THERE is not a game I look forward to more than our clash with Rovers.
While Whites fans may sing “We only hate Man United” this is not something I place great stock in. For me, the only local rivals I’m bothered about are Blackburn.
Of course, I do feel a warm glow inside when I listen to Reds fans moaning about their plight. But in truth, Whites have never been on the same playing field, and our current form means we are in no position to gloat.
Rovers are not only arguably the closest club to us geographically – Bury and Wigan are similar in distance – but also in terms of size, achievement, and history.
Their fortunes have closely mirrored each other over the last 15-or-so years, both returning to the Premier League in 2001 and both, sadly heading back to the Championship in 2012.
My jaded memory recalls some fiercely contested derbies: There were Jussi Jaaskelainen’s two penalty saves and Kevin Nolan sent off as Wanderers won 1-0, the next year El-Hadji Diouf, pictured, “earned” then converted a legendary penalty, which still gets Rovers fans seething to this day.
Finally, I remember a stunning strike from Nolan in 2008 (although Wanderers actually lost), and a glorious winner from Stuart Holden in 2010.
Rovers look still to have an outside shot at the play-offs, while Wanderers are playing for survival and pride. So I would love it if we beat Rovers on Saturday – if only to keep them in the same league as us next season.
l Steve Thompson is deputy news editor of The Bolton News, and lifelong Wanderers fan.