This week I’ve interviewed Dan Farrimond from the brilliantly named Wigan fansite, Jesus Was A Wiganer. Dan has also interviewed me and probed into my mind for my thoughts on Sunday’s game, which you can find here.
How do you think Roberto Martinez has settled into the Wigan job?
Roberto has adapted to life in the Premier League very well – much better than I expected, in fact. He was kind of rushed in over the summer, though I get the feeling we’ve had our eye on him for a couple of seasons. There was, and still is, the possibility that he could totally bomb it, but fingers crossed we haven’t been too hasty in appointing him now rather than in a season or two’s time when he’s a bit more experienced.
What do you make of his signings? Who’s been the best and have there been any stinkers?
I’d hesitate to say there’ve been any really bad ones, but some haven’t had the chance to show what they can do as yet. A couple of Championship guys – Jason Scotland and Jordi Gomez – followed Roberto from Swansea in the summer, and you could say they haven’t exactly settled into life in the Prem thus far. It may just be a case of getting to know the ropes, and I know Roberto has a lot of faith in them, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
Hendry Thomas and Mohammad Diame have been excellent midfield generals for us so far, and are typical of the kind of passing game that Martinez is trying to bring to the club. Diame had a wonderful game against Fulham two weeks ago, and has probably been Roberto’s best signing, at least in my eyes.
Aside from the new signings, who have been your key players this season?
Hugo Rodallega has been excellent so far with five goals from twelve games – he’s the kind of guy who can create an opportunity out of almost nothing. He was brought in at the end of the January transfer window at the beginning of this year as a replacement for the departed Emile Heskey, and although he’s a different kind of attacker, he’s been a more than able successor.
I believe Maynor Figueroa, our Honduran left-back, has only missed one league game since joining a couple of seasons ago. Up until his injury about a month back, he’s been keeping Swedish international Erik Edman out of that position, so I suppose he’s been a quiet performer for us.
In fact, there are quite a few of those kinds of players that have really high pass completion rates but you don’t really notice it. I believe I read a statistic that said even our central defenders have been making up to 130 more successful passes per game than last season. That’s one for the OPTA anoraks out there. 😉
Your form is very erratic, beating Chelsea and Villa, but losing to Hull and Portsmouth. What are your thoughts on this?
We’ve struggled to find much consistency from game to game. I think this current Latics side feeds on confidence, and if they can bag the first goal it’s a huge boost for them and we often go on to get a result. Support’s been a lot to do with it as well – I don’t think we’ve lost at home since we played Man United in August.
Some of it’s down to tactics, I think. We haven’t really formulated a ‘Plan B’ outside of passing the ball around until the opposition defence break down. If we go 1-0 down, we often struggle to adapt.
Your season was rather disrupted in the last January transfer window, when you sold Palacios, Heskey and Taylor, while you lost Cattermole in the summer. Who have you missed the most?
If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said Cattermole, but now we’ve got Diame I think we’ve got that central midfield area sorted. I would say we most miss Heskey’s Premiership experience and ability to set up chances, which his natural replacement Jason Scotland has struggled to get to grips with for the most part.
Taylor was a straight swap for Charles N’Zogbia (remember the whole Newcastle ‘insomnia’ thing?) and I think we’ve got the better end of the stick with that deal. Not to say Taylor isn’t a decent player, it’s just he only ever seemed to score against one team – Newcastle. Ironic that he eventually went to play for them, eh?
The January sales hit our season hard, had we not lost Heskey and Palacios I daresay we might just have been fighting for that final European spot towards the back end of the campaign.
Is there anyone currently amongst the Wigan ranks that you expect that other Premier League clubs will want to buy?
I’ve heard on the grapevine that some Manchester United fans would favour a swap deal with Rodallega and Berbatov – but I reckon we should take that with not just a pinch, but a cellar of salt. I wouldn’t be surprised if any clubs came sniffing round for Hugo, though – maybe even Spurs – he’s got the potential to be a big hit in the Prem.
The press keep reporting that Steve Bruce won’t give up on Maynor Figueroa, but I think he’s pledged to play out his contract at Wigan. That’s not to say if Chelsea or Man City came knocking he wouldn’t consider it, but we’re hopeful of hanging onto him at least in the January transfer window.
I can tell you who nobody else wants – Paul Scharner. If you believe everything you read, he’s been trying to orchestrate a move to another Premier League teams for a good few seasons. Problem is, nobody is in the least bit interested in him! I guess he’s destined to play out his career at Little Wigan…
I’m a fan of Dave Whelan and thinks that he often talks a lot of sense, despite sometimes being a bit too outspoken at times. Is he a hero amongst the Wigan faithful, or are there mixed feelings about the man?
Whelan took over just before I started following Wigan in the mid to late 90s, so I haven’t really experienced any other chairmen to compare. I do think, however, that his business sense is second to none and he has a ruthless streak about him – at one point it seemed we were getting a new manager in every couple of months until we found one that could take us to the next level.
I think Whelan, or ‘Big Dave’, is affectionately regarded as the rambling old grandad of the club. He loves the media spotlight and can’t resist sticking his nose into things, which some supporters like and others just about tolerate because of what he’s done for Wigan, not just as a club but as a town too.
You do get the odd moaner – I think they must be at every club – that complains about how it was better before he took over and we should have never left Springfield Park and all that. I think there comes a time for everything, and Whelan really brought about a change in attitudes to raise us out of the small-time and into the Prem. Personally, I’ll miss him when he’s gone – it really won’t be the same without him.
Wigan was always thought of as a rugby town. Has this changed since Athletic have been in the Premier League?
Outside of the North West, if you ask a young person about Wigan, they’ll tell you it’s a Premier League football team. In Wigan, it’s still very much divided between the football and the rugby men. You’ve got the odd fan that goes to both games but I think generally you’re in one camp or the other, which is rather strange really, considering we’re talking about two different sports.
Maybe a lot of it depends upon success. There was a changing of the guard that began around the turn of the century when the Warriors started to go a bit downhill whilst the Latics were climbing through the divisions. Perhaps if the football team got relegated or the rugby team won the Super League, things would change again. You know how your casual sport fan is, always following the trends.
I’d like to think we’ve built up a core of around 10,000 ‘proper’ fans now, which is a bit of an improvement from the 1,000 of 15 years ago.
I interviewed a Preston blogger earlier on in the season, who told me that the town was full of Liverpool and Manchester United supporters, and even plastic Arsenal and Chelsea fans. Is this the case in Wigan?
A couple of seasons ago, a few of us went to watch the Champions League final in a local pub along with one of my dad’s mates, who’s a Chelsea fan. You wouldn’t believe the amount of Man United fans in there – it was literally heaving and we had to leave at half time for (perhaps) obvious reasons. I dread to think what would have happened had we stayed to the end, maybe I would not have lived to tell the tale.
Wigan’s recent success has redressed the balance a bit for Latics fans, though I would say the Liverpool and Man U fans still outweigh the Wigan supporters by a margin. It differs from area to area, there are parts of Wigan where you wouldn’t see a red shirt for days, but in general it’s taking time to win over the floating voters.
Yes, there are Arsenal and Chelsea fans in these parts, but there are also Newcastle, Leeds and West Ham supporters. I think it’s the same wherever you go – football’s a national brand these days.
Where do you think Wigan will finish this season?
That’s a tough question – it depends on how well the players settle in to this continental style Martinez has us playing. If we achieve some sort of consistency, expect 10th -14th to be a reasonable prediction. If not, we’re going to be right down there mixing it with the likes of Stoke and Burnley come May.
What are your thoughts on Tottenham’s season thus far? What do you think we’ll achieve?
Very impressed. What’s pleasing is that the bulk of the squad Harry’s worked to build up is British, and in particular there is some good young English talent coming through. I really like Aaron Lennon and think he’ll be playing, perhaps even starting for England at the World Cup. A lot will depend on his performances between now and May, I feel.
Tom Huddlestone can’t really break into the national team because of the wealth of top quality English midfielders, but I have my suspicions he’ll be right in there a few years down the line.
There’s certainly a fourth Champions League spot up for grabs and it could well be Tottenham that grab it, though I expect it to be a tough fight with the likes of Man City and Liverpool also challenging. If Keane and Defoe keep sticking them away, though, you’re in with more than a fighting chance.
Which of our players do you think most represents a threat to Wigan at the weekend?
Jermain Defoe is a threat to everyone and will be a major handful for Wigan on Sunday. Robbie Keane could also cause problems, though after playing his heart out and receiving such a setback on Wednesday night I think it’ll be tough for him to concentrate fully on the whole 90 minutes. There’s always Peter Crouch, I suppose…
There are potential threats all over the field – Tottenham look a good, all-round team this season, in fact ever since Redknapp took over you haven’t looked back.
Finally, what do you think the score will be on Sunday? Any ideas as to why this match is being played on the sabbath?
I still can’t adjust to all these matches on a Sunday or Monday, it feels weird. I’m a bit less bothered if we’re on the telly, but I’d prefer for them to keep the football on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
It’s been international week so I suppose with our South American contingent Wigan would have been the ones to have this game moved, which is unusual as it’s normally the opposing teams that make such requests.
I can’t really see Wigan making much headway this weekend, a draw would definitely be a positive result. Realistically, I can see us losing 2-0 or 3-0 – maybe we’ll pinch a goal but I’m not too hopeful. Still, you never know which Latics side will turn up – the one that beat Villa 2-0 or the one that got hammered 4-0 by Portsmouth.
1-1 would be excellent for us.
Big thanks to Dan for agreeing to be interviewed for this tawdry publication. Remember to check out the corresponding interview here.