Jewell's pie eaters continue to feast at high table

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The Independent Football

Dave Whelan, the Wigan Athletic chairman, dismissed the club as mere "pie eaters". His manager, Paul Jewell, adopted a similar, self-mocking tone in branding himself "flavour of the month". Given the way that Wigan exposed the flakiness of Aston Villa, the upper crust would be advised to treat such kidology with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Before this win, their sixth in seven games, the Lancashire club's party spent the night at The Belfry, the salubrious golfing hotel. A Villa fan, chatting to Jewell, said he was amazed they could afford to stay there. In some minds, Wigan's image seemingly remains rooted in the Northern Premier League rather than the Premier League.

"The guy wasn't being rude and our chairman is wealthier than theirs [Doug Ellis], but people have this perception of Wigan as a town and a team," said Jewell, omitting to mention that it is in their interests to perpetuate the stereotype. At the moment, he added, they were challenging such notions and everyone in Wigan was "loving it".

"I've been flavour of the month before and it soon changes - just ask David Moyes," said the one-time Liverpool reserve, who previously kept Bradford City in the Premiership. "People are saying nice things about us, and we like them, but it's tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrapping."

Jewell's reluctance to revel in Wigan's presence in the Champions' League places is also informed by a belief that the promoted team are performing to the absolute limit of their capabilities. "That takes it out of you," he said. "There will be tough times around the corner. We've got a run of five fixtures coming up [against Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United] where we might not get a point. Or we may get 15. You never know in this game."

For another member of the Wigan set-up with an Anfield connection, Stephane Henchoz, the current success is especially sweet. The Swiss, Steven Gerrard's next-door neighbour until the Liverpool captain moved last week, is still sore at being discarded by Rafael Benitez "without playing a single minute for him".

His partnership with Arjan De Zeeuw is "not the quickest", by Jewell's admission, but it provides an unflappable foundation for a balanced midfield and pacy front two.

Wigan, in truth, are unremarkable, but they are a team in the truest sense. It is difficult to say as much of Villa. After feasting on a derby victory at Birmingham, it was back to humble pie for them. They squandered early scoring chances, conceded the initiative with a hapless own goal by Aaron Hughes and were being outplayed when Alan Mahon struck a late second goal that was as beautiful as it was brutal.

The return of some of the more forceful, leader figures in David O'Leary's squad, notably Gavin McCann, can only improve Villa's cohesion. Their spirit is suspect, too, the manager revealing he had to go around the dressing-room at half-time "trying to pick them up".

They must also trust that a fit-again Milan Baros will lend some of the ability, which Jason Roberts and Henri Camara offer Wigan, to burst suddenly into overdrive. While O'Leary talked of reaching the top six, two wins in 15 games since the end of last season suggest that mid-table may be the best Villa can hope for.

Wigan's entourage protested, to a man, that survival is still their priority. Many more results like this, however, and no one will believe their wealthy benefactor if he responds as he did on Saturday to a question about Jewell's potential to take the England reins. "He's only the Wigan manager," teased Whelan. "And we're only pie eaters".

Goals: Hughes og (32) 0-1; Mahon (83) 0-2.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; Hughes, Ridgewell, Mellberg, Samuel; Milner, Davis, Bakke (Berger, 69), Barry; Moore (Angel, 54), Phillips. Substitutes not used: S Taylor (gk), Delaney, Djemba-Djemba.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan; Chimbonda, Henchoz, De Zeeuw, Baines; Bullard, Francis, Kavanagh, Mahon; Roberts (Teale, 67), Camara. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), McMillan, Jackson, R Taylor.

Referee: R Beeby (Northamptonshire).

Man of the match: Kavanagh.

Attendance: 32,294.