I missed it but, apparently the BBC is running a vote for each club to select nominees for their “cult hero”.  As I said I missed the nominating and the rules, but I have to assume that current players are excluded and that they’re only looking for league players.  Without dwelling too much on the debate about what “cult hero” actually means, all three of our nominees are from the post Whelan period.  This is understandable as the majority of our current fans have only come on board since then, but it is a shame that the nominees don’t reflect the full history of the club.

Any way, before the tears of nostalgia start to roll, let’s take a look at the three Latics nominees:


Roberto Martinez

The amigo that stayed.  Admittedly the other two didn’t have much say in the matter, but the reaction when Bobby finally left the club showed how much of a place he’d developed in our hearts and minds.
He wasn’t the Spaniard that caused the most fuss when they turfed up and Springfield park.  That honour went to Jesus “is a Wiganer” Seba, allegedly one of the hottest young prospects in Spanish football (we soon coached that out of him).  Bobby was the one that settled into the team the quickest, and stayed there the longest.  As a player he was never a show pony, but always sublime.

An over used description of Bobby (or Robby as I seem to remember he preferred) was “a true ambassador for the club”.  I’ve never been sure what that means, but he was always friendly, had a smile and a few words for fans and, on a personal level, was the only other person who laughed when, in Pizza Hut, my five year old nephew answered the question “what did the fish say when it swam into the wall?” with an exceedingly loud “shit!”.  (The answer is damn by the way).  You sensed that he really did care about the club and his adopted home.

Above all that is why he will be remembered and deserves a place on this list; regardless of his skill, how he played the game and the club’s achievements during his time at the club.

Grahame Jones

If asked to pick the best striker we have had, in the League, you’d probably go for the Duke, and you’d be right.  However if you look at it season by season, and factor in the level we were playing at the time, I for one would be changing my answer.  For all his promise, skill and power Nathan hasn’t quite reached the heights that Jonah did in our third division championship season.  He was immense, took no crap and looked like he was going to rip up all our goal scoring records without breaking sweat.

Jonesy joined the club from Doncaster in the summer of 1996.  He’d spent a few seasons playing abroad (Finland?) before returning to the professional game in England.  His signing was a bit of a surprise at the time as the rumour was that we’d been looking at his strike partner Colin (who?) Cramb.

If you like comparisons, or think that we’ve never had a strike partnership like Ellington and Roberts.  Check the record books and see how many goals Jones and Lancashire scored in the first 10 games of that season, Lancs got injured but Jonah kept on keeping on and we went on to win the league.

Only injury and some indifferent form (in an indifferent team, it has to be said) over the next couple of years prevented Jonah taking his place amongst the true Latic’s greats, but if only for this one season he was up there with Lyon, Campbell and the likes.

Stuart Barlow

You’re coming to the wrong person for this one.  There’s no doubt that his record for the club was impressive, but I never got the impression that he “belonged” to the club.  His selection in this list over, for instance, Lids is a real surprise for me.  I can only presume that the rules prevent Lids’ selection, he was part of the same team and more integral to it, the sort of player who would sweat blood for the cause (as I‘m sure he would for any club he played for).  Barlow’s record is more of a reflection of the way we played and the players around him, something that is backed up by his record before and after joining the club.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that if Barlow hadn’t been ‘frozen out’ of the side we’d have been promoted that season. His form was already falling away and he seemed to be losing interest; the 20 odd goals he’d got at this point were more or less his limit.

So that’s that, three players, one of who would make my list, one who could have if he’d carried on his initial form and one who… well never mind.  You’ll have your own ideas about who should be on there but here are some suggestions,

  • Bobby Campbell

  • Don Page

  • Brian Griffiths

  • Stan McKewan

  • Ian Gillibrand

  • Roberto Martinez

This isn’t a definitive list and they probably are nowhere near being 6 of our best players, they’re just a few names off the top of my head.  What they have in common is character as players and a long lasting place in the memory of fans.  You’ll probably notice that only one of the three nominees make it to the list but, as they say, football is all about opinions.

Stop Press
Some justice was done on Saturday when Bobby won the vote on Football Focus.  At least we won’t have to spend all our time explaining to laughing Everton fans why ‘Jigsaw’ is our ‘cult hero’.

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