June 16, 2024

The Regenboogstadion, English: Rainbow Stadium.

Screengrab from live footage of the game courtesy Voyager 1 TV (Sky channel 985)

Those expecting me to cart out the jokes will be sorely disappointed, since the only mildly humorous thing to originate from Belgium is Jean Claude Van Damme. And most would vigorously contest that potentially offensive statement. Not to worry, for there is surely a veritable goldmine of humour in Zulte Waregem… whom I hadn’t heard of until the Europa League draw. That is, however, due mainly to the scandalous lack of Pro League coverage on ESPN- oh sorry, BT Sport (pfft) in the last 100 years or so.

So yeah, have you ever noticed how people from Zulte walk like this… *Performs John Cleese-esque silly walk* while people from Waregem walk like this… *Writhes around like a fish on a boat deck* …? Nope? Well, that’s because nobody walks like that and I’m exaggerating for ‘humorous’ effect again. (Come on, Bob, help me out here! This audience is deader than a Jovian moon.)

Screw it, just roll the tape and fetch some genuine Belgian chocolate beer with two Flakes, please. And while you’re at it, get me a subscription to that cable television station I already forgot the name of. Aye, that’s it: Astra 1.

“The most important thing is money.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governator of California.

Shurrup, Scharner. That definitely isn’t the reason why Owen Coyle made a whopping seven changes to the side at Leicester, which, may I remind you, was a bit pants. I’ll have you know there’s a fair chunk of moolah at stake for competing in Europe! You are underselling the historical significance of this contest, just as I did talking about the Honey Monster after the FA Cup Final. The Europa Cup *is* a prestigious competition – look, they have David Ginola presenting the live simulcast and everything! He’s the French version of Des Lynam, apparently.

Allez les Bleus!

As their home ground, the wonderfully named Regenboogstadion, was deemed unfit for European use by the men with ties and clipboards, Zulte Waregem were forced to move the game some 40 miles down the road to Bruges. Not necessarily a problem for Wigan, but a touch uncomfortable for the hosts, at least initially.

It took the nominal home side a long time to settle into their relatively unfamiliar surroundings, almost half an hour in fact. In the meantime, Wigan could control possession and work a couple of promising openings as a messy Zulte continually gifted their opponents possession. Thankfully for them, James McArthur only skimmed the outside of the post while Jordi Gomez completely mis-hit his strike, as Wigan’s ambitious ‘no attackers/all attackers’ approach bore no fruit.

The Regenboogstadion, English: Rainbow Stadium.
Pictured: The Regenboogstadion, “Rainbow Stadium.” Looks good enough to me.

The Belgian side soon kicked into second gear (of two), however, and began to show their youthful Championship opposition exactly how it’s done in the big, big leagues. Possibly because they’re a part time baseball team, I think. But Essevee (the football side) almost forced an own goal from the head of an unnamed Wigan defender, while Scott Carson did fantastically well to deny Ibrahima Conte an almost certain goal in the first half’s dying moments.

Zulte Waregem moved into ‘domination’ territory as the visitors increasingly looked to hit ’em on the break. Ahh, that oft-tasted, distinctly British European strategy that smacks of ‘point away from home is a good result’. Which, don’t get me wrong, is not a bad tactic in any competition at any level. Unless you’re Brazil or something, but this is the poxy FA Cup winners we’re talking about here.


But we weren’t into ‘settle for a draw’ time yet. Next, a signal of intent from Coyle – the introduction of Fortune and Watson for Gomez and a quite frankly knackered McManaman. Aha, a ‘proper’ centre forward at last! This fresh pair of calves in the final third briefly revitalised Wigan’s attacking play, but the game soon slipped back into its regular routine – namely, Zulte Waregem firing unconvincing toe-poke after half-hit attempted screamer high and wide of the target. Hey, we’ll take it.

Even through a tumultuous final ten minutes, Carson’s goal line remained unbreached. This was due in part to a very slippery surface, but also some extremely deep heroic defending on behalf of damn near the whole XI. There was even a half chance for Wigan to pinch the game in the penultimate minute, but Ben Watson’s free kick was still in the air when ref Borski blew his whistle for an as-yet unexplained reason. But no matter, the work experience kid is racing down to the Bruges branch of RBS with that Europa League point as we speak. Hope he doesn’t spend it on chips- oh, sorry, I meant French fries.

Hey, how often are you happy with 0-0? Come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time Wigan played out a goalless draw. Well, actually I *can* but didn’t want to mention it. Since you asked, however, I would say this is certainly a far better result than that achieved against Bradford City almost twelve months ago. Seems much longer than that, doesn’t it?

What, you’re still here? I bet you’re waiting for me to say it… but I won’t. I simply will not stoop to such lows as to say it was a decent re-Zult for Wigan Athletic. Nope, so clear off now!

Second opinion

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