The highs of Wigan's first season in the Premier League are now a distant memory. That notoriously difficult second season is a thing of the past. Years of consolidation and scalable growth have followed and Wigan are still a top division fixture.
It has been a rocky road at times, and the Jekyll and Hyde team are often unpredictable but, somehow, the club who fifteen years ago were playing in the fourth tier of English football have now got their feet under the high table and are starting to look, dare I say it, comfortable there.
Wigan are, in many ways, the new Fulham. They are a relatively stable club. They are well-regarded by most opposition supporters, and they like to play attractive football.
Unfortunately, they also share Fulham's tendency to be strong at home (as last season's victories against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal evidence) but suffer badly on their travels (Chelsea and Spurs walloped Wigan 8-0 and 9-1 respectively and Manchester United beat them 5-0 at the DW despite Wigan keeping it 0-0 until well into the second half).
This tendency to capitulate has to be addressed in 2010-11 because this year, it may well be tight in and around the bottom half of the table, with goal difference likely to play a key role for whoever is ultimately relegated. Having said that, there are definite grounds for optimism for the new season.
For one, unlike many sides, there will be few Latics staggering into training with a World Cup hangover to end all hangovers. Nor will there be any real targets for the World Cup boo boys.
For two, Wigan have one of the best young managers in England in Roberto Martinez who, after a mixed first season, can realistically expect some of his ideas to start paying dividends.
He has also continued the Latics' excellent record of daring sorties into the transfer market. This is a record begun by Martinez himself signing, as a player, with two other Spaniards and continued by Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce as they uncovered rough diamonds such as Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios.
This season, Wigan need one of their new rough diamonds to shine, as Hugo Rodallega did to some extent last season. Most eye-catching of the summer signings has been the new number nine, the highly-rated Argentinian Mauro Boselli.
Boselli has signed for a club record fee and brings with him an excellent track record in Argentinian football and has already netted six goals pre-season for the Latics.
A regular goalscorer in the Premier League could be the difference between staying up and going down this season and Boselli, if he has a good start, could do well.
Wigan have also brought in the Dutch defender Ronnie Stam for around £2 million. Stam's just had a call-up from the Dutch national squad and Wigan have to hope he has some of the class of his namesake Jaap, as well as some of the 'tough-tackling' as evidenced by the Netherlands in the World Cup final, as Wigan's defence could do with a bit of steel now Paul Scharner and Titus Bramble have left.
Also key to the balance of Martinez's squad is hanging on to some of the stars from last season, including Rodallega, who had been linked with Arsenal, and Charles N'Zogbia for whom a move appeared a certainty at one stage, but who now appears to be staying.
Good seasons are required from both, and steady improvement will be demanded from youngsters such as Victor Moses.
Perhaps most importantly Wigan need a full season from Chris Kirkland, who would surely have been England number one by now were it not for his chequered injury record and the fact he no longer plays for one of the big boys.
Kirkland and his defence have to make sure Wigan don't simply roll over when the chips are down this season.
After a disappointing opening day defeat to Blackpool, the Chelsea game will be even more important. Last season, results against the traditional top four showed definite signs of improvement.
They had been dire under Jewell and Bruce, but Martinez has guided Wigan to victories against Liverpool, Chelsea and that win against Arsenal at the end of the season which included the famous three goals in the last ten minutes.
That bad run against the big boys was always a mixture of bad luck and fear, so Martinez needs to instill his squad with the confidence they can carry on where they left off at the DW last season.
As well as trying to exorcise the memory of that 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea, Wigan's mixed-bag of an early season fixture list also includes an away tie with Champions League Tottenham and a home tie with moneybags Manchester City, but there are eminently winnable games with Sunderland, Wolves and Bolton (all at home) and with Newcastle, Fulham and Blackburn away.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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