New Wigan Athletic boss Owen Coyle is being thrown in the deep end – with a tough draw in the group stage of the Europa league.
The Latics embark on their first ever European campaign after previous manager Roberto Martinez led the side to victory in the FA Cup final in May.
Coyle faces a difficult test after being drawn against Russian side, Rubin Kazan, NK Maribor of Slovenia and Belgium’s SV Zulte Waregem in Group D.
Wigan’s first European fixture will be an away fixture against SV Zulte Waregem on September 19, and then a home fixture against 11 times Slovenian First Football League champions, NK Maribor on October 3.
Three weeks later they play host to Russian side Ruin Kazan, who on paper are the most dangerous side in the group.
However Coyle tried to remain upbeat about the draw when talking on Wigan’s official YouTube channel.
“I think regardless of who we were going to play it was going to be exciting, and it certainly turned out that way. Rubin Kazan as you know did consistently very well in Europe. Maribor have got a good name in Europe and obviously Zulte Waregem is a team I know well from Belgium because they’ve got some very good players,” he said.
“Logistically, from pot one, Rubin Kazan was probably the furthest away and in terms of the back and forth is probably the least that we would have craved, given that you had the Valencia’s and Sevilla’s, some real glamour ties there. The draw was always going to be what it was and we have to make the best of it when it comes about. There’s some tough games but one’s that as a football club, we’re looking forward to.”
Ruin Kazan bring with them a solid European CV, having reached the Europa League quarter-final last year, losing to the eventual winners, Chelsea.
Long-time Wigan fan Greg Farrimond gave his initial impressions to MM: “Mixed bag, that. Belgium is decent… less said about Kazan the better! Russia, Slovenia and Belgium. Beats Preston, Bolton and Burnley I suppose.”
The reactions on Twitter have been positive, despite the tough tie’s ahead.
Tom_stone1 tweeted: “350quid birmingham to kazan. Thats were u wana be goin latics fans. A mental journey to a mental place.”
@Marshcp poked fun at the hooligan reputation that has saddled Russian football.
“These foreign ultras who are still stuck in the 80’s are gonna love our long ball football,” he tweeted.
@DrMikeHardman is just happy to be competing on a European level: “Chuffed to bits to see my mighty @LaticsOfficial in the Europa League, good draw, let’s hope we get through! #fingerscrossed.”
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