Them and us – John Filan (Wigan Athletic and Australia)

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With the Olympics beckoning TNS would like to take the opportunity to look back at the career of a few former Latics players who have represented their countries at the Olympics, starting with the mercurial John Filan.

John, who was born in Sydney on 8th February 1970 signed for Latics in a £600,000 deal from Blackburn Rovers on 14th December 2001. The day before he arrived at the JJB Stadium he was set to join Stoke City, Latics’ Second Division rivals on a month’s loan. Manager Paul Jewell acted fast to sign John as both of the Blues’ goalkeepers, Derek Stillie and Stewart Kerr, were injured. John made his Latics League debut against Oldham Athletic on 15th December 2001. The game played at Boundary Park resulted in a 1-1 draw.

By the end of the 2001/02 season he had made 25+0 League appearances for the club, during which time the Blues lost just 4 games. The following season 2002/03 saw John break the all time club record for clean sheets in a League campaign. He kept a total of 25 shut-outs as Latics stormed to the Second Division Championship. By the end of season 2003/04 he had played 117 League games for the club. After announcing during pre season that he would be returning to Australia after the 2004/05 season, it came as a real boost when he signed a one-year contract extension on 2nd November 2004. And unbelievably he was an ever present the following 2004/05 season when Latics achieved their dream of Premiership football.

By the end of that history making season he had made 162 League games for the Blues. It is interesting to note that John was one of EIGHT players who played in the promotion winning game against Reading and the Second Division Championship winning side who played against Barnsley in the final game at the JJB Stadium in 2003.

John, faced stiff competition from Mike Pollitt throughout the following Premiership season and he made 15+0 Premiership appearances before needing a hernia operation which kept him out of the last few weeks of the season. He took part in Latics’ Carling Cup Final when he replaced the injured Mike Pollitt after quarter of an hour of the 0-4 defeat by Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium. By the end of season 2005/06 he had made 177 league appearances for the Blues. On Friday 6th October 2006 John was loaned to Doncaster Rovers after falling down the pecking order following the arrival of England international goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.

He was called back to the JJB Stadium a week before his month’s loan spell was up because Mike Pollitt was unable to make the bench for the Bolton Wanderers Premiership game at the Reebok Stadium on 4th November 2006. Filo took his place. He went on to make a further ten Premiership appearances before returning to Australia at the end of that campaign.

At the end of season 2003/04 John became the second goalkeeper in Latics’ Football League history to win the coveted Player of the Year Award.  (The first goalkeeper to win the trophy was John Brown back in 1980).

He represented Australia at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona whilst he was playing in his native country for the Wollongong Wolves, just prior to embarking on a career in England at Cambridge United.

In 1999 whilst plying his trade with Blackburn Rovers he was denied the chance to represent Ireland at full international level due to playing one game (v Ghana) in the Olympics with the Socceroos.

He is currently the goalkeeping coach of Sydney FC.

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