“Seven days is along time in football” and never has the old saying been proven true more than in the past week.
Last Friday, Roy Keane was the manager of Ipswich; Chelsea had relative title ambitions and David Beckham, Ronaldinho and Eljero Elia were just foreign League footballers. Meanwhile, Latics were still in the bottom three.
The managerial merry-go-round is showing signs that it’ll be in full swing in the coming weeks; with the likes of Ancelotti, Hodgson, Grant and Houllier all fearing the chop, it’s time to deliver results. Compared to that bunch, Martinez is under relatively little pressure for once.
Chelsea’s fall from grace with just one win in ten means that in fifth place, trailing the leaders by nine points, means that Ancelotti has an Everest like mountain to climb should he wish to retain the Blues’ crown. Meanwhile, former members of the ‘Big Four’ Liverpool have been struggling all season, with a very stop start campaign which must end up with the sack for Hodgson sooner or later. With key players out of form and seemingly unhappy, plus a wrath of mediocre players, it’s a recipe for disaster on Merseyside.
The Claret and Blue clubs aren’t happy either, with Villa and West Ham both languishing in the bottom three. The Premier League has turned into a series of the Apprentice as managers fear being fired. All four of the aforementioned clubs suffered shocking defeats in midweek and are below expectations.
I had the pleasure (or displeasure in some folks’ view) to see two midweek games in 24 hours, visiting Old Trafford on the Tuesday before making the trip to the Reebok on Wednesday night.
Firstly, Man United vs Stoke. No this game, despite being a poor spectacle, underlined for me the zero attraction of supporting a ‘big’ club.
The ground, despite being admittedly impressive and massive, gave off bad vibes for me as soon as I entered. Just to get the the concourse I needed to walk up what seemed like thousands of stairs, what happened to a good old escalator? Then I found myself in the heavens in the clubs’ North Stand which is probably twice the height of the DW at least.
When I took my seat, it felt very subdued. Being so high up made the players below seem to scuttle along like matchsticks or herds of ants which wasn’t great in my view. Of course I’m not the best to comment on this, ant football might be great for all I know.
The sloping stands for me are the worst factor though, the steep decline makes you feel almost like a caged animal. I couldn’t even see the stand opposite and had the stand been any higher, the top seats would fail to see the touchline as well. The whole atmosphere about the ground wasn’t pleasant for me and wasn’t attractive in the slightest.
And I haven’t even got to the atmosphere yet, some people (wrongly in my eyes) perceive United fans as the greatest in the country, and create the best atmosphere around. Rubbish.
The reason they very occasionally sound load is because everyone groans ‘United, United’ and this horrible drone of near torture rings around the closed cornered stadium to create an ‘atmosphere’. Most of the time I actually thought I was in church. Don’t be fooled by the high numbers, that just comes with being a ‘big’ club, United’s fans are poor.
And if you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Chicken Balti Pie which I look forward to most at away matches; was lukewarm! Couldn’t be doing with it, but the most irritating part of the night was being surrounded by non-locals.
Now don’t call me xenophobic, but personally I’d like to feel like my clubs’ fans are locals that are born and bred Latics fans that care about the club. Now I know this is never always the case, yet knowing that people have travelled from Ireland, Bristol, Norwich and the likes just to be there when they could be supporting a local team makes me fear for lower league football.
The game itself wasn’t brilliant either, with United outplaying Stoke but just grabbing a 2-1 victory after Dean Whitehead had shocked the Red Devils. United’s goals were both of top quality to provide highlights, Chicharito’s flick past Begovic made it 1-0; later Nani’s left foot drive won the points for United in a relatively routine victory. Another thing that worried me was the lack of delight or even joy when United won, it just seemed like another routine ‘yeah, another win, another three points’ kind of game. I’ll stop moaning now, I promise.
Now a game that did entertain me was the one at the Reebok the following evening, although I doubt this would be the case for a neutral! Still, as I entered the Reebok I was optimistic of a 1-1 draw, and to my surprise I was correct.
Despite the useful point we gained in the end though, it did look in doubt at one stage. Early on in the game, exciting winger Tom Cleverley pulled up with an injury, and was replaced on the left flank by Mohamed Diame. A central midfielder.
Despite this hindrance, Latics carried on and went in at half time at 0-0, the closest chance being a free-kick from striker Hugo Rodallega. Although we did look pretty feeble as a force going forward in the opening 45 minutes.
The second half started as the first ended, with Latics failing to keep possession in Bolton’s half and Wanderers looking a potent force going forward. Their attacking paid off when Rodrigo slotted past the returning Kirkland after an intelligent run across the full back Figeuroa for his first goal in Bolton colours.
This was a real test of Wigan’s character and to be fair, Martinez’s men looked more dangerous going forward, with just the final ball missing as Wigan reached the edge of the box.
Despite his anonymity in the first half, it was winger Ronnie Stam who got Wigan’s equaliser. Like Rodrigo before him, he bagged his first goal for his (relatively) new club with a tap in. The Latics fans behind that goal were delighted and he ran to join us in the celebrations. As a matter of interest, can anyone explain to me why he ran an extra twenty yards around the advertising hoardings instead of leaping over the relatively small hurdle?
This goal rallied the Latics fans who refused to sit down for the rest of the game. Although not being the catalyst for a winning goal, Wigan fans were delighted when substitute Mike Pollit had several point saving saves to deny Bolton’s frustrated forwards. Pollitt incidentally, replaced Kirkland after the latter collided with Johan Elmander before suffering a clout to the face, this lead to eight minutes of stoppage time.
Wigan held on for a vital point when on another day might have lost, despite being inconsistent recently; it’s better than being consistently bad. So I suppose we’re consistently inconsistent right?
Finally, the opening of the transfer window means managers, agents and chairmen alike are rushing around everywhere trying to get deals done and dusted. The back pages also get filled much easier as journalists persist on publishing utter rubbish as ‘transfer talk’. Some including Ronaldinho to Blackburn, ha like that’ll happen…
Latics need players and fast, the lack of cutting edge all season, but particularly against Newcastle and Bolton without Mr N’Zogbia was frightening. A new forward thinking player is definitely needed, Aljero Elia gave me hope, yet he persists of a move to Old Trafford or the Nou Camp. So the rumour mill suggests we might have to settle with Jason Puncheon or David Nugent.
Thanks for reading folks and I’ll see you all on Monday for an FA Cup special weekend review, enjoy.