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Wigan Athletic v West Ham United - Match Preview

Filed: Friday, 13th May 2011
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy has had a fun week. We’d love to tell you all about it but the members of the girl group and the person who supplied the equipment involved have all clubbed together to get a super-injunction so we’ll never know the real truth behind the smile on his face. Or how he found the energy to come up with this, his penultimate preview of the season.....

And so the season lurches its way towards its conclusion with a trip up the M6 for a 4pm kick-off this Sunday against Wigan in a match that may finally settle things once and for all.

Our opponents are right in the mix with us, though of the teams in the bottom four or five they probably have the best of the recent form having won one (3-1 at Blackpool) drawn three (0-0 at home to Spurs, 1-1 at home to Everton and, most recently 1-1 at Villa) and lost two (1-0 at Chelsea and 4-2 at Sunderland). Whilst this is hardly the most scintillating of form it’s still better than ours, though it has still left them second from bottom on 36 points, three points clear from ourselves, a place behind Blackpool on goal difference and one point shy of Wolves who occupy the escape pod at the moment. Their home form over the last six has seen them win two (a 4-3 defeat of Blackburn and a 2-1 beating of Birmingham), draw two the aforementioned draws with Spurs and Everton)and lose two (1-2 to Villa and 0-4 to Man Utd). So much for the stats.

In goal they will have Ali Al Habsi. The Omani international has been preferred all season to the perennially injury-jinxed Chris Kirkland and is capable of both fine goalkeeping and inexplicable errors. He had a decent game of it at our place earlier in the season but has, undoubtedly, cost Wigan points on occasion this season. Knowing our luck the stopper, who is on loan from Bolton, will choose this weekend to have one of his better days.

Charles N’Zogbia is one to watch. The midfielder must be regretting his choice of destination after leaving Newcastle following “Insomniagate” and, with about a year left on his current deal it would be a major surprise if he is seen performing in front of all those empty seats next season – especially since Juventus are believed to have been sniffing round. He’s been chipping in with important goals of late and, with better clubs keeping an eye on him, will be looking to impress.

Also in midfield they have been playing Mohammed Diame, the Frenchman they signed from Rayo Vallecano a few seasons ago. Diame endeared himself to the local population earlier this year by describing Wigan (the town) as “crappy” and being less than complimentary about the town’s women. And they say footballers are dim! Diame is the one doubt in the Wigan squad for the weekend. He missed the Villa game as a result of a foot/ankle injury sustained against Everton and not, as you may have thought, in a vain attempt to remove the appendage from his mouth. He’s rated no better than 50/50 to start.

Also in midfield is likely to be Tom Cleverley. The 21 year-old is currently on loan from Man Utd and scored his first of his four goals thus far for Wigan as the consolation in our 3-1 win at the Boleyn last November. Cleverley has spent the bulk of his professional career away from Old Trafford, working his way up the pyramid with spells in League 1 (that’s division 3 to right-thinking people) at Leicester, the “Championship” (Division 2 etc..) with Watford and now the Premiership with Wigan. His initial loan spell expired in January but Fergie decided that the player would be better served getting game time under his belt and the loan period was extended.

Up front they will have Colombian Hugo Rodallega who, with the 21 league goals he has gleaned over the past 3 seasons, is their all-time top flight top scorer (if you see what I mean). As we enter the pre-transfer window speculation period he has been linked with both Villa and Sevilla – let’s hope if he moves that he checks the spelling on the contract carefully as the East of Birmingham isn’t exactly noted for its picturesque orange groves and pleasant Mediterranean climate, though I suppose it does have its fair share of barbers. Rodillega’s tally for this season is 8 which, though less than prolific, maybe suggests that better would come with better service.

Of course we can’t let a look at Wigan pass without some mention of the man who bankrolls the whole shebang, Dave Whelan. There was a rather amusing programme on the box the other night in which the problems with football were looked at. It was notable for the way that nobody involved seemed to have any sort of self-awareness. For example, getting “Lord” Sugar to conduct the investigation into the whole thing without once getting him to acknowledge his integral –and legally dubious- role in handing the game over to Sky, making himself a mint flogging satellite dishes in the process, seemed strange. Similarly, letting the aforementioned “Lordship” allow Harry Redknapp get away with his innocent-sounding “I have nothing to do with player finances” speech without at least reminding him that it wasn’t always thus seemed equally lenient.

However, since the programme's producers spurned the opportunity to draft in Steven Gerrard to lecture us all on how diving is ruining the game, top prize for keeping a straight face whilst getting away with barefaced hypocrisy had to go to our old mate Dave, who spouted long and hard into the night on the subject of exorbitant player salaries. I suppose if you are going to interview someone on the subject of salary caps, getting someone with so much experience of illegally getting round them in other sports is a good idea, though I’d dearly loved a proper interviewer to have asked Dave something a little more probing than “would you like dessert?”, which was just about the hardest question Sugar asked of his fellow crook over the lunch table.

Ok let’s look at us. If I must. Injury news is that Scott Parker looks like playing some part in the proceedings, as long as he doesn’t strain anything carrying all the awards he’s been given this season. Upson’s dead leg is no longer dead apparently and he should also be available, which leaves the long termers Noble (groin) O’Neill (horrific ankle) and Dyer (dandruff probably) as the ones to miss out. The return of Jack Collison last week was a welcome sight, though I’d be looking at him to start from the bench again this time round.

The scene is pretty clear. Anything other than a win will probably see relegation confirmed. Win, and our whole painful season probably drags its sorry carcass into a final week. There are legitimately viable scenarios by which we can stay up winning our last two – particularly if Man Utd thrash Blackburn in celebratory style as they take the title. Unfortunately it’s the winning two on the trot side of the equation that I’m having problems with at the moment - especially after the total lack of creativity we showed against Blackburn last weekend. Parker’s return will be a huge psychological boost I suppose and, with a point being about as much use to Wigan as it is to us, we will at least be facing a team with a bit more ambition than shown by last week’s opponents. It’s just that – and I hope I’m wrong – I can’t see us taking advantage of any of the few plus points we have at the moment.

Prediction, well if we get a really early goal, and go for another rather than sitting back on it saying “job done” as has been the case all too often in the past, then we could win but as it happens I reckon a draw is more likely – possibly goalless but more likely 1-1 as we drift slowly into unconsciousness and relegation.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 0-1 A poor game from which we deserved a point with Diamante going close several times to equalising Rodallega’s tap-in after Green had saved.

Danger man: You know, I’ve decided that I’m not going to name one this week. They always score against us when I do so, in a vain attempt to influence the Gods of football I’ll say “no-one” and see what happens.

Referee: Mike Dean. Note to those listening to Lord Triesman. If you want to investigate corruption in football, could you spend a few minutes looking at how Man Utd were able to arrange it so that they avoided this idiot on all but two occasions this season, whilst we have now been lumbered six times. He has already refereed matches this week on Tuesday and Thursday. So not only do we get an arrogant pompous fool who likes nothing more than making himself the centre of attention, we get him when he’s half knackered as well. Thanks a bunch.

Daft fact of the week: On the tenth anniversary of the passing of Douglas Adams I reach for the marvellous Meaning Of Liff (co-written with John Lloyd) which carries the following definition:

If, when talking to someone you know has only one leg, you're trying to treat then perfectly casually and normally, but find to your horror that your conversion is liberally studded with references to (a) Long John Silver, (b) Hopalong Cassidy, (c) The Hockey Cokey, (d) 'putting your foot in it', (e) 'the second leg of the League Cup Semi-Final', you are said to have committed a wigan.

The word is derived from the fact that sub-editors at ITN used to manage to mention the name of either the town Wigan, or Lord Wigg, in every fourth script that Reginald Bosanquet was given to read.

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.

Your Comments

by g portugal
04:51PM 14th May 2011
''I don't think it's beyond our reach to beat Wigan but unfortunately I cannot see Birmingham losing at home to Fulham. I hope I'm wrong but I would be shocked to see Birmingham fail to get a draw.''

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