Wigan Athletic must look back at Cardiff City spell with jealousy

The former Cardiff man arrived in the third tier with a wealth of Championship experience under his belt

Even though Joe Bennett had won a championship, his first season in League One with Wigan Athletic fell short of expectations.
Bennett only managed one goal and two assists in 11 appearances during the year, which left him struggling for minutes and influence.
Bennett played an essential part in helping Oxford United make it to the playoffs after failing to make the playoffs with Wigan in League One and the Championship.
On August 20, 2021, Wigan Athletic acquired Joe Bennett, a former Cardiff City mainstay who had left the Bluebirds at the conclusion of the 2020–21 Championship season.

The Latics had high expectations for Bennett after his outstanding performances in South Wales and the Championship, believing he could have a significant impact on the League One team in 2021–2022.

The Latics won 92 points in a spectacular season that saw them win the league title in 2021–2022, with hotshot Will Keane taking home the golden boot with 26 goals.

Bennett’s first season at the DW Stadium ended with a trophy, which was a perfect result, although he did not contribute as much as he would have liked to the team’s title win under Leam Richardson. Bennett was formerly of Middlesbrough.

Even though the Latics emerged victorious from the League One season in 2021–2022, Bennett failed to leave his mark in his first season in Greater Manchester.

The DW Stadium supporters may have anticipated that the former Cardiff player, who has a ton of Championship experience under his belt, would be a valuable addition in League One when he moved up to the third division.

He only made 11 appearances and 10 starts during the Latics’ championship run, but he managed to provide one goal and two assists in those few games.

One of Bennett’s most memorable goals of the season came in April 2022 when he headed home a free kick to give the Latics a 1-0 lead against Accrington. Richardson’s team went on to win that match 3-0, which aided them in winning the league. The Latics also won 3-0 against Shrewsbury, capping their campaign. Before their victory in Shropshire, the DW Stadium team had lost five straight games. Bennett was a player in four of those games.

However, the majority of that season, the full-back struggled to get playing time for the first team since Richardson frequently chose to use right-back-by-trade Tendayi Darikwa in the left-back position in a back four, with James McClean filling in as the left wing-back in a back five formation.

During that season, Bennett saw action for the first team sometimes as a left-sided center-half, but Kell Watts or Curtis Tilt occupied that position more frequently.

The former Cardiff player may have expected a better 2022–23 season after the Latics’ return to the Championship, given his familiarity with the second division from his time with the Bluebirds.

However, the full-back’s 2022–2023 campaign was equally unsuccessful as he only made nine appearances in the Latics starting lineup and was unable to prevent the team from being relegated back to League One.

Unfortunately for Bennett, the red card he received during the Latics’ 1-0 victory over Birmingham City in August 2022 will always stick in his memory from that campaign.

After that, he joined Oxford United before the 2023–2024 League One season. With 16 games during the regular season, he helped the U’s secure a play-off position.

Playing 177 times for the Bluebirds, Bennett is somewhat of a modern-day legend in the Welsh capital. In 2018, Bennett’s Cardiff team achieved automatic promotion to the Premier League under Neil Warnock.

The supporters of Cardiff City Stadium will have pleasant memories of his achievements throughout the 2017–18 season, as he contributed one goal and four assists in 38 games, helping lead the Bluebirds to the top division.

He continued, making 30 Premier League games in 2018–19. He was a constant presence in the 2019–20 Championship campaign and a regular in 2020–21.

The Latics will be envious of Bennett’s exploits in South Wales because he was never able to replicate the same level of success at the DW Stadium.

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