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League One

First is the only option for Wigan winger McClean

26 April 2022

“Personally, I think we are the best team in the League.”

That’s the assessment of Wigan Athletic winger James McClean as his side prepare to face Portsmouth this evening, knowing a draw would be enough to clinch promotion to the Sky Bet Championship.

The Latics currently sit at the top of the Sky Bet League One table with two fixtures remaining; three points clear of third-placed MK Dons having played a game less.

And while a point would confirm their return to the second tier, Leam Richardson’s team can also seal top spot if they better Rotherham United’s result at Play-Off contenders Sunderland.

Speaking at the EFL Awards, where he was named in the League One Team of the Season alongside team-mate Jack Whatmough, Republic of Ireland international McClean admitted his sights are firmly set on finishing the season as champions.

“Promotion, first and foremost, would be brilliant, but we want to finish first,” he asserted. “We want to look back and say, ‘we were the best team in the league’.

“I feel we’ve shown that this season, but we’ve still got a little bit of work to do to make it official. We’ve got two games left and the objective is to finish first, so hopefully we can get what we need.”

McClean rejoined Wigan last summer from Stoke City – having previously played in blue and white between 2013 and 2015 – and has amassed nine goals and six assists in 32 League appearances.

The 33-year-old hailed boss Richardson, who was named the division’s Manager of the Season on Sunday night, for leading the Club to the cusp of silverware, which has been a far cry from the 2020/21 campaign, when the Latics survived relegation by a single point.

“It’s been a great season, especially considering where the Club was last season,” said McClean, who is recovering from an injury picked up against Bolton Wanderers at the start of April.

“There was a big rebuild in the summer with a lot of players coming in. For it to have gone as well as it has is a huge credit to the manager, the players, the staff and everyone behind the scenes.

“Leam's a very good man manager. You know you’ve got a good manager when the players who aren’t playing as much are still happy. I feel I’m at my best when I’m enjoying my football and I’ve been delighted to play for him this season.

“We’ve been one big unit, with everyone pulling together in the same direction and gelling with each other from the get-go, which has given us the foundation for success on the pitch.”

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