Filed: Friday, 19th April 2013
By: Preview Percy
Blimey they’re keeping me busy this week. It’s two games in four days as we entertain Wigan Athletic in a traditional 3pm kick off at the Boleyn. Lovely.
There’s engineering works on the Hammersmith & City/Circle lines which means that if you’re one of the two men and a dog that tend to follow Wigan you’ll have to select an alternative route from Euston. Note if you actually happen to be the dog it’s an Underground rule that one of the two men will have to carry you on the escalators.
The visitors arrive at the Boleyn in a spot of bother in the league. They sit third from bottom with 31 points from their 32 games. That’s three points behind Villa who occupy the safety spot, though Wigan do have a game in hand and a three goal advantage on the goal difference front. Current form isn’t that bad with three wins, a draw and two defeats coming in their last 6. The victories came away at Reading (3-0), and at home to Newcastle (2-1) and to Norwich (1-0). The draw came courtesy of a last ditch equaliser at QPR (1-1) whilst the defeats came at home to Liverpool (0-4) and on Wednesday night at Man City where a late Tevez effort saw them traipse back up the road pointless.
They have, of course, already got through to the FA Cup final and, in one of those little coincidences that crop up in football from time to time, it was their Cup Final opponents Man City who provided the opposition for their first league match after winning the semi. Sorry Millwall supporters if you’ve only just noticed that you lost – perhaps you should have been watching the match.
Manager Roberto Martinez seems a decent cove. However, continued close proximity to his chairman seems to have rubbed off on him a bit. Witness his recent comments that qualification for the Cup Final had vindicated his decision not to take over the manager’s role at Liverpool last summer. Except that according to Liverpool the only person ever offered the job was Brendan Rodgers. Official sources from Liverpool branded Whelan as a “comedian” over the whole affair, a word which, as I’ve pointed out, has the exact opposite meaning in Liverpool as it does in the rest of the world (not that they realise it up there). There’s a nice bit of what the journos like to refer (incorrectly) as irony over Whelan’s continued crowing as to how great his manager is given that he spent half the summer trying to offload him for large amounts of cash. Once Liverpool got fed up with Whelan’s arsing about the child slave labourer set about trying to tout him out to Spurs. His “I wouldn’t stand in his way if he wanted to manage Tottenham” speech was as subtle as a house brick. Spurs of course had their own ideas but it must be a sobering thought to the two men and a dog who follow Wigan that, had Whelan got his own way Martinez would have been long gone by now.
The other big Wigan news of late was the “McManaman affair”. Midfielder Callum McManaman made his first Premier League start against Newcastle and his “tackle” on Massaido Haidara was so bad that, had it occurred in the stands or on the streets he’d be in the dock on GBH charges. The FA – in their usual marvellous manner – decided that they couldn’t do anything about it though they rushed to fine a couple of Newcastle and Wigan backroom staff for rowing about it on the touchline. Nice sense of priorities there. Of course there is no subject on which Whelan doesn’t have a completely ignorant opinion and his defence of the tackle was breathtakingly disgusting, even by his low standards. You see managers getting fined stupid amounts for questioning poor referees yet Whelan continually eludes punishment for bringing the game into disrepute just about every time he opens his ignorant gob. Go, as our American cousins like to say, figure. In the meantime McManaman scored the second in their defeat of Millwall, a match that, had the FA done its job, would have been the third match of his three match ban. Ker-ching.
There’s been a shift in the preferred option in goal where Spaniard Joel Robles has taken over in recent matches from the Omani Ali Al Habsi. Spanish U21 international Robles is currently on the books of Athletico Madrid and arrived on loan in January. With a Cup Final in the offing the goalkeeping training sessions will be interesting over the next few weeks if nothing else. Al Habsi played in the semi-final whilst Robles (otherwise known as Blazquez) returned to the team for the league match at Man City.
Top scorer is Ivorian Arouna Kone. with ten goals from his 28 league appearances this season plus another couple in the Cup. Kone came in during the summer from Spanish side Levante where he was the subject of a bizarre transfer clause. He joined Levante on a loan deal from Seville that was to be made permanent at the end of the 2011/2012 season. Unless he scored “too many goals”. Seriously! Seville had a clause inserted in the loan deal that stated the player would have to return to them automatically should he score 18 or more. As the season came to its conclusion he was on 15, whereupon Levante found a convenient minor injury that kept him out of the side for the last three matches. The season ended and Kone became a Levante player. So they cashed in on him and sold him to Wigan for €3.5m. There are rumours that Liverpool put a similar clause in Fernando Torres’ transfer documents so that he has to return to Anfield when he’s scored a certain number of goals. He is expected back on Merseyside sometime during the 2022/23 season at his current rate of scoring.
Jordi Gomez is the second top scorer this season with 8 in all competitions. Now where Wigan are concerned, given the highly dubious nature of their chairman I look at their dealings with a fair degree of cynicism. So it’s with some suspicion that I look at the circumstances of Gomez’s transfer from Espanyol to the North West. Gomez had a highly successful spell on loan at Swansea when Martinez was manager. However, Martinez bemoaned the fact that he wouldn’t be able to afford to sign the player on a permanent deal. Martinez then left for Wigan where Gomez promptly became one of his first signings. Which prompts me to muse that, had Whelan already been in, cough, “unofficial” contact with Martinez, Martinez might not have tried too hard to sign the player for Swansea. Just a theory mind, but like much that Whelan is involved in it’s a bit suspicious.
And now to us. I’m not one to blow my own trumpet – at my age the consequences of some sort of strain don’t bear thinking about. However, I do think I ought to point out that my prediction for Wednesday night’s match not only went for a 2-2 draw, but also suggested that if we were winning 2-1 their equaliser would come courtesy of a dubious refereeing decision. I was feeling quite smug at my own perspicacity until some of the other inmates here at the Avram Grant Rest Home For The Bewildered pointed out that it’s hardly much of a prediction to suggest that Man Utd might benefit from rubbish refereeing. More a nailed on certainty.
It was a cracking match mind – in spite of the officials – and there were some awesome performances from us. Collins and Carroll were particularly impressive as was Diame, whose goal is likely to get my vote for Goal of the Season (unless anyone can improve on it in the next few weeks).
Team news is that there should be no further injury worries – Cole (J), Tomkins and McCartney will all be absent but that seems to be about it. The return to fitness of Mark Noble will give Mr Allardyce an interesting selection poser in midfield. In Nobes’ absence Gary O’Neil has performed admirably and it’d be a little bit harsh to see him benched.
Predictions for this one aren’t quite as easy as the league table would suggest. They have a historic habit of scraping themselves out of trouble at the death and, from what I saw of the highlights anyway, can consider themselves unlucky to have not got at least a point out of their visit to Manchester City in midweek. They have also been a bit of a bogey team in recent years. Having said that Carroll is in such form at the moment that he’s about as scary as Matron here at the Rest Home when she’s on the warpath – and trust me that’s a terrifying sight. Confidence will be high following the run of good results so I’ll look at us to carry on that form. Let’s put the Avram Rest Home Fund To Buy The Dog That Attends Wigan Matches With The Two Men A Tin Of Pedigree Chum (£2.50) on a 2-1 home win.
Enjoy the game!
When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Lost 1-4 (League Cup 3rd Round January 2013). Modibo Maiga’s early strike put a team mainly made up of kids and reserves (ok “Development Squad Players” if you must) 1-0 up. However, some awful defending let them in four times. “We couldn’t defend a fish supper” was Mr Allardyce’s memorable summary of the proceedings.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg. Last seen actually having a decent game for once in the New Year’s Day defeat of Norwich.
Danger Man:Arouna Kone. Top scorer, though if Levante put a similar mad clause in his transfer papers to the one they had from Seville he might have to miss a few!
Daft Fact Of The Week: This season’s FA Cup Final will be the first final since 1963 in which both managers will have the same first name (Roberto). 50 years ago it was Matt (Gilles of Leicester and Busby of Man Utd). NB despite popular myth, the 2007 Cup Final did not count as neither Mourinho nor Ferguson are actually officially called “Twat”.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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