Wigan Athletic FC
Wigan Athletic Football Club is an English professional football club based in Wigan, Greater Manchester. The club competes in the Premier League, the highest tier of English football. Their current spell in the Premier League is the only top flight run in the club’s history.
They have played at the DW Stadium since 1999, sharing the stadium with rugby league club Wigan Warriors. They previously played at Springfield Park for 67 years.The club’s nickname is Latics, derived from a contraction of the word “Athletic”.
As of the 2011–12 season, Wigan FC are the youngest club in the Premier League, having only been formed in 1932.
Life in the local leagues
Wigan FC was formed in 1932, following the winding up of Wigan Borough the previous year. Wigan Athletic was the fifth attempt to create a stable football club in the town following the demise of Wigan County, Wigan United, Wigan Town and Wigan Borough. Springfield Park, the former home of Wigan Borough, was purchased by the club for £2,850. Despite their initial application being turned down, Wigan were elected into the Cheshire County League following the resignation of Manchester Central. The club had also made the first of many attempts to be admitted into the Football League, but failed to receive a single vote. On 27 August 1932, Wigan played their first ever league game against Port Vale Reserves. The team played in red and white shirts with black shorts.
Wigan Athletic won its first honours in the 1933–34 season, finishing as champions of the Cheshire League. In the following season, the club won a second league championship and also entered the FA Cup for the first time, defeating Carlisle United 6–1 in the first round – a cup record for the biggest victory by a non-league club over a league club, which has since been equalled in 1955 by Boston United, and again in 1957 by Hereford United. In the 1935–36 season, the club won its third consecutive Cheshire League title and the Lancashire Junior Cup.
After the Second World War, Wigan adopted their more familiar blue and white strip. The club struggled to assemble a competitive side, and finished bottom of the league in 1946–47 season. Despite their pre-war success, the club failed to gain re-election and were replaced by Winsford United. The club joined the Lancashire Combination, winning the league in their first season. In 1950, Wigan came close to election to the Football League, narrowly losing out to Scunthorpe United F.C.. In the 1953–54 season, Wigan FC played an FA Cup match against Hereford United in front of a crowd of 27,526, a Wigan Athletic record and also a record for a match between two non-league teams at a non-league ground. In the next round of the cup, Wigan were drawn against First Division side Newcastle United. Wigan held their top flight opponents to a 2–2 draw at St James’ Park, but went on to lose the replay 3–2. In 1961, the club moved back to the Cheshire County League.
In 1968, Wigan FC were founder members of the Northern Premier League, known since 1994 as the UniBond League. Winning the league title in 1970–71, Leading goalscorer with 42 goals, including 7 hatricks, was Geoff Davies who scored 28 goals in the following 1971–72 season. He left to play in America with Eusebio, (and against Pele, George Best, Rodney Marsh, and Franz Beckenbauer). After 34 failed election attempts, including one controversial but headline-making application in 1972 to join the Scottish League Second Division, Wigan Athletic were elected to the Football League in 1978.
The first floodlit match was played at Springfield Park on 19 October 1966, when Wigan Athletic played Crewe Alexandra, with the official opening of the floodlights on 24 October 1966, when Manchester City were the visitors. City brought a full strength team to Springfield Park and won 4–0.
Early league years: 1978–1995
Wigan FC finished in second place in the Northern Premier League in the 1977–78 season, behind winners Boston United. But as Boston’s ground and facilities did not meet the Football League criteria for a League club, whereas Springfield Park did, Wigan Athletic were put forward for election to the league. There was no automatic promotion to the Football League until 1987, and at that time a club had to be ‘voted out’ of the League to allow a non-league team to be promoted in their place. At the end of the 1977–78 season, Southport finished next to bottom of the old Fourth Division, and faced off with Wigan Athletic for their place in the League. The first round of voting was tied, with both clubs receiving 26 votes. After a tense re-vote which Wigan controversially won 29–20, Southport lost their place in the Fourth Division and Wigan Athletic became an English League club on 2 June 1978.
In the club’s first season of League football, Wigan FC finished in sixth place, just six points off promotion and playing in front of an average crowd of 6,701. Two more top-half finishes came in the following seasons. They gained their first Football League promotion under the management of former Liverpool player Larry Lloyd in 1981–82, when a points tally of 91 saw them join the former Division Three for the first time, beginning a 10 year spell in English football’s third tier. The club struggled in their first season in Division Three, which led to Lloyd’s controversial sacking in early 1983, being replaced by Harry McNally. Under McNally’s management, the club stabilised in Division Three and secured a pair of mid-table finishes, but a dreadful 1984–85 season cost him his job, with Tranmere manager Bryan Hamilton stepping into the breach. Under Hamilton’s management, the club’s performances went to the next level and they won their first silverware as a League club that season with the Freight Rover Trophy. They were beaten in the Northern Final of the same competition the following season by Bolton Wanderers. More importantly, Hamilton achieved Division Three survival, which had looked an impossible task earlier that season.
The 1985–86 season saw a marked improvement in the club’s league form, eventually finishing in fourth position, a then-club record high which would stand for 17 years until 2002–03. Wigan finished the season just one point outside the promotion places in the final season before the Football League introduced the play-off system for promotion and relegation. However, Hamilton’s feats attracted the attention of First Division Leicester City and he left to become their manager in the summer 1986. His assistant, Ray Mathias, who had followed him from Tranmere, stepped up to the Wigan FC manager’s job. Wigan managed an identical fourth place finish in the 1986–87 season, but this time were rewarded with the chance to compete for the final promotion place in the new play-off system. (In the first two years of the play-off system, teams finishing 3rd, 4th and 5th joined the team finishing 20th in the division above to play off for the promotion place; this was changed to the teams finishing 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th from the 1988–89 season). The Latics lost at the two-legged semi-final stage to Swindon, who went on to win the final promotion place.
The fourth place finishes of the 1985–86 and 1986–87 seasons proved to be the high points of Wigan Athletic’s first stint in Division 3. For the next five years, they finished mid-table, flirting with relegation in 1988–89 (at which time Mathias was sacked and previous manager Bryan Hamilton returned) and 1989–90, until they were relegated for the first and only time in the club’s League history in 1992–93. Wigan FC finished in 23rd place, amid tumbling attendances which had fallen from averages of 3,000–4,000 in Wigan Athletic’s Division 3 years to just 2,593 in 1992–93.A year later, with the club back in the fourth tier of the English League, the Latics finished 19th – fourth from bottom – to complete their worst-ever league season. Attendances fell to a lowest-ever Wigan Athletic League average of 1,845 by 1995.
Rising through the league: 1995–2005
In February 1995, local millionaire and owner of JJB Sports Dave Whelan purchased the club, which was then playing in the Third Division (fourth tier), and set out his ambition to reach the Premier League, a statement which was widely ridiculed at the time. His ambition came true, because just ten years later Wigan FC were playing Premier League football.
At the end of Whelan’s first season as Chairman, Wigan Athletic finished in 14th position in the old Third Division, the 84th rung of the 92-club English Football League ladder. Whelan and Wigan Athletic made headlines in summer 1995 when Whelan’s business connections in Spain helped him attract three Spaniards to the club – Roberto Martínez, Isidro Diaz, and Jesus Seba – who became known as ‘The Three Amigos’.Martínez and Díaz would later become the first Spaniards to play in the FA Cup, and the trio became the on-pitch symbols of Whelan’s ambitious plans.
‘The Three Amigos’ were joined at the club by John Deehan, who replaced Graham Barrow as manager during the 1995–96 season following a 6–2 home defeat to Mansfield Town. Deehan had coached Norwich City to an unexpected 3rd place finish in the inaugural Premier League season, and his influence took the Latics within two points of a play-off place in his first season. The following year saw the first step towards Whelan’s dream come true, when Wigan Athletic became Division Three champions on the last day of the season, in no small part helped by Graeme Jones’ club record 31 league goals for the season. Following a mid-table finish in Division Two the following season, Deehan quit to become Steve Bruce’s assistant at Sheffield United. He was succeeded by Ray Mathias, who returned for his third stint as Wigan FC manager. Mathias’ team won Wigan Athletic’s second trophy under Dave Whelan, when the Latics beat Millwall 1–0 to win the AutoWindscreens Shield at Wembley in April 1999. More significantly, he took Wigan Athletic to the Division Two play-offs in 1999, losing 2–1 on aggregate to neighbours Manchester City. This ultimately cost Mathias his job as he fell victim to Whelan’s relentless drive for Premier League football.
His replacement John Benson led the squad that he inherited from Mathias to a commanding position at the top of Division Two in his first six months, including the demolition of local rivals Preston North End 4–1 away, only to collapse in the second half of the season. This was largely attributed to the dropping of leading goalscorer Stuart Barlow who was responsible for much of the side’s early success, coupled with a series of poor quality signings of ageing, and reputedly highly paid players and a run of poor performances led to strong disapproval of the management among fans. The 1999–2000 season ended in failure at Wembley as Wigan Athletic lost 3–2 after extra time to Gillingham at the last ever Division Two play-off final to be played at the old Wembley Stadium.
Benson moved ‘upstairs’ to the new post of Director of Football in the summer of 2000, when former Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch took the manager’s job for the 2000–01 season. Rioch was hampered by severe injury problems and after a difficult and often unimpressive first half of the season left the club in February 2001. He was temporarily replaced by club stalwart Colin Greenall, before the surprise appointment of Steve Bruce for the final eight games of the season. His arrival brought renewed vigour to Wigan Athletic performances, but the club ultimately lost in the play-offs once again, this time against Reading. Following this blow, Bruce left for Crystal Palace after repeatedly pledging his future to Wigan FC, leaving behind a club both grateful for his help in getting so close to promotion and also angry and bitter at his betrayal.
In the summer of 2001, highly regarded young manager and former Latics forward Paul Jewell took over as manager following an unsuccessful spell at Sheffield Wednesday. His first season in charge saw mixed results and an embarrassing defeat to non-league Canvey Island in the FA Cup first round, although the club eventually finished in mid-table. Jewell’s second season in charge was far more successful. Wigan Athletic went on a run to the quarter finals of the League Cup, beating Premier League opponents West Brom, Manchester City and Fulham en route. Wigan FC won the Division Two championship in 2002–03 with a points total of 100, powered by the goals of then-record £1.2 million signing Nathan Ellington, with a run of 10 consecutive wins along the way. The club lost only four times all season, and Wigan Athletic secured promotion to the second tier of the English Football League for the first time in their history.
After losing their first ever game in Division One, Wigan Athletic confounded expectations to go unbeaten for the next 17 games and sit atop the division by November 2003. A weak finish saw Wigan Athletic win only three of their last 10 games to finish seventh in Division One – a last minute goal by West Ham’s Brian Deane in the final game of the season saw the Latics drop out of the play-off places in favour of eventual play-off winners Crystal Palace.
Hoping to build on the previous season’s disappointing finish, the Latics went one better than 2003–04 by remaining unbeaten for the first 17 games of the 2004–05 season. Along with Sunderland and Ipswich, the Latics remained in the promotion hunt all season. By the last day of the season, Sunderland had already won the title and Wigan needed at least a draw against Reading – who themselves needed to win to finish in sixth place – to beat Ipswich to the last automatic promotion spot. A 3–1 victory in front of their home fans at the JJB Stadium earned Wigan FC promotion to the top division of the English football for the first time in their 73-year history.
Wigan in the Premier League: 2005–present
Wigan FC first Premier League match against Chelsea
The club’s first ever Premier League game was a home match against champions Chelsea, a game they lost only to a 94th minute winner by Hernán Crespo. A successful run followed, and by November Wigan were second in the league. Good league form was coupled with an equally strong performance in the Football League Cup, with the Latics reaching their first ever major cup final after defeating Arsenal on away goals in the semi-final. In the final, Wigan were defeated 4–0 by near neighbours Manchester United. Wigan eventually finished the season in 10th place, which remains the club’s highest ever league placing. Defender Pascal Chimbonda was also included in the 2005–06 PFA Team of the Season. Wigan failed in their bid for European football and opted not to take part in the UEFA Intertoto Cup.
During the close season, Wigan sold many who had starred in their first season in the Premier League, as Jimmy Bullard left for Fulham, Jason Roberts joined Blackburn Rovers, and Stéphane Henchoz was released. Wigan brought in high-profile replacements including Emile Heskey, Denny Landzaat, Chris Kirkland and Antonio Valencia to try to build on their successful Premier League debut. After a mid-table start to the 2006–07 season, Wigan’s fortunes dipped dramatically with eight consecutive losses from mid-December, but after arresting the slump Wigan stood 15th in the Premier League in early March and finally seemed to be moving away from the relegation mire. But a series of defeats and the resurgence of rival strugglers meant Wigan faced the serious threat of relegation. On the final day of the season, Wigan FC battled to a 2–1 away win against Sheffield United, guaranteeing their Premier League status for another year and in doing so relegating Sheffield United to the Championship. The following day, Paul Jewell unexpectedly resigned as manager; his assistant Chris Hutchings was appointed as his replacement.
Wigan’s third Premier League campaign saw the club trying to fully establish itself in the division following a disappointing second season. The playing squad had changed almost entirely from the promotion-winning side. Ageing fan favourites Arjan De Zeeuw, Matt Jackson, John Filan made way, along with Lee McCulloch, who sealed his dream move to Rangers. Leighton Baines also rejected a new contract and signed for his boyhood team Everton. Titus Bramble, Mario Melchiot, Jason Koumas (for £5.3 million) and much travelled striker Marcus Bent were among the players brought in. Melchiot was installed as the new club captain. For the 2007–08 season, Wigan’s home shirt returned to the club’s traditional blue and white stripes, having been blue with white sleeves the previous season as well. The away shirt became white with slate trim, with slate shorts and slate socks. A slate grey third kit with royal blue trim was also introduced.
The 2007–08 season began well for Wigan, topping the Premier League after three games for the first time in their history. Wigan’s strong start saw Emile Heskey recalled to the England Squad for the first time since 2005. He became the first Wigan FC player to represent England whilst a full member of the squad (Chris Kirkland earned his first cap while at Wigan, but was on loan from Liverpool at the time). However, Heskey broke his foot immediately after his England call-up, and was out injured for six weeks. The club’s league position subsequently worsened, and on the back of a run of six consecutive defeats Wigan plummeted into the relegation zone. Chairman Dave Whelan took the decision to sack manager Chris Hutchings on 5 November 2007, after only 12 games in charge.
Steve Bruce era: 2007–2009
Former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce replaced Hutchings. Bruce had just resigned as Birmingham City manager, and signed a £2m-a-year deal to try to keep Wigan in the Premier League. Wigan had to pay a reported £3 million in compensation to Birmingham for Bruce’s services. His appointment saw Wigan end their losing streak, but consistency evaded the Latics, although Bruce did soon achieve something neither Jewell nor Hutchings had managed previously – a 1–1 draw at Anfield against Liverpool; the first time Wigan had taken points off one of the so-called “Big Four” Premier League clubs. Bruce eventually oversaw a comparatively comfortable end to the season for Wigan, who finished 14th in the final table with 40 points – three places and two points higher than their finish the previous season.
In the summer of 2008, the team’s kits were altered for the new season in part due to the club signing a new contract with Champion Sportswear. In Bruce’s first pre-season with the club, his overhaul of the playing squad continued. The two biggest deals saw Lee Cattermole sign from Middlesbrough for £3.5-million, and highly-rated Egyptian striker Amr Zaki sign on an initial one-year loan. Zaki had scored 10 Premier League goals by February 2009, as Wigan FC reached seventh place in the table with 34 points from 25 games and looked certain to remain in the Premier League for a fifth successive season.
January saw the departure of two key first team members, Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey, to Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively. Despite these massive changes, Wigan finished the season in 11th place with 45 points, their second-best finish ever in the Premier League. On 3 June, Bruce left Wigan for the second time to take over the vacant manager position at Sunderland. July saw the departure of another key first team member Antonio Valencia to Manchester United. Before the 2009–10 season got underway, Wigan midfielder Lee Cattermole left the club and signed for Sunderland, rejoining Bruce in the process.
Roberto Martínez era: 2009–present
Wigan appointed Roberto Martínez, then manager of Swansea City, as manager prior to the 2009–10 Premier League.He previously played for Wigan from 1995–2001. On 15 August 2009, Wigan won their opening game of the 2009–10 season, beating Aston Villa away, 2–0 The good form did not continue though, losing the next three games to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United and Everton before defeating West Ham United at the DW Stadium on 12 September 1–0 to claim three points. The winning run was short-lived, however, with a trip to Arsenal on 19 September ending in a 4–0 defeat. On 26 September Wigan claimed their first three points against a “Big 4″ team after beating Chelsea 3–1, with goals from Titus Bramble, Hugo Rodallega and Paul Scharner.
On 22 November 2009, Tottenham Hotspur beat Wigan 9–1 at White Hart Lane, with 8 Tottenham goals coming in the second half. This was the first time a Premier League club had conceded nine goals since Manchester United beat Ipswich 9–0 at Old Trafford in 1995.The defeat was a club record for Wigan in the 31-year existence as a league club.
A late surge that included a 1–0 win over Liverpool and a 3–2 win over Arsenal – the latter of which saw Wigan FC recover from two goals down with ten minutes remaining to win in injury time – saw the team once more survive relegation. Most notably, having never defeated any of the traditional “Big Four” in the league until their win over Chelsea (and with only one win over any of them in cup competitions), Wigan ended the season having defeated three of them at home. They finished the season with an 8–0 defeat at Chelsea, who clinched the title with the victory.
At the beginning of the 2010–11 season, Wigan lost 4–0 to newly promoted Blackpool at the DW stadium, and a 6–0 thrashing at the DW stadium by Chelsea followed. The next game Wigan beat Tottenham 1–0 at White Hart Lane. Wigan fell to the bottom of the league by the end of February, following a 4–0 defeat to Manchester United.However, despite remaining in the bottom three for the majority of the season, Wigan managed to retain their Premier League status on the last day of the season, defeating Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium thanks to a goal from Hugo Rodallega.
On 20 February 2012, the club announced a financial loss of £7.2 million. on 7 May Wigan simultaneously secured their Premier League status and relegated Blackburn Rovers with a 1–0 victory at Ewood Park.
Wigan FC lost their first game of the 2012-13 Premier League season at home to Chelsea Two goals to Nil. They bounced back against Southampton F.C and won by Two goals to Nil with Franco Di Santo and Arouna Koné scoring.
Wigan Athletic’s stadium is the 25,138 capacity DW Stadium, part of the Robin Park complex in Wigan. It has been the club’s home since the 1999–2000 season. Wigan Athletic also rent the stadium to rugby league team Wigan Warriors,The ground cost £30 million to construct. Previously, home games were played at Springfield Park, the former home of Wigan Borough.Springfield Park was demolished in June 1999; it is now the site of a housing development. The record attendance at the DW Stadium (then known as JJB Stadium) for Wigan Athletic is 25,133 for a match against Manchester United on 11 May 2008.
The JJB Stadium was the fourth attempt at re-development/re-location for Wigan FC, the first coming in 1986 when then-chairman Bill Kenyon revealed plans for a 15,000 all-seater development at Springfield Park including a hotel and shopping facilities. The club were to play at the nearby Woodhouse Stadium (formerly Wigan Municipal Stadium – now demolished) while the building work took place. In 1990, Kenyon submitted his second scheme which would cost £3m, hold 12–15,000 fans and involve moving the pitch nearer to the car park. Neither efforts got past the planning stage. The next chairman, Stephen Gage, spent most of 1993 and 1994 trying to relocate the Latics to the then Robin Park Stadium (now demolished) until his plans were scuppered by Wigan Council when the local authority announced plans for their own ground involving Wigan Warriors. Mr Gage finally admitted defeat when he sold the Latics to Dave Whelan on 27 February 1995 for around £1m.
Plans for the JJB Stadium were first published in 1997. Contracts for the new stadium were signed in late 1997 and work began immediately. Originally the ground was to be built for both Wigan FC and Orrell R.U.F.C., as grants were only available for multi-use stadia at that time. Wigan Warriors did not figure in the equation until Dave Whelan bought the rugby club some 12 months later after protracted negotiations with the directors of the rugby club. The modern all-seater stadium was officially opened on 4 August 1999. Its inauguration was marked with a friendly between Wigan and neighbours Manchester United, who were then reigning European Champions, with Alex Ferguson officially opening the stadium. However, Wigan hosted Morecambe three days earlier on 1 August as a dress rehearsal for the official opening against Manchester United. 4,020 supporters braved a fierce electrical storm and torrential rain but the game ended in a goalless draw. The first competitive football match took place on 7 August 1999, with Wigan Athletic facing Scunthorpe United in a Division 2 match. Simon Haworth scored twice, including the first competitive goal at the new stadium, as Athletic won 3–0.
On 7 March 2005 Greater Manchester police announced that they would stop policing Wigan FC matches at the stadium from 2 April. This move later, Wigan, facing the prospect of playing their home games in the Premier League in an empty stadium, paid the money they owed to the police. The club appealed against the payments in court and won, with the claims expected to earn the club around £37,000.
On 25 March 2009 it was announced that Wigan would change the name of their stadium to The DW Stadium, after chairman Dave Whelan’s commercial venture, DW Sports Fitness.