Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Thursday February 4 2010
There is a big game this weekend, it might not seem that big to football followers not associated with either Wigan Athletic or Sunderland but for the fans of these two clubs this is a big game.
In the build up to the game Vital Latics thought it would be a good idea to meet up with the opposition and have a bit of a chat about all things Latics and Sunderland and of course Bruce, Martinez and Figueroa, so on a gloomy Wednesday afternoon worbo headed out to a secret location (the Little Chef, the cyber one) and met up with Gaz Johnson from Vital Sunderland for coffee, doughnuts and a bit of a natter, let's see how it went:
worbo - Hi Gaz, good to meet up, how`s its going? Can I ask if you are one of the famous, or is it infamous, group of Sunderland fans sliding down the grassy bank at Springfield Park back in 1988? (see bottom of page)
Gaz - I have a few more grey hairs since we last won way back in November but other than that I am doing OK mate. Sadly, I was not there for the mud bank incident but I have been reminded about it by my Father nearly every time we play you guys. I was only a young 4 year old Mackem when that happened but this just shows how funny the Sunderland travelling fans are when they watch the lads. We would all do it again if the grounds allowed it!
worbo - Lets get straight down to it, Steve Bruce, he came in at the Latics when we were really struggling, steadied the ship so to speak and built a half decent side around some good players, Heskey, Zaki, Palacios, Valencia and Cattermole, but then he seemed to get found out around the back end of last season and we couldn`t buy a win, obviously he left in the summer for Sunderland and you lot started off this season quite well, but lately it looks like the wheels have come off, whats happened?
Gaz - The same as what happened at Wigan by the sounds of it! We were flying at the start and began to think we may have found our man to push us on into Europe but since November we have not been able to get any wins under our belts. The injuries and suspensions that we have suffered has been the major blow but Bruce is to blame also for poor tactics and letting slip of valuable opening goals.
worbo - Were you pleased when Bruce joined you, we were all disappointed that he was leaving until he made the comment about not having to shop at Tesco any more and the vast majority of Latics fans turned against him.
Gaz - Well that comment has been done to death by your fans now, even seen your fans in the DW stadium all walking around with Tesco shopping bags! You crazy bunch! It is true though, that he had limited funds under the reign of Whelan, and he joined a club desperate to break into the top ten with a super rich American tycoon.
Since he made that comment we have only really splashed out on Darren Bent, and look how he has turned out for us! We are hoping to start winning some more games and then try and build on a solid squad for next season.....however, with it being the cursed Sunderland, we will be embroiled in yet another scrap at the bottom.
worbo - I usually ask opposing fans if they could choose any Latic player to take who would it be but with Lee Cattermole having already gone, Maynor Figueroa very much in Bruce`s sights and rumours about Chris Kirkland I`d like to re-phrase this if that`s ok?
Lee Cattermole is a fantastic talent would you agree? I see he has been injured for a lengthy spell what was wrong with him and is he over it? How is he rated by the Sunderland fans, he was voted young player of the year with us last season.
Gaz - Before he signed I really did not like him due to him always snapping our players in half and trying to fight on the pitch with Grant Leadbitter. How wrong I was! He is a fantastic player and he was the main reason we done well at the early end of this season. We have missed his closing down, his vision and his determination alongside captain Lorik Cana. He looks to be back to full fitness after 90 minutes against the dirty, ugly Stoke City so here is hoping he can continue until the end of the season, as we need him badly!
worbo - Maynor Figueroa, well Gaz it seems like Bruce has been chasing Figgy for an age what do you know about Honduras` number 3? Do you really need him?
Gaz - I rate Maynor as a left back and he is much better than what we have in George McCartney. He will be joining in the Summer, that new contract was only done for extra cash when we sign him.
worbo - Roberto Martinez got a little upset with Steve Bruce and says that he tried to unsettle Figueroa, we know how Brucie operates, he was our manager for a while you know and he does use the press and players agents when chasing players, do you think its all part of the wheeling and dealing and that its ok or should managers be taken to task over unsettling players, bearing in mind Bruces comments over Kenwyne Jones and Liverpool.
Gaz - I think he was very close to signing him in the Summer and then the media and agents got involved in the January transfer window. From our perspective I think Bruce is an honest manager and says how he feels when asked via the media. I think he done everything in the correct way but maybe asked the question over his availability a bit too often for Wigan.
worbo - When Bruce managed the Latics he liked to play a 4-5-1 formation, usually with Heskey out wide on the left, at times it was very negative but when we had our big name players all together we were very hard to beat, how has he got Sunderland playing and are the fans happy with his style?
Gaz - His tactics of late have been very, very questionable and this has been majorly down to the fact we have never played the same back four in two months of football. We now seem to have everyone back to full fitness and he played 4-4-2 in our last draw against Stoke. He will use this as Bent and Jones can be a handful but sadly our midfield is not creative enough for us to win every game.
worbo - We have Charles N`Zogbia in our ranks and he has been our most creative player by a mile this season, opposing teams are starting to get their defenders to double up on him but that isn`t making too much difference as he just beats two men instead of one, Martinez plays him on the right which with him being left footed allows him to cut inside, a very effective tactic and he has scored some spectacular goals and made quite a few assists, who should we look out for in the Sunderland side and what are his strengths?
Gaz - We have seen in the past few games the importance of John Mensah in our defence. He was man of the match against Everton and looks a touch of class when on the ball. He is vital for our safety this season as he just looks a different players to the rest of our defence at times. The obvious one to watch out for is Darren Bent as he looks to score his 16th of the season this weekend.
worbo - The Premier League this season is a lot more open than it has been for a while, I can see the top four monopoly being broken, I fancy Aston Villa, Spurs and Manchester City to all finish higher than Liverpool with Chelsea, Manchester United and Villa taking the Champions League spots
Down at the bottom its just as tight if not more so, I fear Portsmouth with all their problems will be forced into administration and I can see them as certainties for relegation, two to follow for me are Hull and Burnley, I think Hull are a very poor side, they beat us though, and with Owen Coyle leaving to go to Bolton I feel Burnley have lost all their impetus and will end up going down
So my top 4 bottom 3 is: Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal, Villa….Pompey, Hull, Burnley
How do you see it panning out Gaz?
Gaz - Pompey, Hull, Wolves to go down and Chelsea Man, United, Villa, Arsenal
worbo - Finally Gaz lets get down to business, you might be feeling quite confident of turning round your dreadful form that`s seen you plummet down the table and fancy your chances of beating us especially after our midweek cup defeat to lowly Notts County, but it will be a different side on Saturday and a different approach from our lads and I am feeling that we will get it right and do the double over you, I am going for a 1-2 away win, what`s your thoughts and prediction?
Gaz - After reading some of your message boards on Vital Wigan I don't know where you get this blind optimism from as other fans are saying we will batter you into submission. I feel the game against Stoke, although very poor, will help the injured players and defence gel together. We will come out winners on Saturday and then head to Pompey to send them closer to the Championship.
2-0 Bent and Jones
worbo - Well Gaz it`s been nice meeting up and a pleasure talking to you, good luck for the rest of the season and next time you can buy the doughnuts.
To see a little interview with yours truly over on Vital Sunderland follow this link
Sunderland fans at Springfield Park in 1988, by the way the game ended 2-2
You can listen to the Latics Speyk podcasts now by clicking on the player here:
Date:Thursday February 4 2010
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