Love thy neighbour?

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Feeling nauseous? Nervous tension headache? Upset stomach fuelled by anticipation? It must be local derby time.

The insults are flying as ever across social media no mans’ land. My favourites include Bolton fans telling us it’s our biggest game of the season – two weeks before we play an FA Cup semi final! Of course it means very little to them. Remind me again who brought their biggest away following of the season to Wigan in December?

Of course the other Bolton tactic is claiming that Wigan Athletic (or Whelan Athletic as they hilariously prefer) wouldn’t exist without Dave Whelan’s money. It’s a good call but seeing as their own millionaire benefactor Eddie Davies is bankrolling £164m of debt such football fans should be careful where they level their “sugar daddy” allegations.

Finally, there is the taunt about history. I acknowledge that the Wanderers in the 1950’s had a superb team and admire that back in the day teams such as Bolton and other Lancashire mill towns were among the best in the country. Those days are gone though, for all of us. There’s no bragging rights in celebrating events that happened before most people were born.

Furthermore, we are fortunate enough to be enjoying our greatest days right now in an era when it is so much more difficult to achieve success. An era where the modern day equivalent of Nat Lofthouse (RIP) let’s say a Wayne Rooney is paid three hundred thousand pounds a week by a global plc that turns over hundreds of millions a year.

You see as much as it repulses me to admit it, we have a lot more in common than we like to let on with Bolton. Our history and origins may be different but we are broadly in the same place right now. Two small town clubs who enjoyed a Premier party for several years and are now left with a big bar tab from the owner as neither of us has the resources to be self-sufficient amongst the big city teams.

Of course both seek to get back to playing a supporting role amongst the Premier League of riches but we somehow need to celebrate the fact that Wigan v Bolton is a spectator event, a passionate local derby where the majority of fans are at the game. Unlike a Manchester or Liverpool derby where the match going attendance is dwarfed by the millions sat at home watching on telly, fingers poised to ring a phone in or go on the internet.

History is gone but tradition will go forward for both clubs and let’s hope Saturday is one to remember. Ideally in a good way for fans of Wigan Athletic.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column Friday 28th March 2014


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