We’re going early with this week’s “Who are You?”. It would be easy to say this was because it is such an important match that it was high time to stop carping about what has made it so. The more humdrum reason: I’m away in Italy today and will have my work cut out on Thursday. My thanks to Kieran Heapy, otherwise known as HeapyLatic on Wigan Athletic sites – including his own, Pie Eaters Footie* and the one through which we found him, This Northern Soul – for saving poor old Salut! Sunderland award-winning Bernard Ramsdale from having to do it again for the umpteenth time …
Salut! Sunderland: I hoped the tone of this question would have needed changing after last weekend, but not so. Can there be any Premier team you’d rather have to play than us just now?
It would be Blackpool, even though we have just played them, they are the team that are currently on the slide. They look very much like Burnley did last season, started well but second half of the season they have been found out and teams can stop them playing. Saying that you still have to be on top of the game, there really haven’t been any easy games this season, and any win has to be very well fought for.
It has been tight all season from near the top right to the bottom, but Wigan seem to have been down there the whole time. Is there one obvious reason, or plenty of them?
If you look from the start of the season, the first few games we lacked experience in the defence. I feel the absence of Gary Caldwell was a big one, along with players still hung over from the start of the World Cup. After the first two games that has always knocked our season, but when we started to look to get back into it, we didn’t have anyone who was a prolific goal scorer. Boselli and Di Santo were brought in to score the goals and never did and over the course of the season that has cost us a large number of points.
And if worst came to worst, would you do a Newcastle and bounce straight back or struggle like Derby, Boro and others?
I’d like to say that we would bounce back straight up, but it comes down to a lot of ifs. I think we would lose a fair few key players, the likes of McCarthy, Moses, N’Zogbia and Rodallega. If we were to keep them then we would bounce straight back up,.
Steve Bruce has come in for a lot of stick lately. What is your assessment of the man and manager?
As a manager, he is very much the same as he was as a player, ruthless. If he doesn’t want you he won’t keep you, but he does get the best out of players and make them work as a team. When he was at Wigan, he turned a fairly average team into a much stronger willing to work team. However I don’t think he could deal with the fact that we were selling our best players to raise money and had to leave to try and to build a squad elsewhere.
What memories do you have – good, bad, funny – of past SAFC v Wigan encounters, home or away?
I think for every Wigan fan the fixture has some really good memories over the years. The few in recent years are sticking most out in my mine. The first ever Premier League win at home for Latics when Jason Roberts scored that penalty inside the first minute of the game, was a great day and always sticks in my mind, and in the reverse leg the over the shoulder volley by Camara to seal the double. Another game was our win over a Bruce led Sunderland, with a 1-0 win, Steve Bruce’s face was one to savour for Latics fans. It has always been a good home game for us. I am hoping that we can take the luck with us to your this weekend.
Who is the finest player you’ve seen at your club and who should have been allowed nowhere near it?
Been so many over the years its hard to pick one player who I would say has been our finest. The three players that changed the fortune of the club were the ‘Three Amigos’. The first ever non foreign players in the lower leagues brought attention to the club and really lit up the team and gave us some spark and a different aspect to our game play. I have always looked at the signings as the beginning of our rise.
Over the years I have been watching Latics, very few names come to mind for me not wanting them to be near the club. But if I had to name a player I would have to really say is our current Jordi Gomez. Unlike a lot of players who haven’t performed well at Wigan, they have always given 100 per cent when they have been on the pitch, but half the time Gomez just looks like he can’t be bothered. The one quality I think we all like to see is effort and he just doesn’t have any.
Our friend Bernard Ramsdale has talked about general apathy towards sport in Wigan. Yet we always thought Rugby League at least mattered enormously to the town?
Yeah it does a great deal in Wigan, for a very very long time it was the major sport played in Wigan, because the team was doing well and so had the spotlight. But in recent years as Athletic has become a more stable and raised up the leagues, the team and sport has become more popular in the town, to a point where now we are seeing higher attendances than the Rugby does. I know a few lads who have followed Warriors and know a few who follow Athletic, my year was about the same in who supported who.
What did you make of The Road to Wigan Pier, or haven’t you read it?
I hate to say i haven’t, it is a book that looks a good read and hopefully will be part of my summer reading.
Without wishing to intrude on possible private grief, which three clubs will be relegated? What will be the top four in order and who will win the Champions League?
I don’t think anyone can really predict who will finish in the bottom three, because so much could change between now and the rest of the season. I’d like to think that we will avoid the drop after a win at Blackpool and another few on the way. But you can’t be certain. Currently I could see it being West Ham, Blackburn and Wolves.
As for the champions league, there is no doubt that it will be Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal. The last spot for me, will go down to the wire. This time however I think Man City will take the spot and pip Tottenham to a second season.
And if Sunderland and Wigan figured in none (!) of your answers, where will each of our clubs finish in May?
Sunderland I could see going quite clear of the drop and be about 11th or 12th not really having to look over their shoulders after this weekend. As for Wigan I think we will be in the fight for a bit longer, but by the time we play Stoke, I believe we won’t need to get a result to stay up.
Do you feel referees really favour big clubs? What’s the worst decision against you, and (being honest) the worst that’s helped you this season?
Yes and no, in a lot of decisions no, it’s just how they see the game. Sometimes though it feels like referees go against clubs when they play the top four, especially when giving fouls. Some soft fouls are given and cards which shouldn’t be given. Whether that comes down to players making the referees mind up with diving or exaggerating I wouldn’t like to say. It’s not easy being a referee and I don’t envy the job they have to do.
It was the Eduardo Question last season, it’s the Walcott Question now: was he brave or foolish to make his public admission and apology about diving?
Brave and in some way showing that he is sorry for it. If he found he had to come out about it, then it must have been playing on his mind, and if he is big enough to admit it and hold his hands up, shouldn’t we say to him “thanks for being honest, don’t do it again next time”? If you make a mistake and big enough to admit it, then you are big enough to not do it next time.
Will we ever stamp out cheating in all its forms or should we just accept it as part of the modern game?
I think we are going to have to accept it as part of the game till someone can find away to giving the referee a better way of telling. Again this come back to the fact of having a video referee, who can monitor the game while it is on and when a tackle goes in or a hand ball etc. Then the referee can be corrected if the wrong decision is made. Surely if the game is adapting how we umpire it should as well.
How bothered were you by the Fifa vote making Russia the 2018 World Cup venue?
I wasn’t overly bothered we didn’t win. Having the World Cup in England would have been a dream come true for all football fans in this country and I think many other countries. Having the World Cup in Russia will be something new and will be interesting to see. But it won’t be in the stands for me, like it could have been had it been in England.
Will you be at our game, how will you keep tabs if not and what will be the score?
No I will be home over the weekend, and will be either listening to the game or have the updates on Sky Sport on my phone. So I will make sure I am up-to-date with what is going on in the game. I’ll take Latics to win 2-1.
* Kieran Heapy on Kieran Heapy:
Well I am known as HeapyLatic on Wigan web, and have been following Latics since was little. About six was my first game, my dad taking me to watch Latics, and since then I have been hooked on watching the blue and white. I have seen the rise of the club I have never seen us relegated which was rather luck really, but I have always loved how family-like the club has been and hardworking the team always is.
I have followed the club a few times away, and made the trip to the league cup final in 2006. Highlight of my years following the Latics and even though we got a battering it will live long in the memory. In recent years I created Pie Eaters Footie, which has recently go over a makeover and where I vent my thoughts and feeling on the club and results.
Interview: Colin Randall