Behind Enemy Lines

Friday 10 April 2015 15:00

Paul Rowley, Wigan Athletic reporter for BBC Radio Manchester, gives his take on Friday’s game, and explains why he’s so fond of Fulham.

Only one place to start – what did you make of Malky Mackay’s departure?

I was surprised at the timing of it. I was actually walking away from the ground on Monday and was listening to the radio station I’d been broadcasting on and we had the newsflash that it had happened, so I had to go back! I’d thought he would probably go at the end of the season. We’re now onto our fourth manager since Roberto Martinez left two years ago when we lifted the FA Cup and were last in the Premier League. I interviewed Malky after the game – which turned out to be the last interview with him on radio – and within an hour he was gone. But his record wasn’t very impressive, with not a single win at home.

What’s been the reaction to Gary Caldwell’s appointment?

He’s well regarded by the fans, he’s well regarded by the former chairman, and the new chairman, who is, of course, the grandson of Dave Whelan. He’s been around a long time, he was our club captain, he’s been Scotland’s captain, and he was Player of the Year in 2012. He’s inexperienced but he has got his coaching badges I gather. He’s been coaching with the first team and the academy and he’s been with the club since 2010, so he’s part of the Wigan family. He’s got five games left this season and potentially we could still stay up, but it’s going to be a hard task.

The stats don’t make great reading for Wigan either, with no wins in the last 14 meetings with Fulham.

We’ve got a terrible record at Fulham – we’ve only won twice in 20 visits overall. The first was in 1990 when Phil Daley scored two and we won 2-1, and the only other victory was in 2006 when Henri Camara got the only goal. A lovely statistic is that Wigan have only played four teams in all four divisions, and Fulham is one of them. And I reckon we’ve played more league games against Fulham than any other team. This one will be our 42nd game against Fulham, 44th if you include the cup ties.

How did you come to support Wigan?

I started watching them as a schoolboy in 1968 – my cousin played for them. They were eighth in the Cheshire League at that point, so I’ve seen that amazing journey through the divisions. I covered their first match on commercial radio in 1978 when they played at Hereford United, and I was asked a few years ago when Wigan got into the Premier League to cover their games home and away for Radio Manchester, which I was more than delighted to do.

It’s not been a good season for Wigan, but which players have stood out?

Our best two players, by a mile, are the two James’. James McClean, who’s our top scorer with a mere six goals, but he’s such a feisty individual. He’s very unorthodox as a player but he never stops running, he’s got lots of heart and the fans love him. Secondly, James Perch, who was signed as a defender largely and has played across the back four, but is playing in midfield at the moment. One of them will be Player of the Year, in what has been one of our most disappointing ever seasons.

Have you seen much of Fulham this season?

I’ve only seen the 3-3 draw at the DW Stadium. It was a great game and I thought at the time, after seeing the press conference with Kit Symons afterwards, that there seemed to be a togetherness there and that you’d do alright. And you will be alright.

Is Fulham away a fixture you enjoy covering?

I always love coming to Fulham. In the old days when I used to cover your games in the 80s for LBC there used to be a little old lady who would make cakes for us. I always walk through the park alongside the Thames on the way to the ground – it’s a brilliant, brilliant ground to go to, I love it. The only problem is we never win there!

What score prediction are you going for?

My head says you’ll probably win it again but my heart says possibly, maybe we could. If I’m really optimistic, a 1-0 win for Wigan, but that’s being incredibly optimistic. That’s what I would like to see, but I would also like Fulham to stay up because I’ve got a soft spot for you as well. But 1-0 for Wigan, a last-minute own goal off someone’s backside, I don’t care as long as it goes in.

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