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After two years at Fratton Park, and having won the League Two title earlier this month, former Claret Paul Cook has left the south coast club to return closer to home and join new League One rivals Wigan Athletic as manager.

Just a few weeks ago these two clubs were two divisions apart but with Wigan, having used three managers during the season, relegated and Portsmouth promoted, they are set to lock horns again next season with Cook in the Wigan dug out.

He’ll be on familiar ground having played for Wigan at their current home and also at the former Springfield Park where he kicked off his league career in 1984. He went on to play 83 league games for Wigan before moving on and he played for Norwich, Wolves, Coventry, Tranmere and Stockport before signing for Burnley, initially on loan, in 1999.

Astonishingly, with Burnley top of what is now the Championship and Cooky in top form, we shipped him off to Wigan on loan at the end of November 2001. We’d just gone through a month undefeated with Cook captaining the side and he’d been one of the outstanding players.

It was, the club reported, with a view to a permanent move, but he returned a month later and stayed at Burnley for another season and a half before ending his playing career in non-league football with Accrington.

He’d been an astute signing for Burnley and our record with him in the starting eleven was outstanding.

Cook moved into management with Southport and then went to Ireland to take charge of Sligo. Since returning to England he’s managed Accrington, Chesterfield and Portsmouth before taking up this latest challenge. He’s left both of his last two clubs having steered them to promotion and with a decent League One budget at Wigan he might just take a third team up a level although he will need to work quickly given the reputation Wigan chairman David Sharpe is building for himself.

Wigan won promotion to the Championship a year ago but the impatient Sharpe dispensed with the services of Gary Caldwell when they didn’t start well; he’d been in charge for only 18 months including the entire promotion season. His replacement, another former Claret Warren Joyce, lasted just four months and Graham Barrow, long associated with Wigan, has also gone following the relegation.

Former Latics boss Ray Mathias, who was in charge when Cook started out there in the 1980s, said: “Paul has a hard job ahead of him and he will need to be given enough time and have the right players. Things don’t happen overnight and clubs need patience. Paul has two promotions now and his staff all know how he works. He’s a typical scouser who knows and loves his football and he’ll definitely make a great manager.”

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