Talking Football: We’re all up for the cup!

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

FA CUP fever makes a welcome return to Wigan this weekend.

Two-and-a-half years after bringing home the FA Cup, Latics are in first-round action as they travel to north-west neighbours Bury.

It’s a far cry from facing mighty Manchester City in a Wembley final, but another sobering reminder of how far Latics have slipped in recent years.

Far from suffering a permanent hangover, however, there’s already been plenty of evidence this season that the club has got its mojo back.

Another bumper away following will travel to Gigg Lane, not so much in hope of taking the first hurdle on the road back to Wembley (come on...really?) but to see Gary Caldwell’s new-look side take its latest huge step forward.

Ten games unbeaten, scoring goals for run, gradually tightening up at the back - Caldwell’s men are on a real roll right now.

It would be easy to suggest Saturday’s game will prove only a distraction to the bread and butter of the league.

But the word from the training ground is the players are looking at an FA Cup run as being a helpful aid to their promotion push.

The squad certainly looks strong enough to cope, with Caldwell expected to shuffle his pack this weekend without losing much in the way of quality.

Latics proved last week against Swindon that they can win tight games without X-Factor match-winners Yanic Wildschut and Michael Jacobs.

The pair had both been withdrawn when Francisco Junior bundled home a stoppage-time winner, and it’s that strength in depth that’s underpinning the recent resurgence.

With next Tuesday’s JPT northern area quarter-final visit of Blackpool providing a far more realistic route to Wembley, it’s looking rosy on all counts for Latics at present.

Long may that continue - all the way to May and beyond!

It was great to see Brendan Rodgers at the DW Stadium on Saturday to take in Latics’ 1-0 victory over Swindon.

Clearly the ex-Liverpool boss was there to see the form team in League One underlining their promotion credentials with a hard-fought but ultimately deserved three points.

Either that, or he was watching his son, Anton, playing for the visitors.

Fair play to Brendan for remaining in his seat following Anton’s substitution on the hour mark, when he could have easily looked for an early dart.

Tremendous character.

Chelsea have not got much right this season, on and off the pitch.

But they got it bang on when sending out John Terry to address the media ahead of the Champions League game against Dynamo Kiev.

Cue staunch defence of an under-fire manager and an under-performing club, with an inspired broadside on Robbie Savage - who had criticised him recently - to steer the current media storm to fine leg for a single.

“I’ve come under criticism, individually, from certain players and individuals, players I’ve looked up to and played alongside,” said Terry. “I’ve taken that on the chin. Rio, Carra, Neville - the very best I’ve come up against in the game - I take that on the chin. When others speak, maybe I don’t take it on the chin. When players have not had a career, played at a really bad level in their career … Robbie Savage being one. He’s dug me out a couple of times. You take it as a footballer, as an individual. I’ll take it from the Rios, Carraghers and Neville. All day long. From others? Nah.”

Which seemed to prompt a strange 10-second amnesty, where we were all suddenly allowed to like Terry.

Before normal service was immediately resumed.

I’m sure every football fan in the country will wish Martin Ling well as he takes over as Swindon boss.

His battle with mental health - which included five rounds of electroconvulsive therapy, in which electrodes were strapped to his head and a current passed through his brain to induce a seizure - is well documented, and well worth reading up on if you have time. Despite their lowly league position, Swindon showed at the DW last weekend they aren’t a bad side.

And I wouldn’t back against them moving up the table under the watchful eye of a talented coach who is hopefully well shut of his demons.