The word “massive” has become an integral part of the modern day footballers’ vocabulary. In everyday English it roughly translates to “important”, but it can also signify “crucial”.
Ex-Blackpool player Stephen Crainey used it this week when he described Saturday’s clash with his old club as “a massive game for both sides”.
In reality the game is more “massive” for Blackpool than Latics. The Tangerines are in the drop zone, being in 22nd place, with only two games left. Failure to get at least a point at the DW Stadium on Saturday would put them in severe danger of relegation. On the other hand Wigan have three games left in which they need to amass the three points needed to secure a playoff spot.
Six months have passed since the Seasiders beat Owen Coyle’s Wigan Athletic in a bad tempered match at Bloomfield Road. It seems like an eternity. Latics have since been transformed by Uwe Rosler and their presence in the playoff zone is giving the other teams up there lots of food for thought.
On the other hand Blackpool have been in a downward spiral since then. Manager Paul Ince was sacked in January and his son Tom, their star player, went to Crystal Palace. Experienced Scottish international midfielder, Barry Ferguson, took over as player-manager on a temporary basis. At the time Blackpool were in 14th place, nine points outside the top six, eight points above the relegation zone.
Despite a run of poor results the 36 year-old Ferguson remains popular with their fans, whose anger and frustration is being vented more towards Chairman Karl Oyston. In a recent home defeat to Burnley fans threw tennis balls and tangerines on to the pitch, twice holding up play, in protest against the Chairman. The anger is down to a perceived unwillingness of Oyston to invest in the club the profit made from their time in the Premier League a couple of years ago, together with not appointing a manager on a permanent basis.
Blackpool come into the match following an invaluable point gained in a 1-1 draw at promotion hopefuls Brighton, after having lost 12 of their previous 15 away games. They will have ample support at the DW Stadium on Saturday through Oyston providing 3,000 free tickets for season ticket holders which were quickly snapped up. Moreover the Blackpool Supporters Association are providing them with free transport.
However, it looks like the Tangerines may be without talisman Ricardo Fuller through injury. They have not won a game without him since he made his debut in August. Blackpool have scored just 36 goals in 44 league matches this season, only Charlton having scored less.
Wigan Athletic go into this match with a far superior squad to that of their opponents. Moreover manager Uwe Rosler is likely to put forward his strongest lineup, in order to secure the playoff spot. Latics have had some poor results against teams in the lower reaches of the division, but they see this game as important and they will be up for it.
With a solid defence, a midfield trio of McArthur, Espinoza and Gomez and the likes of Maloney, McManaman, Powell and Waghorn up front Latics look far too good for their Lancashire neighbours.
If Latics play at the level they displayed a week ago against Reading, Blackpool will be in for a hiding.