Paul Cook retains a sense of “what might’ve been” about how his time at Wigan ended, but he’s looking for his next step and aiming high…
You get the sense that Paul Cook is getting restless.
Cook resigned as Wigan manager at the start of August, and the intervening four months is comfortably the longest he has spent out of work in the last 13 years.
But he has plans. Cook’s reputation seems to have been broadly left unscarred by the Wigan experience, the club suddenly being plunged into administration in the closing weeks of last season, the 12-point penalty that ensued throwing their season into disarray, with the Latics eventually relegated on the final day.
Under Cook, Wigan had won ten of their final 18 matches, and would have finished in 13th place without the penalty. Indeed, they would have survived anyway had they beaten, rather than drawn with, Fulham in that final game.
As such, Cook is setting his sights high for his next job.
“I’m actually at the minute hoping to get a club that has the ability go from the Championship into the Premier League,” he said on The Totally Football League Show this week.
“Now, whether I get that or not remains to be seen. If I don’t, I’ll manage again. That’s football. I don’t fear football. I don’t play at football players. It doesn’t faze me because I think what you brought up in a family like I was where football is your life, to not play football or manage football and not love it, there’s got to be something wrong with you.”
Those last days at Wigan sound harrowing for Cook, three years of good work essentially tossed away by circumstances beyond his or his players’ control.
“At Wigan we had a really good, clear plan, to progress from the year before. I think the night before we went into administration, we beat Stoke 3-0 at home, possibly one of our best performances. We put a new team together in the summer, we’d allowed the team to gel, the lads who’d come from League One: Kieffer Moore, Antonee Robinson, Joe Williams – we brought so many new players in and those lads were gelling.
“Next morning I got called to the stadium to be told that we were in administration and the 12 points were going to be deducted immediately.
“We had to go to Brentford on the Saturday and unfortunately, we lost 3-0, but I can guarantee you guys – without administration, we [still] would’ve lost 3-0 at Brentford on the Saturday. That was just a lame excuse for us.
“But credit to the lads. I think they’ve lost one in seventeen, eighteen Championships games at the end. We fought and fought and fought and fought, and unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
Wherever his next job is, Cook will need time and patience, as any manager would do.
“Yeah, well, one of my big things about football today, you know, managers just don’t get time to build teams. It’s the nature of football today. It’s no matter what club you go in, every manager gets welcomed in. And by the time you played five or six games, the world’s about to end. That’s not football.
“I was lucky at Wigan – I was three years into my tenure, we managed to win League One, we’d been promoted with nearly 100 points. We scored so many goals. But when you move into the Championship, it’s a different league. It’s a totally different level. And amidst that, we’ve managed to build a team and put a team together.
“We were strong at the end. We were a well-balanced, good functioning with really strong players throughout the team. And we had to go through pain to get there. Nowadays, one of my big gripes managers aren’t allowed to go through pain no more. They’re supposed to be sacked. It’s ridiculous.”
But there is an unmistakable sense of ‘what could’ve been’ about Cook’s tenure at Wigan.
“I really don’t mean to sound arrogant. I mean, if you look at English managers today in the progression of English managers, you need a vehicle to get you where you want to go.
“If I could have stayed at Wigan this year I’d have been going into my fourth year. And if we’d added maybe one or two, I believe we’d have challenged in the top half of the Championship to get in the playoffs. I think that’s what we could have achieved.
“If you look at English managers in general and Chris Wilder being the beacon, you have to be promoted from the Championship to get a Premier League job.”
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