sure it will all be sorted."

Latics enter 2019 off the back of a 2-2 draw against Swansea City following a tough spell of defeats, but the gaffer was strong in his words of togetherness and spirit coming off the back of a hugely successful 2018.

"I find it very hard to criticise our players, but I'll always criticise myself. There's a blame culture around football these days, whether it's the tactics, the players getting picked the efforts on the pitch. As clubs, we're all fighting for what we believe in and to do the best by our clubs, but it's hard for everyone.

"It's been difficult for us in relation to us being so used to winning and now we're not. Within that are people really doing something wrong? I don't think we are.

"I feel that it's a genuine case of us all being tested and challenged, and that's what the Championship does to you.

"Myself, my staff, the players and our supporters all have to stay together and be strong. Our success will be deemed at the end of the season when we start to make strides to grow as a club.

"We set our benchmark for the league, we look at how we can stay in the league and get stronger next year."

With the January transfer window open from New Year's Day, the manager insisted Latics must be meticulous in their approach to recruitment, continuing:

"With our new owners and our new horizons as a club it's important that we've been planning ahead to the transfer window.

"We must stay focused. January markets can be turbulent and tough for clubs, decisions can be by trying to pursue instant success, rightly or wrongly, but signings for us going forwards are huge and it's very important that we get them right."

On Tuesday's opponents Sheffield United, Cook added:

"Sheffield United are without a doubt one of the best teams in the division.

"Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job. They don't fall into the bracket of the heavy spending big clubs, they fall into the bracket of getting the most out of what they've got and that's great credit to Chris, his staff and their players.

"They challenge and in my world that's a place we want to go to. The players know their jobs, they give everything they've got and they're very good at their style of play.

"Sheffield United regularly beat teams. They don't always come off the pitch with better overall stats than the opposition, they just know how to win. They've got good players and men in their team who make everything tough for you.

"It's another test for us off the back of two demanding trips, but we look forward to our games.

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