Saints v Wigan – A Fan Panel special

What makes this Derby the biggest of them all?

KP: Two highly successful teams. Two teams with unrivalled history. Two teams who, when they play each other, everyone wants to watch. No derby matches that does it?

SL: The reason why the Wigan-Saints derby is the biggest is simply due to the success of both clubs as well as the locality. Its a little bit like Manchester United and Liverpool, the added rivalry is because more often than not, they are competing directly for honours and Wigan/Saints is no difference.

Given the start of the season for the two teams, is this the biggest Good Friday game in a long time?

KP: For Saints and Wigan fans, every Good Friday is massive. The teams could be separated by 10 places in the league and it would still be a huge game. However, as 2 of the most successful teams in Super League, and 2 of the form sides it does make Good Friday interesting. The biggest in a long time though? Maybe, but it’s debatable.

SL: There is always a side story to the Good Friday games, whether it be one team having performed really well early season or another struggling. This is probably the best-matched derby since 2011 I would say, in terms of the potential for both sides. That game, was one of the best Wigan/Saints games in a long time with both sides leading at various points and we all remember that last minute Liam Farrell try …

The Good Friday streak… discuss.

KP: For the past few years the game has ruined 80 minutes of what is the best day of the season! Far too often we’ve fallen behind by too much, then panicked when trying to get ourselves back into the game. After the sacking of Keiron Cunningham last season, we were a little unlucky to have Kyle Amor sent off and ruin any chance of winning the game. Hopefully it won’t provide a mental block for the players this season, but we have to start the game with more passion and conviction than Wigan will.

SL: The winning streak is so good and so long that it could actually start having a mental effect on St Helens and perhaps added pressure. It is a wonderful streak and its one that is so long that the world has changed since St Helens won on Good Friday; for example since St Helens last won, Instagram has been launched and St Helens stalwart Keiron Cunningham has retired, had a statue made and been sacked as manager of his beloved Saints!

If you HAD to have one player from the other side, who would it be?

KP: Sean O’Loughlin. He might be nearing the end of his career, and is wheeled out of storage for the bigger games, but the guy is a class act. He’s a proper leader of his team, a focal point for them. His leadership abilities are second to none, and he is exactly the type of player our pack could’ve done with for the past few years.

SL: Ben Barba would be the obvious choice as for me, he is the one standout player in Super League, never mind the St Helens side. However, a player that would complement the Wigan side and because of what he has done over the past decade, it would be James Roby. An exceptional player and one admired by fans on both sides of the hill.

What makes you believe you’ll win this game?

KP: The belief in the players this year, compared to last is immeasurable. That is down to one man, Justin Holbrook. His man management skills, the confidence he gives the squad and the feeling he’s brought back into the town makes him one of the most important signings the club has ever made. It’s all this that gives us hope that the Good Friday hoodoo is closer to being ended.

SL: If Wigan are to win, I think it will be a simple case that we want it more than St Helens. Ten homegrown players are likely to be in the 17 man side for Wigan and that, ultimately may be the difference. Growing up in Wigan, knowing what Good Friday means to the people of the town, sometimes cannot be instilled into people, it has be experienced.

Score prediction?

KP: In a tight game, I’m predicting shredded nerves, chewed fingernails and 24-20 to Saints.

SL: I think this one will be a draw and I think it will be 16-16.