African All Stars

'From potential relegation to best dressing room' - Balogun on Wigan Athletic experience

21:39 EAT 14/07/2020
Leon Balogun
The Super Eagles defender admitted that he is having one of his best campaigns in the Championship despite initial doubts about the move

Leon Balogun said Wigan Athletic might be one of the best clubs he has played for if they retain their Championship status while in administration.

The Nigerian centre-back joined the Latics on an initial six-month loan in January after struggling for regular playing time at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Following the extension of the Championship campaign due to the Covid-19 suspension, Paul Cook's side moved to sign him until the end of the 2019-20 season.

After playing a significant role in helping Wigan stay clear of the relegation zone, Balogun, who had played nine games in the second division at the time of writing, recalled his initial worry about the team.

“I tried to find a solution and then Wigan came in. To be very honest, I was not so impressed; a Championship side when I was feeling fit and good enough to play in the Prem," Balogun told the Athletic.

"Moving to a potential relegation team, I was thinking ‘Agh, that’s tough’. Looking back now, my agent told me, ‘You could go there and it could be one of the most memorable times in your career’.

“It might turn out that way, especially if we make it with the administration and everything. I’ve had some nice dressing rooms but the Wigan dressing room, the staff, are up there with the best I’ve had.”

The former Mainz 05 defender helped Wigan avoid defeat in eight of the nine appearances he made for the club before suffering a groin injury in their 3-0 loss to Brentford.

Balogun picked up an injury in the opening minutes of the encounter at Griffin Park before Algeria's Said Benrahma struck thrice to end their unbeaten streak.

Earlier this month, Wigan announced that they are in administration and the Nigerian defender has revealed that they got the news in the team's group chat.

“We played Stoke on the Tuesday night [a 3-0 win on June 30] and on the Wednesday morning, we were off," he added.

“One of the lads put it up in the group chat. I actually had to translate first because I wouldn’t know what it meant. My native language is German. I had to look it up and then it was pretty obvious. ‘Oh wow, what is going on?’.

“Everybody just hopes there will be a happy ending because I don’t think anybody deserves it (relegation). I’ve not been at this club for long but they have really grown to my heart already in this short period of time because the people in the club, around the club, are just amazing.

"You can see that from the run we’ve had. If you exclude the Brentford game, because that just wasn’t us on that day, it’s really, really amazing.”

The 32-year-old also disclosed how the team drew inspiration from the movie 300.

“Before I joined the club, they got massive stick. They had been through hell, they’d been booed by their own fans — everything that could possibly go wrong or against them happened," Balogun said.

“When you think nothing more can happen, then this came up. Everybody just has that determination and motivation to say, ‘You know what, we are going to be like the Spartans in the movie 300 and use it as this extra motivation’.

“All the odds are against us but you will see that this is actually our biggest strength.

“I’m always a very positive guy. Even in my time at Brighton when everything was absolutely not as I wished that it would be, I was pretty much always smiling, trying to create a good atmosphere.

"And I’m playing until this injury. I think I’ve had more games now in two or three months than I had at Brighton, so that is a positive.”