Apart from their somewhat annoying penchant for beating us at the DW Stadium, I think I’m on fairly safe ground when I say that there is no great animosity between us and Blackpool. As most Wigan Athletic fans are aware, we face Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in our last away game of the season next Saturday which will be attended by over 3,000 Latics fans, following a mad ticket scramble and the inevitable recriminations which followed.
The fact that it’s the last away game of the season, that we will probably need to win to secure promotion and that it’s at Blackpool – which is always one of the better away days – means that it is a critical game for us and we wouldn’t dream of preaching to anyone to stay away, because we certainly won’t be. All season our away support has been terrific and as Blackpool will see the biggest away following yet, then we will need to be loud, passionate and supportive, giving it all we’ve got in the hope it will make our team do the same.
However, in spite of the huge magnitude of the game for us, it will also be a symbolic game for Blackpool fans which many of you are aware of. We have to be careful what we write here but to adapt the old adage of “you can choose your friends but not your family” it can also be said that you can choose your football club but you can’t (in most cases) choose who owns it.
We are tremendously fortunate to have had a family, in the form of the Whelans who have given us, as football fans of Wigan Athletic, the sort of experiences we could never have dreamed of in the past twenty years. Of course, Dave Whelan isn’t perfect and has made some high profile mistakes but given all the positive things he has done to put our football club and indeed the town on the global map, well, you wouldn’t change a thing.
I must admit just over a year ago, I was concerned along with many others about the appointment of David Sharpe as chairman and that’s without mentioning the lame “couldn’t run a chippy” jibe. He’s a 24 year old lad, what if he gets bored with it? This asset of the community which means the world to you and I but typically we have to entrust in the hands of a wealthy young man who can act upon a whim. Yet Sharpe has far exceeded everyone’s expectations to prove himself a sensible, responsive and committed chairman with every bit of passion for the football club as us mere fans and long may it continue. We’re the lucky ones.
Sadly, it appears not to be the case at the end of the M55. You can’t fail to be at least a little bit informed about the Blackpool story and as football fans it is a real “there but for the grace of God” tale. For many years, the Oystons were generally perceived to be on a par with the Whelans. They modernised the ground, provided transfer funds and took the club on a roller coaster ride akin to the famous Big One situated nearby. As Blackpool the town has changed its profile so much over the past sixty years it’s easy to forget that, like many of the Lancashire mill town clubs, they were once one of the biggest names in the game. Consequently, the club still has a large and captive support on the Fylde Coast and further afield from people who have moved away – I must know at least half a dozen Blackpool fans in Wigan.
Those fans are suffering right now and they have been suffering ever since they got relegated on the same day we won at Stoke to stay up. We were both bundled together as clubs in crisis last year as we got relegated together but the circumstances were very different. We were still a heavily invested club with a big squad and a large wage bill which was not being justified on the field due to poor signings and poor management, whilst Blackpool could barely field a team at the beginning of the season due to lack of players and then and indeed now, rely heavily on loan players to fill their squad.
We all like to joke about Whelan’s spendthrift ways (just WHERE IS the McCarthy money?) but we know that he has backed the club financially and continues to do so. We also know that he has released the parachute payments to invest in the squad because nearly every other team’s manager mentions it every F**KING week. At Blackpool, it would appear to be quite the opposite, sure they are a profitable club which in general business terms means they are in good health, yet this has come as a consequence of starving the team of investment and the football club itself plummeting down the leagues.
I don’t think Blackpool fans are asking too much, their well-publicised bid to buy the club did not indicate anything audacious: a wage bill of a couple of million quid a year to be funded by season ticket sales of existing and returning fans following the removal of a family they consider has taken out a lot of money from the club (and indeed this is confirmed in the accounts)
I like to think that we are have clued up supporters and hopefully this will manifest itself next Saturday with a show of solidarity towards the protesting Blackpool fans. None of that “empty seats” singing which briefly appeared last year because trust me, if the same scenario unfolded at Wigan as has done at Blackpool, then I very much doubt that we’d have many fans left watching us either. I can’t speak for or make demands of our fans because nowadays, everybody is online and everyone has a voice but I would like to publicise the protest below for one simple reason. It could just as easily be us, and we should be thankful that it isn’t.
There are two items below, one is a statement about Blackpool Supporters Trust’s proposed march inviting you to join in if you so wish, or indeed you may encounter this march if you are making your way to the game. The second is a request to refrain from spending money in the ground. Again, we all like a pie and a pint but one thing Blackpool is not short of is pubs and there are plenty of pie shops in the town – or indeed fish and chip shops if you prefer. A programme? Well, again that’s up to you, many people buy them out of routine and it’s not for me or anyone else to tell you what you can and can’t do. However, for me personally, if lots of good people ask me to do something (or not do something) and it is a small thing that will make a difference then I see no harm in doing it and the people behind the supporters trust have a far better track record than the custodians of Blackpool FC (again, you’ll have to read up)
So, please, from one Wigan Athletic fan to another, respect their campaign and support it you can. And if you can’t, or choose not to, then that’s fine to but at least respect what they are trying to do rather than mock them, for they are simply fighting for what is theirs: their football club.
MESSAGE FROM BLACKPOOL SUPPORTERS TRUST
Hope you are well. As you are no doubt aware, BST and the Tangerine Knights have planned a large community march and demonstration to take place prior to the match between our 2 teams. We are hoping that as many Wigan fans as possible will march with us, or at least join us outside the main stand to show support. We are hoping that this year there will be more Blackpool fans outside than in.
The march is starting in the town centre at 10.30am at a pub called the Blue Room on Church St, it will go past the Town Hall and then onto the Promenade, past the Tower and head south until we reach the Manchester pub, then down to Seasiders way where we will gather outside the main West stand. People can join in at any point on the route; we expect to arrive at the ground by 11.45am.
If there is any way you could help get the message out to Wigan fans that this is happening and that we would love as many as possible to join us, I’d be really grateful. Football rivalries are not important at times like this; we are fighting to save our club from destruction.