The Manager's Programme Notes For Wigan
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A warm welcome to all of you and especially to the supporters, staff and players from Wigan Athletic.
Last weekend proved to be a frustrating one all-round, not least for all the City fans that were making their way to Portsmouth or were even there already. The temperatures on the south coast had dropped once again on the Friday night, and having seen the pitch myself early on Saturday morning I agreed with referee Mike Dean's decision to call the game off. It was a big disappointment for us on the playing side, but my sympathies go out to all our supporters who did not see the game that they had spent money and time to get to.
Today is our first game since our defeat to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, and our first chance to make amends for that result. As I said at the time, our performance was indefensible and we know that we are capable of much better. I have been pleased with what I have seen in training since, and with the extra week without a game since Forest I know that the lads are ready to put in a good shift today.
One unfortunate side-effect of last weekend's postponement is that Stephen Ireland's one-match suspension carries over into today's game. On a positive note it does mean that we can give him some valuable rest, and remember that he has played most of our games this season. But I know that he is gutted to miss out and is itching to get back into the action, which for him will be our next home game against Newcastle on January 28th.
Stephen was rightly named as our Thomas Cook Player of the Month for November, and Vincent Kompany took the award for December. In truth, he has been in with a shout for the award ever since his arrival from Hamburg in August with his accomplished displays in both defence and midfield. Vincent has taken the differing demands of the Barclays Premier League in his stride and looks like he has played over here for years. He is still only 22, so there is a lot more to come from him.
The unexpected delay between fixtures means that Wayne Bridge did not get the chance to make his debut last weekend. He's an experienced player who has been around top flight long enough that even I played alongside him at the start of his career at Southampton. I have been an admirer of his ever since and was delighted that we were able to secure his services, as he is not only one of the best left backs in the country but in Europe as well.
There has been an incredible amount of speculation on the club with regard to potential transfers over the last few days. It is well-documented that we have made a number of bids on players that have been rejected, but we remain confident that we will conclude some more deals before the current window closes. If good players become available, and if I think they have the right attitude and approach, then we will always be interested in buying them. Our interest in Kaka is also, of course, in the public domain following Executive Chairman Garry Cook's visit to Milan this week. Our owners, myself and Garry are intent on making this club into a major presence on the world stage, and I think that we are showing that we are serious in making good on these intentions.
We are now into the second half of the season and in the league we are coming up against sides that we have already played. Wigan are a good, strong team with an energetic front-line that will harry us and chase lost causes. Amr Zaki has been one of the surprise packages of the season, and Emile Heskey has also been in great form. At the back they have been a lot more solid this season, and of late they have been the form team in the Premier League. I saw their defeat on Wednesday night, which ended their recent unbeaten run, but nevertheless we know what to expect after our game against them at the JJB in September. This is sure to a tough test for us today.
Enjoy the game.
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