The formation and early years
The fifth club to grace Wigan was formed in 1932 after the demise of Wigan Borough. Borough were forced to resign from the Third Division North of the football league on the 26th of October 1931. After the board said funds had ran dry.
A public meeting was held to discuss what was to do with the towns running FA contract. Held by the Mayor at the time Councillor W A Hipwood. They decided that a new club called Wigan Athletic would be formed and that they would buy back Springfield Park back to play on. The cost of which was £2,850 pounds the club entered the Cheshire league and prepared for the 1932/33 season.
In their first season they finished in the top ten comfortably. In the 1933/34 season they cruised to the league title. Then in the 1934/35 they yet again cruised to the league title and also they beat Carlisle United 6-1 the biggest score for a non-league side to put against a league side in the FA cup (a record which still stands to day but has been equalled since by Boston United and Hereford United). Yet again for the third consecutive season the team cruised to the title in the 1935-1936 but were unable to win their fourth consecutive title with the start of the war.
After the war Wigan were elected to the Lancashire Combination League but with new surrounds teams and playing styles they only finished in the top ten after a great start which tailed off to the end. 1946/47 season brought joy with the Latics lifting the league and wining convincing. In 1950 they were contenders for a league place after some great performances in the Lancashire combination but lost on a third poll to Scunthorpe United.
Wigan fuming after their failure of not making the league they went onto win the Lancashire Combination. Next season they finished second but then they went on and won the league for the next to seasons the 1952/53 and the 1953-/54. In the 1953/54 they won the Lancashire Junior cup and completing a memorable treble by winning the Lancashire Combination Cup. Not content with this they went on a great FA cup run beating Hereford United in front of 27,526 fans (a record of the largest crowd of two non-league teams except Wembley finals). The reward for this win was an away tie with Newcastle at the might of their power an they preformed brilliant and got a well deserved 3-3 draw, but they were unfortunate to lose 2-3 on the away tie with 2 late goals. But even this was not enough to get Latics into league football. No more success followed which in Wigan history is know as there quite period but in the 60s they returned to the Cheshire League. But it took till the 1964/65 season for them to win the title with Harry Lyon amassing an amazing 66 goals in one season scoring 6 in one game another club record.
Later they joined the Northern Premier League and yet again they dominated it wining the league twice in the 1970/71 and 1974/75 seasons. Following there win of the league they went on to win the Northern Premier cup in the 1971/72 season. Then they went onto win the shield to years running the 1972/73 and the 1973/74. Then in 1975/76 season they lifted the Shield which was their last non-league trophy. Two years after their last trophy after 34 rejections, Latics finally gained league status in place of Southport.
The league era
In their first season Wigan did great finishing in a creditable 6th place. Two seasons later Wigan secured promotion to the third Division with a second place finish under manager Larry Lloyd. Wigan went on to establish themselves as a league club and built teams worthy of winning the league but fading off towards the end of the season. But joy came for the lads and for the town when in the season off 1984/85 season were they won the Freight Rovers Trophy.But disaster struck when in 1993 the team were relegated from the new Division 2 the new Division 3. And then finished 19th which was and still is there worst league season. The following season Wigan got back on track and finished mid-table.
Dave Whelan era
When local millionaire Dave Whelan purchased the club many thought he had gone mad, because he stated that he would make this club a premiership club in the next 10 years (and you know what he was right). In 1997 Wigan secured promotion back to Division 2 with John Deehan. Whilst in 1999 the club made the playoffs under Ray Mathias (only to lose to a controversial goal from man city on aggregate 2-1) and won the Auto Windscreens Shield beating Millwall 1-0. But it was not Mathias who led the club to the Auto Windscreens Shield it was John Benson who would lead the club to the top of the table by Christmas only to drop top goal scorer Stuart Barlow and end up in the play-offs and lose to. Gillingham 3-2 in extra time in the last ever Division 2 play-off match to be played at old Wembley.
Benson then moved to the Wigan’s Director of football spot and was replaced by Bruce Rioch. Rioch was plagued with severe injuries and handed in his resignation in February 2001. He was replaced by Colin Greenall on a temporary basis, before the surprise introduction of Steve Bruce who led the club for the third consecutive time to the play-offs but only to lose 2-1 on aggregate Nicky Forster with the late goal. But Bruce packed up and left the club and on to Crystal Palace.
The Jewell in the Crown
In 2001 after the departure of Steve Bruce, Dave Whelan appointed Paul Jewell former player from the 60s period. Jewell was told to build a squad to get the club out of Division 2 (now called league 1) by next year. By October the club was second from bottom and were humiliated by Canvey Island in the FA cup when they won 1-0 at the JJB Stadium. But Whelan backed his manager with a spending spree where he signed many of the players that would take them to the Prem these players were: Goalkeeper John Filan, Defender Matt Jackson, Midfielders Gary Teale and Jason Jarret and Striker Nathan Ellington for then a club record of £1.2 million.
After these signing Wigan rose from 2nd from bottom to 10th after a run of just five deafest since New Year. During the summer the only signing made was defender Ian Breckin. But in the January transfer period the signings of Nicky Eaden and Jimmy Bullard Bolstered the squad. They went on to lift the Division 2 title with 100 points. Going on a 10 game winning streak and only losing 4 games all season in the league. Also during this season Wigan went on a run in the Carling cup knocking out Northampton, West Brom (in the Premiership at this time), Manchester City, and Fulham before being knocked out by the holders Blackburn in the quarter finals.
In there First season in Division 1 (now the Championship) Wigan were classed as a pub team and were favourites to go back down and losing their first game to Millwall 2-0 did help stop the criticism. But then went on a 17 game unbeaten run and beat Crystal Palace 5-0 at the JJB Stadium. But how annoying was it for Wigan to miss out on
Promotion and miss out on the play-offs as on the last day Wigan needed a win against West Ham but a late Chris Deane goal scarpered Wigan’s hopes. But how ironic that Crystal Palace qualified and got Promotion.
Next season Paul Jewell rallied his Wigan side and they started the season great going on a 17 match unbeaten run which ended when Plymouth Argyle beat them 2-0 at the JJB Stadium. But all though they only won 2 games in their next 9 they stayed in the top 3. But with a loss to Sunderland and West Ham this looked to be the end, but Ipswich Wigan’s contenders for second (by now Sunderland had already stormed off 6 points ahead and looked set to win the league) were also struggling.
It went to the last day Wigan and Ipswich both trying to scrape out what points they could meant the fight for second would go to the last day. On the last day this is what it was like at the top of the table: Sunderland (Champions), Wigan (2 points ahead of Ipswich), and Ipswich (2 points behind Wigan). Ipswich played Brighton and needed a win, Wigan played Reading but with Wigan’s superior goal difference they could afford a draw, but Reading needed a win to get into the play-offs. Early on in the Ipswich game they took an early lead and they looked like getting the automatic promotion spot until, six minutes later Brighton equalised and Wigan fans needed not to worry anymore as. Wigan Cruised to a 3-1 victory over Reading Lee McCulloch, Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington all scored before Steve Sidwell’s Consolation goal. The win put Wigan in the top flight of English football for the first time.
The Premiership years
Wigan’s Promotion to the top flight of English football was classed by many as a lucky break and they were the bookies favourites to go down. They signed a range of talent a blend of experienced and youth the players they signed were: Henri Camara, Damien Francis, Ryan Taylor, Josip Skoko, Michael Pollitt, Stephane Henchoz, David Connolly, Arjan De Zeeuw (former captain of the team), Pascal Chimbonda. But unfortunately the clubs star striker left for West Brom for £3,000,001 this was the get out clause in is contract.
Wigan had the worst of games to start their Premiership campaign a home tie against League champions Chelsea. The game started well both teams going full on to each other and neither team able to break the deadlock. By half-time Wigan looked like the team that had won the Premiership not Chelsea. Paul Jewell’s men had fought and frustrated Chelsea and nearly scored themselves.
In the second half the game continued in this manner Cech having to pull off some great saves to keep Chelsea in the game and the same of Mike Pollitt who was playing like a Premiership pro between the posts. But with 3 minutes of added time given the game looked to be a stalemate then Gary Teale broke away from the Chelsea defence and struck a venomous strike towards the goal and Cech watched helplessly as the ball clipped the cross bar and went out. With seconds remaining the ball was whacked up field it was controlled by Crespo who turned towards the goal. All the players, fans and coaching staff could do was watch as the ball smashed into the top corner of the net past Pollitt’s out stretched hand. After the game Jose Mourinhio (Chelsea’s manager at the time) said that Chelsea did not deserve to win the game and Wigan looked like a team who had been in the Premiership for years.
With Mourinhio’s praise the club went on to beat Everton, Bolton, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Fulham, Sunderland and Portsmouth all help the club to rise to second in t he league. Although Wigan then had to play Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United and they lost all these games but still held a good place and looked like they could get a Uefa cup spot.
Wigan weren’t also doing well in the league they were doing well in the Carling cup beating Bournemouth, Watford, Newcastle and Bolton before a semi-final match against Arsenal. In the first leg there was more than one reason to remember the match. First there was a power cut in Wigan and the lights all went off and play was stopped till the power was back on lucky it was back on in half an hour and the game continued. Once the lights were back on Paul Jewell introduced new signing Paul Scharner who stepped up and converted a Gary Teale cross and powered in a header that gave Wigan the advantage.
In the second leg Arsenal were awarded a controversial penalty and Mike Pollitt kept his cool and saved Reynes’s penalty. But Thierry Henry scored in normal time and the game went to extra time. It took till the second half of extra time were Robin Van Persie fired in an awesome free-kick and it looked like Wigan were out. But then Mike Pollitt’s long kick up field was touched down by Paul Schaner to Jason Roberts who fired home and Wigan won on away goal advantage.
But in the Final Wigan’s hopes of silver ware were crushed by Manchester United in front of a packed Millennium Stadium in Wales. It all started bad for Wigan they lost star keeper Mike Pollitt to injury and John Filan who had been a doubt for the bench. Came on and was unlucky to come up against a rampant Man U side who ran out 4-0 winners.
But only a week later Wigan played host to Man U. Wigan went 1-0 up thanks to Paul Scharner who was now a club legend and had only been at the club a month. But Man U hit back and won the game 1-2 winners. But in then end Wigan’s season faded away and unfortunately missed out on a Uefa spot but had done 1 thing that no club had done before and that was in there debutant season in the Premiership finish in the top 10 and gone to a final of a major tournament.
Next season Wigan wanted to strengthen and push on but with there players, now hot stuff it wasn’t easy. First off they lost Pascal Chimbonda, Jason Roberts, Damien Francis, David Connely, Jimmy Bullard and Graham Kavangah all left but they signed; Emile Heskey, Denny Landzaat, Chris Kirkland, Antonio Valencia (on loan), Kevin Killbane, David Cotterill, Fitz Hall and Emmerson Boyce all signed.
After a slow start to the 2006/07 season, Wigan’s form picked up with four successive victories against Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham and Charlton Athletic. But, the club’s form dipped dramatically with eight consecutive losses beginning with a close 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal on December 13. The lengthy injury to Henri Camara, along with fellow team mate Paul Scharner’s injury further hampered their winter period.
Finally, their slump ended with a 1-0 home win against Portsmouth were lee McCulloch scored the only goal. Their January transfer window signings of Caleb Folan, Julius Aghahowa and David Unsworth to help to keep the club in the Premiership. In March Wigan stood 15th in the Premiership and were in a more comfortable position than in previous weeks, moving eight points clear of Charlton Athletic after wins over Newcastle United and Manchester City. The club finally seemed to be moving away from the relegation. But, Wigan remained in serious danger of relegation after losing against Charlton Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. With the form of rival strugglers Fulham and Sheffield United getting together, Wigan went into the last game
of the season needing to beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
On May 13, the final day of the season, a 10 man Wigan team battled to beat their Sheffield opponents. They won the game 2-1 and guaranteeing Premiership status for another year and in doing so relegated Sheffield United to the Championship. After a dominant, fast paced and confident opening, Paul Scharner rifled home Kevin Kilbane’s low cross of 14 minutes to put the Latics 1-0 up. However, a recurrence of Arjan De Zeeuw’s calf injury forced him off after 30 minutes, and a re-shaped Wigan were pegged back on 38 minutes through a Jon Stead header. Wigan forced their way back in front in first half injury time. Phil Jagielka handled the ball inside the area while defending a free-kick, and former Blades defender David Unsworth belted home the resulting penalty. McCulloch was sent off in the 74th minute for his second booking which put Wigan under immense pressure. However, Wigan held on for one of the biggest wins in the club’s history. The next day Paul Jewell resigned as the manager saying he felt he had done all he could at the club; his assistant Chris Hutchings was appointed as the new manager later that day.
Hutchings wanted to strengthen the squad with experienced Premiership players and brought in Titus Bramble, Antoine Sibierski, Jason Koumas, Mario Melchiot, Carlo Nash, Michael Brown, Andreas Granqvist, Saloman Olembe, Rachid Bouaozan, Marcus Bent and Antonio Valencia (extended loan spell). But Hutchings lost Arjan De Zeeuw, Matt Jackson, David Unsworth, John Filan, Caleb Folan Leighton Baines and Lee McCulloch.
The season began with a disappointing 2-1 defeat away at Everton, but this was followed by consecutive home victories: Middlesbrough and Sunderland. This led to Wigan topping the Premier League for the first time in their history. Wigan’s start had seen their new signings gel quickly, with Andreas Granqvist and Titus Bramble forming a sold partnership in the defence, captain Mario Melchiot leading by example, Jason Koumas adding a new creative flare to the midfield and Antoine Sibierski scoring in each of the first 3 games.
Wigan’s improved start to the season saw Emile Heskey recalled to the England Squad for the first time since 2005. This also made him the first Wigan player to represent England whilst being a current member of the squad. Chris Kirkland having done earlier but he was on loan from Liverpool at the time.
Sadly Emile Heskey, immediately after his England call-up, broke his foot in his next game for the club. He was out injured for 6 weeks. Subsequently the club’s league position worsened. Wigan lost successive games to Reading, Liverpool, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Birmingham and Chelsea .
In November Manager Chris Hutchings was sacked after Wigan slipped into the relegation zone. Frank Barlow, his assistant, was made Caretaker Manager away to Tottenham. On November 19, it was announced that Steve Bruce, who had just resigned as Birmingham City manager, had accepted a £2m-a-year deal to succeed Hutchings and attempt to keep Wigan in the Premier League. It is reported that Wigan had to pay £3 million in compensation to Birmingham for Bruce’s services. His appointment saw Wigan end their losing streak, by drawing 1-1 at home to Man City on December 1. But, they were brought back down to earth after a disappointing 4-1 loss away to local rivals Bolton. But Bruce’s and the club’s fortunes greatly improved a week later with an enthralling 5-3 victory at home against another local rival, Blackburn,then a 1-0 home win over Newcastle United. After a 1-2 home loss to Aston Villa, Wigan managed an even greater coup, managing to draw 1-1 at Anfield against Liverpool. They followed this up with their first away victory of the season, winning 1-0 away at Derby. But Wigan lost their following match at home to Everton 2-1. This was followed by their elimination from the FA Cup at the hands of Chelsea, in a 1-2 defeat.
Wigan won the race to sign Marlon King from Watford after he was poised to join Fulham. The deal with Fulham was held up which prompted Wigan boss Steve Bruce to step in and sign King. Wigan also signed Wilson Palacios, Maynor Figueroa, Erik Edman, Erik Hagen, whilst signing Antonio Valencia on a permanent deal. While Fitz Hall and Denny Landzaat left the club.
Wigan virtually guaranteed Premier League survival with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on April 14. This result also put a big dent in Chelsea’s title aspirations with only four games left in the season. Emile Heskey scored in the 90th minute to level the match after Michael Essien had put Chelsea ahead. Wigan then went on to draw with Tottenham and Reading before wrapping up Premiership survival against Aston Villa in a 2-0 win were Valencia showed what a young star he is.
With Survaial met a last day clash with Man United needing a win to win the title was set to be a classic. A fighting Wigan with Figuroa making his debut against Man United and having to defend against the worlds best player the odds were bleak. It took a Bramble foul in the box and a Ronaldo penalty for United to pass a strong Wigan team during first half play with Figuroa on the attack most of the half making mince meat of Ronaldo. Second Half again United struggled to undo a stead fast wigan but for a welsh legend in Ryan Giggs to wrong foot Bramble and slot past Kirkland and for United to win the Premeir League Title.
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