By Mike Peter
Despite what Roman Abramovich would have us believe, having the best players is not the be all and end all in sport.
Take the recent ICC Super Series (this is cricket, by the way) between a World XI and Ashes losers Australia. Despite displaying what was evidently a better team, the World XI fell to a 4-0 defeat. This is suggests that, despite the inferior quality of their team, the Australians benefited from having a team that had bonded.
Further evidence - in the Disney film "Cool Runnings", the Jamaican bobsleigh team come second in the winter Olympics through a united determination to succeed, despite their evident lack of ability! Oh, and they had a good coach.
Yes, a good coach is important. Much as I'd like to suggest that Wigan's success is down to having a team of players who are all good chums as opposed to over-paid prima donnas, one cannot ignore the massive contribution by Paul Jewell. Having kept a fairly dismal Bradford side up in 1999/00, he looks set to do even better with Wigan, who are currently on a seven match unbeaten streak which stretches back to mid-August. Yes, his side have had the now customary pre-season overhaul in order to cope in the Premiership, but it is still a team that pales in comparison to yer Chelseas and yer Arsenals, or, indeed, yer Villas.
Wigan have been unchanged for the last four games. However, they shuffled their side for their League Cup victory against Bournemouth, and whilst Watford are a more challenging team, they may choose to do so again. Hence predicting their line-up is a bit of a struggle.
The Lactics beat off competition to sign Mike Pollitt from Rotherham in the summer. He started the first six games of the season and Jewell may choose to give him a run-out. If not, towering Aussie number one John Filan will assume his usual place in the Wigan goal. Gary Walsh, thirty-seven and counting, may pop up on the bench.
At right-back is the magnificently named Pascal Chimbonda, who apparently likes to talk to the crowd during games. Should he be rotated, ex-Crewe man David Wright or talented former Tranmere player Ryan Taylor are quieter options. On the left, the highly rated Leighton Baines awaits his first England call-up, he's a regular in the Under-21s. Stephen McMillan is his understudy and one of the deputies most likely to get a recall, considering Baines' age.
In the centre, the hulking Arjen De Zeeuw returned to the club in summer after a three year hiatus. He'll be joined by Stefan Henchoz, another summer arrival, who famously handled the ball on the goal-line in the 2001 FA Cup final. Club captain Matt Jackson may consider himself to be fairly unlucky to have been replaced, after playing a huge part in Wigan's promotion. He may be in line for his third start of the season on Tuesday, however, along with ex Wednesday and Bolton dead-weight Emerson Thome.
Striker turned winger Lee McCulloch traditionally roams the left-side of midfield, and is a decent source of goals; indeed, he scored twice when we met at the JJB in January. Fortunately he is suspended for Tuesday after being sent off against Newcastle. Alan Mahon, another member of the Division Two side out of favour, is the most probable replacement although McMillan and Australian Josip Skoko are also in the frame.
On the right, Jimmy Bullard has a mean free-kick. His deputy is the misfiring Gary Teale, although he may have departed for QPR by Tuesday. In the centre, Damien Francis is an extremely dangerous prospect indeed, another member of the Wigan midfield who likes to score goals. The fetching and carrying is done by former Cardiff captain Graham Kavanagh. If Mahon deputises on the left one of them is likely to play, although Bullard could play in his more natural central role with Taylor on the right.
Jason Roberts and Henri Camara are the first choice strike-force. However, Camara threw a hissy-fit at being substituted last Saturday and, despite subsequent his apology, may find himself "rested" for the next week or so. Should this happen, David Connolly will step into the breach. After signing from Leicester on deadline day Connolly is said to be happen that he's finally, eight years after leaving Watford, found a level he can prove himself at. Swede Andreas Johansson is the sole other option; he too could find himself rotated into the side.
Wigan haven't lost in seven. Watford hadn't won in six, prior to Saturday. Still, an autumn trip to Wigan is appealing whatever the score, eh?