I could start this week’s column talking about the excellent win over Southend last Saturday, or I could even speak about the hard earned point on the road at Gillingham on Tuesday. But rightly or wrongly that all pails in to significance with the news that broke late on Sunday evening, that the tenure of the Whelan family as custodians of Wigan Athletic is set to come to an end.
Firstly I’d like to reminisce a little before speaking about what the future could hold for my club. Dave Whelan took charge of my little football in 1995, two years after I had first started watching Latics at a dilapidated Springfield Park. To say he’s changed the club’s fortunes since he walked in the through the door at Springfield Park would be the understatement of the century.
Eight years in the Premier League, a League Cup final appearance, a League Cup quarter-final, and of course that crowning glory in May 2013 and the subsequent European Campaign. Not to mention another two Wembley appearances in 2013 and 14. That’s just the football honours, that doesn’t mention the new stadium, the new training ground and the stability he and his family brought to the club in over 20 years.
There’s been ups and downs, his ill thought out comments following the equally ill thought appointment of Malky Mackay were low points. Not to mention the relegation’s but generally it’s been two decades worth of transformation and success for this provincial football club.
There would always come a time where he decided enough was enough, his large pockets are barely a drop in the ocean for this inflated land of football finance so it’s no surprise he’s decided to sell up now.
The worry is what comes next – my first instinct on hearing the news about the takeover was to dismiss it, the journalist who broke the story has form for linking us with foreign takeovers in the past that haven’t come to fruition and I saw no reason why that would be different this time.
Why us? We’re probably less attractive now than we were when we were in the Premier League, and we weren’t too attractive then. That isn’t meant to be talking the club down – it’s simply a recognition of where we are as a football club.
That provincial football club didn’t win the FA Cup and stay in the Premier League for so long because of its appeal to the wider region and its ability to generate wealth and income, we achieved those things thanks to the stewardship of Dave Whelan. Assisted by a fantastic set of managers in Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez without forgetting those players who achieved so much at little Wigan.
There should be no shame in admitting where we are as a club, although wholly preventable our fall back to League One on two separate occasions should come as no surprise to those who followed us rise through the very same leagues.
Our potential new owners are said to be K8, an on-line gambling company based in locations such as Malaysia, forgive me for being concerned about their intentions. This isn’t to criticise our prospective new owners or indeed criticise any would be deal, it’s simply to show concern and to try to understand their motives.
There are countless examples of clubs much bigger than ourselves falling victim to the trials and tribulations of foreign ownership structures and I just want to do my bit to ensure that doesn’t happen to Wigan Athletic. Others may sneer at that but if being concerned about what could potentially happen to our club upon a change of ownership is a reason to be sneered at so be it.
Wigan Athletic have enjoyed a remarkably stable twenty years where progression has happened in virtually every season, it would be a shame to have that thrown away. That’s without even touching on the effect any potential takeover could have on Paul Cook and the lads which should be our primary concern at the moment.
Whatever happens over the coming months, I hope that the Whelan family – namely David Sharpe and if possible Jonathan Jackson are part of any new management structure. They primarily are Wigan Athletic supporters and that is what we need to have re-enforced in the corridors of power.
Until any potential deal is confirmed everything is simply speculation, on the other side of the coin investment could well be a boost to Latics and see us return to the Premier League. If that does happen I’ll be as happy as any other Latics fan. I just hope that the new owners can see the uniqueness of this special football club of ours.
First published in the Wigan Post, Friday 20 October 2017.
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