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Wigan’s hopes of survival in the Championship this season suffered a crushing blow on Wednesday when they went into administration – and were hit with a 12-point deduction as a result.

The Latics are top of the Championship’s form table at the moment with 16 points from their last six games – and 21 from their last 10 – to climb away from the foot of the table.

But all their hard work on the pitch could be undone by this ruling which could end up relegating them to League One. The penalty has not been applied to their points total yet. If they finish the season outside the relegation zone, the points will then be taken off their total – possibly relegating them – but if they end up in the bottom three in the normal way, then the points will be deducted from next season’s tally instead.

Wigan are currently seven points above the relegation zone after a run of results which has seen them win six and draw three of their last nine games, and keep a clean sheet in the last seven of them. The last goal they conceded was an own goal in the second half of a draw at Cardiff in mid-February, so an opposition player has not scored against them for 712 minutes.

The turnaround in their form has been quite extraordinary as they ended 2019 bottom of the Championship table, having won only four of their first 25 matches.

They also exited both cup competitions at the first hurdle without scoring a goal. They lost 1-0 at home to Stoke in the first round of the Carabao Cup and 2-0 in the FA Cup third round at Leicester, who went on to play us in round four.

Lewis MacLeod joined Wigan from the Bees last summer, but has only made 12 appearances in their colours – including during our visit in November. He hasn’t featured since January.

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.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Paul Cook is the third longest-serving manager in the Championship, and 18th longest-serving in the four divisions, having taken charge of Wigan at the end of May 2017.

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The former Latics midfielder left his job as manager of Portsmouth to rejoin the club.

Paul finished in the top six in each of his first 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, and last season he led them to safety in 18th place.

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.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

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 Leasing.com Trophy) final at Wembley.

We have, however, met seven times in the Championship, and the Bees have had the better of things with three wins, three draws and only one defeat.

Goals have been hard to come by though, with one goalless draw in every season and only one match of the seven in which both teams scored.

The Latics failed to score against us in our first season at this level in 2014/15, 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 next 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.

Last season, Wigan failed to score against us. A goal midway through each half from Neal Maupay on his return from suspension gave us a 2-0 win – our fourth straight home victory from the start of the season. Latics captain Sam Morsy was sent off early in the second half.

The win took the Bees up to second in the table, while Wigan dropped down to 11th.

Little happened in the goalless return at the end of March.

The result left Brentford in 13th, while Wigan fell to 20th.

We earned only our second-ever win in 19 visits to Wigan last November as we cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Bryan Mbeumo poked us ahead from an early corner, and Kamo Mokotjo doubled the lead in the 7t0th minute with a shot from inside the area. Wigan’s Cedric Kipre was then sent off for his second yellow card, before Josh Dasilva put the result beyond any doubt with a trademark long-range shot. The only sour note for the Bees was the late sending-off of Julian Jeanvier after a late melee.

Brentford moved up to ninth in the table with the three points, while Wigan stayed 20th.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Political Correspondent and BBC Radio Manchester’s Wigan Athletic reporter Paul Rowley analyses the dramatic events of the week at Wigan, tells us how Lewis Macleod has done in Lancashire, and recalls his favourite and least favourite games between the sides.

Q – How has the club got itself into this situation and how much of a surprise was this? 

A – It was a total shock to everyone. Wigan Athletic had been a model of financial respectability since Dave Whelan (“Mr Wigan” as I call him) bought the club in 1995. The previous season the ‘Tics had finished in the bottom four of the Football League and were close to going back to their non-league roots. Within a decade they were in the Premier League thanks to the largesse of the former footballer turned businessman. Against the odds they stayed in the top flight for eight years, climaxing with the lifting of the FA Cup in 2013.

Since then it’s been a rollercoaster. They’ve been relegated three times, twice bouncing back as League One champions, reaching the FA Cup semi-final (2014), the quarter-final (2018), the Championship play-offs (where they lost to eventual winners Queens Park Rangers), and playing in Europe. But it was an expensive hobby for the man who founded the retail sportswear empire JJB, and when the parachute payments from the Premier League dried up three years ago, and with the club settled in the Championship, he decided to sell up.

Q – So what happened next? 

A – In November 2018, with the club losing roughly £7m a year, it was sold. I had a whisper three months before that a group of what were described as “wealthy Far East businessmen” had been seen at the club’s training ground, and were apparently keen on taking over. Nobody was saying much, but it was noticeable that former Manchester City Chief Executive Gary Cook had been brought on to the board that summer, seemingly with the task of finding a buyer.

The new owners had an impressive brand name, the International Entertainment Corporation. They were based in Hong Kong, ran a hotel and a casino in the Philippines, and were registered in the Cayman Islands. And even though they didn’t have any obvious footballing connections, they were judged by the club to be “a suitable owner with the funds and ambition to carry on the Whelan family legacy”.

Wigan’s first season back in the Championship was deemed a success, winning at Leeds United on Good Friday and against nearby rivals Preston on Easter Monday to keep them in the Championship, having been relegated in the previous two seasons at this level. The new owners, though not regular attenders at the DW, did pay the bills, and everybody seemed to be happy.

Q – So what went wrong?

A – A little over a month ago, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the ownership of the club changed hands. Minority shareholder Au Yeung Wai Kay taking over through a company known as Next Leader Fund, an odd name I thought which suggested change was afoot. In a statement on the club website, he spoke positively at joining what he called “the Wigan Athletic family”, looked forward to working with the directors, and declared that “I hope to meet the club’s passionate fans”. The takeover was approved by the Football League. This week the same Football League slapped a 12-point penalty on the club after Au Yeung announced he could no longer finance the operation, putting Wigan into administration.

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The timing appeared to be bizarre. The team is going through its best run at this level in six years, and are top of the table in the calendar year. They’re unbeaten in the last nine games, with keeper David Marshall keeping a clean sheet for seven successive Championship matches, a club record. Scotland’s number one, who was hoping to be playing in the European Championship this summer, last conceded at Cardiff on February 15, an own goal by Kal Naismith. Since Project Restart began, Wigan’s record has been P3 W3 D0 L0 F7 A0, a feat matched by only one other club in the country. Yes, it’s the mighty Bees!

Q – Will the events of this week have a bearing on the team’s performance at Griffin Park?

A – Personally, I hope not. But you can understand it if the players are worried. All of a sudden their futures are uncertain. They don’t know what division their club will be in next season, or even whether it’ll survive. As the league table stands Wigan are 14th, their highest position since the opening week of the season, seven points clear of the relegation zone. Even if you include the 12-point deduction, they’re only six points away from safety.

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It will be difficult though. Brentford were the best side we’ve seen at the DW this season, but Paul Cook’s boys won at both Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion just  before the lockdown. And they’ve only lost once away in 2020 (2-1 at Swansea City on January 18) so you can’t rule out anything in this division.

Q – Can Wigan survive in the Championship this time?

A – It would be a major achievement if they did, given the circumstances. There could be a case for the 12-point deduction to be overturned or at least reduced considering the club’s hitherto exemplary financial record. With other clubs also struggling financially could there be a “coronavirus clause” to rescue those in difficulty during the pandemic?

My priority is that Wigan stay in business. Having seen what has happened at two other clubs in Greater Manchester is disturbing. Bury have gone out of business, while Bolton Wanderers, like Wigan, suffered a 12-point deduction last season after going into administration, and will begin the next campaign in League Two . Despite Wigan’s excellent form of late, nothing can be taken for granted in the remaining matches,  with four of them against teams needing points, Barnsley (A) Hull City (H), Charlton Athletic (A) and Fulham (H).

There is already a clamour for Dave Whelan to return to sort things out, but at 83 will he want to? They always say in football “never go back”, but it may be too much of a temptation if he can make a difference.

Q – Have you seen any of the games since the season restarted?

A – I was at the DW on Saturday and it was surreal. I felt very privileged though, as I know a number of season-ticket holders who’ve not missed a home game in years. The club did offer fans the chance to be in the stadium for just £20, albeit with a lifesize cardboard cut-out of themselves, rather than being there in person. There were 450 in total, some choosing pictures of their dads or grandads who first took them to a game.

But the most touching story was of supporter Christine Lamb, who had a photo of her son Jack. Sadly Jack died five years ago aged just five months, and never got a chance to see a game. When the club was told of the circumstances, they refunded the money. Christine was so moved by the response she donated the cash to the award-winning Wigan Athletic Community Trust, which does brilliant work in the town.

I told the story during the commentary on BBC Radio Manchester, and it was followed up by BBC Online. When I retweeted their report, Christine responded, saying that it showed that Wigan are “the best club in the world”.

Q – What sort of season has ex-Bee Lewis MacLeod had?

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A -Lewis started well, making his debut on the season’s opening day in a 3-2 win over Cardiff in the absence of captain Sam Morsy, who was out with a hamstring injury. He retained his place in the 3-0 defeat at Preston, but when the skipper recovered he had to be content with a place on the bench for the next couple of months. Morsy (who was sent off at Griffin Park last season in a decision later overturned) was then suspended after clocking up five yellow cards, so MacLeod returned for the televised 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.

He kept his place for the next eight games when Paul Cook changed formation, adopting a three-man central midfield, but he hasn’t started since a 2-1 defeat at Luton in early December. He’s currently on a one-year contract which has been extended until the end of the season.

Q – How did you feed your football fix during the lockdown – watching old matches, reading football books or did you switch off from the game completely?

A – As a BBC Political Correspondent, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been broadcasting from my South London home most days during the lockdown talking about the pandemic, so that has occupied my time. It’s been good to get back into the football though, and I always enjoy visiting Griffin Park from my days covering games for LBC and BBC London.

My highlight was seeing Neil Roberts score the winner in 2002/3 en route to Paul Jewell’s side winning Division Two (now League One). The lowest point was a 4-0 tanking in 1991 when Gary Blissett and Dean Holdsworth scored a brace apiece in Phil Holder’s Third Division championship season.

My first Wembley game as a reporter was when we met in the Freight Rover Trophy Final in 1985, thinking it doesn’t get better than this. The idea that we could win the FA Cup was in another stratosphere.

Q – Finally can you tell me the likely Latics line-up and formation please?

A – Cooky likes to play a 4-2-3-1 system. He doesn’t like changing a winning formation, so it could keep the team that started in the 3-0 win against Stoke City

David Marshall

Nathan Byrne,  Cedric Kipre, Leon Balogun, Antonee Robinson

Sam Morsy, Joe Williams

Jamal Lowe, Kieran Dowell, Michael Jacobs

Kieffer Moore

Although Kal Naismith’s two goals in four minutes midway through the second half after coming on as substitute may earn him a start in place of either Jacobs or Dowell.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME

The match is being played behind closed doors and is available to watch on iFollow.

Bees season ticket holders can watch for free on iFollow if you have redeemed your code – other Bees fans can watch on iFollow for £10 per game – full details here.

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook