Talking Sport - Flower can be known for much more

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson
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SHAUN Wane hopes that, by the end of the week, everyone will have drawn a line under the Ben Flower incident.

Sadly, I doubt they will.

Sky Sports News has been showing his Grand Final punches on loop for the past two days, and I dare say they’ll do it again in two months’ time when Wigan – with Flower – face St Helens at Langtree Park.

Flower, I imagine, will be asked about it again.

What else can he say? I’m not too sure. He’s been open, candid and remorseful in the handful of interviews he has given.

I didn’t buy into the Flower frenzy at the time, and I won’t now. No one would begin to condone what he did in a brain-snap.

But some of the reaction at the time – ‘Ban him for life’, ‘sack him’, ‘throw him in jail’ – was as ridiculous as the way it has rumbled on.

It was hard not to sympathise with Flower, even though he hasn’t shown a shred of self-pity.

Thankfully, St Helens have been classy in their dealings, the punishment he received was fair (if out of proportion to other incidents, but let’s not go there) and now Flower can make his return to the team.

And outside of Wigan, that’s something which has been massively forgotten about; how much of an impact he can make for the side.

Because before his ban he was in career-best form. A compact front-rower, he relies on his aggression and confrontational style to rattle opponents – and I’m looking forward to seeing him mixing it again with Super League’s best front-rowers.

Can he get over this?

Absolutely.

Other players have returned from varying controversies, and gone on to carve out successful careers.

When Jon Clarke lifted the Challenge Cup with Warrington, no one asked him about his time locked up.

It’s been a while since Sean Long and Martin Gleeson have been quizzed about their betting habits, or Gareth Hock about his doping ban.

Adrian Morley said he will be forever remembered for being the player sent off after 12 seconds in a Test match. I don’t normally argue with people much bigger and stronger than me, but what nonsense. Moz is remembered for much more than that! And now the challenge is for Flower to ensure he is as well. Sure, he’ll get some pantomime boos from away fans along the way. But when I spoke to him, he made a point of thanking supporters for their kind messages.

Knowing the way Wigan fans rally around their own, I imagine he hasn’t seen anything yet.

GARY Caldwell’s appointment at Wigan Athletic is certainly one for the future.

If he avoids relegation, it would be an amazing achievement – but David Sharpe says the Scot won’t be judged on Latics’ remaining games this campaign.

Whatever division the club is in next season, this is a big summer for the young duo, who will have to rebuild the playing squad.

This has been a disastrous year for Wigan Athletic.

Mistakes have been made on and off the field. Malky Mackay’s appointment was so controversial, it had to go right from the start.

But it didn’t. And it wasn’t just his failure to register a single home win which upset so many, but the way they played under his watch.

Caldwell has already brought in a style which many believe is more suited to the club.

The next few months are crucial for the future of Wigan Athletic. They have to get it right this time.