Today’s entry into the hall of fame is sure to be a popular choice as it is a man who holds a very unique distinction in Wigan Athletic history.
Ian Gillibrand was the captain of Wigan Athletic throughout the 1970’s and will go down as the man who led Wigan Athletic out in their first ever Football League fixture at Edgar Street, home of Hereford United in August 1978.
This was not a coincidental occurrence as Gilly had been a constant at Latics for a ten year period already at a time when the club became a continued force in Non League football and also performed heroics in many FA Cup ties putting many League clubs to the sword or giving them a hard time.
As I read Bernard’s profile below, I was amazed to read that Gilly made 661 appearances for Wigan Athletic, a stunning feat which will surely no-one else will ever come close to again. It is a pleasure and an honour to include Ian Gillibrand in our TNS Top 50 and as I said a few days back when we covered Harry Lyon, his legacy is such that if we did this poll 30 or 40 years ago when he was still playing, he would romp home.
We have more modern heroes now we are an established League, indeed Premier League side but in Lyon and Gillibrand we have two men unsurpassed for their contribution to Wigan Athletic history.
Ian Gillibrand Profile
Ian arrived at Springfield Park on the recommendation of Arsenal manager Bertie Mee. He was a regular at reserve level for the Gunners and despite two loan moves whilst at Highbury he failed to make the grade at Football League level. The manager at Latics at the time was Alan Saunders and Ian was plunged straight into the first team at Springfield Park, making his debut on 24th April 1968 against Rhyl and during the club’s Non League days he played 3 Cheshire League games without scoring and 412 Northern Premier League games in which he netted 4 times.
Football League status for the Blues came a bit too late for ‘Gilly’ but he did make his Latics League debut on 19th August 1978 in Latics’ first ever Football League game against Hereford United at Edgar Street. He was the captain of the side that drew 0-0 on the day, the tears in his eyes as he led the team onto the pitch for that historic game will live long in the memory of every Latics fan present that day. He was only to play 7 League games without scoring during his Latics Football League career but he couldn’t be parted from his beloved Latics and stayed on to coach the reserves, passing on to the young lads some of the footballing knowledge that he accrued after making a club record 661 first team appearances, which included an unbroken sequence of 184 games on the spin!
Ian stayed with the club until 1984 before deciding to become the manager of the old Robin Park sports complex. He died tragically, during a charity cricket match involving his team Lower Darwen. (for which he was the opening batsman) in 1989. RIP GILLY.
THE TNS TOP 50 RUNDOWN
31. Ian Gillibrand
32. Scott Green
33. Tony Kelly
34. Paul Scharner
35. Harry Lyon
36. Roy Tunks
37. Gary Teale
38. Eamon O’Keeffe
39. Joe Hinnigan
40. Ian Kilford
41. Hugo Rodallega
42. James McCarthy
43. Mickey Worswick
44. Noel Ward
45. Simon Haworth
46. Gary Caldwell
47. Mike Pollitt
48. Bert Llewellyn
49. Bryan Griffiths
50. = Graham Barrow
50. = Maynor Figueroa
50. = Paul Jewell
50. = Graham Kavanagh
50. = Henri Camara
50. = Lee Cattermole
The TNS Top 50 was compiled last year and collected over 2,000 votes from Latics fans across a variety of platforms. There have been initial discussions with the club and other fan sites to turn this into a bigger survey and produce a book of the Top 100 Latics players next year with pen pictures written by fans
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