Talking football: More questions than answers for Wigan Athletic and co
The trip to the Valley was supposed to be the final away game of the campaign, with the curtain scheduled to come down on the regular season next weekend for the visit of Fulham.
Almost six weeks since all football in this country was postponed, we’re still no nearer to finding out when – and indeed if – normality will resume.
Of course, the simplest thing would be to just draw a line through the whole thing, wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to run its course, and then worry about how to resume.
But there’s a million and one reasons why that won’t wash, with so many loose ends to be tied up at the top and bottom of all the respective divisions.
The EFL seem determined to at least try to complete the season. But, again, there seem so many obstacles to that even getting off the ground.
Players will apparently be tested for Covid-19 48 hours before each match.
Which, considering the thousands of NHS staff who can’t get a test, seems an unnecessary waste.
There’s also the small matter of medical staff and police officers who will be required – again, when their services would surely be better used elsewhere.
But if we don’t finish the season, some clubs towards the lower end of the EFL may go to the wall.
Catch 22. With no easy solution. At least the powers-that-be have plenty of time to figure the best way out.
In the absence of live football, we’ve been able to run a few more ‘retro’ pieces in the paper, which otherwise may not have been possible due to space restrictions.
And who doesn’t love a good old trip down Memory Lane?
Already since the lockdown, we’ve featured famous Latics top-flight victories against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as Nick-Powell inspired Championship wins over Rotherham and Barnsley, and the promotion-winning scenes at Fleetwood – with Blackpool on the way next week.
It’s no coincidence so many magical matches have come in such quick succession.
This time of year isn’t known as ‘Wigan time’ for nothing!
As regular as clockwork, usually after toiling through the first half of the campaign, Latics have tended to hit form in the home straight.
Hopefully the lockdown won’t go on through the summer.
Not least, because there haven’t been many stand-out memories from the first half of the season down the years!
We’ve all found ourselves with far more time on our hands than is healthy of late – especially with only an hour to get outside and do something about it.
That’s led to certain challenges being posed on social media – including one from Jamie Carragher that’s had us all scratching our heads.
It sounded simple when it was first pitched: Pick the best team possible made up of players you’ve seen...but no more than one per club, per country.
Want Cristiano Ronaldo in? Well that means no-one else from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Sporting Lisbon...or Portugal.
The ‘original’ Ronaldo? Even worse, given he played for Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven...and Brazil.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Which big club *didn’t* he play for during his long and illustrious career?!
What you’re after is the holy grail...a great player, preferably one-club (or at least only one big club), who didn’t play for one of the more dominant nations.
Step forward Neville Southall (Everton and Wales) – I knew there would eventually be advantages of being so old!
Paolo Maldini (AC Milan and Italy) and Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany) are shoo-ins at full-back, while Argentina captain Lionel Messi would have been the first name on a lot of teams anyway even if he hadn’t been a one -club man at Barcelona.
Roy Keane (Ireland) uses my Manchester United card, and I’m that desperate to get Zinedine Zidane in there that I’m prepared to ignore any more Real Madrid and Juventus interest (and France).
I need a couple more inspired choices, and Zico – a Brazilian legend who didn’t play for any of the big European clubs – falls into that category along with Belgium legend Vincent Kompany, who’s only played for Manchester City, Hamburg and Anderlecht.
I haven’t used an England or Holland international yet, so Alan Shearer’s decision to snub Manchester United for Newcastle has come up trumps for me 24 years on, while Dennis Bergkamp ticks the boxes of Arsenal, Inter Milan and Ajax – but no-one I’ve already used.
With just one place to go, at centre-back, I realise I’ve no Spanish players in there. But how many of the best ones didn’t play for Real or Barca?
Tough times call for tough measures, and I’m not one for shirking a challenge.
Sorry Zinedine, it’s a no from me after all, which allows Sergio Ramos into the backline.
That in turn frees up a French slot...for Kylian Mbappe.
Give it a go...it’s harder than you might think!
Paul Kendrick’s XI: Southall (Wales); Lahm (Germany), Kompany (Belgium), Ramos (Spain), Maldini (Italy); Keane (Ireland), Zico (Brazil), Messi (Argentina); Mbappe (France), Shearer (England), Bergkamp (Holland).