HE was there last night, in the Match of the Day opening titles, as he has been every week this season.
His appearance, as usual, lasted for less than a second, sandwiched between a clip of Gareth Bale scoring a hooked volley at Stoke, and Darren Bent applauding the home supporters on a big screen at Aston Villa.
But he was there, on a poster outside Craven Cottage, holding off a challenge from Danny Murphy, displaying the tenacious, disciplined midfield skills that have made him a favourite among Bolton’s supporters over the last four years.
“Hang in there, young man,” said Gary Lineker at the end of last night’s show. We can only hope that the young man pulls through.
* * *
There had been two Premier League games played earlier in the afternoon. One of them offered Wigan Athletic the opportunity to escape the Premier League’s bottom three. They didn’t take it. And although it’s only March, and although they are only a point behind the team in 17th, and although they still have nine games to play, Wigan look as if they are going down.
Their problem? It was summed up succinctly by one of their former players.
Last on MOTD: Wigan 1 West Brom 1
Commentator: Jonathan Pearce
“You can see why they are bottom of the league,” said Paul Scharner. “They can’t score and are always conceding.” No team has scored fewer Premier League goals than Wigan this season. Only three teams have let in more. Relegation beckons.
Maybe, come the end of the season, Scharner will have played his part in that. The midfielder, who spent four-and-a-half years at Wigan, headed in an equaliser against them for West Brom yesterday. It meant that his former club stayed bottom of the table.
“Could that be the goal that ultimately sends his old team down?” asked Jonathan Pearce. If it sounds premature to be asking such a question – which it possibly is – consider this: Wigan have spent only one weekend outside the relegation zone since mid-October. They have not won at home since August. Their last 14 league games have brought just one victory.
Seven of those games have been draws. An inability to finish teams off when given the chance has been a feature of Wigan games recently. At Norwich last Sunday, Mohamed Diame missed a very good late chance, and the game finished 1-1. Against West Brom yesterday, Diame missed another very good late chance, and the game finished 1-1. With those four extra points, Wigan would be 16th.
Their next five games are against Liverpool, Stoke, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. It is hard to see where their next points are coming from, but manager Roberto Martinez remains optimistic.
“If we perform like we did today, we’ll get enough points to achieve our aim,” he said. “I’ve no doubt about it.”
He may be right. But even if he isn’t, it’s only relegation.
1. Fulham: 7 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
2. Aston Villa: 6 (2L: 4, 3L: 4)
3. Wigan: 5 (2L: 8, 3L: 4)
4. West Brom: 5 (2L: 4, 3L: 4)
5. Norwich: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
6. Stoke: 5 (2L: 2, 3L: 5)
7. Swansea: 4 (2L: 5, 3L: 4)
8. QPR: 4 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
9. Sunderland: 3 (2L: 6, 3L: 0)
10: Wolves: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 5)
11: Liverpool: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 4)
12. Blackburn: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 5)
13. Tottenham: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
14. Chelsea: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 5)
15. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
16. Everton: 1 (2L: 6, 3L: 4)
17. Bolton: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 6)
18. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
19. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
20. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L = On second last (Fulham 0 Swansea 3)
(Teams receive one point every time they are last on Match of the Day. Teams level are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. MOTD2 not included.)