Talking football: The long wait is over!

Lee McCulloch scores for Latics at Preston in 2005

Lee McCulloch scores for Latics at Preston in 2005

It’s been a long time coming...but it’s great to see Wigan Athletic against Preston North End back on the fixture list.

Incredibly, it’s been over 11 years since the two teams last did battle in the league.

While Latics were enjoying an eight-year stay in the Promised Land of the Premier League, North End have been largely treading water in the second and third tiers since.

Their recent promotion to the Championship coincided with Wigan’s drop to League One, but the two towns will do battle as equals on Friday night.

And what a massive game it is for both sides, so early in the campaign.

Preston haven’t had the best of starts, and currently stand just outside the bottom three.

It’s been even worse for Latics, who are off the bottom only on goal difference with only one win – against beleaguered Blackburn.

We can go on until we’re blue (and white) in the face that Latics have been deserving of far more points for their efforts.

Sure, they’ve enjoyed a fair share of possession in most of the games, and only really been played off the park once – at Sheffield Wednesday – as well as proving they can score goals in the second tier.

But individual errors have proved costly, far more so than last season in League One, and the problem needed to be addressed.

Saturday’s stalemate against Fulham gave Latics a welcome clean sheet – their first since their opening home game.

It’s a platform from which to build and, on the back of a hugely-encouraging second-half display at Norwich last Tuesday, Latics can really kickstart their season on the biggest stage against the old enemy.

It’s one of the most over-used cliches used in football.

“I’ll play wherever the gaffer wants me to. I’m just happy to be the team.”

Well there may finally be an exception to that rule – if Gary Caldwell wants you to play full-back for Wigan Athletic!

Alex Gilbey, having switched to right-back from his more regular midfield role, was thelatest victim of the curse at the weekend.

And it’s quite incredible to see how many full-backs have been cut down by injuries so far this season.

Loan signing Kyle Knoyle suffered a badly-broken elbow before even kicking a ball for the club, while Donervon Daniels is also out long term after a knee op.

Youngster Luke Burke started the campaign in the No.2 berth before a knock curtailed his progress, while Gilbey was only filling in after fellow new-boy Reece Burke damaged a hamstring at Norwich last week.

It’s been no better on the other side, with Reece James – sidelined since January – having to undergo more surgery to correct his long-standing ankle problem.

He’s been joined in the treatment room by Andy Kellett, whose cruciate ligament damage will keep him out for most of the season, while David Perkins damaged a hamstring only after switching from midfield to left wing-back to fill a hole!

The row between Pep Guardiola and Yaya Toure – or at least the player’s agent – has provided some decent entertainment this week.

Guardiola insisted Toure would never play for Manchester City again until he’d apologised for comments made by agent Dimitri Seluk.

Seluk then did a great job of diffusing the situation by immediately going on Sky to accuse Guardiola of being vindictive, and claim he’d only apologise if the Spaniard did likewise to Manuel Pellegrini, his predecessor in the City hotseat.

Toure has already been left out City’s Champions League squad and official squad photo.

But has Guardiola shot himself by stoking up a feud with a player he cannot move on until January at the earliest?

In the meantime, while Seluk lobs in grenades from afar, Toure continues to pick up his £200,000-a-week pay packet.

Nice work if you can get it.

It was great to see youngster Nathaniel Chalobah finally make his Chelsea debut at Leicester in midweek.

After 11 years at the club – and an astonishing SIX loan spells – it’s not like he hadn’t earned it!

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