From 'friendly' local banter to the wit and wisdom of Stuart Hall. Here are seven predictions for Bolton Wanderers Vs Wigan Athletic. Just don't mention pies.
I am truly blessed to be in a position where I am able to write about the prominent Premier League fixture of the weekend. A game that will have Ian Ayre (the Liverpool Managing Director for the uninitiated) eating his arrogant words. A spectacle of such magnitude that it will entice viewers from all four corners of the globe. A classic-in-waiting, destined for first game status on ‘Match Of The Day’. Ladies, Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, I am proud to present you with a preview of Wigan Athletic vs Bolton Wanderers.
Ok, it will be nigh on impossible to carry on that facetious tone throughout this article. Though I could do if I so desire – it’s not as though I’m not expecting this to pull in many casual readers. A single comment? A solitary Facebook ‘like’ indicator? I’d be happy with either. My prediction skills suggest that a full-on review will be as popular here as dipping one’s d*** in Dettol so, instead, I’ll stick my head above the parapet and suggest 7 things certain to happen during this fixture.
1. Ali Al Habsi will play a blinder.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – we shouldn’t have sold him: especially for such a paltry amount. Jussi is well and truly ensconced in the twilight of his career and, though I steadfastly refuse to dismiss Adam Bogdan’s long-term prospects as a result of his display against Chelsea, I’ve always said that Al Habsi is a supremely talented keeper and should have been a cast iron certainty to step into Jussi’s boots when he finally calls it a day. Bogdan’s detractors should gain a little perspective here. He looks a more than capable goalie and ostracising him as a result of one display is idiotic. It’s a shame that Jussi will seemingly return for this fixture, as it is precisely the type of game in which Bogdan could redeem himself. Instead, he’ll take his place on the bench and watch Al Habsi make a string of top drawer saves, thereby proving that the decision to sell him could well be the biggest blip to date on Owen Coyle’s spell as manager.
2. There will be some friendly bonhomie between the fans.
What else do you expect? It’s a local derby (some 7-8 miles between both grounds) and, whilst lacking sophistication, depth and pathos, the chants will demonstrate the *ahem* love and kinship that is felt between these close-knit cousins. I have to be very careful what I say here (despite living close to The Reebok, I actually work in Wigan) but the old ‘Your Mum’s your Dad…’ ditty will certainly be aired. Perhaps not worthy of finding it’s way into a ‘QI’ script but mildly amusing nonetheless.
3. Owen Coyle will tinker with his line-up.
He has to. The quality of the opposition cannot be used as a sustainable excuse for poor performance – some of the individual displays of late have been shocking. Coyle simply has to make changes to some degree. I won’t speculate within this article on what he could potentially do (it will double the length), though this is potentially the most crucial choice of starting XI since he joined the club.
I have to be very careful what I say here (despite living close to The Reebok, I actually work in Wigan) but the old ‘Your Mum’s your Dad…’ ditty will certainly be aired.
4. Some wit-infused media gobs**** will mention pies.
And it will probably be Garth Crooks. It’s obvious, it’s pointless and it’s about as funny as being locked overnight in a supermarket freezer with Paddy McGuinness. So don’t do it.
5. Wigan will take another step to confirming that their squad is weaker than last season.
How can any team outside of the top 5 or 6 lose players of the quality of Tom Cleverly and Charles N’Zogbia, choose to replace them on a budget and expect to be safe? Don’t get me wrong; I’d love Wigan Athletic to stay up. In a North-western version of regionalised xenophobia, I want to see as many clubs from the region as possible in the Premier League. But issues such as these tend to form a simple equation these days. Selling quality and buying quality replacements = less risk. Wigan haven’t followed that blueprint and I really fear for them. Too much reliance on Rodallega (is he still injured? Fingers crossed…), too much weight placed on the tender shoulders of Victor Moses and too weak a squad in general surely doesn’t inspire much confidence in followers of the Latics? That said; get on Wigan for a 2-0 victory now that my gypsy curse has been firmly cast.
6. Stuart Hall to summarise.
I doubt I’ll be listening but please Radio 5 bosses – allow dear old Stuart to summarise this one. He has his critics but I welcome his bonkers summaries. It’s a NW derby, it’s not of a level of importance which requires one of your ‘top’ people to be on board and it’s crying out to be infused with Hall’s music-hall cackle, Shakespearean quotes and slightly mocking tones. Purely and simply Stuart makes me laugh and in a world seemingly full of doom, despair and general s****ness right now, that’s a huge plus point for me.
7. Bolton Wanderers to win.
Come on – humour me here. I have to say this. Banishing the woeful recent run is the only option tomorrow. Can you have a six-pointer in October? Can you b**** – there is no such thing when only three points are on offer. But this is a game both teams will be desperate to win. It will sway the way of the Trotters thanks to a 2-1 victory with the decider coming from a corner and flying in off an unsuspecting Paul Robinson’s a***. And if that’s true, it will turn out to be the most beautiful sight so far this season.
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