`

Talking football: Wigan Athletic salivating ahead of Lancashire hotpot

Joe Garner
Joe Garner

This weekend sees Wigan Athletic travel to Preston in one of the most eagerly-anticipated fixtures of the campaign.

Around 4,000 Wiganers will be making the short trip to Deepdale, in a match that’s really captured the imagination of the town.

Hopefully it’ll be a more eventful occasion than two years ago, when Gary Caldwell’s Latics flattered to deceive in front of the Sky cameras, losing to the only - admittedly very jammy - goal, thanks to Jordan Hugill’s deflected strike.

This time, Paul Cook’s men will be in much more confident mood of picking up something, not least because of North End’s own woeful start to the campaign.

But maybe it’s worth looking over at Preston for an understanding of just how tough a league the Championship is.

And why standing on the fringes of the play-off picture should rightly be seen as a fine opening quarter of the campaign for Latics.

For the last two seasons, North End have largely been there or thereabout the top six, before fading in the home straight.

This time, Alex Neil’s men have found themselves rooted in the bottom three, pretty much since day one.

It’s often claimed the Championship becomes bigger, better, more competitive each year, and Preston’s plight backs up that theory.

Not a lot has changed at Deepdale but, thanks to ‘fine margins’ and the bounce of a ball, they now find themselves struggling at the bottom.

All that, of course, can change at any moment - and it’s important Latics don’t perform their usual party piece of helping any struggling team/player back on to the horse.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of reception the home fans afford Joe Garner, who was a hero figure during his time at Preston but whose style of play does little to endear himself to opposition supporters.

He may have to be content with a place on the bench, with Will Grigg poised for a return to the starting side after injury.

Such a like-for-like change - similar to Darron Gibson for Sam Morsy in midweek against Swansea - shows the strength in depth Latics have at the moment.

And with Callum McManaman having shown glimpses of brilliance during his late cameo on Tuesday night, let’s hope it’s a Lancashire hotpot to savour this weekend - with three points the icing on the cake.

Football managers often talk about relishing tough selection decisions when they have a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Well I wonder if Paul Cook may come to regret what he’s been wishing for, with Dan Burn on the verge of full fitness after three months out with a broken foot.

In his absence, Chey Dunkley - Burn’s centre-back partner from last season - has taken his performances to another level with the added responsibility of being the seniot man at the back.

And with Cedric Kipre putting in his best performance for the club in midweek against Swansea, I don’t envy Cook in the slightest when he tries to come to terms with the fact three into two just won’t go.

You’ll probably have heard about former Latics boss Steve Bruce having a cabbage thrown at him during Aston Villa’s 3-3 draw against Preston in midweek.

The same Steve Bruce who watched his side miss a stoppage-time penalty that would have lifted Villa into joint-fifth position in the Championship.

Given the year Bruce has had, in losing both parents, I hope the culprit is feeling suitably ashamed of his actions.

And shame on Villa for allowing a fine manager - and fine man - to be hounded out of a job that, ironically, he’d probably be the most obvious available candidate for...

Football is all about opinions - it’s what makes the game go round.

The fact two people can watch the same players in the same match and come to two completely different, non-negotiable, viewpoints.

I was just about to tweet on Tuesday night how impressed I was with Darron Gibson’s contribution...when I refreshed my screen and saw another fan offer a far-from-flattering summation of the Irishman’s performance.

For balance, I posted both views, and tried to gauge which one was ‘right’.

Brilliantly, the response was right down the middle.

But at least we know which half of the fanbase knows what they’re talking about...ahem...

Leam Richardson reckons Sam Morsy is equipped for a glittering career in management when the time comes to hang up his boots.

And the collective refereeing fraternity thought they were going to get rid of him!