THE man who propelled Wigan on their way to Grand Final glory last October is hoping to pile further misery on St Helens this Saturday.
Martin Gleeson scored two early tries at Old Trafford in their 22-10 triumph.
And though the former Test centre has been unable to play in any of the Warriors’ three pre-season games because of a calf injury, he is targeting a place in the side on Saturday as the champions launch their Super League defence.
Gleeson dismissed any worries that he may be lacking match fitness, insisting: “After this pre-season I think everyone will be alright!
“Everyone will be in top physical shape – everything has gone up a notch but that’s the way it has to be.
“I’ve just had a niggle but it’s nothing serious, I should be fine this week.
“It’ll be a good double for me – the last game I played was against Saints, it’d be good to play them again and hopefully get the win.”
Wigan’s clash with Saints on Saturday (kick-off 7pm) is the headline act of the opening day of the Millennium Magic weekend in Cardiff.
Gleeson, a former Wigan St Pat’s amateur, has happy memories of the ground after lifting the Challenge Cup there with St Helens in 2004.
“It’s a great ground,” he said. “I’ve never played at Wembley, so I don’t know what that’s like, but I’d say the Millennium is the best stadium I’ve played at.
“It’s good to start the season off with something big like this, and I’m glad we’re playing Saints, too. It’s good that they’ve gone back to derby games – it lost a bit of edge with it being against Huddersfield last year.
“It’s not only better for our fans and Saints fans, but for the neutrals as well.”
If Gleeson plays he could go head-to-head with the centre who is seen by many as his long-term successor to his berth in the England team.
Former Castleford star Michael Shenton is one of three key recruits made by Saints in the off-season along with props Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Josh Perry.
“I think they’re the team to beat,” Gleeson said. “They’re hungry this year, they’ve got a new coach and sometimes a change is good – the players will be keen to make a good impression on him in the first game, without a doubt.”
Michael Maguire will assess the 30-year-old’s fitness later this week.
The coach moved second-rower Joel Tomkins to the backline to cover for Gleeson’s absence in their 24-18 pre-season win at Warrington last Wednesday.
That move also eased congestion in the back-row and with home-grown youngsters Liam Farrell and Chris Tuson both launching credible stakes for a first-team place, Maguire will have a lot to ponder this week.