Ahead of Aston Villa's clash with Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium this weekend, I sat down with Kieran Heapy of Pie Eaters Footie, SB Nation's Wigan athletic blog. Well, not with I guess, since he's in the UK and I'm in Washington State. But I was sitting down when I asked and answered his questions and I'd assume he was as well, although I suppose you can't be too sure what with standing work-spaces becoming more popular (great for your heart, by the way.)
Anyways, here's the Q&A. There's some good stuff in there, and I found the things he had to say about Charles N'Zogbia particularly interesting. Enjoy!
75K: Wigan has made great escapes something of a habit, and it's beginning to look like things will be going right down to the wire again this season. From an outsider's perspective, I like Wigan and would love to see them stay in the league, but their standing is looking more tenuous than it has in a while. How are you feeling about the odds of them avoiding the drop?
PEF: I recently looked at how we will do, compared to other years, and the similarities are there. Last season we started to come into our game just about now, really started to pick up the points and play some top quality football. I am hoping the lads will do the same again this year. Yet none knows in football, especially when Wigan are involved.
Who thought we would be in the Premier League?
I'm keeping my mind open, and hoping we can do it all again.
75K: The 7,500 to Holte crew has made little secret of their desire to see Roberto Martinez in charge at Villa Park, but some of that can be chalked up to a "grass is always greener" effect. How do you think this season has affected Martinez's standing both as an up-and-coming young manager and in the eyes of Dave Whelan?
PEF: For me it has shown that Martinez still has a massive amount to learn. One thing he hasn't been able to do is pull players in, and he isn't that well known/respected in the footballing world yet, but he is learning to deal with that. What he has shown is that when he plays the top teams, his tactical ability to stop them playing is brilliant. Yet when we play teams who play with vigor and passion, we don't really know what to do.
As for how Whelan looks at him; that will never ever change. Much how we fans see Martinez, he is and always will be a club hero and what he is doing at the club goes beyond the first team, but to all ages and genders surrounding the club and community. That is why we wanted to keep him so much, he doesn't just look at the players he looks at everyone and keeps that real family atmosphere which will keep him in a job.
The only way I think he will ever leave Wigan is if he goes himself.
75K: There's so much promising young talent on this Wigan team that it's difficult to sort them without watching nearly every game. Of Wigan's current squad, who do you think has the best chance to end up with one of Europe's bigger clubs and potentially become a superstar-type player?
PEF: Currently I could see about four of the lads we have at the club going on to bigger and better things. Of course the two that many know are Victor Moses and James McCarthy. They are massive talents and have really shone this season, Moses especially. If they were to leave now I feel it would be one step too soon for them, as two more years at Wigan would see them both at 24 and then at the prime of their career ready to move on.
The other two players are less well known and yet could really burst onto the scene.
Firstly there is Callum McManaman who is the Nephew of Steven McManaman. Callum plays a similar role to his uncle, and has bags of talent and ability in him to push on to play at any level in football. What frustrates me is that he hasn't been allowed to play for the senior team. Whenever he has played, he has been our best man on the pitch.
The other player to watch is goalkeeper Lee Nicholls as everyone who has watched him play has tipped him to go all the way to the top. The 20-year-old goalkeeper has all the attributes of a top quality keeper, and more first team time would really show his ability.
75K: Charles N'Zogbia has had a rocky start with Villa; he's found it hard to stay in the first XI and on a few occasions he's been dropped from the side altogether. It's gotten so bad that after being removed from Villa's loss to Newcastle earlier this month, N'Zogbia made a (hastily deleted) post on Twitter saying, essentially, that he was unhappy at Villa. Is this kind of thing something that happened at Wigan? I'm a huge fan of N'Zogbia and think he could be a tremendous player in Alex McLeish's system, but is there anything you know about him that suggests his attitude could be a barrier to his own success?
PEF: First things first with N'Zogbia, he has to be the main player within your team. That is it. If he is the central player to all attacking moves, then he usually blossoms. When he first came to Wigan (under Steve Bruce) he looked out of shape and at times unwilling to help out.
Then Martinez basically sat him down and told him he can play wherever he wants in the forward area and to go out and cause havoc. The result was two years of great football by the lad. He has to know that he is important and given the freedom to do what he wants in the forward areas.
75K: What kind of result do you foresee?
PEF: I'd love a home win of course, yet can I see that happening? It's going to be close, very close and if the Wigan fans can get behind the lads, then we may inspire them to a victory that we so desperately need. With that in mind I'm going for a 3-2 home win.
75K: One good pie-related question deserves another; Villa is currently competing in the H and C News Football Pie League. Any chance we can best Wigan in that competition?
PEF: I don't know, we piped you last year. Yet for me the standard of catering has gone down from Wigan. But then I can't really expect all the pies to be hand made fresh ones on match days.
It will be close as it always is in these things. But we Wiganers do know how to make a good pie.
Many thanks to Kieran, and be sure to check out Pie Eaters Footie for all your Wigan related needs.