Manager offers his thoughts ahead of Wanderers' FA Cup tie with Wigan this weekend
Neil Lennon called for his side to continue their recent good form in local derbies when they host Wigan Athletic in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Wanderers enter the clash with the Latics having defeated their DW Stadium counterparts in the league meeting between the two sides at Macron Stadium in November, alongside the Whites’ recent victory over Blackburn Rovers.
Admitting that although the game will undoubtedly prove to be a stern test for his side, the manager believes a collective effort on the part of both his players and the club’s supporters will hopefully be enough to secure Wanderers’ passage into the next round of the competition.
“I’ve really enjoyed the local derbies I’ve been involved in so far,” said Lennon. “We’ve had Wigan here at Macron Stadium already along with Blackburn and the crowds have been fantastic, the atmosphere has been great and they’ve been really good games.
“The fans though are really with the team right now and there’s a lot of optimism around the club at the moment.
“I’m expecting our supporters to create a similar atmosphere to the previous derbies on Saturday, but in a cup tie, anything can happen because your league form goes out of the window really. That said though, it’ll be an exciting game.”
He continued: “I look forward to cup games – I think it’s important as the season goes on to maintain your form and I think games like this can help.
“Some people may think that it can be a hindrance, but I’d rather be in the competition than not – you only have to look at who we are playing.
“Over the past few seasons, Wigan have had a fantastic record and have won the cup too, and I’m sure their fans wouldn’t swap that for anything.”
The manager also paid tribute to the impact of recent signings Emile Heskey and Eidur Gudjohnsen, with the Bolton boss believing that the inclusion of the pair in the squad in recent weeks has reaped dividends amongst their teammates.
“Having the presence of Emile and Eidur around the club has definitely been important,” he explained.
“They’re on hand to offer advice and the other players have got that confidence boost from working alongside them.
“Alongside that, they’re also benefiting on an aspirational level too – the rest of the squad want to aim to reach the levels that they both have, and that will hopefully be evident on the pitch.”