Gary Sweet's Wigan boardroom notes

Welcome back to Kenilworth Road for this FA Cup third round tie with Wigan Athletic at yet another di­fferent kick-off­ time! My first duty is to formally wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and to extend those wishes to our friends and visitors from Lancashire.


It seems an age since we had a three o’clock Saturday start here, just under two months in fact, if you cast your mind back to before Christmas, the World Cup and, of course, pre-Rob Edwards.

We clearly need to be commercial to balance the books and welcome the additional income when we’re televised but, as football romantics, we prefer a more traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon kick-o­ so much more and still feel this should be maintained as much as possible. We have been known to challenge certain kick-o­ times which you won’t hear about when we’re successful.

It would be remiss of me, amid all the festive cheer we’ve had, not to say a big thank you to our hero Big Mick for once again stepping in to oversee that last 3pm kick-off­, which we drew with Rotherham.

On behalf of everyone at the Club, I also o­ffer our condolences to the whole Harford family as they prepare to say goodbye to Mick’s older brother John, who sadly passed away just before Christmas.

Since Nathan’s departure, and with Mick’s help, we’ve established some decent momentum in the League – something that Rob, Richie and Paul have built on so impressively over the busy Christmas period.

I know how frustrating it was for them to have to wait so long for their first chance to walk out here in front of you, with the Millwall postponement, and also the opportunity to get their first points on the board.

The Championship is such a tight division that it was incredible to see how rapidly we could climb up the table within six days but with only five points separating twelve clubs in and around those play-o­ spots, we can’t a­fford any complacency, quite the contrary.

The hunger, character, and desire we have in the camp is so impressive I know we’re now looking to build on that belief when we restart our League programme here next week against the Baggies.

Already, we’ve witnessed Cauley and Alfie score their first goals for the club, and Louie win his starting debut. Congratulations to each of you for those achievements, boys!

We hope to see more of that as we see a continued progression of playing style which I know we’re all enjoying. As we enter every new year, we always get asked the same two questions; what are your resolutions and what players are we going to sign? And every year, my resolution is to avoid getting too hung up on the January transfer window! Whilst not impossible, and while we scout the market more deeply than most, it’s hard to acquire good value players in the winter window.

Indeed, with such an active summer window and players returning from injury, it will feel like we’ve got some new signings anyway and our January strategy is primarily underpinned by keeping our squad together and reviewing our loans – welcome back into the fold, Elliot! If, however, a gem became available, we are more than ready to pounce.

Today, we turn our attentions to the FA Cup and welcome Wigan, and everyone who has travelled with them for the second time this season. We hope the outcome is di­fferent to the league meeting, but we respect the Latics not only as reigning League One champions, but FA Cup winners of a decade ago – a game I attended and thoroughly enjoyed.

Like Wigan, that 2012-13 FA Cup campaign will always have a special place in our history for what we achieved as the first Non-League side to knock out Premier League opposition.

Our Boxing Day win over Norwich, helping to leap above them in the Championship table, serves to remind everyone of exactly how far we have come since that famous fourth round day at Carrow Road. Alex Lawless, one of our starters that day, is in the Press Box today, but it was from the edge of the Kenilworth Road penalty box that he so memorably smashed in the winning goal in our third-round win over Wolves, ten years ago last Thursday.

It’s a huge asset for us to have someone like Alex now back working at the club, passing on his experience of such a special stage of our journey to our young players as a coach in the Academy. Along with Alan McCormack, Alex helped mastermind a wonderful 6-0 FA Youth Cup win away at Birmingham City just before Christmas putting on a magical display.

I would encourage as many of you as possible to get down to the Kenny and support our boys in the fourth-round tie against QPR. It’s a 7pm kick-off on Wednesday 18th January with tickets costing just £5 and £3, complimentary to season card holders.

It would be great for the young players’ development to have a sizeable crowd to play in front of, and a reward for their stunning form in the league so far this season, too.

Of course, you wouldn’t expect me to sign-off­ without providing some re-assurance on our developments at Power Court. I can’t deny that this is the most challenging project on our plate right now and has increased in its difficulty and complexity due to recent changes to the political and economic landscape. As I have mentioned previously, most – if not all others – would have given up, as many other such clubs have. But rest assured, we won’t! We are absolutely progressing.

I understand many will see our detailed planning application as the key milestone to kick things on, but, frankly whilst it is important and necessary, the timing of it isn’t crucial.

In order for the Stadium to be built we need the remaining buildings demolished, the sub-station moved, the river opened up and the residential scheme progressed to a greater degree of certainty. As a pre-cursor to that, we have now fixed firm plans for the remaining demolition works and then, the most time-dictating element of these matters has started, with the UKPN project now underway with known deadlines for completion. Until this has been known, we have been unable to properly proceed with detailed planning.

As these deadlines determine the ultimate timing of everything, and we’re now working to fit a programme around those schedules and any perceived delay in submitting a detailed planning application doesn’t impact the final delivery of the stadium, as matters stand.

Asking for patience is indeed completely boring, for which I may apologise, but I can only re-iterate that we remain committed to getting the stadium built as quickly as possible without taking massive, unnecessary risks on the Club’s stability that we have been fighting for so long to successfully avoid. But for now, let’s hear you give the senior lads everything in this FA Cup.

Enjoy the game and Come On You Hatters!

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