IF familiarity breeds contempt, then Wanderers’ biggest local rivals should be Blackburn Rovers – so why then does the relationship feel one-sided?
This weekend will mark the 150th league game between two founder members of the Football League. In recent years, the fixture has provided some stand out moments, from Jussi Jaaskelainen’s penalty saves to David Wheater’s double in the game after Fabrice Muamba’s collapse at White Hart Lane.
Rovers have had their highlights too – not least the Jordan Rhodes-inspired 4-1 win at Ewood Park earlier this season.
Wanderers have faced Rovers more than any other opponents if you take into consideration all the cup competitions, and only Aston Villa possess a more extensive history with them in the league.
But while passions always run deep when Rovers meet the Whites, opinion remains split on this side of the border about what side fans most want to beat.
Blackburn’s fierce rivalry with Burnley clouds the issue from their side, with the East Lancashire derby one of the most eagerly-anticipated games of the season in that part of the Red Rose county.
Wanderers’ ire has more often been aimed at Manchester United, though even the most ardent Reebok regular must admit it is not reciprocated in anything like the same manner by the Old Trafford faithful.
Geographically, Wigan Athletic are much closer to the Reebok, in Horwich, but Bury’s Gigg Lane is actually closer to the centre of the town. The Shakers’ exile in the bottom two divisions has taken that game off the agenda, barring that memorable/forgettable League Cup meeting several years ago.
Burnley remain encased in the same county but with 30 miles between the two grounds, it was only the banter that followed Owen Coyle’s departure from Turf Moor that revved up that particular rivalry for a while.
In a poll run by The Bolton News yesterday, Blackburn did indeed come out on top of the list of teams considered Wanderers’ local rivals – although not by a long distance from Wigan.
The Latics are relative newcomers to the top two divisions, where Wanderers have spent much of their time down the years. But when they followed Bolton and Blackburn into the second tier it stoked up a game that had started to bubble nicely in the Premier League.