Wigan Athletic – Blues : Build Up

Posted on April 2, 2008 
Filed Under Blues News

It’s only Tuesday and already the significance of the Blues-Wigan game is sharply in focus. With Blues coming up against Steve Bruce for the first time since his bizarre departure in November and with the sides so closely locked together in the league, there was bound to be a lot of interest in the game.

I’ll leave the main preview to new-boy blogger Nat on Friday but Mauro Zarate aside, there’s little else being discussed this week. Forssell, Bruce, Aitken and Gary O’Connor have all offered up comments and there’ll be more throughout the week. Considering that we could catapult ourselves a massive seven points clear of the drop zone this weekend, it’s probably fair that this game gets its share of coverage this week. And so that is why I’ll try to post as many links and articles as possible regarding the game before Nat’s no doubt excellent preview on Friday afternoon.

First of all, Blues have sold out their allocation for the game. Nearly 5,000 noisy Bluenoses will be travelling and I can’t help but think of the season we went down with a game to spare. Portsmouth took a few thousand up there and it sounded like a home game for them – they inspired their side to a 2-1 win to confirm our relegation back to the murky waters of the Championship. Those numbers could be crucial and Roy Aitken has admitted as much in an interview on .com.

Early team news is also trickling through and it’s not good for Blues with both James McFadden and Olivier Kapo set to miss out. Naturally we’ll miss players of this quality but with little Mauro finding his shooting boots (and how good was his second against Manchester City?) and Forssell happy to play second fiddle, it’s not as bad as it might’ve been. Garry O’Connor is also talking positively despite saying that he needs a break and although his comment about ‘being a hero’ winds me up a bit – it should always be about the team in my not so humble opinion – it’s good to see him back in first team contention. He was beginning to find the net when his injury hit and although he hasn’t massively impressed since signing, I still have hopes for him. He’s right too, annoyingly… he might just be the one to score the goal that we all remember as the one that kept us up.

The back four might still be a problem with Queudrue and Ridgewell both missing but Terry Westley is convinced that Taylor’s 90 minutes against the Villa in reserves in midweek will place him solidly back in first team contention, however, I don’t think too many Bluenoses would be against the idea of Parnaby at right back and the Premiership’s most played player in the shape of Stephen Kelly at centre half.

Wigan’s team is also taking shape and you can read a mini-preview via the Wigan Vital site. Palacios is still yet to score for Wigan and his inclusion does make me nervous. Hopefully he’ll respect us as the club that gave him his first Premiership break if he does notch. And speaking of midfielders from this season… am I the only one who is still a bit miffed about the luck we had with Oubina? I don’t know why but I just got a feeling that he might’ve been a star for us this term and when he recovers, I’m certainly going to try and keep up with his career and how he’s progressing in Spain.

And sticking with the Latics, Steve Bruce has been having words with a local paper about us. It is a shame how it ended but surely everyone is now in agreement that it was in the best interests for everyone involved. We’d become stale under Bruce and Bruce had become stale managing us. He appears to have reinvigorated Wigan and no Blues fan I know would swap McLeish back for Bruce. Maybe the ending was always going to be awkward due to Bruce having outstayed his welcome at he insistence of the board. He did wonders in the transfer market pre-season but it felt like a stay of execution rather than a fresh beginning.

The comment about him having signed 95% of our squad is a bit of a cheek too. Whilst it’s true – and I hope that Bruce was just naive in what he said – our style has changed completely and now we look like a team capable of scoring goals and assuming we stay up, McLeish looks like he’ll be changing more staff and further identifying and correcting errors that, when he first arrived, looked ingrained in the team. Only now are our players beginning to look comfortable on the ball and confident in their ability to go and get things out of certain games – all points that Garry O’Connor has made in an interview with The Mail.

I’m not one of the anti-Bruce lot. He did a lot for us and we shouldn’t forget that. But when he joined us, his reputation was  in tatters and six years at Blues helped him to get back some of his credibility within the game. The ending at Blues should’ve perhaps happened earlier than it did and so when he eventually did go through the exit door, too many were relieved to stop and say ‘Thank you’. I hoped that in time we’d rediscover our respect for him – and him for us – although it remains to be seen. I think he’ll get a good response. I hope so, anyway.

And the final word in this blog goes to Mikael Forssell who has had his say on the manager. Rumours often floated around about a falling out between the two although nothing was ever officially reported. The Forss has come out and said that he holds no grudges against Bruce and that the only thing that will matter on Saturday are the three points. Good lad. I just hope the rest of the squad is as focused.

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