July 19, 2024
BIlly Connolly

"So I looked at the train schedule and it said, 'Wigan: no service."

BIlly Connolly
“…So I looked at the train timetable and it said, ‘Wigan: no service.'”

It’s no fun when we win. Northern stand up tradition dictates that you must chain derogatory remarks like Wojciech Szczesny does cigarettes… but it’s hard to do that when Wigan Athletic have just beaten Scunthorpe 3-0. Not that I claim to be one of these ‘comedians’ (I have trouble sitting down, never mind standing up), but they are a valuable source of cringeworthy jokes that you can copy-paste into blog posts and pretend you spent a Brobdingnagian ten minutes researching on Twitter.

The science of comedy is not unlike the science of supporting a football team in that, win or lose, things are ultimately more satisfying when you are sharing an experience. And it’s a two-way exchange – just think of all those comedians that failed to make the transition from a live theatre environment to telling jokes for a camera lens. The stand up’s natural habitat is a poky pub packed with patrons so inebriated they would laugh at a tree trunk.

Likewise, I expect your typical footballer is more likely to exhibit a looser, more fluid style of play if they know people are cheering for, rather than laughing at, them. On this basis, maybe we should all try cackling at Wayne Rooney the next time he visits the DW Stadium and see what happens. Because as sure as a chubby, balding cat will find its way back to the food bowl, he inevitably shall return. One day.

Leaving so early? Get me some pork scratchings, would ya?

Now, don’t believe for one second I am insinuating that Wigan Athletic are exponents of ‘comedy football’. Despite what some would have you believe, a ‘half without goals’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘laughable’, nor does falling behind against the second placed team in League One. Although you could say my misguided respect for league tables two weeks into the season is worthy of a snicker from the back of the auditorium.

Empty Auditorium
Thank you! You’ve been a great audience. (c)Bryan Rosengrant

Though makeshift centre back Chris McCann was well hidden by Scunthorpe’s lack of attacking instinct on Wednesday night, one sensed the 28 year-old’s adaptability might be challenged this afternoon. Indeed, half an hour of practice swings is all it took for Latics’ relatively inexperienced defensive line to be exposed. With McCann caught in possession, they were suddenly out of position – Bradley Dack provided the ammunition and Richard O’Donnell was beaten into submission. Not physically, you understand. What do you think this is, League One?

Dack’s finish was the result of sustained pressure which the Gills had been building from the moment O’Donnell was tested within a minute of Trevor Kettle’s first whistle. But the goal came just as Wigan thought they had melted their opponents’ outer shell to reveal a soft, creamy caramel centre. McCann had earlier ballooned his close range header into a solitary cloud punctuating the otherwise brilliant blue sky, and moments later played through Will Grigg for a 32nd minute attempt on Stuart Nelson’s sturdy sticks.

I assure you the sometime stopgap centre back wasn’t doing all the work, however. Donervon Daniels and Kevin McNaughton shouldered much responsibility… in the case of the latter, maybe too much – he couldn’t quite make it to half time, with Jonjoe Kenny the forced replacement. In short, it had been hot, hard going, even with the frequent and precious cricket-style drinks breaks.

Oooh, a sore point? I’ll stop mentioning cricket.

Drinks break
The Football League need to invest in some of these things. (c)BSkyB

As the second half began, Latics exhibited an urgency that could equally have been their saviour or downfall. This was perfectly summarised in a frantic 20-second spell that began with Nelson miraculously grabbing hold of Will Grigg’s push goalwards. And almost instantly, Luke Norris was guiding the ball onto a visibly alarmed (but then visibly relieved) O’Donnell’s right hand post.

In turn, this perfectly summarised the half. Though they had thus far resisted Gillingham’s from-the-back attack (as opposed to a from-the-Shaq attack), Wigan’s mobility was being tested with such regularity that a final eleven-man scramble would be fatal. Predictably enough, ‘Jack the Knack’ Dack was soon back in the Latics box, tripping over some part of Daniels’ anatomy. O’Donnell guessed left, Dack went centre: penalty converted, a day’s work well executed for the now league-leading hosts.

Ahh, I suppose the table gives a more accurate prediction after four games than three, so we shall reward our opponents with a gold plated print of teletext page 326, subpage 1.

…Aww no, I forgot – they don’t post league tables on teletext this early in the season! I wonder if they’ll accept this laminated copy of the Football Pink back page instead? It’s littered with typos and factual errors and there’s a fat thumbprint over some of the important bits, but you can tell it has ‘Gfllinghom’ at the top of League One. Just about.

Second opinion

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