Jordan Flores has noticed a fair few similarities between his home town of Wigan and Dundalk since arriving here at the start of last year but how both clubs have treated their players, staff and fans in recent weeks is one stand-out difference.
While the Lilywhites board have continued to pay wages and provide various other supports for the side throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, things have gone in the opposite direction at Flores’ former side Wigan Athletic, who last week went into administration just weeks after a change of ownership.
As a life-long fan of The Latics, Flores has been keeping a close eye on the situation but even he is baffled as to how Paul Cook’s side – who had been the in-form team in the Championship up until their defeat to Brentford on Saturday – have found themselves in this position.
“A lot of the players have left since I was there but some of the staff are still there. I’m not entirely sure and I don’t think they are either about what exactly is going on,” he said.
“I know they’re investigating it but as it is it’s very sad.
“It’s a great family club. I used to go to the games all the time before I started playing for them and I’d have met a lot of my friends through that.
“That’s the main reason you want the club to keep going because, a bit like Dundalk, it’s such a big part of the community and it brings everyone together. It does a lot for the schools and the town itself so hopefully it’ll be put back in good hands.”
With rumours doing the rounds that the club may have been sacrificed to ensure a bet that they would be relegated comes off, Flores is hoping they aren’t true.
“It’s mental. I know they’re only rumours but if all the rumours are true then it’s one of the biggest scandals that has ever happened in football.
“All my family and myself, we’re all Wigan fans so we’re just hoping that someone will come and buy the club and that it will all get resolved quickly.”
Thankfully, the midfielder couldn’t be happier with how he has been treated at Oriel Park.
“The club has been brilliant through this time,” he said.
“You see a lot of stuff that is going on in the League of Ireland with other clubs so we just count ourselves lucky that we’ve got owners and staff who actually care about us. It brings us all together more when we get support through something like this. They’ve just been brilliant.”
While the first great footballing love of his life is struggling right now, his current side are on the verge of a return to action, something the 24-year-old can’t wait for.
Flores was part of the group which took part in a 11 v 11 training game on Friday and is now looking forward to the first friendly against Derry City this Friday ahead of the return of the league on July 31st.
“It was good to get back playing a competitive match even if it was just between ourselves but with the two teams we can put together from our squad, it’s as good a quality as any friendly that we’d get anyway so it was good to start off with that and then obviously now we’ve the first friendly this week so it’ll be good to get back into a competitive environment and mood.”
While competition for places will be tough, Flores is hopeful it can push each and every player on.
“It will be tough for people fighting for places but that’s the industry we’re in,” he said.
“Everyone is looking to start and everyone is going to be training harder so that can only be a good thing because everyone will be pushing each other and that will mean we get the best out of each other.
“I’ve been in big squads before and it’s probably a good thing to keep pushing ourselves.
“It’s a shame there’s only 13 games. It seems that as soon as we get started the season will get cut short but it is better than no games I guess.”
The season being cut short was a particular blow for Flores, who had started well on top of creating global headlines with his stunning volley in the 3-2 defeat away to Shamrock Rovers in February.
“It was a blow for the season to be halted because for the last few years I’ve been battling with injuries but the start of the season was the first time in quite a while that I felt myself.
“I felt I was performing well so lockdown came at a bad time for me I guess but I’ve not taken my foot off the gas. I’ve kept on working hard over lockdown so hopefully I’ll just continue on from how it was going at the start of the season.”
One silver lining about the opening games not being axed is that his wonder strike will now count with a nomination for FIFA’s Puskas Award still a possibility.
“I’ve not really thought about it to be honest,” he laughed.
“After the week that came after it with all the interviews I just pushed it to the back of my mind and I’ve not even really watched the goal since then either.
“Come the end of the season, if it happens, it happens but either way the memories of the goal will always stay with me because it was quite a good moment even though we lost the game. I’ll be trying to score a few more hopefully when we’re back.”
As well as the league, there’s also Europe to look forward to. One-legged games mean there is a real cup tie feel to the qualifiers but having been present in Wembley to see Wigan shock Man City in the 2013 FA Cup final, Flores knows it can be good to dream too.
“I was there with all my family,” he said of the day Ben Watson’s 91st minute strike sealed the biggest triumph in the club’s history.
“It was a good day so we’ll be looking for something special like that to happen in whatever round we get to. Hopefully we’ll push further than we did last season.
“There’s more pressure in a sense because it’s literally just one game.
“It’s like a cup game now and if you lose you’re out but it might be a little bit better in terms of being able to prep for the game. After the last few months we’re just all looking forward to it, especially myself because I was injured for the whole of the European campaign last season so I’m looking forward to getting a chance to play in them.”