WE ran a vote this week in The Bolton News sport pages asking fans who they thought were Wanderers’ biggest derby rivals.
A total of 860 people chose between Manchester United, Blackburn, Wigan, Bury and Burnley (what Burnley were doing in there I’m not quite sure, but there we go).
Blackburn got the most votes with 35 per cent, ahead of Wigan with 29 per cent, United with just over 20 per cent, Bury with around 10 per cent, and Burnley with next to nowt.
The truth is Wanderers don’t have a derby. I know this is nothing new coming from me in this column and that a forthcoming game against neighbours is always an excuse for churning out the old derby column piece.
The difference this time is the fact that Wigan got so many votes.
That got me thinking. Wigan and Bolton is a derby just waiting to happen. Everything is in place that isn’t with all the others.
Blackburn may be a big game for us in this town, but as a Rovers fan said in a derby special feature in these pages yesterday, the only derby they acknowledge is the one with Burnley.
That’s the problem with derbies, they’re a bit like romances in that they’re no good if they’re unrequited.
With both there has to be similar feelings on both sides or they just don’t work. Blackburn just don’t see Bolton as a derby, so it isn’t one, Manchester United ditto, while the Bury/Bolton rivalry is one way and Bolton/Burnley would never be a derby even if Burnley didn’t already have the big Blackburn rivalry.
So that leaves Wigan. Standing there like a potential suitor at a disco. All coy and sheepish waiting for Wanderers to sweep them off their feet and make them derby rivals.
It’s a perfect match. Wanderers don’t have anyone to direct their passion at, and neither do Wigan.
Their stadiums are similar sized and look the same, they’re both in the same division, similar-sized towns, and it’s only a hop, skip and jump from the Reebok Stadium to Westhoughton and then down Dickinson Lane to Wigan.
Wigan are a relatively new club, which is probably why the two haven’t got together earlier.
But they’re never going to have a history together if they’re not going to give it a try.
So let me play arranged marriage maker and decree that Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic should hereby come together and form a lasting relationship for as long as they both shall play.
This could be the start of a long and beautiful rivalry.