I had to check twice when I saw the crowd for the Arsenal game, even after satisfying myself that it did start with 15 I had to check the video before I believed it. All I can say in my defence was the action was fairly engrossing and pretty much every seat around me was taken, but 15,311 it was providing the media with yet another chance to question Latics’ ability to sustain attendances ‘befitting’ of the premier league.
As yet I’ve not read the manager’s comments but apparently, the ‘do the people of Wigan want a Premier League side’ line has had another run out, and unsurprisingly caused no end of consternation amongst the Latics faithful, most of the anger being directed at Jewell.
As much as there are reasons that attendances are low, few of them are his fault, and you should also remember that he may only be telling the truth. You can pick whichever social science you like to describe the state of and reasons for Latics’ fanbase, you can also use then to claim that things will get better over time but when it comes down to it, history teaches us different.
Jewell is far from being the first person to question the town’s desire for professional football. Almost exactly 75 years ago Frank Platt, the man tasked with saving Latics’ predecessors, Wigan Borough, reluctantly wound the club up with the message that the people of Wigan had no appetite to maintain league football in the town.
Latics may have risen from those ashes but they have had a fairly constant battle against the same apathy. There has always been a rare breed that loves the club dearly and there have been rosy periods. Both in the non-league, as everyone’s favourite second team and for an all too brief period following election we were popular. But when success waved taraah then so did the floating voters.
Through the early 90s things were genuinely tight and there was a real possibility that Latics would go the same way as Borough. The town at large were ready to stand by and let that happen and if not for around 1,000 hardy souls, assisted by a couple of Southerners who saw something in our club, it would have.
Now we have Dave Whelan and for the time being our existence is secure, we’ve even had some success. The club may be bigger now than has ever been, but don’t kid yourself. Claims about the colour of the town are little more than comeback against the bile we received from colleagues and back in the 80s and 90s. Wigan is no more turning blue than it ever was cherry and white to start off with.
Look at the period they spent in the second division, or the difficult times they’ve experienced recently. When times get hard or perhaps just a little bit difficult then Wigan in general has a tendency to give up on things; we’re born complainers but very few of us are prepared to fix things. Those that are get laughed at; if you want proof think of the reaction that the setting up of LISA got in some quarters.
We may be more than the 1,000 of 10 years ago, there may even be between 5 and 10 times that number, but how many of those would happily put their game in their pocket to pay De Zeeuw’s wages? The people who care about Latics are still relatively few and it will take more than a couple of years at Mr. Murdoch’s party to change that.
So don’t kid yourself, of course there are those people who can’t afford to come every week, some of them at all, (and they are sadly missed), of course it was a Wednesday night in the lead up to Christmas, of course it would have been daft to expect a sell out, but when barely 15,000 turn up to watch us play Arsenal and the game against Chelsea hasn’t sold out after a month of £15 ticket sales it is because the people of Wigan can’t be bothered to come and watch us get beat.
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