Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Manchester Derby, Poor Wittle Wigan and Martinez the Man

Well, I said I would try to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday but the truth is I didn’t even try to post on Monday at all. I meant to, I really did but I had a double hangover on Sunday evening so I didn’t. I’m sure you all know the double hangover? Were you wake up on Sunday morning with the razor talon sporting demons behind your eyes and you think “Ok, I’ll go get something to eat, if I fill my stomach then this pain will go away.” Then you have a pint with your food, just to take the edge off, but then somebody wants to stay for another and another until you realise that you’re drunk again and you might as well carry on. Then you run out of money and go home about 8pm and you have to deal with sobering up into the middle of a double hangover with the prospect of work in 8 hours…well maybe you don’t know the double hangover, good for you if that’s the case. Anyway, then my car broke and so I missed a Monday, if anybody noticed then I’m deeply sorry. If you think that’s bad you should see how I am at my other job, my customers are both deeply unhappy and convinced that our answering service refuses to pass on messages. In fact we don’t have an answering service, I am just good at doing an impression of that slightly artificial sounding woman who always runs those things (I am a 26 year old man in case you were wondering).

 Anyway...I was going to write about the Manchester derby but you all saw what happened there right? I know it is something that is run into the ground by commentators and managers alike but I really think that momentum, or ‘flow’ is hugely important in football at the highest level. It is important that players (unless you are playing for say, Stoke or Allardyces’ West Ham when the opposite is true) are able to find a rhythm, if all 11 outfield players are dancing to the same beat then it is easier for them to time their runs, find their teammates and anticipate what they are going to do next. That’s why finals are so disappointing, the tension is simply too great for players to relax into the rhythm of the game and I think that we saw a bit of that in the Manchester derby on Monday. Still, as a spectacle it was full of tension and excitement even if the quality wasn’t so great. I was one of those who preferred United to win the title on the basis that the devil you know is better than the devil with hundreds of billions of pounds at his disposal and an ugly little mercenary cunt who is even richer and even cuntier than all the rest of the mercenary cunts up front. After hearing the City fans singing at the final whistle though I’ve changed my mind on that, they can have one, but just one then if we don’t get back to real football, well I don’t know what I’ll do...probably nothing to be honest...yeah, nothing, but I’ll be really angry.

What I really want to talk about though is Wigan, plucky little Wigan, itty bitty Wiggy Wiganny. Sorry about that, first instinct here in the bubble is to patronise any little team that has a measure of success just as you would a child who has managed to shit into a tiny plastic bucket, “Well done you little guy, look at that! In the pot! You aren’t covered in shit anymore, are you? Congratulations,” then you shake the young man’s hand I think, I don’t have kids but that’s what you have to do in football anyway.

I touched on Wigan in my last post, talking about how they are in form but it won’t matter because next season they’ll sell all of their good players. What I certainly didn’t expect was for them to pull out the kind of performance they did at the weekend. 4-0 is always going to be a big result, but against a form team like Newcastle, who were sublime against Stoke in their last fixture, it is huge. The thing is they fully deserved the victory, playing as a team and scoring 4 excellent goals. They deserved their victory against United and victories against Arsenal, Liverpool and Stoke too. They also deserved victory against Chelsea but unfortunately the referee in that game gave them a swift kick in the balls, waited for them to clamber back to their feet and then booted them in the balls again, before spitting on them…and laughing…then apologising.   

So what’s happening here? How can a team be as relentlessly dire as they have been all season and then pull out the performances they have just managed? Or to continue my metaphor from earlier, how can the little boy who has been toddling around with shit in his pants now smell like roses?

This isn’t a new situation for Wigan, remember last season’s miraculous escape? Hugo Rodallega does…
Maybe that’s it? Rodallega remembers but has he been around this season to remind his team mates (in a football way)? No, he hasn’t, because he’s been injured. I’m just now realising that the tone of this paragraph is perhaps suggesting that that is somehow his fault so I’m going to plough on with that completely unjustified sentiment…the lazy bastard has been sat on the sidelines stroking his poor sore wittle shins, or whatever injury he has (a proper journalist would have been bothered to find out, but then a proper journalist wouldn’t have missed a post through drunkenness...well, maybe a few years back he would).

Of course being injured is not really Rodallega’s fault and every team has to cope with injuries but the team that pulled Wigan out of the brown sticky stuff last year was built around him and N’Zogbia. The moody Frenchman with the lethal left has been shipped off to the misery that is Mcleish’s Villa this season, just like the season before it was Bramble to Sunderland (I know, but he had a renaissance at Wigan), before that Valencia and Cattermole, before that Palacios and Heskey (yeah, yeah, renaissance ok?), before that Leighton Baines and on and on...Martinez’s problem is that once his team’s start getting into a rhythm the club pushes the reset button by selling off one or two of the key players. Just take a look at this team, put together using Wigan old boys who are still playing.
Melchiot               Scharner                  Bramble                Baines

                                           Cattermole              Palacios

Valencia                                                                             N’Zogbia
      Heskey                      Roberts

Firstly, the keeper- Al Habsi is the best goalkeeper that Wigan have had since Kirkland was abducted by little green men (or injured, I forget) and is head and shoulders above Carroll. Other than that, maybe Moses for N’Zogbia on this season’s form but pretty much a team I would take over the current one any day.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan always makes a point of saying what a great manager Martinez is and though previously I would have accepted that he was a competent manager with a penchant for attractive football, I always thought this was a bit of bluster. Whelan, as anyone who regularly listens to sports radio will attest, has a tendency to seek out a microphone and rhapsodise with some regularity so it is possible his assessment was based on his uncontrollable urge to say a lot of things as often as possible. After this most recent revival I’m starting to think that the old geezer might be right though. Wigan are playing the best football I’ve ever seen in a relegation scrap, it’s like watching Bruce Lee jumping into a punch up between 2 pissheads outside a kebab shop. You simply can’t produce victories against Man Utd., Arsenal and Newcastle (all with something to play for) by accident.

So where does that leave Martinez? Wigan simply do not have the fan base to maintain a Premier League team, the stadium is often half empty. Whelan has done a good job in running a business model whereby the club is sustained on selling on players at a profit and this is the way that a club with their income has stayed up as long as they have. Martinez, despite his honourable refusal of the Villa job in the summer, on recent evidence does deserve better and if the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, or Chelsea come calling he may not be able to resist. I think a case could be made for him being a better option than all of the installed managers for those clubs. It would be sad to see him leave the plucky underdogs for whom he has shown such loyalty but the day is coming and the most likely scenario is that they will plummet unless they can find another manager able to make do with such a transitional team.

I’m off to lie down, I’ll post again on Friday unless I find my way into a heroin addiction or something.