Wigan Athletic v West Ham United

It's time for Preview Percy's look at this weekend's FA Cup 4th round visit to Wigan Athletic. Contents: Luncheon meat, stilton and pies. And maybe some football....

Next up we traipse up to the frozen north for the fourth round of the FA Cup where, because we get drawn at home in the FA Cup with about the same regularity as Halley's Comet makes an appearance, we will be hosted by honest (yeah, right) Dave Whelan's Wigan Athletic. Kick off is 3pm.

No engineering works between London and Wigan (though if you are staying in Blackpool it's all replacement buses up that way). That's the West Coast Main Line of course. An obvious point to make but I thought I'd remind you in case you took your travel info from the handy little email they send out in which they seem convinced that they are served by the East Coast main line. Arse & Elbow leap to mind. Talking of which if you are coming into Liverpool Street en route to Euston there's the usual weekend messing about. Check before you travel. As ever.

So Wigan then. Having been relegated from the Championship last season (tee hee) they are toddling along quite nicely in what I will call Division 3 until my dying days. With 60 points and a +40 goal difference from the 27 played so far they are 5 points clear of second place Blackburn who usurped last week's opponents Shrewsbury for that spot on goal difference.

Their route to the 4th round started with a 2-1 win over Crawley, This was followed by a 3-2 home replay win over AFC Fylde after a 1-1 draw at their place. In fact Wigan came within 10 minutes of exiting at that stage being 2-1 down until a late Grigg brace saw them through to a third round tie with Bournemouth. The Cherries spluttered to a 2-2 draw courtesy of a late equaliser but didn't look interested in the replay in which they went down 3-0 up in the Whelandrome.

We all know of course about their obnoxious owner. In his days as owner of the JJB Sports chain he was known to have sourced clothing from overseas manufacturers prone to using child labour. The chain was subsequently prosecuted for illegal price fixing. He sold the chain in 2007, part of the sale coming under Stock Exchange scrutiny after it broke covenants prohibiting Honest Dave from making further disposals from the minority shareholding he still held.

As owner of Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club, he was on duty when there were breaches of the Rugby League salary cap, and, as owner of Orrell he presided over the demise of a once proud top-flight Rugby Union club, nicking their ground and clubhouse and handing it to the Rugby League club. More recently he found himself ?50,000 lighter of wallet following comments made about Jewish people and the Chinese that were pure Bernard Manning. Oh and, as he has mentioned in every interview he has ever given, ever, he once broke his leg in a Cup Final when he played for Blackburn. Not that he likes to talk about it. Although Whelan and family still own the club Whelan himself has taken a step away from the day to day running of the club, leaving the Chairmanship to his grandson David Sharpe.

Nearer the pitch they are managed by Paul Cook who is neither the drummer with the talent-free zone that were the Sex Pistos nor the drummer with the infinitely better band IQ. Cook came in during the summer having guided Pompey last season to what I will call the Division 4 title until my dying days. His arrival at Wigan marked a return for Cook to what was the ceremonial county of Lancashire, with 7 of the 11 clubs he represented as a player being based in that Lancashire/Cheshire general area (we can only presume that his spells with Wolves, Coventry and, in particular, Norwich were the result of a faulty satnav or something). Their league position would suggest that the appointment has paid dividends.

One of their close-season signings was Redbridge-born defender Terrell Thomas. According to the work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises's stats he made no appearances for his previous club Charlton and has barely featured for Wigan since his arrival, having spent a short period at Sutton United on loan. "So why mention him?" I hear you ask. Well I surely can't be the only person of a certain age who has a mental image of a well-spoken chap with a gap-toothed grin berating a referee by calling him "an absolute shower?" (yes you are - ed).

Slightly more familiar might be the appearance of former Reading and Leeds striker Noel Hunt. He followed Cook north from Pompey though he's another not to play an awful lot this season. Apart from one start in the Football League Trophy Type Thing all of his 12 appearances have come from the bench.

They picked up a couple of players in the current window. Jamie Walker came in from Hearts for a reported ?300k according to the work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises. He's yet to make an appearance as he arrived complete with knee injury. However, he has returned to training so he may make his belated debut at some stage of the proceedings. He picked up a two-match ban last season for simulation in a match against Celtic so he will fit in well in the North West which is the spiritual home of "simulation".

The other signing was striker James Vaughan who has ditched the sinking ship that is Sunderland for a fee also believed to be in the region of ?300,000. "It was an easy decision to leave Sunderland" he was quoted as saying as the ink dried which, as a statement of the bleedin' obvious, was right up there with Emperor Hirohito's comment that the war situation had developed in a manner "not necessarily to Japan's advantage" shortly after Hiroshima had undergone a severe spot of urban land clearance. He scored just two in 25 on Wearside which probably represented a 100% chance conversion rate.

They also have a midfielder with the unlikely but genuine name of Max Power. Power was - according to the always reliable and in no way untrustworthy Wikipedia - named after his parent's pet Labrador and not, as one might have thought, a setting on his Mum's hairdryer. It is alleged that he ran the unlicensed Mars Bar racket at school when chocolate was banned by the headmaster but again I'd take that with industrial quantities of sodium chloride were it not for my blood pressure already having a comma in it.

Top scorer is Will Grigg who could, by the time his career ends, become the first footballer better known for a really irritating song than for his actual football career. No offence Northern Ireland but it's almost worth not having you at the World Cup if it means we are spared that one.

And so to this week's look at the wacky world of Association Football. There was a big outpouring of sympathy for Everton defender James McCarthy following the horrific leg break he suffered last week. Strangely there was little sympathy from this part of the world. Regular readers will be aware of this column's strict rule on not wishing injury on any player irrespective of how much it is perceived that it might be deserved. However, that doesn't mean one has to express sympathy for a player who has in the past deliberately sought to injure a fellow professional. So this column's official stance on the injury is "how sad, never mind". And if an Everton supporter wants to take issue with that attitude I would point them in the general direction of their forums which contained such lovely comments as "I hope he breaks Payet's leg next time". Lovely.

Then there was the long drawn out saga of the Sanchez transfer to Man United after which the player declared himself happy to be joining the "biggest club in the world". Which was odd given that, as things stand, he hasn't even joined the biggest club in that city. Unless someone hasn't told him where he is going of course. Wouldn't be the first time.

The League Cup Final will be played between Man City and Arsenal. That came after the sponsors insisted that there be a draw for the final like there had been for every other round. Bereft of anyone sensible willing to be involved, the draw ended up with a minor cast member from Mrs Brown's Boys and, even less impressively, Piers Morgan, who between them somehow managed to come up with a final between Melchester Rovers and a tin of luncheon meat. Morgan then went on to deliver a 40 minute speech on how Wenger should be sacked for not making the final despite winning the semi before I woke up vowing never to eat stilton that close to bedtime again.

And so to us. For about 20-25 minutes or so last week we played some cracking stuff. As the chap who sits next to me said at the time "what have you done with West Ham? But don't bring them back!" We finished the half a bit on the back foot - not penned in as such but simply defending a bit deep for my liking. Going 1-0 behind was still a surprise though. As was equalising so quickly. Good poacher's effort from Chicharita there. Onwards and upwards one might think. Except for one thing. Yup the already fairly lengthy injury list has got longer.

Let's run through the absentees then shall we?:

1) Andy Carroll - out. It turns out that his ankle injury had nothing to do with Chelsea's "interest" in the player. Estimated return sometime in April. For a bit.

2) Marko Arnautovic - out. He has caught the hamstring epidemic doing the rounds. Also just as Chelsea apparently express an "interest". Estimated return: Liverpool away. We'll see.

3) Michail Antonio - Out. His troublesome groin is apparently healing and there has been some light training done but Wigan is likely to be too soon. Estimated return: Brighton away - unless we do our usual trick of pumping him full of Nurofen and knacker him for the rest of the season.

4) Jose Fonte - Out. His serious ankle injury is nearly there but, like Antonio this is probably a few days too early. Estimated return Palace at home (Unless again there's any Nurofen left over from Antonio).

5) Manuel Lanzini - Out Another hamstring. Estimated return - God knows.

6) Edmilson Fernandes - Out. Another ankle problem that is looking at surgery apparently. Estimated return - see previous comments on Halley's Comet.

7) Diafra Sakho - Out. He's getting his money's worth out of that Cyst on his knee. In the transfer window. Coincidentally. Of course. Estimated return: either never or Brighton away depending on whether he is still with the club at 11:00:00:01 (I knew those hundredths of a second on the Sky clock would come in useful one day).

8) Winston Reid - Out. Another groin strain. Estimated return: Palace at home unless Antonio and Fonte decide to share the Nurofen around a bit

So that's 8 definitely out. Then you have the others:

9) Aaron Cresswell 75% chance of being available. He only had cramp in the Bournemouth game so should be ok.

10) Andre Ayew 50% chance of being available. If is actually still a West Ham employee come kick-off time.

On the bright side Byram is at least back in the fold having survived the Shrewsbury match but one in and (possibly) ten out doesn't seem that much of a bargain to me. So we will have to rely on the kids again. Hart will come in for Adrian presumably and then it's a case of how many of the few first XI players we have left who aren't in the treatment room that Mr Moyes actually wants to risk.

Of course the big news at time of writing is that we have signed a player. No really we have. Joao Mario has not exactly been enjoying time at Inter so we have him until the end of the season at least. Hurrah. He seems to prefer the soubriquet "Mario" according to the work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises. Assuming the ink dried on the paperwork in time I'd give him his debut here - we might as well get some use out of him before he catches the hamstring bug.

Prediction. Well I'm not too fond of Wigan. Mainly because of its hypocritical criminal of an owner but their fans don't exactly help themselves either. They had a massive 4,702 in attendance for their replay against Bournemouth. Given that we are likely to bring something near that on our own you would think that they would have better things to do than to complain about the price increase from the previous round. You see tickets for this one are ?15 a pop as opposed to a tenner for Bournemouth. However, I'm afraid that the injury list and the way we performed in the last round has returned me to my previous - and more usual - pessimistic mode. Especially as I'm far from convinced that Mr Moyes has an awful lot of time at the moment for what we are legally obliged to refer to as "The Oldest Cup Competition In The World".

So, with the usual proviso that I hope I'm wrong I will be placing the ?2.50 that I was going to pay for half a poor Wigan supporter to attend the game (given that a fiver seems to make so much difference) on a home win say 2-1 to them Mr Winstone.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at their place: Lost 2-1 (Premier League October 2012)

Goals from Ramis and McArthur were enough for the home side, a late Tomkins header proving to be little consolation. We beat them 2-0 in the return fixture the following April though. They went on to win the Cup. However, anyone who loses 3-2 at home to Sunderland probably deserves relegation and so it proved with Wigan finishing three points and a lot of goal difference behind the Wearsiders to end up in the final relegation slot. They went down with Reading, which was nice.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

A relatively recent addition to the Select Group Mafia. Has a bit of history with Mr Moyes who he sent to the stand for swearing when he missed a clear cut penalty shout a few years ago when the gaffer was discovering just how bad Sunderland were. Post-match, when asked what Chris Kavanagh had said to him, Moyes replied "who is Chris Kavanagh?"

Danger Man: Will Grigg

They gave the bloke who came up with the idea for that bloody song a season ticket. For Wigan. Which I suppose is a type of punishment, though the reintroduction of the death penalty was also under consideration I believe.

Percy's Poser:

Last week we asked you what first did Charles Rolls of "no that's Royce over there" fame achieve in Bournemouth in July 1910. Congratulations to Mrs Hortensia Wolstencroft of Wendens Ambo who informed us that poor old Mr Rolls became the first Briton to perish in powered aeronautical accident when the tail of his Wright Flyer fell off during a display shortly after the Ryanair stewardess quoted him ?50 for a packet of dry-roasted peanuts. Well done Hortensia!

For this week's poser we would remind you that Wigan is the home of the World Pie Eating Championships. Our question is therefore this: What major rule change was introduced to the world of competitive pie eating in 2006. First correct answer out of the digital hat wins a pie. Probably.

Good luck everybody!

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