Baggies are 'mugged' by match-saving Kirkland

Wigan Athletic 2 West Bromwich 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The sentiment in the match programme was plaintive. "It's a fair bet this afternoon's game is pencilled in for the graveyard slot on Match of the Day."

The feeling that nobody likes watching Wigan extends to the England management. Were a casual observer to have peered through the fog, he would have found it astonishing that the nervy figure of Scott Carson had kept goal against Germany, while Chris Kirkland, who according to his manager, Steve Bruce, is the best keeper he has ever worked with, remains in a kind of international Alaska – frozen out if not quite forgotten.

Kirkland, who like much else at Gérard Houllier's Liverpool was tipped for greatness only to fail to fulfil expectations, is a regular visitor to Hinckley fire station in Leicestershire and has expressed a desire to join the force upon retirement. On Saturday, he put out fires everywhere for Wigan as they recovered from the familiar scenario of a Titus Bramble cock-up. Kirkland's four match-salvaging saves ensured nobody could disagree with Bruce's assessment that a superior West Bromwich Albion had been "mugged".

There is a reason why Kirkland is not part of Team Capello – a persistent back injury means Wigan are reluctant to let him join up if he then has to be pulled out.

"That's the last thing I want because then everyone talks about my injuries and that's not nice to read," said Kirkland. "It's not a case of not wanting to play for my country; I owe it to Wigan to make sure I am right for them. I had a disc removed when I was at Liverpool and any time you have an operation on your back it's serious stuff. I have injections every three months that kill the pain but you can only stick needles in your back so many times. I don't want to get to 38 or 40 and not be able to play with my kids."

England's goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence is monitoring Kirkland's fitness. When he made his England debut five years ago, his father collected a share of a £10,000 bet made when his son was 11 that he would be capped. On this form, Eddie Kirkland ought to pay the bookies another visit.

Goals: Miller (47) 0-1; Camara (62) 1-1; Boyce (88) 2-1.

Wigan Athleti: (4-4-2: Kirkland; Taylor (Melchiot, 70), Bramble, Boyce, Figueroa (Kilbane, 81); Valencia, Brown (Koumas, 60), Cattermole, Palacios; Camara, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Kingson, De Ridder, Cywka.

West Bromwich Albion (4-1-4-1): Carson; Zuiverloon, Méïté, Olsson, Robinson; Koren; Morrison (Moore, 89), Greening, Valero, Brunt (Bednar, 89); Miller. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Cech, Barnett, Kim, Teixeira.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: West Bromwich: Greening, Miller.

Man of the match: Kirkland.

Attendance: 17,054.