Talking football: Set for an Easter cracker!
The importance of the Easter period is one of the biggest cliches in football.
But the significance of Wigan Athletic’s clashes against Swindon and Rochdale on Good Friday and Easter Monday respectively cannot be underestimated.
If Gary Caldwell’s men can hold their form, they could take two massive – unopposed – steps towards promotion to the Championship.
Third-placed Walsall do not play this weekend, due to international commitments.
Fourth-placed Gillingham are also without a game on Good Friday.
Which means that, with second-placed Latics kicking-off at 1.30pm on Easter Monday, there could be a six-point buffer before the rest are able to do anything about it.
Of course, the Saddlers and the Gills would have games in hand, but pressure does funny things to teams – especially those playing catch-up.
Walsall have shown plenty of fight in recent weeks, with three wins on the spin.
But their next three games are all away from home.
After tough trips to play-off hopefuls Sheffield United and an Oldham side battling for their lives at the bottom, Walsall travel to Gillingham in a real six-pointer – where the only guaranteed winners will be Latics and leaders Burton.
With Latics having five very winnable games – against Swindon, Rochdale, Shrewsbury, Coventry and Doncaster – in the next month, it could be that they are able to travel to Burton on April 19 with one foot in the Championship. And a free hit at scoring a huge psychological blow in the race for the title.
Will Grigg’s availability this weekend is not only an unexpected boost for Wigan Athletic.
It’s also a huge victory for common sense.
The 24-year-old has been on fire since the turn of the year, with a purple patch of goals that has played a key role in Wigan’s ascent up the League One table.
Of course, he’s also eyeing this summer’s European Championships as well as a place in the Championship for next season.
But Grigg, Northern Ireland and also Latics will surely be much better served by him staying and playing in two massive games over Easter, rather than potentially sitting on the bench hoping for a cameo here or there.
It was interesting to hear Millwall have declined the chance to postpone their Easter games despite being robbed of the services of three of their international players.
Their Easter Monday fixture will be screened live on Sky, and the Lions have presumably thought the £30,000 purse is of far more importance than the three points.
Which is, of course, their prerogative...until you take into account their opponents – Burton Albion.
The Brewers certainly don’t need any helping hands at the moment.
And the task of taking on an under-strength Lions side – rather than a full-strength one on a Tuesday night late in the season – will be gratefully accepted by Nigel Clough and his men.
Roy Hodgson is running out of chances to tweak his England side ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
But he’s to be applauded for electing to have a look at Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater, even at this late stage. Much of the speculation pre-tournament will continue to focus on whether Hodgson should go with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy up front, or bring back Wayne Rooney when the skipper recovers from injury. But just as important will be the presence of a ball-winner to allow the flair players to do their stuff. There haven’t been many better than Drinkwater in the Premier League this term, and he deserves his chance to make a late bid for a place on the plane to France.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all. Premier League clubs are apparently being given the green light to field ‘B’ teams in the JPT.
When are the powers-that-be going to realise that football did not begin in 1992, for the benefit of Sky TV, and does not consist of only one division? Are the stars of tomorrow, currently housed in the Academies of top-flight clubs, really going to benefit so much from the odd game against a Football League club on a Tuesday night? At the cost of completely and utterly destroying the credibility of a competition that affords lower-league outfits and fans a real chance of a trip to Wembley?
Stat of the week
The current bottom three in the Premier League have more top-flight titles than the present top three.