Come in number 81, your time is up

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Wigan Athletic 1 – 0 Boavista
Saturday 6th August 2005

Can pre-season friendlies ever tell us anything useful? Last season’s game at Blackpool proved that it is possible to get sun stroke in a football ground, but despite the 5-0 drubbing, told me very little about either team. Similarly this game merely served to prove that it’s the day/night out that makes away friendlies attractive and that home friendlies where you know very little about the opposition are better left alone. I cannot see how when the opposition wants to play at a pace more suited to a game of crown green bowls your team can benefit from it, especially when the team you play the weekend after is going to come at you like a bunch of scrotes diving into a box of snide gold chains.

As for the game itself, well did anything of note happen? I missed the team announcements, but any side that has numbers 66 and 81 playing surely cannot be at full strength, unless of course the current vogue in Portugal is to go for your year of birth or favourite Karma Sutra position as your squad number. They created without looking sharp, but that could be down to many more factors than the way we played.

In fact, we played reasonably well without dominating them. A mismatch of standards, or were we not that bothered? Our frontline looked decent but not dangerous; down to good defending or lack of supply? Answers on a postcard please to “where is this taking us competition, c/o Paul Jewell, JJB Stadium, Wigan”.

To be fair, it was the first chance for some (me included) to see Chimbonda, Henchoz, Pollit and Taylor. We all got to see Francis’s first game. The verdicts are reasonable on all concerned. Pascal has bags of pace and seems to know what he’s doing both going forwards and defending, but there wasn’t enough evidence to pass judgement on the accusation that he can’t marry the two up and ends up out of position.

Henchoz’s experience was apparent, but we didn’t get the chance to see how he’ll deal with pace. Pollit, well it’s hard to judge a keeper on one game, but he looked decent, especially if he’s just for cover. Taylor, it was only for a short time, but you can see his potential. Francis looked a big solid player, but we need to give him time before settling in.

All in all it was like drinking shandy (not that I ever would) because you’ve got a job interview tomorrow and don’t want to bugger it up. It leaves a yeuchky taste in the mouth and you still can’t be sure that it will have the desired effect. Unlike the shandy, I have to say that the whole experience left me a little dazed and confused. Part boredom, part uncertainty, part “if they’re playing a weakened side, what the hell was Jao Pinto doing on the pitch?”. Thing is this was diet football, I’ve a feeling our lads need building up so bring on the sugar.

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