Wigan Athletic

A quick history with all things football in Wigan, courtesy of Mike Wareing

1932 Wigan Athletic are born. Previously there was Wigan Borough (slung out of the League in 1931), Wigan Town, Wigan United and Wigan County – none survived. Fingers are crossed for the future success of the new club as the town is rapidly running out of names.

1954 A massive St James’ Park crowd sees the Lancashire Combination side hold First Division fancy dans Newcastle to a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup third round. Earlier that season fire had destroyed the main stand and changing rooms at Springfield Park. In a precursor to the Newcastle-Stevenage row the United chairman refuses to allow his delicate players to use the makeshift changing rooms for the replay and sends them to the local swimming baths instead. Newcastle scrape through 3-2.

1969 Soviet League side Metallist of Kharkov play a friendly at Springfield Park. Their assistant secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, is so impressed he becomes a huge Wigan fan. During his future career he regularly takes time off from his Perestroika project to cheer the Wigan boys on from the Popular Side. Was a prime mover in the “Kenyon Out!” campaign of the early Nineties.

1978 Wigan become the last club to be voted into the Football League.

1979 The greatest comeback in the history of the game ever: 3-0 down at home to Port Vale with just 20 minutes to go, many disgruntled Wigan fans decide to leave early, some dis­gustedly throwing their season tickets into the players’ tunnel. Wigan storm back to win 5-3. Inappropriately for a resurrection, it all hap­pens on Good Friday.

1982 In his first season as player-manager Larry Lloyd leads Wigan to promotion from the Fourth Division. He is sacked the following seas­on. His reign produces the surreal sight of a barrel-shaped Archie Gemmill in a Latics shirt.

1985 The glory year! A rampant Wigan storm to Wembley victory in the first final of the prestigious Freight Rover Trophy competition. Brentford prove no match for their infinitely superior northern counterparts and lose 3-1.

A good period for local fanzines. The reign of cuddly chairman Bill Kenyon sees the club relentlessly run into the ground and good players sold off cheap. In 1993 Wigan suffer the ignominy of relegation for the first time in their history. A town weeps. Apart from those strange rugby-supporting types, that is.

1995 Dave Whelan, multi-millionaire owner of JJB Sports and local boy made good, buys Wigan. Premiership football promised by the end of the century. Plans later revised.

Wigan win the Third Division title. Southern whingers Fulham complain that if goal difference still applied rather than goals scored they would have won it instead. But it doesn’t and they didn’t and it was Jimmy Hill’s idea to change the rules anyway. Tee Hee!

From WSC 145 March 1999. What was happening this month