Portsmouth vs Wigan Preview

By Keith Allman
Last updated : 06 November 2005
If you'd said that Wigan would be coming to Fratton Park in November over half way to safety, second in the Premiership and looking to make it eleven games unbeaten in all competitions, I probably would've laughed at you. Most people would've done. Even intelligent Wigan fans (not that we've seen many of them on the forum this week) would've slightly disagreed with that optimistic prediction. And yet that's how we find ourselves with Saturday's visitors leaving those rubbish old also-rans like Manchester United and Arsenal in their wake.

And let's make this clear, Wigan are where they are on merit. It's nice to see a club come up, get splattered with the typical media crap of "going straight back down" and prove everyone completely wrong. I doubt their current ridiculous run will last the entire season, but they've surely done enough to stay up and if it makes the same old tired pundits have to eat their words, then they've done a good thing in my book.

A brief glance through the Wigan squad and it seems to be crammed with Pompey references; players who have either once turned out at Fratton or who were supposedly destined to. There's Jason Roberts up front for example, a guy who never really set the world alight during a brief loan spell. There's Damien Francis and Henri Camara, two players who we chased for some time in the summer before deciding to pursue other options. But the most notable of names for the away side tomorrow will be their captain and our former; Arjan De Zeeuw.

Bit of a touchy subject this one so I'll try to keep it brief. Basically I doubt you'll find many people to argue with the fact he was an exceptional talent for us, did his bit superbly (despite a slight dip towards the end of last season) and seemed to be an all round nice bloke. He deserves a sentimental clap tomorrow and then to go about his business without fear of abuse. However it doesn't - in my eyes - detract from the fact that he was a complete pansy once the going got tough and he had to fight for his place. Who remembers his quote in the summer about how we need to bring in new players to provide competition? Then the reason he gave when he left? He could certainly learn from someone like Linvoy who has given his all and fought for his position despite seemingly being ditched time after time.

Still, with an extra £5,000 a week, going back to an old club, captaincy and guaranteed first team football, you can't blame him for going. A shame it happened in the way it did and a shame he's felt the need to scattergun the media with bitchy comments about Perrin this week.

Back to ourselves and we're just about getting back to full strength. Andy O'Brien's injury is apparently worse than originally feared so it's likely he'll still be out. LuaLua still has malaria, of course, whilst Karadas is still trying to recover from his long standing leg injury. Other than that it's pretty much likely to be the side who beat Sunderland so emphatically at the weekend...

But what about Laurent Robert?

Perrin has taken his explanation for his absence, accepted it, and now said that he could either start or be on the bench. I'm guessing the latter and perhaps bring him on with twenty minutes or so to go if things are moving towards a stalemate. My major hope is that the crowd get behind him regardless of whether he starts or comes on - yes he's a dick but booing him won't do anyone any good; indeed LuaLua and Alain have come out in the papers this week to plead with the fans not to give him a rough time. Obviously he is going to get a fair bit of stick, it's inevitable, but it's worth remembering how fickle the game is and how people will be cheering should he stick one in, or ping a cross in that someone gets on. If the chairman and manager know the situation better than us and are prepared to give him a second chance, we should too - not least because before Saturday he played a part in over half of our goals.

Time to sum it up then - we can win (even Mark Lawrenson thinks so, so we're doomed). Wigan are not to be taken lightly and I doubt we will understimate them, but we need to grab an early goal. By Paul Jewell's own admission his team have been lucky this season, I just hope that we didn't use all ours up last weekend. Getting our first home win tomorrow would be a great boost.

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