Wigan Athletic have come flying out of the blocks at the beginning of the 2021/22 season, but manager Leam Richardson is not getting ahead of himself.
The manager’s one step at a time approach has paid dividends for the Club, who were buoyed by back-to-back wins against Sky Bet League One promotion favourites Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth of late.
Chatting through his start to life in the hot-seat on the Official EFL Podcast, the 41-year-old reflected on why some four months ago presented the ideal interval for Richardson to go it alone and take his first steps into management.
“I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time, is there?” he questioned. “At the start of my journey, I was fortunate to go into it with a good club at Accrington and I’ve managed to work for 11 or 12 years at different football Clubs with Paul Cook. I’ve gathered a lot of experience in different environments.
“Then, it comes to a point where an opportunity presents itself and it matches your own expectations and criteria with your career. Hopefully and thankfully, Wigan is certainly that.”
In April 2021, the Latics boss turned down the chance to join former partner and Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook’s offer to take up the assistant manager role at Portman Road, with the two having enjoyed a fruitful relationship at Wigan, Portsmouth and Chesterfield.
However, Richardson reaffirmed that they still support each other’s successes, despite venturing down different pathways.
“Even with circumstances over the last 18 months or two years, when working at different clubs like Chesterfield or Portsmouth and Wigan with Paul Cook, we’ve been very successful,” he added.
“If truth be known, we privately thought we had a partnership going to the Premier League or certainly held a status as high-end Sky Bet Championship.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve got a really close relationship both professionally and personally. He’s one of the most honest people you’ll come across so we would always be open and transparent with certain things. He’s always known my aspirations and known me as a character and a person which is why we continued to work successfully together.”
The former defender’s beginning to life in management was somewhat of a baptism of fire, with Wigan narrowly avoiding a close call with relegation last season, dodging the drop by a single point.
However, Richardson has re-built his team on and off the pitch, although he conceded that his side were forced to play catch-up to an extent.
“I think we ended the season with four players – respectably, three of them were young lads and one of them had a long-term injury – so we were always going to sign a lot of players and it was going to be hard work,” the Leeds-born boss explained.
“We had an opportunity where we felt we had to get to a certain level quite quickly and I have to say, with the group of people that have joined so far, it was important that we put good staff together which we have, and experienced and diverse staff. A lot of good people on the playing side as well.”
After Wigan – who sit fourth in the League standings – stunted Portsmouth’s start to the season and Morecambe edged Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, no team now boasts an unbeaten record in League One.
And Richardson believes the competition is wide open for the taking.
He said: “I think it’s going to be possibly one of the most competitive, aggressive seasons in League One.
“You look at the teams and the size of attendance and football Club of Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Sunderland and Portsmouth, just to name a few. They will all think that they should get promoted.
“Then you look at the other end with newly promoted Cheltenham, Cambridge and Morecambe, there’s no easy game this year.
“We’ve made it quite clear from where we were, we felt with the numbers that we had and the work we’ve been able to put into the group that we had to make strides quite quickly. We want to make them small steps and firstly, be competitive in every game and hopefully we’ll do that.”
The full episode can be heard here.