When Wigan first joined the Premier League, I remember being very fond of them. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they were my second team but I looked out for their results and wanted them to do well, given that they were underdogs and they were local. I suppose it was assumed they would go straight back down and so you felt a bit sorry for them. But they surprised everyone by finishing 10th in their first season. Then came the dreaded second season but Wigan escaped the drop on goal difference alone. Since then, they’ve held their own, more or less stayed away from the bottom three and have picked up some great results along the way.
I don’t have the same soft spot for Wigan that I did. Apparently they don’t need my positive thoughts to keep them up. But I am still keen on them because, so far, they’ve been a guaranteed three points. Since their promotion in 2005, we have played them on 11 occasions (including the League Cup final) and we have won 11 times, and in 5 of those games, have put at least 4 goals past them. Records are there to be broken though and whilst Wigan lost 5-0 home and away against us last season, with results against Chelsea and Arsenal, we shouldn’t underestimate their ability to get over their mental block which sees them lose to us every season.
Alan Moore, from Wigan blog Not A Patch On, has taken some time to discuss with me his feelings on Wigan last season, his admiration for the manager and his hopes for next season, amongst other things. Have a read through his About page if you have time.
Scott the Red: Were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Alan Moore: The performances became the biggest cliche of the Premier League. A martian could have landed and told you within 5 minutes that Latic’s were having an inconsistent season. Who wouldn’t be happy with victories against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal? Especially as at least two of them saw Latics as the best team on the pitch. The 9-1 at Spurs was the low point of many of our newer fans Latics careers, but really it was just one of those days, they could play that game another 10 times and wouldn’t get the same result, the game at Old Trafford was much more disappointing as it’s hard seeing your team just not turn up.
Overall, I’m happy though, it looks like we’re at the start of a positive experiment to rebuild the club back to something like it used to be, rather than a plastic, soul-less Sky endorsed clone. The manager was key to that, it’s what he seems to want and he has a real affinity for the club. If he can only get half way there… well anything is better than being Stoke, isn’t it?
STR: Here, here. I fucking hate Stoke. So, what are your aspirations for this season?
AM: We’re still at the stage where we start each season looking to finish 17th, that disappoints a lot of our fans, but it’s actually what 3/4 of the division do. Hope for a good start and see if you can build on it. Unfortunately for Latics, a good start is likely to see the team ripped apart in January. That’s if we can keep it together until we get past the end of August. Keeping Rodallega and N’Zogbia for the whole nine months
might actually get us in the top half of the table and give them and a few others the idea that there might actually be something worth sticking around for. In reality keeping them that long means we should have a fair bit to spend on both transfers and wages next summer.
In short, to stop up and have some incremental growth rather than the boom and bust of the last few seasons.
STR: You’ve mentioned Rodallega and N’Zogbia above, but who are you expecting to be your most important player this season?
AM: We’ll be going into the season with practically a new back four and with us conceding roughly a million goals last term defending is going to be key for us, but last year’s deficiencies were as much to do with the whole team’s defending and a lot will come down to how well Mohamed Diame and James McCarthy hold the team together. Those two really came on over the second half of last season and continued development will see them grow into a very special pairing and very key to Bobby (Martinez)’s tactics.
STR: You speak well of Martinez, so I assume you rate him highly and see him as the man to take your club forward?
AM: This is a funny one, because I (and many others) would be prepared to take a step backwards with this manager if it made the club stronger. We genuinely believe that Bobby wants the best for the club and has a plan that extends beyond the next six to twelve months. When you’ve been suffering from short term-ism for as long as we have, the mere hint of a three year plan is enough to get us giddy.
STR: Speaking of giddy fans, what’s your favourite chant you’ve heard sung at your ground?
AM: I’m guessing you heard them all six months before hand anyway. Our fans are mostly a covers band but they do deserve credit for the “we won it (the Auto Windscreens Trophy) two times” given to the Scousers in response to their “five times” crowing.
STR: I like it. We have a similar response. But where do you think we will finish this season?
AM: I’m leaving all predictions until the 25 man squads are named, but I do think that we’ll be looking at a United/Chelsea top two again, I might just be that I’m City adverse, but I can’t see them becoming real contenders for at least another season yet.
STR: City adverse? It gets better and better. So, if you could have any two players from United’s current squad playing for you, who would they be?
AM: There are very few players that frighten me every time they get the ball, but Wayne Rooney is definitely one of them, it’s just one of those where it looks like something’s going to happen every time he gets near the ball. I reckon he could fit into Latics game plan as well as would a Scholes or Giggs in their prime (or right now for that matter), but my second choice would be neither of those and I reckon we could really do with a monster like Vidic in our backline. If he could manage to not get sent off every other week playing for a “lesser” club.
STR: Yeh he did well to escape a red card against your lot last season! Anyway, what are your thoughts on United’s debt?
AM: I’m totally disgusted that something like that could be allowed to happen. I’m strongly of the view that football clubs need to keep some kind of contact with their soul and that just about broke that last threads that were stopping United becoming all about big business with a football team at the middle of it. Financially, I’m no expert but I’d guess that the club would have no problem servicing the debt, but that’s hardly the point. In your position I’d be scared of the possibility of the Glazier’s buggering off and leaving the debt with the club, but surely no-one could be that cynical, could they?
STR: We have no bloody idea what they’re capable of. But don’t get me started. What is your favourite game your club have played against United?
AM: Honesty, I don’t have one. Pushed I’d probably go with the the 2-1 defeat shortly after the Carling Cup Final in 2006. We lost to a last minute Chimbonda own goal but the game was a massive contrast from the one in Cardiff and Latics could (should?) have done better after giving you a really good, hard game. It was also the game where Arjan De Zeeuw rattled Ronaldo after about five minutes, presumably as reward for his showboating at Cardiff. Rumour has it that Gary Neville put a pint in front of the Dutchman after the game along with a pat on the back and something along the lines of “I’d have done the same”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the bollocking that Neville gave Ronaldo in the final after he’d played a bit of keepy uppy in open play.
STR: I remember that game well. You really gave us a good going over in the first half, which obviously came as some surprise considering the result in the final the week before! It wouldn’t surprise me if your story about Neville was true and all. So anyway, not to be a total cock, but we do tend to beat your lot at least 4-0. Which is the worst game your club have played against United?
AM: It”s a toss up between Cardiff and last season’s away game. I suppose the expectancy of a cup final throws it the way of Cardiff, to have got there and then looked so far away from being competitive was a massive disappointment, last season we just didn’t turn up , at Cardiff it looked like it hurt the players as much as it hurt the fans.
STR: Not to be patronising, but at least you have players that care. There are lots of Premiership fans who would envy you for that! I, for one, don’t think anywhere near enough credit goes to Wigan for repeatedly avoiding the drop and generally holding their own in the top flight. How do you feel about Wigan’s 5 years in the Premiership?
A: Mixed to be honest. We learned after a few games, when Boro turned up at the JJB playing for a draw, that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The pressure is immense and the football suffers for it. It’s alright in the sunny world of Sky’s “Super Sundays” but away from the spotlight it’s more bump and grind than it is anything else. Of course it’s wonderful seeing all these top players turning out against your team week in week out and it’s great that we’re still sticking two fingers up at the establishment (who you get the impression would prefer to have have to deal with piddling
clubs like ours) but the over riding feeling is one of being stuck in a cul-de-sac. There’s no real way forward (as in we’re not ever going to win the league) and there’s no way back. You can’t wish to go down because your only ambition then would be to come back up and yet you can’t help but feel things were a lot better when we were in the lower divisions.
For instance the two seasons we spent in the second tier top any that we’ve had in this division, although there have been moments since 2005 that you wouldn’t swap for the world.
STR: I suppose one of the perks of being in the top division is you get better players wearing your shirt. The downside being that if they’re really good, another club will take them off your hands, like we did with Antonio Valencia. He had a great season for us but did you anticipate him being as good as he has been for a top team?
A: No, I laughed when he was linked with United and Real. I suppose part of that is disbelief that Latics were capable of picking up a player capable of playing at that level, but more because I’d seen his deficiencies game by game. His work rate was unquestionable, and he could beat a man but generally he ended up doing it two or three times because his final ball wasn’t good enough. That said, I’d have loved to see him playing in the system that we are now. N’Zogbia down one side and Valencia down the other would have been really interesting.
STR: Your chairman is a big fan of Sir Alex Ferguson. Do you share his viewpoint?
A: People can say what they want about him as a person, he’s not quite marmite but he’s getting there, but his record as a manger is unquestionable. Our chairman is great for a quote, but when you analyse them he does one of two things. It’s either a rant best kept for your mates down the pub or he’s stating the bleeding obvious. With SAF it’s the latter, he might have been blessed with that golden generation of United youth but I can’t think of a decision that he’s made that’s remained questionable for more than a few months (Japp Stam maybe). He’s always worked better with a good number two, but despite losing Brian Kidd and Steve McClaren, he’s kept things going. A genius? Maybe not, but he certainly knows what he’s talking about.
STR: Indeed. Cheers fella and best of luck for the season.