CENTURION Adam Bogdan cannot wait to welcome another member of the old guard to the Reebok tomorrow.
After marking up his 100th appearance for Wanderers with a clean sheet on Tuesday night against Blackpool, the Hungarian keeper now prepares to face a man once ahead of him in the queue at Bolton.
Wigan number one Ali Al-Habsi was understudy to Whites legend Jussi Jaaskelainen when Bogdan arrived for a trial at Fred Barber’s famous goalkeeping school in 2007.
Seven years later and Bogdan has outlasted them both in the Wanderers ranks, and though he has maintained links with Al-Habsi since he left the club, his mentor Jaaskelainen has been harder to reach.
“Me and Jussi haven’t talked,” he shrugged. “But he’s a really, really good keeper. He’s experienced and has fantastic skills so it’s good to see him playing at West Ham. I wish him all the best.
“Ali is a lovely guy. We talk but he gets on with his life and so do I. It will definitely be good to see him on Saturday.”
Bogdan admits he arrived at Wanderers as a raw talent not ready for regular football, but credits working alongside Al-Habsi and Jaaskelainen as one of the major reasons he has risen to become number one.
“When I came to the club the standards were very, very high compared to other Premier League clubs,” he said.
“When you consider that Ali hadn’t really got a start in the team because of Jussi and then all of a sudden I was third in that line.
“Ali showed his qualities when Jussi got injured at the end of the season and then went off to Wigan to play a couple more seasons in the Premier League.
“He’s been in good form for them – but I think that shows the quality of the keepers at this club too. It is something to be proud of.”
Bogdan’s debut came in August 2010 against Southampton in the Carling Cup. “Another 1-0 victory,” he noted.
Will he reach a double century? “It’s not down to me,” he said, before re-thinking his answer. “Well, partly it is I suppose. I want to go as far as I can.
“It had taken me quite a long time to reach the standards that you had to have at this football club – the other keepers, especially Jussi, had set them.
“But once I got my chance there are so many games in this league that you get to the 100 mark quite easily.
“It was good to celebrate with a clean sheet against Blackpool and that sets us up nicely for Wigan now.”
Bogdan was injured the last time Wanderers met their local rivals at the DW Stadium, where they came out on the wrong side of a five-goal Christmas cracker in Uwe Rosler’s first home game in charge.
Since then, the former Brentford boss has guided the Latics on a brilliant run to the FA Cup semi-finals, including a victory over Manchester City, to spark hope they could compete in a second successive final.
Their league form has also been superb, with Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat against QPR only their third in 18 Championship games since beating the Whites in December.
“It’s going to be a good test for us because Wigan are flying high at the moment and they are a very organised team,” Bogdan said.
“They’re doing well in the FA Cup and in the league where they are chasing promotion, with quality players. It’s definitely a massive test for us because we want to finish as high up the league as possible.”