The BIG voice of sport: May

New Latics’ manager Lee Johnson admits the hard work begins after successfully steering his team clear of the relegation places in npower League One.

A terrific run of 14 points from his first eight matches ensured Latics retain their League One status with one week and two fixtures of the season remaining.

Indeed, if Johnson can replicate a return of almost two points per game next season, Latics would be challenging for automatic promotion which is an appetising prospect.

Latics achieved safety in style with three wins in a week against Bury, Yeovil and Crawley, the first time they had achieved three victories in a row this since 2009.

Johnson says it is now a case of stamping his own mark on the team and building a team which can punch above its weight in the division.

It will be very much a case of starting with a blank canvas as 18 players are out of contract this summer. And while a number will be remaining at Boundary Park, it looks inevitable there will be departures.

Latics are lucky, however, to have secured top scorer Jose Baxter on a deal which runs to June 2015 while the likes of captain James Wesolowski, Jonathan Grounds and Cristian Montano remain under contract.

But key players like Jean-Yves M’voto, Lee Croft, Robbie Simpson and Matt Smith are out of contract with their futures uncertain.

Johnson says he has drawn up a shortlist of 100 players and it is now a case of doing due diligence to see which of them will slot into his blueprint for the Boundary Park club.

Latics’manager believes he has inherited the nucleus of a successful squad and says youth will play its part. Already he has brought David Mellor, Kirk Millar and James Tarkowski back in from the cold and handed a full debut to 18-year-old defender Glenn Belezika.

Johnson looks at Yeovil, managed by his dad Gary, Walsall and Tranmere as benchmarks of how success can be achieved on a shoestring budget in League One.

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