November 27, 2007

Wigan Athletic FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 8:48 pm


Wigan Athletic FC are also known as the Latics, which is a corruption of the word “Athletic.”  Wigan has made it to the lofty reaches of the English Premier League because of the massive investment owner Dave Whelan has put into the club.  The multi-millionaire is former owner of JJB Sports, a large retail sporting goods chain. Whelan played for Blackburn Rovers FC in the late 1950s and early 1960s, before a broken leg forced an early retirement.  He used the compensation-money to purchase his first store, which he eventually parlayed into JJB.  After making JJB Sports the biggest sports retailers in the UK, Whelan turned his attention back to football, assuming Chairmanship of Wigan in 1995.  The club had only joined the Football League in 1978, and had an extremely small fan base. The first game under his reign, Wigan drew 1,452 to their old ground, Springfield Park.  But that situation soon changed, as Whelan invested heavily, and Wigan rose meteorically up the leagues.  The Latics made it to the Premier League in 2005, and surprised everyone by finishing 10th in 2005-06, under manager Paul Jewell.  In their second Premiership season (2006-07), they avoided relegation by the thinnest of margins, beating Sheffield United away, pipping them on goal difference.  Jewell was burned out by the stress, though,  and stepped down.  His successor, Chris Hutchings lasted only 12 games, with Wigan mired in the relegation zone.  Steve Bruce was named the new manager on November 23, 2007.  Bruce, who had briefly managed Wigan in 2001, before having a six-year spell at Birmingham City, will try to pull the Latics out of their 11 game winless streak.  Poor league form aside, Wigan also face an uphill battle attracting fans.  Their sleek park (which they moved into in 2000), home also to the Rugby team the Wigan Warriors, is often embarrasingly empty for games.  They are on their way to having the worst attendance in the league again, around 18,400.  There simply may be too much top-level football in the northwest of England.  Manchester is just 25 miles down the road (where around 115,000 fans comprise the Manchester United/Manchester City attendance base); Liverpool is also 25 miles away (Liverpool/Everton making up about 85,000 average spectators);  Bolton (22,000 or so per game) is right next door; and Blackburn (24,000) is also nearby.  Plus, there are 3 second-division clubs within 50 miles of Wigan.  The Latics really have their work cut out for them.   The bloom is off their fairy-tale rise, fans have stopped showing up, they play in a region with a glut of football clubs, and perhaps most damning of all, most quality football players would really rather play somewhere more glamorous.

Thanks to these websites: FootballGroundsGuide[dot]co[dot]uk, and chilvers1[dot]demon[dot]co[uk] for photos; and Colours-Of-Football[dot]com for the kits.

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