Wigan Athletic look to Leon Barnett as promotion talisman

• Defender scores against Barnsley after one day of training
• Tykes manager David Flitcroft tips rivals as contenders

The saying is that success breeds success. The hope for Wigan is that promotions breed promotion. Their latest addition is a case in point. Owen Coyle noted Leon Barnett's humility and popularity but homed in on his CV. "It helps that he has won promotion to the Premier League three times," the new manager said.

Whereas Wigan were once endearingly unorthodox, from Roberto Martínez's leftfield tactics to their belief they could extricate themselves from danger with a late run every year, the recruitment drive at the DW Stadium has now been focused on the tried and trusted.

Coyle's Burnley side bade farewell to the Championship in 2009; the men he has drafted in have gone up to the top flight seven times between them. Wigan, it seems, have read the handbook on winning promotion and concluded there is no substitute for experience.

Barnett's status as a second-tier talisman dates back to his days at West Bromwich Albion, Norwich and Cardiff. Satisfactorily as seasons have ended at his former clubs, they have never begun as spectacularly for the centre-back. After two days and a solitary training session as a Wigan player, he helped keep a clean sheet and scored in a display that was particularly galling for his long-term suitors, Barnsley.

"It's ridiculous," said his former Norwich team-mate Grant Holt, another to mark his debut with a goal. "Leon hasn't had one minute of football in pre-season. To put in a performance like that is fantastic. He's a pure defender, brilliant in the air."

Whereas Martínez's team were known more for their technique than their physique, Holt's aerial ability explains his own arrival. "There's no doubt Grant Holt will score goals but he is more than that," Coyle added. "He leads the line." Perhaps his other attributes blinded the bookmakers to Holt's goalscoring record. Despite scoring 78 goals in four seasons for Norwich, he was not among the favourites to top-score in the Championship. Nor, indeed, do Wigan rank among the most-fancied teams.

Not that Holt is concerned. "When we went up with Norwich, I don't think anyone gave us a chance. We were 33-1 or something." Wigan are not such rank outsiders; indeed as FA Cup winners they represent a prized scalp. "It's hard when you've got a reputation and they want to beat you and ram it down your throat," Holt added. "We weathered it, kicked on and our quality showed."

If Holt is the battering ram, the defter touches came from remnants of their Premier League side. Both wingers, Shaun Maloney and Jean Beausejour, flourished, along with the central trio of Ben Watson, James McArthur and James McCarthy. "The midfield three will be as good as anything in this league," said the Barnsley manager, David Flitcroft. "They completely bossed the game."

He believes Athletic could make a swift return to the Premier League. "I have witnessed something quite strong and powerful," Flitcroft added. "I think Wigan will be up there." And for their contingent of experts at elevating clubs into the top flight, that will be a familiar feeling.

Man of the match Ben Watson (Wigan)

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