The Wigan Soapbox: winning, whisky and a Villa wind-up

Slump is over, but at what cost? That is another of Pete Sixsmith‘s seven-word verdicts, one he reached after reflecting on the immensely gratifying win over Wigan, three of our four goals coming after the club’s roster of fit senior strikers had finally reached zero. The injury list lengthens but the darks clouds are beginning to disperse. And where do Aston Villa come into this? Nowhere in truth; Pete just feels they need bringing down a peg or two after all the Bent-came-to-us-because-we’re-a-bigger club bragging …

I would imagine that 39,000 fans and the entire workforce at the Stadium of Light had a warm and rosy glow about them on Saturday night. I certainly did, thanks to the much needed and richly deserved 4-2 win and a couple of snifters of Baillie Nichol Jarvie, just about the finest blended Scotch I have ever come across. I wholeheartedly recommend both the win and the whisky.

The BNJ (as we Scotch aficionados call it) is a light coloured drink, with a sweet taste – but you’re not really interested in that are you? You want a rundown of the day the magic carpet ride got back on the rails don’t you. So, here goes and I promise not to mix my metaphors as crudely as in the previous sentence.

A game and a result like this makes the use of metaphors, similes and clichés very easy to fall back on. The elephant in the room (relegation) was dispatched; certain players stepped up to the plate (none more than Henderson); when the going got tough, the tough got going (Cattermole) and “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” (Sessegnon and Malbranque).

Finally, the management team showed the courage of their convictions by picking the team that had done reasonably well at Birmingham the previous week. Now was the time for all good men to come to the service of their club and all that kind of stuff. The dragon of relegation, in the guise of Wigan Athletic, needed to be slain by the Knights of St George and their various foreign helpers.

The first half gave no indication of the goal rush that was to come in the second. Phil Bardsley lasted four minutes, leaving the field borne on a stretcher after a clash of heads with Onuoha. Danny Welbeck lasted another 15 before his hamstring went, leading to the arrival of Ferdinand and Steed.

There was little else to get excited about. The man behind me berated the midfield for dropping off and not tackling. I thought they got it right – Wigan wanted to draw us out so they could get behind us and involve Rodellega, but Cattermole, Colback and Henderson were having none of it. All three are young and English – two of them from the Academy as well.

The second half started badly. From somewhere, Wigan put an attack together and Diame breezed past Turner to hit a tremendous goal. Heads were slumped in the East Stand, but we reacted positively and equalised within three minutes.

It came from a free kick taken by Henderson. Someone had said to stop hitting long balls into the box for Caldwell minor and Alacaraz to head out, so Henderson knocked it square to Colback. His first touch wasn’t great but he had the presence of mind and the confidence of youth to look up and see Steed unmarked out wide.

His cross was an absolute gem and it gave Gyan the opportunity to have a run at it instead of having to make a standing jump. He hit a great header and we were level.

The man behind thought we were lucky, Mr Horan and I disagreed and said it showed some thought. Match of the Day suggested a mix of the two, but all praise to Colback for not panicking and giving the ball away with a pointless shot.

After that Asamoah pulled a hamstring, Muntari came on and we would have settled for a point. Not a bit of it. Sessegnon and Henderson took control of the game and within 15 minutes we were 4-1 up and cruising.

Sessegnon looked a far better player when he sat behind Gyan. In a crowded midfield he tends to be squeezed out – he’s not the most physical of players. But he has skill and he must have silenced many of his critics and doubters with the two balls he gave to Henderson that put him in for his two well taken goals. He also went down well for, what looked to us in the East Stand, a soft penalty, although TV indicated that Alcaraz leaned into him – a dangerous thing to do when away from home and Lee Probert is the referee. As we found out at Stoke, he doesn’t give the visitors much.

Jordan had a great second half. His lung bursting runs opened Wigan up and he tackled, marked and cajoled as if he and he alone could get us over the 40 point line. The midfield looked competitive for the first time for ages. Cattermole got his usual booking but had an excellent game, while Colback was as neat and tidy as regular reserve watchers know him to be.

What about a few words of consolation for Bernard Ramsdale and his fellow Wigan fans? Not a great afternoon for the old pie eaters. They fell apart after we equalised and looked an absolute shambles for 20 minutes, with balls being kicked in the air and nobody getting hold of the midfield. On this performance, they look likely to slide back into the Championship. I hope not.

We have an interesting week in store. No forwards for the visit of Fulham, so do we go for an emergency loan? Can we bring in a player who is not signed up with a club? McCarthy was released by West Ham so he is available. Would it be allowed? Or do we go with Noble and Lynch in an attempt to go above the Mags and hit the top half of the Ceefax League?

Finally, as a piece of pure pettiness, I give you this:

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic 39,650, which included no more than 500 visiting fans.
Aston Villa v Stoke City 35,235 with at least 2,000 Stoke fans.
Aston Villa bigger than Sunderland; don’t make me laugh …

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45 thoughts on “The Wigan Soapbox: winning, whisky and a Villa wind-up”

  1. Martin – it’s obvious who’s turnip is the biggest. In the Midlands turnips are little white things – nothing like the giant purple norkies of the North east!

  2. Sand Dancers, Brendan. There is a long established Arab community in South Shields, mostly Lascars from Yemen who worked on the ships. It’s a term of affection rather than a racial epithet.
    Like you, I wish Houlier a complete recovery but that’s the end of his involvement with Villa and football management. Who to go for next? Martin O’Neill? Neil Lennon? What about Gordon Strachan or Gareth Southgate? How would ITV survive without two failed Boro managers in the commentary suite? Sam Allardyce?
    On a more serious note, Lambert loks a very good manager – intelligent, articulate and not afraid to experiment. Would he leave Norwich for a bigger club? You bet he would. Ambitious managers seize opportunities when they come along.
    I have enjoyed this debate and I now remove Villa from my Clubs I Dislike Pantheon. Sounds of rejoicing in the West Midlands!!

  3. Twas rumoured Villa were serious in their pursuit of Barton. A good player, like most Scousers, but an utter headcase and not a man you’d take home to meet your parents, even if they were Kafka-esque insects. As for Gerard Houllier, may he get well soon, but may also he or the Villa clarify the situation soon. Otherwise, more under-achieving. If he must retire/resign, who next for Villa? Me, I’d look at Brit managers such as Paul Lambert, Brendan Rodgers or, severe hesitation, Steve McLaren, but never Steve Bruce or Tony Pulis. Wasn’t the Stoke v Wolves game tonight truly execrable?
    On a point of local knowledge, are South Shields type Sandancers, I forget, may have spelling wrong too.

  4. Right ho.
    On a different point/debate: is the El Grand Classico the biggest club game in the world?
    I saw only the last 60 mins of 120 in total of the Copa del Rey last week and it was the third best game I’ve ever seen after Argentina 2 France 1 (78 World Cup) and England 0 Brazil 1 (70 World Cup).
    My boy of 14 says it is. He also wants to go to the 2014 World Cup for his 18th birthday however, so he can shut up while I manage my blood pressure for now.

  5. Can we all just slag of newcastle and Birmingham now?

    Barton is a c*** and newcastle fans have delusions of grandeur.

    Your turn…

  6. Lovely post Mr Hanrahan. You are dead right. You sound like the kind of man that most of us would sit down and enjoy a pint with. End of debate?

  7. Well, well done the poster for sparking debate. But, surely, the notion of which is a bigger club is self-defeating from the start. Dalglish claimed days ago that Liverpool are the biggest club in the world. Patently understandable, but also daft. Bigger than Barcelona or Real Madrid? Er,no. Speaking of which a visit to Camp Nou (with my son last summer) puts even my love of the Villa in context. We’re not in their league and maybe not Real Madrid. But as for all others, we can swish at a cross and sometimes zing it into the top corner and other times not even hit the corner flag. The point is it’s a beautiful game and the main thing to remember is the Premiership is, provably, the biggest sporting league in the world (I found that out eye-poppingly in Abu Dhabi and other places abroad) and we should be glad we’re part of it. Perhpas to the detriment of the national team though. Sunderland are a great club, so are we. So, what’s to complain about? Also, remember Mr Randall likes Irish folk and Irish music a lot, so he’s blessed there too. Quite a good journalist too. Ahem.

  8. 96 was our last trophy, yours?.

    Don’t feel sorry for us, Houllier finally signed us a goalscorer… I’d be more worried about the “loyal” potato head that’s running your team.

    Take a look at his stints and blues ad Wigan and read what their fans say about him… He will leave you in a right mess.

    Good luck with that.

  9. When did Villa last win a trophy? It must have been a while because I can’t remember. We win nothing but remain staunchly supported, regardless.

    I feel a bit sorry for the Villa though. having to put up with Houllier.

  10. Doesn’t Birmingham’s claim to the the “second city”, whereas Sunderland was a town until fairly recently and is significantly smaller, come into it?
    Ant: your comment “you have no history” really diminishes everything else you say. Like Brendan, a Villa fan (above), Ken and others, I couldn’t really care less which is the bigger club. Nr, now he’s gone, do I care much about what Bent does or doesn’t do, beyond speculating as to how long it will be before he does to you what he did to us.
    As it happens, lots of SAFC supporters have a soft spot for Villa and vice versa. The absence of any sense of proportion or humour on the part of a few Villa fans is unlikely to change that.

  11. Hmm, you don’t seem to comprehend anything that is said to you do you?

    What I’m saying is that you, Sunderland are a one club city. So you should sell out EVERY game.

    We, Villa, got average gates of 40k over the last 3 seasons, however the recession and then all the stuff that’s gone on this season has prevented that but we still get 35-43k per home game.

    Now if we was a one club city we would have a larger fan base wouldn’t we? It’s quite simple to take in really.

    Sunderland fans are nothing special, you only hear off them when they are doing well (so not often)

    Villa fans that are “rattling” on about Bent are just responding back to those idiots who said that you were the bigger club and he was making a mistake.

    It obviously does bother you as you have taken to comparing the gates (even though not having the facts – ie 2000 Stoke fans when it was 900) to try and get one over on us.

    We will ALWAYS be bigger than you, you have no history and no future.

  12. Don’t care about Bent, just annoyed about Villa fans rattling on about how big they are. You have joined Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Bishop Auckland in the Pantheon of clubs I don’t like.
    I’m sure you’ll get over it.
    But I can’t think of many clubs who have won a single trophy since 1937 and who still attract massive crowds. Did I mention there were 39,650 at The Stadium of Light on Saturday? Would Villa get crowds like this if they had such a poor record? No, I didn’t think so.
    Sunderland is a remarkable club, not because of what they win, but because of the people who follow them and love them. Our support is second to none; that’s what makes a great club. Villa are not quite in the same class.

  13. If you are using the fact that Wolves, the Baggies and The Blues are local and people would prefer to go there it kind of blows a hole in the “big club” argument.

  14. Go and ask any impartial person what club is bigger.

    It really is as simple as that.

    I mean come on, one season where you look like doing something and the arse falls out of it and you don’t win for god knows how long and you are back where you belong.

    We have one bad season, bought on by a number of things and we are still level with you and this is our WORSE season for years. How can you even try and argue against that?

    As for the attendances at SOL, we will sell out or be there or there about like we always do, but that has nothing to do with the clubs stature. We are having a nightmare season, we have been hit massively by the recession and we are in a city with Blues, WBA, and wolves yet we still bring in 35-43k a week.

    Like I said earlier, we dont care about Sunderland. You lot are acting like scorned lovers over Bent. He left, he joined a big club, he is playing better for England and he will continue to score and shoot is back up to top 6 minimum next year while you lot will be top 10 at best.

  15. I certainly didn’t expect to get embroiled in a game of’my dad’s bigger than your dad’,but here goes.My main point was that I was far more interested in SAFC’s season.However Mr. Bent was totally out of order to talk about a ‘massive’ club.Yes I can remember Peter McParland’s assault on Ray Wood,the 1981 Championship win and the European Cup the following year,but I can also remember your relegation to the third tier and year after year of mediocrity.If you want to believe Villa are bigger than Sunderland well OK, but ‘Massive’? Do me a favour. Massive is Man U. Real Madrid etc. or do you put yourself in that category?

  16. I am sat next to a Villa fan as I type, it was nice to ogle the league table in January and to complete the double over them. It’s a pity we couldn’t maintain that start and then we could have been seriously comtemplating being a bigger team than them, and all but the big six or seven.
    I don’t care about Darren Bent – if he doesn’t want to play for Sunderland then why be concerned?
    I hope our manager (whoever that might be) spends their £24m well.

  17. I’m so pleased I started this. Look at the gate for Saturday; Aston Villa 35,235; Sunderland 39,650. And we won. Looking forward to seeing how many Villa bring next season.

  18. She died in 1968.

    I thought you changed your mind about him Bill. Your comments were supportive when we had no injuries and the team was winning.

  19. phil it was you that started discussing the age of supporters.

    Like it matters if we were born during the European cup or not.

    Let’s say for example we wasn’t, does that mean that trophy doesn’t count too?

    Bottom line is we never started the “we are bigger” argument.

    We offered for Bent, he wanted to come and that’s all we were bothered about, it was only when the deluded Sunderland fans started questioning his decision as Villa was going to get relegated and Sunderland were going to finish in a European place…

    You lot embarrassed yourself, especially as you have dropped like a lead balloon an we picked up form and we are now on level points.

    You are a constant ongoing joke amongst villans now, we love how bitter you are and if you asked ANYONE outside of Sunderland who the bigger club was you would only get one answer.


  20. Phil, as far as I’m concerned you have admitted defeat by ignoring my post again that addressed your points, and counteracted them. You yet again turn to something that is non football related and therefore not relevant.

    The facts are,
    Villa have spent more time in the top flite than Sunderland.
    Villa have won considerably more trophies than Sunderland.
    Villa are a more successful and as a result bigger club than Sunderland.

    You are out of your depth, and by your comments you project yourself as deluded, bitter and pathetic.

    This will be my last post. I do not see the point in a debate if you do not address my points and only make personal attacks, and have in my eyes by doing so, admitted defeat. You fail to conteract any of my points and fail up any of your own and only make personal attacks, which for some one of your age, IS embarrassing!

    For the 3rd and final time. Aston Villa have just had their worst season in 25 years. Sunderland have had one of their best seasons for the past 25 years. Yet still we are so close in the league. That clealry demonstrates the gulf in size between the two clubs.

    End of.

    Thanks for coming.

    Better luck next time.

  21. What relevance does the age of us have to do with how much Bigger Villa are than Sunderland? RIDICULOUS!!

    NONE at all!

    What is relevant is how you project yourself, display a lack of knowledge and rely upon opinions – not facts.

    That is not just ridiculous, it is childish and ignorant!

  22. Also Phil if youre so old, why don’t you go and spend time with your family on this lovely day. Instead of arguing about something so meaningless with Fanboys?

  23. What relevance does the age of us have to do with how much Bigger Villa are than Sunderland? RIDICULOUS!!

  24. I love it, the only way they can compete with trophies is if we dsicount half of ours!
    “Yeah we’re as big as Real Madrid if they don’t half their trophies.”
    That’s probably childish at its finest.
    Give up Sunderland Fans Villa ARE bigger club. We all know it and especially Darren Bent knew it.

  25. Ok Ant,

    I’ll bite – though I should know better!

    The first game that I saw Villa play was on the January 12th. 1963.

    What was yours?

    P.S. – Immac used to be ok (so I was told).

    I never had the problem myself!

  26. Ant and friends. Our club’s bigger than yours, and if you don’t agree with me, I’m sorry – you leave me no choice. I’m going have to take my ball home.

    Arguing about who’s club is the bigger is SO Enid Blyton.

    What inspires you to quote stats and crowds etc? I’d love to get a psychological profile of you. There’s a deep seated insecurity there somewhere. Maybe you were abandoned as a child or something?

    A top article by the metaphor mixer, and it’s followed by an utterly pointless row about who’s turnip’s the biggest. Bizarre!

  27. Very Mature Phil. You must be proud.

    Whilst we’re making things up why don’t you sort out your obesity problem and get off job seekers allowance eh? Stinks of desperation to be honest.

    You talk about financial muscle and league position. Does that mean Man City are bigger than Liverpool because they have more money are above them in the league.

    You Logic is flawed.

    I don’t think sunderland have more financial muscle than Villa anyway, but I didn’t feel the need to bring it up as its irrelevant. Obviously you did, and stinks of your desperation.

    Yet again you missed the point of my comments and only told me that I’m embarrassing. Perhaps try and stay on point next time if you are capable, or just call my a sky boy and say I have acne or suggest what might happen in the summer? You never know, we might fancy taking Henderson or Gyan off you in the summer, when they fancy joinging a big club. Whatever you feel carries the most weight.

    Perhpas you can read one of my previous posts again too, considering none of you Sunderland fans have acknowledged it yet, and only make irrelevant comments such as calling us fan boys or asking how old we are- none of which have any relevance to the debate. My earlier post stated that we have had our worst season in 25 years and you have had one of your best seasons in the last 25 years and yet we are still so close in the league. Says it all and really and should be as conclusive as to end this debate.

    But like said earlier you can’t use league position too much, perhaps just our vastly superior history and tradition? Or just league positions over the last 125 years?

    Villa do not care for Sunderland, you are irrelevant as far as we are concerned. It is only You lot who have a problem with us due to your own bitterness that your favourite and best player left you to join a bigger and better club.

    Don’t get me wrong, I always support you lot when you play the Geordies. I hate Barton, Tiote, Ranger etc common thugs who have no place in football. But you are beginning to sound as bitter and pathetic as Steve Bruce is about the whole thing.

  28. I love how league cups have been discounted just for your argument to stand up! LOL

    A cup is a cup, when you look at the honours list, it’s there in black and White. Simple as that.

    Fans attending games do not make a club a big club, if they did then Newcastle would of been one of the biggest with their support.

    It’s the history, the trophies and what happens year in year out that separates the weak from the chaff.

    Villa ARE bigger than Sunderland, you have only been in the big league a few years, and we have just taken your best player off you.

    You say out comments were childish with no respect?

    Let’s look at the article shall we.

    “finally as a piece of pure pettiness”

    Then it goes on to inaccurately point out the amount of Stoke fans at VP just to try and make Sunderland seem like a bigger club. LOL

    So come on, who is childish really?

  29. Being a bigger or smaller club is irrelevant. It matters, maybe, which is the better club. Given Villa history, there are few clubs in the world that compare.
    Focusing on gate sizes is immaterial, but if you must it might be worthwhile considering, as widely reported, Birmingham has suffered most job losses in recent recession, as usual, so understandably people pick their games. Stoke at home when the club is safe is not a must-see.
    Despite recessions, Villa hold the record for highest crowds at Championship and League One level, the first against Sunderland, second against Notts County in the early 70s. The idea of crowds of 51,000 odd and 48,000 being touched again is a bit of a leap. Unless Villa go there again, of course.
    Villa invested at least 18m in a proven goalscorer and he’s already paid most of that off by keeping us up. Sunderland crumbled without him. It was your own fault in that you paid arguably the most consistent English goalscorer in the league 35,000 a week. Villa pay him double tha because he’s worth it.
    Finally, Villa’s “jewels”, Downing, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Bent, Bannon and our best teenager Gary Gardner, are all on long-term deals. A Young has one year left on his contract, there’s another one on the table at, I hear, 100,000 a week. It’s up to him, but if he wants to go Villa will not accept less than 25m. Sounds like a well-run business as usual to me.
    Are all Sunderland’s “jewels” on long-term contracts and right wage levels, market rates considered, not sanity?

  30. Harry,

    Please read my post again.

    I did NOT attack or criticise Villa, or their fans in general.

    I DID comment on two posters who I deemed to be childish and showing no respect to this site!

    Certainly, we have never won the European Cup or the Super Cup (even if your one success was nearly 30 years ago, I wish that we could match it) but our record of League Championships is just one short of your own.

    Which is the bigger club, currently?

    Who can say – on attendances,League position and financial “muscle” it would suggest that we are, but everyone will have their own view on that.

    What I find to be quite ridiculous in your last post are the following two statements:

    1) Ken, who cares what happens in the summer? We’ll still be a bigger club.

    2) Phil, who cares when they were born. That is irrelevant and Villa are still a bigger club.

    I think that when you read your last comment, regarding “embarrassing” you should, maybe, look in the mirror!

    Maybe, you are just another “Sky Boy” – you, certainly, sound as though you are!

    Never mind, acne is not life threatening!

  31. Phil, just like ken, has chosen to attack or criticise villa and our fans in a way that is avoiding the point. Villa are a bigger club, and Phil and Kens lack or an argument for Sunderlands case proves this.
    Ken, who cares what happens in the summer? We’ll still be a bigger club.
    Phil, who cares when they were born. That is irrelevant and Villa are still a bigger club.
    You are embarrassing yourselves now, gents.

  32. It would be very interesting to know if either “coeur_de_lion” or “Ant” were attending Villa Park (or even born) when the team won its last major honour (1982/83 – League Cups don’t count IMHO).

    The reason that I say that is that both seem to have the “Sky Boy” attitude that often shows itself in the kids these days – I support team X and must, therefore, insult all others (even though I know nothing about their history)!

    C’est la vie!

  33. ken: avoiding the point that villa ARE a bigger club, by focussing on what may or may not happen to us in the summer, rather than supporting delusional claims that Sunderland are a bigger club. Dear oh dear.

  34. After 55minutes on Saturday Villa were the last thing I was thinking about.Thankfully in a crucial game we showed some fight and got our just rewards.I initially thought the penalty award was ‘soft’ but replays proved it totally justified despite what Martinez continued to moan about.As for Bent let’s see how long he stays at the Massive club,particularly if Young and Downing move to pastures new.

  35. At the end of the day. We’ve had our worst season in 25 years. You’ve probably had one of your best seasons in the last 25 year, and we’re right next to each other in the league. Says it all. Good night. Thanks for coming. UTV

  36. Ant: no one is prevented from posting here, provided they are not spammers or do not resort to mindless abuse, offend decency or otherwise show themselves to be out of place in a more literate setting than that to which they are accustomed. Equally, however, there can be a delay for those who have not posted previously. We do not employ teams of moderators to be ready at a moment’s notice to approve or disapprove newcomers’ contributions.

    I’ll be interested, incidentally, to hear the responses of those Villa supportes who now accuse us of being bitter when, sooner rather than later, Darren Bent shows them the same loyalty and honesty that we saw from him.

  37. Bitter Sunderland fans are funny. Giving it the big’un because you beat Wigan at home….Is it cold in newcastles shadow?
    Blindly using stats like that is embarrassing. The actual belief that Sunderland are a bigger club than Villa is delusional.

  38. There were only 900 Stoke fans at VP.

    If you are going to try and give it that **** at least be accurate.

    You are also a one club city, like newcastle. Where as we are a few miles away from another 3 premiership clubs.

    Have you won the European Cup? How many times have you won the FA cup? League Cup or the league it self??

    It all of those that makes us a bigger club, Don’t get me wrong though, that’s not why Darren Bent joined us… He would of gone to Turkey to get away from that dump! LOL

    It good to see you all still so bitter about Bent leaving though

    Oh how is that european qualification going? LMAO

  39. Bigger crowds, better supporters and better players. What else do you need to know? Without Bent you would have been in serious trouble. I am developing an intense dislike of Aston Villa. Say something else to reinforce that.

  40. Pointing out that both clubs had loads of empty seats is hardly the best way to settle a big club argument is it?

    The proofs in the pudding. Sunderlands best player was desperate to join Villa. Villa’s best player (or indeed any of their better players) wouldn’t even look at Sunderland.

    Get over it.

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