Wigan Athletic preview and pub guide: Latics Cook up new promotion challenge

Wigan Athletic preview and pub guide: Latics Cook up new promotion challenge
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Wigan have made a good start to life back in the Championship and arrive at Griffin Park only a point outside the play-off zone and one behind us.

Paul Cook’s side began the campaign by beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-2, before losing by the same score at Aston Villa.

They were denied another home victory by a last-gasp goal in a 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest and that was followed by a 3-0 win at Stoke.

Their first trip to London this season ended in a 1-0 defeat at QPR but in the last game before the international break they won 1-0 against Rotherham, to avenge a 3-1 first round Carabao Cup defeat against the Millers.

Wigan fans could be forgiven for hoping for a quieter season this time around, following two Championship relegations and two League One title-winning campaigns in the past four years.

The Latics made a piece of unwanted history in the 2012/13 season as they become the first club to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season.

Ben Watson’s goal was enough to beat Manchester City in the cup final but Wigan’s eight-year spell in the Premier League ended with a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal three days later.

They finished fifth in their first season back at this level before losing to QPR in the play-off semi-finals, before embarking on their up-and-down last four years.

Wigan are one of the Football League’s newer clubs, not joining the competition until they were elected in during the 1978 close season.

They stayed in the bottom two divisions until 2003, when they were promoted to the second tier, then known as Division One, and two years later they reached the Premier League.

The Latics moved into the JJB Stadium in 1999, after 67 years at Springfield Park, and it was renamed the DW Stadium 10 years later.


Paul Cook is in his second full season in charge of Wigan after taking over at the end of May last year.

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The former Latics midfielder left his job as manager of Portsmouth to rejoin the club and said: “The challenge at Wigan is exciting.”

Paul has an impressive managerial track record – finishing in the top six of every division he has worked in, in each of his five full seasons in charge in the Football League.

After spells managing Southport, Sligo Rovers and Accrington, Paul took charge of Chesterfield in October 2012.

After just missing out on the League Two play-offs at the end of the season, he led the team to the title 12 months later, before finishing in the League One play-off zone the following year.

The Spireites were beaten by Preston in the semi-finals and in the close season, Paul left the Proact Stadium to take over at Portsmouth.

He mirrored his achievements at Chesterfield, with a play-off semi-final defeat to Plymouth in his first season being followed by a title-winning campaign.

Once again he left a League Two title-winning side – this time to Wigan, who he guided to the League One title at the first time of asking.

Paul had a 23-year playing career, which started at Marine and ended at Accrington with spells at Wigan, Norwich, Wolves, Coventry, Tranmere, Stockport and Burnley in-between.


Wigan proved something of a bogey team for Brentford when we first met in the 1980s, with the Latics winning the first four games between the sides.

Although we picked up four points in the following 1984/85 campaign, they had the final word that season by beating us 3-1 in the first Freight Rover Trophy (now Checkatrade Trophy) final to be played at Wembley.

Their dominance has continued over the years, with the Latics winning 18 of our 34 league meetings. The Bees have only triumphed seven times and only once in Lancashire, when goals from Paul Gibbs, Lloyd Owusu and Scott Partridge gave us a 3-1 victory, despite Simon Haworth’s reply, at the JJB in April 2001.

Brentford have met Wigan four times in the Championship, with each side winning once and the teams sharing two goalless draws.

The Latics failed to score against us in our first season at this level, with a stalemate at the DW Stadium being followed by our 3-0 win on the final day of the campaign, which confirmed our place in the play-offs. Alex Pritchard, Jota and Andre Gray scored the goals which ensured that we finished fifth.

Our last meetings came in 2016/17, with the goalless match taking place at Griffin Park at the start of October. John Egan hit the bar, while Daniel Bentley saved a late Nick Powell free-kick as our unbeaten home record continued and the League One champions picked up their first away point of the season.

The return in January came in the middle of the Scott Hogan transfer saga and a week before we played Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round. Two first half goals in five minutes – from Sam Morsy and an own goal from Harlee Dean – put Wigan in control, and although Jota replied with the first goal of his second spell with the Bees late on, the Latics held on for a 2-1 victory to climb out of the relegation zone and inflict our second straight defeat.


BBC Political Correspondent and BBC Radio Manchester’s Wigan Athletic reporter Paul Rowley tells us why Paul Cook is such a successful manager, whether ex-Bee Will Grigg is “still hot” and the lengths gone to by Nick Powell to ensure he stayed at the DW during the last transfer window.

Q –  Wigan have made a good start to the season – what were the pre-season expectations, promotion push, mid-table consolidation or relegation struggle and have they changed?

A – I’ve given up making predictions after the roller coaster of recent years. Since Wigan lifted the FA Cup five years ago they’ve been relegated three times, promoted twice, made the Championship play-offs, played in Europe, and reached the FA Cup semi-final. They’ve not had a middling season since they finished 11th in the Premier League under Steve Bruce a decade ago, and I think if they end up mid-table this time it would be seen as progress.

Their last two seasons at this level have resulted in relegation, and they won’t want a repeat of that. On both occasions, they ditched a hitherto successful manager (first former Brentford boss Uwe Rosler, then two years later Gary Caldwell) and replaced him with someone who struggled (Malky Mackay followed by Warren Joyce) and the replacements were gone before the inevitable drop.

Thankfully this time, they’ve given Paul Cook a four-year contract after lifting the League One title in his first season, and that’s brought much-needed stability, even though the club are in the midst of a takeover by a Far East consortium.

Q – How did the summer transfer business go?

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A – Busier than I thought it would be. In the end, they’ve brought in a dozen players, although three of them loanees in their second spells with the club, goalkeeper Christian Walton (Brighton), Callum Connelly (Everton), and Lee Evans (Sheffield United), although the latter will sign permanently in the January transfer window.

Three of the back four are new, full backs Reece James (on loan from Chelsea), Antonee Robinson (on loan from Everton) and Cedric Kipre (Motherwell), and fitted in almost immediately. Callum McManaman, man of the match in Wigan’s FA Cup Final victory over Manchester City in 2013, has returned after three-and-a-half years away, but has mostly been on the bench.

The £2m man Josh Windass, signed from Glasgow Rangers, has been introduced gradually, but has started the last two games in the absence of the injured Michael Jacobs. Irish international midfielder Darron Gibson, who’s on a short-term deal, impressed on the season’s opening day in the 3-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, but has been out since with a groin injury, while Joe Garner (Ipswich) Kal Naismith (Portsmouth) and Leo De Silva Lopez (Peterborough) have barely figured, though the latter is one for the future.

Q – How important was it to keep key players like Nick Powell and ex-Bee Will Grigg?

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A – They’ve been key components of the Latics’ success. I call Nick “the Wigan magician”. On his day he is one of the best players in the division, with a natural God-given talent that was recognised by Sir Alex Ferguson in bringing him to Old Trafford as an 18-year-old from Crewe.

It never worked out for him at the top level, although moving to one of the biggest clubs in the world as a teenager for a massive transfer fee was always going to raise expectations. But he’s still only 24, has already scored three goals and made three more, and more importantly he loves playing for Wigan Athletic. He’s even told Paul Cook to take away his mobile phone during transfer windows because he wants to stay with the club, despite reported interest from Premier League sides.

His contract runs out at the end of the season, when I’m sure there’ll be plenty of suitors with big wads of cash, but he may just want to stay.

Q – Will Grigg never really had the chance to do the business for Brentford as he didn’t have a proper run in the team. What makes him so successful at Wigan?

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A – Will has been “on fire” in his three seasons at the DW, scoring 64 goals, though largely in League One. He only managed five in his first season in the Championship, albeit he was injured for much of it, and has got three already this time, although two were penalties.

Will has a unique record of winning promotion in his last four seasons in the third tier, first with Brentford, then on loan at MK Dons, and twice with Wigan. The challenge in the coming season will be to score regularly in the second tier. But he looks a more rounded player than he was the last time he was at this level, and in the last week scored on his first appearance in the Northern Ireland squad for two years.

His record in the FA Cup last season, when he scored against Premier League sides Manchester City, West Ham and Bournemouth shows he has the capability to unsettle the best of defences.

Q – Paul Cook seems to have had success after success in his managerial career – what makes him such a good manager?

A – It helps that he’s a former ‘Tic. I remember him as a curly-headed teenager when he joined Wigan in 1984 from non-league football before embarking on a successful league career as a tigerish midfielder, largely in the top two divisions, playing almost 600 league games. He’s a passionate character, with a steely determination, who radiates enthusiam with his players, his staff, and with supporters.

He’s brought the feel-good factor back to the club. His managerial career didn’t start well, getting sacked by Southport in 2007 after just six months in charge. But he rehabilitated himself during four years in Ireland, taking Sligo Rovers into Europe, and lifting both the FAI Cup and the League Cup.

When he returned to England in 2012, he took over one of his old clubs Accrington Stanley before moving to Chesterfield where he clinched the League Two title in 2014. He repeated the feat at Portsmouth in 2017, before claiming the League One title last season with Wigan. So it’s been an incremental upwardly-mobile journey of success. This season is only his first as a Championship manager but he’s already won three games and drawn one in his opening six matches.

Q – When Wigan reached the Premier League, most people thought it maybe a one-season wonder like Barnsley and Swindon Town in the 1990s. In the end they spent eight years at the top. Could the Latics do it again ?

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A – You never say never. It does look to be much harder these days than it was in 2005 when Paul Jewell took the club from the third tier to the top flight in two years, finishing 10th in his first season in the Premier League in 2005/06. A dozen years before, they were in the bottom four of the Football League, facing the prospect of a return to non-league football where they’d spent most of their footballing life.

The arrival of Dave Whelan as owner, a local lad made good who turned to business after his football career ended, changed all that. It’s been a remarkable fairytale. With the Whelan family preparing to stand aside if the long-drawn out takeover eventually goes ahead, we await the next chapter with anticipation. Whatever happens, it won’t be boring.

Q – What style of play should we expect to see from Wigan on Saturday?

A – Positive, attacking football. It’ll be all-out, in-your-face commitment. They’ve already scored five goals on their travels, with Cooky insisting he will “never park the bus” in away games. Paul is a Liverpool fan, and believes in the Bill Shankly philosophy of keeping it simple, with a strong work ethic, and flair in abundance.

The only disappointment this season was conceding in stoppage time in successive weekends at Aston Villa (where they lost 3-2) and at home to Nottingham Forest (where they drew 2-2), robbing them of three points that would now see them in third place.

Paul Cook has shown he’s not afraid of making changes. Having failed to penetrate a very stubborn Rotherham side in the last game, he brought off his “crown jewels” Nick Powell and Will Grigg on the hour, and sent on Callum McManaman and James Vaughan, with one making the goal for the other late on.

One thing you’ll notice at Griffin Park – even if Brentford win – Paul Cook will be dignified in defeat, and will shake the hands of every Bees player as they leave the pitch. He’s a delight to interview even though he takes the mickey out of me sometimes! He’s a class act.

Q – Finally can you give me a possible Latics starting line-up and formation?

A – It’s always a 4-2-3-1 formation.

It could be the starting line up from the last game.

Christian Walton

Reece James, Chey Dunkley, Cedric Kirpe, Antonee Robinson

Sam Morsy, Lee Evans

Callum Connelly, Nick Powell, Josh Windass

Will Grigg

Former Leyton Orient midfielder Gavin Massey is still expected to be out with a hamstring injury, but Michael Jacobs could return after a similar but lesser strain. Callum Connelly could be displaced by another Callum – McManaman – who impressed after coming on as substitute against Rotherham.

Former Player of the Year Dan Burn, who’s joined Brighton in the transfer window but remains at the DW on loan, may be included for the first time this season after a foot injury sustained pre-season. He scored Yeovil’s winner against the Bees in the 2013 League One play-off final.




For Wigan fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for it’s four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

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Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.

Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.

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Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford, although because of strike action there is only one train an hour this Saturday.

According to the latest emergency timetable, trains will leave Waterloo at seven minutes past the hour and Vauxhall at 11 minutes past – arriving in Brentford at 38 minutes past.

More details on the strike action here.

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).


You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.



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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!


  1. gARY

    Thanks Ian, great write up & a useful (to me!) guide to the local pubs. Looking forward to the trip!

    • Ian Westbrook

      Thanks Gary – hope you enjoy your day, but not too much of course! Safe trip.


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