Football comment: This time last season it seemed clear to virtually all and sundry that Wigan were destined for the Championship.
Star man Charles N’Zogbia had signed for Aston Villa and there was a major question mark over where the goals would come from after the Frenchman’s departure.
And so it proved as the Latics lingered in and around the drop zone for virually the entire season.
But someone had forgotten to read the script to Latics manager Roberto Martinez.
With relegation beckoning, the Spaniard once again inspired his troops to a miraculous escape as Wigan won 1-0 at Blackburn on the last day of the 2011-12 season, sending down their hosts in the process.
Stopper Antolin Alcaraz’s late winner that day prompted wild celebrations on the visitor’s bench as well as in Ewood Park’s away end, providing the starkest of contrasts to the despairing faces in the home stands.
Wigan’s elation was soon tempered by the news that Martinez was once more a wanted man as both Liverpool and Aston Villa — whom he turned down the previous summer — flirted for his services.
In the end the Reds opted instead for Brendan Rodgers and Latics owner Dave Whelan should be thanking his lucky stars that the talented Martinez again spurned the somewhat questionable lure of Villa Park.
By doing so the former Swansea boss showed his loyalty to a club that seems destined for another battle at the bottom end of the top flight.
Wigan begin with a visit from European champions Chelsea followed by a trip to Premier League new boys Southampton the following weekend.
A visit from Stoke then follows before Martinez and co make the short trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, all of which adds up to a rather daunting start.
And though Martinez himself has committed to Wigan, the ongoing speculation currently swirling around star man Victor Moises will not aid last-minute preparations for the coming campaign.
The Nigerian forward hit the back of the net six times last term while laying on six assists, making him one of Wigan’s most potent attacking threats.
But with a £9 million move to Chelsea in the offing, Martinez has already moved to recruit Ivory Coast striker Arouna Kone from Levante in a bid to reinforced a goal-shy attack.
The summer departure of Hug Rodallega left Wigan with just two senior strikers in Franco di Santo and Conor Sammon and given that the pair have only hit the back of the net a paltry nine times between them in 89 appearances, the acquisition of Kone looks a smart move.
While Wigan look weakest up front, the departures of Mohamed Diame, Hendry Thomas and Chris Kirkland have left the club with a number of other gaps in their squad.
In a bid to plug those holes Martinez has brought in Aberdeen midfielder Fraser Fyvie and defender Ivan Ramis from Mallorca, with the latter in particular looking a decent piece of business.
Wigan have also recently confirmed a season-long loan deal for Arsenal starlet Ryo Miyaichi, who will give them some pace and width.
The Japanese wonderkid just might become a key man for the club in their inevitable fight for survival this term, while keeping netminder Ali Al Habsi fit and in-form will be absolutely essential.
The Omani international looked in fine fettle during last Sunday’s 1-0 friendly loss at Celta Vigo and will be central to any successes that Wigan enjoy this term.
He’s likely to have a busy season — it’s difficult to see how Wigan will keep their heads above water this time around, although in fairness I, along with many other writers, said exactly the same this time last year.
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