Friends reunited for Wigan Athletic star!
Sunday's top-of-the-table clash at Blackburn is sure to be a huge test of character for every single one of the Wigan Athletic players in the Ewood Park cauldron.
However, for Latics left-back Reece James, the stakes will be cranked up tenfold.
The 24-year-old, a lifelong Burnley fan from Bacup, will have friends and family in both the home and away ends, for what is shaping up to be one of the games of the season.
And he admits the opportunity to get one over Rovers means he goes into the game with even more motivation to shine in front of the Sky cameras.
“Being from Bacup, I grew up watching Burnley, that was my team,” James told the Wigan Post.
“But Blackburn being just down the road, there was obviously that rivalry there from the start.
“Where I was from, it was either Blackburn or Burnley.
“As far as I was concerned, it was the claret and blue!
“But some of my best friends at school were Blackburn fans, that was just how it was.
“The rivalry was huge – it still is – and it’s great to have that in football.
“I’ll have a lot of my family and friends there on Sunday hoping we can get one over on them.
“But I know a few lads who are season-ticket holders at Blackburn who will know about my ties, so I’ll be expecting a few boos from them!
“It won’t matter as long as we get a good result, though, that’s the main thing.”
The term ‘six-pointer’ is one of the most over-used cliches in football, but it certainly applies to this weekend’s big game.
Rovers can increase their lead over Latics to a daunting nine points with a win, although Latics would still have four games in hand.
On the flip side, an away win, would cut that gap to just three points, meaning Latics could then go nine clear if they were to win their catch-up fixtures.
“There’s so many mind games going on at the moment,” acknowledged James, who came through the ranks at Manchester United before joining Latics in the summer of 2015.
“If we were to lose on Sunday, the gap would be nine points, but we’d still have four games in hand, and could go back above them.
“We’re not thinking about that though – we’re just thinking about winning, or at least not getting beat.
“I don’t think a draw would be a terrible result, and that probably goes for both sides.
“At this stage you just don’t want to be conceding ground to any of your rivals.
“If they gap increased to nine, that would crank up the pressure for our games in hand, and we don’t want that.”
With second-placed Shrewsbury also in the equation – two points ahead of Latics, having played three games more – it’s shaping up to be a thrilling finale to the campaign.
And Sunday’s game will go a long way towards ensuring whether Latics will be kicking for the home straight in front, or having to mount a late rally to overhaul their rivals.
“It’s so exciting, with it being a top of the table clash –for the players and the fans,” James added.
“We know Rovers are a really good side, with really big threats, plenty of quality all over the pitch.
“Most people probably expected Wigan and Blackburn to be the top two at the start of the season, and both sides are up there.
“We’ve got to make sure they don’t gain any more momentum on us this weekend.”