WHISPER IT, BUT WEMBLEY’S CLOSE
FEW people symbolise the Wigan Athletic rollercoaster quite like Tim Chow. From FA Cup winners in 2013 to the third tier this season, the Latics have endured a dramatic fall from grace.
However, it is one that boss Gary Caldwell – just seven months into his first managerial job – has set out to reverse, beginning with a nine-match unbeaten league run.
Add to that a 4-0 thumping of Blackpool in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last week and Wigan are just 180 minutes from a return to Wembley.
Then there is Chow, 21, the midfielder who was told in March he was surplus to requirements at the DW Stadium.
Caldwell took over in April and Chow has not looked back, netting his first senior goal that month and emerging as a cog in the Wigan side this season – with an eye on the big stage.
“Wembley is written into the club’s recent DNA,” he said. “It’s about keeping it in the back of our minds now we are close.
“Gary has given us the opportunity to get there again. He has given everyone a chance, as he has done all season.
“He made a lot of changes for the two cup games and he’s basically just said to us ‘It’s up to you – you pick the team yourselves. If you play well, then you’ll keep your place’.
“I think you can see 11 hungry lads out there all trying to get into the team in any game.”
If you ask Chow, the secret to Wigan’s secret success is simple: it’s Caldwell.
The manager, who called time on his playing career back in February after a long-term hip injury, assembled a new-look squad ahead of this season
“I don’t think you can put a value on the impact that Gary’s had,” said Chow.
“You can’t underestimate how much he’s done – not just Gary but the entire backroom staff. They’ve been great.
“They’ve put together a whole new team, basically, and it’s credit to them because they’ve brought in some great characters and some good players.
“When the manager came in at the end of last season, I think you saw straight away in the performances in the last five games of the season that there was a change around at the club.
“Bringing in so many new faces over the close season was a fresh start and there was no hangover from last season.”
Their campaign last term was indeed bleak as the Latics went from play-off semi-finalists the previous year to perennial strugglers, eventually succumbing to relegation into League One.
But the darkest days appear to be behind them, with Caldwell’s troops heading into the weekend just five points adrift of the top two.
That has been achieved in a system that suits Chow – a tidy midfielder with a wise head on young shoulders – just fine.
“The way we play, the passing style, it’s a combination of confidence and how Gary wants us to play,” he added.
“That’s his blueprint and that’s what he brought in from the end of last season and what we’ve worked hard on from day one in pre-season to where we are now.
“It took a couple of weeks to get going with a lot of new faces, but you can see his impact now.
“As for me, I’m just trying to get into that starting XI”
WEMBLEY IN SIGHT: Wigan Athletic’s Tim Chow owes a rise in fortune to the new boss
IMPACT: Gary Caldwell