Manager Paul Cook reflects on the international break and Saturday’s visit of Brentford to the DW Stadium.
- WATCH: Paul Cook previews Wigan Athletic’s clash with Brentford
- Cook discusses personal accolades for Lee Evans and Reece James, assesses Thomas Frank’s Brentford and reflects on the international break
- Cook: “We have got eight games to go and there will be a lot of excitement and twists and turns ahead for everyone and hopefully a lot to enjoy.”
Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook says Brentford arguably gave his side their toughest test of the season back in September when they ran out 2-0 winners at Griffin Park but dominated the game.
The Bees have since changed manager with Dean Smith moving on to Aston Villa and Thomas Frank taking charge.
And Cook is full of praise for Saturday’s visitors and the threat they pose.
“Brentford are an excellent side and I’d say after our away defeat down there we really suffered and it was probably our toughest match in terms of the fact we weren’t in the game.
“Brentford were far superior to us on the day and, at that time, probably had aspirations to be doing a little bit better than what they have actually achieved during the season.
“They are a good side, they have good players who can handle the ball, their rotations are good, their movement is good and they carry threats all over the pitch.”
Cook’s squad has been boosted with the respective returns to availability for Danny Fox and Anthony Pilkington after the international break.
“We’re all fit,” Cook said. “The lads have all trained well over the week and they are all fit and available for selection.
“We have got eight games to go and there will be a lot of excitement and twists and turns ahead for everyone and hopefully a lot to enjoy.”
Over the course of the break, Latics took part in an afternoon session at Blundell’s Boxing Gym in Wigan, home of former boxing champion Lee Blundell and up and coming Wigan boxer James Moorcroft.
“We want to keep the lads grounded,” Cook added. “You have to dig in at times and the idea behind the boxing is purely for a mental toughness because now and again you have to do stuff you might not like to do.
“The boxing took the lads completely out of their comfort zone and, in my opinion, develops mental strength and mental toughness.”
Two players who didn’t take part in the session were Lee Evans and Reece James, who were both away on international duty – the former with Wales and the latter with England U20s, albeit he training with Gareth Southgate’s senior side.
Whilst on duty, Evans started for the first time in a Wales shirt as Ryan Giggs’s side beat Trinidad & Tobago in Wrexham, whilst James received news he had been named in the EFL Football Manager Championship Team of the Season.
“The more individual honours you can gain or gather more or less states how well lads can be doing within the club,” Cook continued.
“From Lee’s point of view, it is a great honour to represent your country and I am sure Lee’s family will be very proud of him and he should be very proud of himself.
“For Reece, he is just having one of those seasons where accolades are never too far away from him but I also think nothing much effects Reece and he just goes keep going from strength to strength in what he is doing.”
Saturday’s match will see Wigan Athletic join forces with other football clubs to support Kick It Out’s ‘Week of Action’ as the organisation committed to tackling discrimination in sport marks 25 years of its work.
Cook acknowledged the importance of tackling discrimination in society on a week in which racism in football once again hit the headlines.
“The message from the England lads was one of solidarity and it was great to see Raheem [Sterling] step up and do the interviews after the game that he did,” Cook explained.
“The sadness for me, though, is 25 years into Kick It Out and we are still discussing it – that’s sad – because there is no place for discrimination in sport – in life in general – and the quicker we eradicate it from society in general then the world will be a better place for everyone.”