Just recently I have found myself in correspondence with former Wigan Athletic player Ken Dugdale. I eventually managed to persude him to write a few paragraphs about his time at Springfield Park. He was originally a bit reluctant to do so, given his perceived lack of input into the first team squad during his time at the club.
Explaining that TNS is a site dedicated to the past, present and future of our great club, and that readers would enjoy anything that he had to reveal about the very early seventies he decided to take the plunge. Says Ken,
“I was 19 when I signed for Wigan, I had been playing in Kirkby Town reserves team and had no opportunities for first team football so I decided to leave and was given a trial by Gordon Milne. So my first taste of first team football was in a pre-season game at Springfield Park vs Southport who were then in the 4th Division. I must have done Ok because I signed for Wigan straight after.”
The game was played on 8th August 1970 and Latics ran out 2-0 winners courtesy of goals from Jimmy Fleming and Geoff Davies. Unfortunately for Ken the form of Kenny Morris, Ian Gillibrand and Billy Sutherland meant that he was never to play as many games for the club as he would have liked. Ken continues,
“My memories of Wigan Athletic are for me, very special. Although I was not there a long time it felt like being in the “big time” and meant a lot to me. Here was the best non-league club around and I was a part of it. Rubbing shoulders with former England players and top pros from England and Scotland, some of whom I had idolised as I was growing up.”
“I couldn’t drive at that time and so John King the former Tranmere manager, used to pick me up and take me to training, although there were a couple of times when he left me waiting at the side of the road as he sailed past ! I remember we played a lot of 5-a-side games behind the terracing at the town end and of course there was the sprint work along the popular side opposite the Phoenix stand, not a strong point of mine! Training was always competitive and the games between the first team and the reserves were great to be involved in.
“Most of my playing games were in the reserves but I did manage to play a few first team games. One in particular I remember was at Gainsborough Trinity . A very long bus ride on a Friday night, 115 miles, and if I remember right the driver took a wrong turn along the way and it took a lot longer than expected to arrive. The game turned out poorly also as we lost. Gordon’s humour was tested again after the game when Derek Temple began whistling a tune in the showers, his feeling was that we had another game on the Tuesday or Wednesday and the sooner we got over the loss the better!
“Gordon was not of the same opinion! Another game I remember was night game friendly against Hibernian, Joe Baker was in their line- up. And I am thinking whoa, this guy has played for England, Torino and Arsenal! I played against Skelmersdale in the final of the Lancs Junior Cup which we lost, one of their goals coming as a result of a mix up between myself and Eddie Roberts in goal. There were some great characters there as well especially the likes of Kenny Banks! what a great guy.
“We were taken to Spain as a reward for winning the league and I sat next to him on the plane, to say he didn’t like flying would be an understatement! His knuckles were white the whole way! As we know the application to join the football league was turned down. And at that point I felt that my chances of going full time were non- existent and took the opportunity to emigrate to New Zealand.
“Gordon Milne decided to loan me out until I was to travel, so my time at Wigan ended during the 71-72 season.”
Ken made a few appearances for both New Brighton and Burscough after turning down an offer from Rossendale United before his emigration. Speaking of his time after his playing days were over he said,
“It’s amazing to see how far the club has gone since then and I hope they continue to be the success they are today. Once I had finished playing I took to coaching and ended up becoming National Head Coach for New Zealand and took them to the Confederations Cup Finals in Mexico 1999.
“I was with the National team for 8 years 1994-2002 and I am now coaching lower level football in Norway after moving here in 2004.”.
I would like to thank Ken for plundering his mempry banks for us and I would also like to reveal that Ken’s uncle, Jim Dugdale played for Aston Villa, WBA and QPR and his younger brother Alan was at Coventry City (under Gordon Milne!) Charlton and Barnsley.
The accompanying photograph is of the Latics players in Spain in 1971 and is used by kind permission of Ken. He is pictured on the front row between Lee Koo and Kenny Morris.
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