Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'No combination of administration, a global pandemic, and a league change can take the fire out of this rivalry...'
Our panel of 12th Men look ahead to one of the highlights of the fixture list...the short trip to Horwich to face Bolton Wanderers...
Paul Middleton: Well, it’s almost here. Saturday is up there with first match, Boxing Day, and last match for being amongst the first fixtures to look for in June. Our record at their place isn’t great, in fact it’s pretty poor. But I’m still confident we’ll put them to the sword, and have them all crying come 5pm. Their fans will scream that they don’t care about us, and yet both they and their manager can’t shut up about us. Frankly, I don’t care how we win, as long as we do. I don’t care if it’s pretty, or the ugliest thing ever, providing we have at least one goal more than they do when the final whistle is blown. Then we can watch their moaning about how much we’ve spent, how they are better than Barcelona and how they are being robbed blind every game because the opposition keep scoring more goals than they do. Some 4,000 Latics fans will be there, making a terrific racket, with more back in the DW watching it on a big telly. Our owners are great at seeing the need for things like this, and acted quickly after tickets for the match sold out at a frightening rate. It gets said a lot, not least by me, but I think we’re definitely on the path to something big at Latics, and we should all be along for the ride. It’s not a short-term plan, I’m sure, but it at least looks like we do have a plan – which we certainly didn’t for a few years before July. We had a weekend off, which sometimes helps and sometimes doesn’t, but I’m hopeful. Bolton didn’t, and got beaten – again – despite being better than the Brazil 1970 World Cup-winning side. The chance to really stick the boot in and send them further down the table is fantastic, especially with us playing so well week in, week out. But they don’t care, of course they don’t. They keep telling us they don’t, so it must be true. We know they read this column. They’ll deny it, of course, but we know. We always know.
Sean Livesey: A trip to the ‘best team in the league’ beckons for Latics on Saturday afternoon. But we’ve already travelled to Sunderland, I hear you say. Is it Plymouth, then? Nope. Well Wycombe, then? No. It’s our friends over the hill in Horwich. ‘Best team in the league’ Bolton Wanderers, who currently sit in eighth place in the table. Ian Evatt is nothing if not confident! Okay, Bolton have made a decent start to their return to League One and are clearly a decent side. But the best team in the league? Other stats say otherwise, like the league table, and the amount of games that have a ‘W’ next to them – but no matter. I’m sure Bolton will be up there for the duration this season. In all seriousness, it is going to be a tough game on Saturday, and we’ve not had the best of records over there in recent years. Indeed, the last time we won at the Reebok/Macron/Unibol or whatever it’s called these days was close to a decade ago, as a Scottish double of James McArthur and Gary Caldwell sealed all three points for Roberto Martinez’s side. That still feels so recent in a lot of ways, yet so much has happened since that visit in the Premier League. It’s difficult to know what to expect on Saturday. We’ve had a week off due to the international break whereas Bolton narrowly lost against Sheffield Wednesday. Or, if you’d prefer, they ‘loaned’ Wednesday all three points. Bolton have only lost at home once this season, with their other four matches bringing two draws and two wins, so they’ve a mixed record. With a break for most of our squad with the international fixtures, it should be a fresh Latics side that takes to the pitch. Leam Richardson has stuck with the same starting XI for the last few games and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case again, especially as Will Keane didn’t feature during his time with the Ireland squad and Tendayi Darwika returned early from duty with the Zimbabwe national side. It should be the biggest away following of the season so far and the third that’s sold out, with over 4,000 Wiganers making the short journey. With that kind of backing – and a return to the top of the league a possibility – I’d expect Leam to have the lads firing on all cylinders. Just don’t tell Ian Evatt that.
Deb Chapman: A weekend of no football isn’t good for the soul. But what a weekend we have coming up, against our local rivals Bolton! On the back of the cracking win at Gillingham, I am sure the lads will be up for it in more ways than one. Who’s going to be the hero and score the winner? My money is on Charlie Wyke. This week, we also found out Talal has come home. This man and the rest of his team really have made a difference in the short space of time they have been here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still only October and anything can happen on the field between now and May. But in terms of off-field, everything has just been so positive, and on both fronts may that continue. On the international front, remember Will Keane being called up but to not appear even on the subs’ bench. Bit of a theme there...with another striker called Will? Don’t worry he can show off his goalscoring ability for us!
Statto: So we may aswell take another weekend off and not bother and give Horwich the three points. Why you say this? Well, their manager seems to think his team are peak 1970-Brazil, the best team in the league, despite results not showing this. Let’s go there and smash them every which we can, and leave them to their propaganda machine that is BBC Radio Manchester. It’s only a game, another three points – only it’s not. It’s them, and we need to put them in their place, so let’s get behind the team and leave the ‘Crazy Corner’ crying on Saturday night.
Matt Auffrey: Bolton away: a fixture that needs no further introduction for Latics fans. It’s been nearly three years since these two clubs last met in Horwich. Each club could write their own encyclopedia chronicling the events of everything that has occurred since that clash in late 2018. While it may be difficult for each fanbase to agree on much of anything prior to Saturday’s derby, both sides would likely express that they are quite content, if not elated, with the current status and trajectory of their club at this point in time. The stakes have now risen since these two sides last faced off at the DW in late August. Neither team went into that second round League Cup fixture expecting to win the competition in February 2022. However, both clubs currently maintain aspirations of promotion to the Championship. And this match will play a pivotal role in achieving that goal – even with it taking place so early in the campaign.
Latics will take their largest away following of the young campaign to the University of Bolton Stadium. The matchday proceedings will certainly contain a special aura of excitement. Across the pond in the Big Apple, Saturday’s match will mark the first time that we NYC-based fans will be able to watch a Bolton match together since the creation of our fan group in August 2019. For the majority of our 15-20 attendees, this will be the first Wigan-Bolton derby that they will have ever watched, and it will serve as another crucial opportunity to turn casual viewers at a pub into genuine fans. The prospect of reclaiming our spot at the top of the League One table holds a healthy amount of allure. As exciting as it is to maintain one’s hold on the throne, the climb (back to) to the top is always more exhilarating. We should expect to put out our strongest starting XI. We quickly fought off any lingering cobwebs after our first international break when we beat Doncaster at the DW last month. There should be no reason why we can’t match or surpass our opponent’s energy from the opening kick and make a statement of intent. Our last league match against Gillingham saw Latics win comfortably, in spite of a less-than-sharp performance for a considerable portion of the 90 minutes. We will not be afforded that same luxury against a tougher opposition on Saturday. Hopefully our traveling contingent of nearly 4,000 will be rewarded with our most satisfying away victory. Regardless of whether one is watching at a stadium in the North West of England or on a TV screen in the North West of Brooklyn, the beverages will be cold, the songs will be loud, and the goal celebrations will be equally emphatic. This past week has proven that no combination of administration, a global pandemic, and a league change can take the fire out of this rivalry.
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