Talking football: No fan of long-haul midweekers

Well I'm finally back from Norwich '“ just '“ and at least that one's out of the way for this season.

Friday, 16th September 2016, 5:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:32 pm
Will Grigg at Norwich

Only six months now until Wigan Athletic travel down to Ipswich Town – again on a Tuesday night – for another sapping strain on the supporters (and local media).

We used to be able to bemoan the fixture computer for unfortunate scheduling.

But nowadays there’s no-one to blame but the footballing authorities and the clubs themselves.

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A couple of years ago, some bright spark decided it would be a good idea to schedule as many long-haul away games for Tuesday nights as possible.

The thinking behind it being not many fans would travel all that way anyway, and more Saturday afternoons could then be left free for more higher-profile local fixtures.

So at least those Latics fans still knackered from Tuesday night can console themselves at the prospect of next weekend’s mouth-watering derby at Preston.

Which, unfortunately, has already been moved to the Friday night to accommodate Sky TV.

So at least that master plan’s working nice and dandy.

Switching long-haul games to midweek really needs looking at – it’s just not on.

It penalises fans who will travel wherever, whenever to see their team.

And it also robs supporters who like to cherry-pick away games at nice locations for short breaks with the family, or weekends on the ale with mates.

In recent years, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a few long weekends away with the family at places such as Norwich, Ipswich, Cardiff, Swansea, Bournemouth and Brighton.

Truly lovely parts of the country, and well worth making the effort to go and see.

Two years ago, when Latics were last in the Championship, we were sent to Cardiff and Brighton on Tuesday nights.

This time round it’s Norwich and Ipswich in midweek, with the additional curveball of Brighton away being scheduled for Easter Monday, when families traditionally congregate at home.

The authorities and clubs will probably produce data that justifies the idea.

But all I can see are fans being given the short ball yet again.

Of more pressing concern, of course, will be the worrying run of four successive defeats that’s seen Latics slump to second-bottom of the Championship ahead of Saturday’s visit of Fulham.

The only team we’re looking down on is Owen Coyle’s Blackburn, against whom Latics recorded their solitary victory in eight outings in all competitions.

No-one said it was going to be easy acclimatising back to life in the Championship, despite the success of last term.

But another off-season overhaul of the playing staff has hampered attempts to take advantage of the momentum generated from the League One title success.

Tuesday’s starting line-up at Norwich contained eight players newly-signed over the summer (including Stephen Warnock, who spent the second half of last term on loan at the DW).

Only Max Power, Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg remained as permanent members of last year’s side, and the huge change in personnel has undoubtedly contributed to the individual errors that are killing Latics at the moment.

Boss Gary Caldwell is within his rights to accentuate the positives and, yes, with a bit of luck Latics could have easily come away with something at Norwich.

But the Championship is a lot less unforgiving than League One when it comes to top strikers taking advantage of gilt-edged chances.

And only when Latics do themselves a favour and stop gifting teams a head start will they be able to return a points tally that more adequately reflects the quality in the squad.

Talksport was the radio station of choice for much of a long car journey down to Norwich on Tuesday.

Drive-time presenter Adrian Durham, as you probably know, is a bit of a Marmite character – love him or hate him, he certainly causes a stir. One of the topics being discussed was Huddersfield’s attempt to brand themselves as ‘The Yorkshire Club’, which Durham in particular took exception to.

The Peterborough-fanatic was, as usual, giving out rather more than he was receiving, until being stopped dead in his tracks by one die-hard Terrier who had heard enough.

“I don’t see the problem what we call ourselves,” said the caller. “You call yourselves Posh...I’m a lorry driver...I’ve never seen a bigger toilet than Peterborough.”

Game, set and match.

Before this week, Romelu Lukaku hadn’t scored for Everton for six months.

But the Belgian’s brilliant hat-trick at Sunderland underlined just what a genuinely world-class player he is - at the tender age of 23.

Still not convinced? How about this telling stat: Lukaku now has 122 career goals.

At the same age, Cristiano Ronaldo had 110, Luis Suarez 107, Wayne Rooney 100 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic 65.

Everton impressed on the field during their 3-0 triumph at Sunderland on Monday night.

They impressed even more so off the field with their staggering donation of £200,000 to support ‘Bradley’s Fight’, a cause set up to raise £700,000 to send little Bradley Lowery – Sunderland’s mascot on the night – to America for life-saving cancer treatment.

Everton have always prided themselves as being the People’s Club – and well and truly proved it by putting their money where their mouth is for this amazing cause.

After mention in last week’s column of Andy Delort, another ghost of Latics past re-emerged at the weekend.

Those Latics fans watching Real Madrid’s dismantling of Osasuna on Sky would have been impressed with the bullet header in response from none other than Oriol Riera.

Sure, it was 5-0 to Real at the time, but the quality of the goal was another reminder of why Uwe Rosler shelled out around £2million to buy him in the summer of 2014.

Sadly it also matched Riera’s tally for Latics during his only campaign at the DW, which underlined why the deal belongs in the ‘big mistake’ category.

Fairytale stories are becoming fewer and farther between these days with all the money in football.

But Fleetwood’s clash with Charlton at the weekend underlined just how much things can change at both ends of the spectrum.

Eight years ago, the Addicks were in the Premier the Cod Army were finishing eighth in the Northern Premier League!