Wigan have no need of Europe, says Jewell

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The Independent Football

Paul Jewell, the Wigan Athletic manager, claims the club are financially so secure that they do not need European football next season.

Following Tuesday night's 3-2 win over Aston Villa at the JJB Stadium - Wigan's first home victory since Boxing Day - the Latics are back in contention for a Uefa Cup place. Securing a place in Europe would be a remarkable end to a remarkable season for Jewell and his players.

However, despite the fact Wigan have not been out of the top half of the Premiership table since the start of September, Europe is not a priority. It is why Wigan chose not to put their name forward for the Intertoto Cup, despite its revamped format meaning fewer matches.

When asked whether Wigan were one of seven clubs chasing the sole place in the competition, Jewell replied: "No. Definitely not. When is it anyway? July? I'm on my holidays!"

He added: "Chris [Hutchings, his assistant] had the experience with Bradford, and I know it's different now, but it's a bit of a false economy. We're not geared up to go into Europe, and financially-wise we don't have to, unlike maybe the likes of Newcastle and others.

"The Intertoto could have an adverse effect on us anyway because for us the most important thing now is next season. If we're playing competitive games in mid-July, then the season becomes even longer. So all joking aside, it wouldn't have been wise for us to enter it.

"If we happen to get into Europe anyway, so be it," Jewell added. "This season is already a success because we're going to finish higher than 17th.

"The minimum requirement was always to stay in this League, and we have done that at a canter. It's been difficult, but we've achieved it really well."

Jewell is also wise to the fact that next season will merely serve as part of the club's learning curve. It is why he is loath to concede that Wigan will improve on this season, aware that his words could come back to haunt him.

"We have to be careful because wherever we finish this season, it doesn't automatically follow we will improve next season," he said. "Look at Everton. They finished fourth last season and, after the start they had to this season, people were asking questions about David Moyes' future.

"So we're not getting carried away because we know next season will be more difficult. There will be no surprise element about us, so it is my job and the job of the staff to make sure we are a stronger unit on and off the pitch."

That means a summer recruitment drive, which should be easier in comparison to a year ago when the club were new to the top flight and odds-on favourites for the drop.

"Hopefully, we've made Wigan Athletic more accessible to players," Jewell said. "I don't think it will make any difference now where we finish - other than the amount of money we will get. As far as bringing in new players is concerned, hopefully they will see we're a club that is moving forward, ambitious and that we won't sit back on laurels."

Liam Ridgewell does not want to be part of the worst Aston Villa team to play in the Premiership.

Following the defeat at Wigan, Villa languish in 15th place. With three games left they are still six points shy of their previous lowest Premiership total, 45 in 2002-03. On that occasion they also finished in their lowest position of 16th, which resulted in Graham Taylor's sacking.

After their defeat at Wigan, Ridgewell said: "I will take it as a personal sleight against me because I've played most of the season. We're working on it during the week, and I'm sure we'll come out fighting again."

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