Ahead of Saturday’s game against Wigan Athletic, Bluemoon caught up with Alan from This Northern Soul for a lowdown on the opposition…
1. Who do you think will be Wigan's key players this season?
I’m saying this so often, and it sounds so soft that I have to keeping checking myself, but the honest answer is that Latics are now completely about the collective rather than one individual. The likes of N’Zogbia and Rodallega have stood out over the past couple of seasons but have only shone when the team has gelled behind them. At any time though, the measure of how well the team is playing is how much Ben Watson appears to be influencing the game. But as I said, that’s just a reflection of how the team is doing and it would be a folly to try and cut him out of the game.
Rather than trying to single out players, my advice to most teams would be to try and keep a high tempo. We’ve struggled to get control of games like that in the past however (hopefully) our midfield is starting to look like it’s learnt from its experiences and that might not be so much of a problem this year. That’s most teams, somehow I suspect that your Roberto won’t be looking for to many pointers this Saturday.
2. Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?
Is a football fan ever happy with their team’s transfer dealings? Just like you guys I’d have been happier if we’d have picked up Wesley Schneider, Alexis Sanchez and Gary Cahill but our financial reality is a little different than yours.
The ideal this summer would have been a permanent move out for last season’s big mistake, Mauro Boselli (who’s gone back to Argentina on loan), any sort of return on the £6m we laid out would have given the manager a few more bob to spend. Instead he had to make do with the £9m we got from Aston Villa in the Charles N’Zogbia deal. £9m was a good price given that Charlie was in the last year of his contract and we’ve been facing his fairly inevitable departure since about a week after he joined from Newcastle.
That amount of money doesn’t go that far these days and with a couple of million heading toward training ground improvements and four going to Bolton for the “there’ll be a riot if someone else snaps him up” transfer of last season’s fans hero Ali al Habsi and… well you do the sums.
Despte being brassic, we’ve managed to bring in what looks like a fairly steady midfielder in Dave Jones, picked up the possibly enigmatic Shaun Maloney from Celtic and the interesting if he settles in Albert Crusat from Almeria as well as Patrick van Aanholt on loan from Chelsea. None are exactly what you’d call a marquee signing but they all seem to add depth to the squad in one way or another, so I suppose the short answer is yes, I’m happy.
3. What are your expectations for this season?
I find that it’s easier to start with low expectations when you support a team like Wigan Athletic, otherwise you’re forced to live with the constant disappointment that seems to be a feature amongst some of fans. The reality is that staying in the division is an achievement each year but I’ve a sneaky suspicion that we might do a little better this year. Roberto Martinez talks about building for European football, but I won’t be aiming that far and will stop at seeing another year of improvement from the manager and his squad.
4. Are you happy with the manager?
I am and I’d love to sit here and tell you that the feeling is universal amongst Latics fans, but unfortunately it’s not. There are those who would have been happy to see him up-sticks to Villa over the summer and would have probably tried to argue that he’d made a sideways move at the same time. I’m not going to make any massive claims about his decision to stay but the fact that he turned down more money (presumably in both wages and transfer funds) at a bigger club to stay and try to finish the job he’s started with us is and mark of the man.
And the job is a worthy one. Like so many clubs these days, Latics had fallen into the trap of short-termism and basically had no direction or plan other than trying to stay in the division as easily as possible. Bobby has changed that and is strengthening the clubs roots (both football and community wise) as well as trying to achieve things with the first team. By no means an easy task for a club with our infrastructure (or lack of) but, ably assisted by Chief Executive Jonathon Jackson, he’s doing a sterling job of making Latics feel something like the club that he joined as a player all those years ago, only just a bit bigger.
5. Are there any rising starts in the squad that we might not have heard of?
We’re all about rising stars in these parts but the two big ones to look out for are Victor Moses, who was liked with you when we snapped him up a couple of January’s back and looks like he’ll be asked to fill the shoes of Mr N’Zogbia and James McCarthy who is simply just going to be a top class player when he grows up. Both have a bit to go but with long contracts on the table (and signed in McCarthy’s case) it looks like some of that development will take place at the DW Stadium.
But neither of those is exactly a secret, unlike Callum Mcmanaman, occasionally rumoured to be a relative of the floppy haired ex-City Madridista (but in all likelihood, not) he, like Leighton Baines before him, was picked up as a reject from the Everton youth academy and is now on the verge of our first team. Tipped by many fans desperate for a home grown talent, his attitude is without question. I’m yet to be convinced of his ability though and would like to see him get more time on the pitch to prove it one way or the other.
6. If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?
That really is kid in a sweetshop stuff, isn’t it? Roberto Mancini must go home of an evening feeling like he’s cheated at Football Manager. David Silva is the sort of player we could really do with at Latics and someone of that ilk could provide the finishing touch to our side but with our reputation for being weak at the back I think I eye the likes of Kompany with a little more jealousy.
Of course, we (allegedly) nearly got two of your players this summer. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m glad to have missed out on Wright-Phillips, who for me, has too much prove at this level and at £60k would simply be too much for our cashflow. Weiss would be another matter on the financial side but at the same time more of an unknown on the pitch, I was intrigued at the prospect of seeing him in a Latics shirt, but didn’t lose any sleep when he chose to go to Spain instead (I don’t know what was going on in head for him to decide that).
7. What is your perception of City as a club?
City were my Dad’s club when I was growing up and if he’d have had his way they’d have probably been mine as well. But a 7-1 thrashing of Norwich, seen from the front row of Maine Road wasn’t enough to stop the pull of Springfield Park. These days, I’m not so sure what I think, I’m not going to be judgmental – we’d all take a friendly billionaire benefactor, but it’s hard to square with the football I grew up with and the position I find my team in.
Inbetween that, my view of City will always be tainted by the season we spent in the third flight together. In my memory, the big time, looking down their noses attitude of some aspects of your support and that Shaun Goater “goal” at your place will always outweigh those of you that took your situation on the chin and with good humour which is unfortunate because my actual experience with real life City fans is much nearer to the latter group.
8. Likely Wigan starting XI for Saturday, and score prediction?
Despite the new signings I don’t expect too many changes just yet and assuming a clean bill of health from the international break the team should be Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Lopez, Figueroa, Watson, McCarthy, Diame, Moses, Rodallega, Di Santo. Trying to remain realistic and providing we can keep level heads I’d go with a 2-0 defeat.