So it's our first proper exit of the season, though not a particularly exciting one. Ali Al Habsi has been put out on loan to Wigan. A Wanderer since 2006, the Omanian keeper has made little impact on the side, mostly because Jussi Jaaskelainen is brilliant, and it's not like you sub a keeper out after 70 minutes if he's had a god game to give a youngster a shot. He only made one appearance this season, a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the Carling Cup. That does sound quite bad from Al Habsi's point of view, as it was his job to stop goals, but we must not forget what a killer Chelsea side that was. In fact, I'm fairly positive Al Habsi didn't do that poorly.
The undeniable high point of Al Habsi's career was his appearance against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup. Bolton were second bottom in the Premiership, while Bayern sat top of the Bundesliga, unbeaten in all competitions that season, and it was already November. This was, of course, one of Megson's first games in charge. Things were not looking good for Bolton's trip to Munich, and got worse with the new Jaaskelainen was injured. However Al Habsi performed wonderfully, only letting in 2 goals against a team with a goal difference of +23. Super Kev secured a draw with a late goal, which led to Bolton's proudest moment in Europe (mind, it doesn't have much competition).
But the perpetual burden of goalkeepers, the fact that the position doesn't lend itself to much experimenting, has kept Al Habsi mostly out of the side. With Wigan's release of it's two backup keepers, Richard Kingson (who had a massive World Cup) and Vladimir Stojkovic, it does make quite a bit of sense to let Al Habsi out for a while. Here's hoping he gives Kirkland a lot of competition and gets some experience in. Jaaskelainen won't be around for forever, and Al Habsi looks to be a good contingency plan.