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By ESPN Staff
Dec 13, 2006

Jewell defends record against big boys

Wigan manager Paul Jewell has defended his side's abysmal record against the Premiership's 'big five' clubs.

The Latics face Arsenal at the JJB Stadium tonight still searching for their first victory against the teams that finished in the top five in each Premiership season following their promotion.

From 13 matches against the Gunners, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs, Wigan have taken one point from a possible 39, conceding 33 goals in the process.

Jewell concedes it is not a record he is proud of, but he is also a realist.

He said: 'Our league is against the sides outside of the top five, so anything we pick up against them is a bonus.

'We haven't done as well as we should have done, but when you look back on some games - Chelsea on the first day of last season, Arsenal and Tottenham here - they were tight and we were in them.

'But too often we haven't been in them, and I can recall our three games with Liverpool and one against Manchester United, so it's something to work on.

'It would be lovely to beat any top team, wonderful, but it's more important for us to beat those teams down the bottom because they are six-pointers.

'I'm not being defeatist, but our season will not be shaped by how we get on against those top five.'

Recalling a conversation he had with former Charlton manager Alan Curbishley last season, Jewell added: 'He told me he looked upon the season as a 28-game season.

'A lot of teams outside the top five just write off the other 10 games, which might be a negative attitude to some people, but it's also a realistic one.

'I'm not going to do that because I want to win every game, but on the other side of the coin I wouldn't want to get a point against Arsenal and then lose against Sheffield United on Saturday.

'There's more value in us taking points off Sheffield United than against Arsenal - although of course we'd like to win both.'

It was 11 days ago Jewell's side last played one of the top five, suffering a 4-0 home thrashing to Liverpool, and naturally he is demanding an improvement.

'I just want us to show more belief and devilment than we did against Liverpool,' said Jewell.

'We've since bounced back with two decent performances away at West Ham and Middlesbrough, but now we want to put one on for the supporters at home.'

Jewell has confirmed goalkeeper Chris Kirkland will play, despite an overnight stay in hospital on Saturday following a collision with a team-mate during the 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.

'He had a bit of a scare, but he's fine. He trained today and he will play tomorrow. He's 100% (fit). There are no concerns,' insisted Jewell.

Striker Emile Heskey returns from a one-match ban, but midfielder Paul Scharner serves a one-game suspension for collecting five bookings for the season.

Centre-back Emmerson Boyce is a doubt after being sent home yesterday through illness, while Jewell has another six players injured.