I do like getting stuck into a good blog and it’s fortunate that there are a myriad of great football blogs out there. One of the blogs I’ve picked up recently is the 72, which for those of you with a rudimentary mathematical brain may recognise is geared up to the seventy-two Football League clubs that we still hover precariously above. Just.
Now I’m not reading it because I’m getting all maudlin and re-familiarising myself with the places that we used to go and may well be returning, I just take an interest in football at all levels and there is arguably much more interesting stuff going on in the lower leagues than the hype that we constantly get force fed 24/7 in the Premier League.
In any case, they put an interesting piece up towards the back end of last week almost suggesting that there might be a case for evaluation for the much loathed Milton Keynes Dons. Strangely enough, we have a former Wigan Athletic graduate at the centre of this in the shape of former player Paul Mitchell who has been appointed community officer at the age of 27 after he had to retire prematurely.
There has, from the very second they formed/moved, been a great deal of vitriol aimed at the MK Dons, and many people think deservedly so. I often use Soccerbase to do my research (when not pillaging Bernard’s – and now TNS’s archves J) and a quick look at the MK Dons profile on there will show that they won the FA Cup in 1988. Did they? Are you sure? This feels inherently wrong as Wimbledon FC won the FA Cup not MK Dons and although technically MK Dons are the trading name of the football club that was once Wimbledon FC, you can understand why some AFC Wimbledon fans with their own team currently fighting hard themselves to get back into the Football League, feel aggrieved that their FA Cup is no longer theirs.
A read of the piece defends the MK Dons, whilst acknowledging the distaste they have created as they have made in-roads into their community (with Mitch leading it), employed a talented young manager and are financially a well run club. As per usual though you have to scroll down to read the comments to get the full story. Curiously there are comments from one or two Dons fans who made the journey up the road and stayed with their franchised team. There are comments from MK fans along the lines of ‘we just want to support our team’ and admitting in some cases that they were all armchair Liverpool fans before this local club appeared and are just enjoying having a local football team to watch.
Regardless of what you think of MK Dons, their ridiculously named stadium:mk and Pete Winkleman, what they’ve done makes perfect business sense. Take a football club who emerged from non league in a city packed full of more established football clubs and move them to an emerging, growing city of 200,000 full of young professionals, London commuters and healthy industries with no football club to speak of where they can ‘build and develop a brand’ so to speak.
The only problem is, and this is a recurring theme, that there are more and have been established football clubs in Milton Keynes and it’s surrounding areas: Milton Keynes City, Bletchley Town, MK Borough. They took their place in the pyramid, wherever that might be and were always there in their community, always available on a Saturday afternoon for anyone in Milton Keynes who fancied watching live football on a Saturday afternoon. Why should MK Dons get to leapfrog up the pyramid and suddenly inherit a football league club?
Closer to home and it wasn’t too long ago when a certain bearded gentleman openly mooted the idea about Wigan Athletic FC. Warrington and Skelmersdale were openly mentioned due to the lack of support that Wigan Athletic were getting from the people of Wigan. Was this viable at the time?
Well Skem is quite a large sprawling area containing at least one roundabout that’s bigger than Wigan town centre but it’s population is only around 38,000 and is almost more Scouse than Liverpool itself and generally has been since the Sixties. There are a few people from Skem who watch Latics (probably not as many who watch the rugby) but it’s generally a hotbed of Liverpool and Everton fans, so what would change there if they inherited a football club? Probably very little.
Warrington is more like the Milton Keynes of the North in that it is a new town, flanked by other new towns such as Widnes and Runcorn and is a huge urban area which is, in Northern terms, quite affluent with many big companies having a base there. You’d have to say that if we’ve moved to Warrington, there would have been much more interest but how many Wiganers would have travelled there?
More to the point and going back to the MK argument, don’t Warrington and Skem already have football teams? They may be in the North West Counties but even so, what would give Blaster Bill Kenyon to up sticks with a football league club and move it lock, stock and barrel to another town?
As a final thought on this matter, have a think as an individual about what you would do if this situation were ever to happen and whether you’d travel to another town, who had permanently taken the name of your club on a fortnightly basis to watch a team which had just had half of it’s name chopped off. I suppose it depends whether the Wigan or the Athletic bit is important to you.
I personally think it would have been the death of us and for all the stick we get about our crowds, they may well be our saviour from such a fate in future, as anyone evaluating such an option would probably struggle to conclude that moving Wigan Athletic to Warrington would generate any more than 12-15,000 home fans like it does now, especially given that Warrington genuinely is a rugby town (Unlike Wigan which is a town which has a rugby team) and only some ridiculous stunt like moving us to Dublin would reap anything like this so called full house that every Premier League club craves and those who don’t like us get pilloried for.
The trouble is though that non league clubs aren’t taken seriously. Some of you may have read a piece originally on Mudhutter and now on here written by Tony Topping about a chap he used to work with who went watching everyone back in the days when football was cheap and grounds used to pack them in without even a cursory nod to ground safety. This was a man who just loved watching football and travelled throughout the North West to see it, including Latics on his door step.
Most football fans always had a first and second team (especially when Latics were lower/non-league) or even went where they fancied before it started to get expensive and covered on a blanket basis. It is possible to love football first and your team second. In my early years, when Latics didn’t have a game, I went to Deepdale, Old Trafford, Anfield, Maine Road, Victory Park, you name it and inevitably developed soft spots for some of them at various periods when you see the passion that the locals have for their team and you’re in amongst them so to speak. It’s hard not to if you’ve got two ears and two eyes.
I got the Wigan Athletic bug like many others reading this and it took over but some people are just football fans, and it is possible both to love more than on team and appreciate many like Ted in Tony’s piece. We somehow have to go out into Wigan and find the football fans, young and old and make sure that they ‘get the bug’ for their local team.
Over the last few years, it seems that according to the great minds over on our favourite RL site, they have been making a big
play of the fact that some Wigan Athletic fans may well have supported another team as well or even before they started watching Latics. Their warped logic and parrot like repetition of any argument that one of them concocts means this quickly becomes FACT in their insular little world and ALL Latics fans are of this ilk and they get in their heads that anyone in Wigan who watches and has watched Wigan Athletic over the years and ever been to watch any other team as well – well they must be a fraud in their eyes – as they have only ever supported Wigan Rugby.
That might well be the case but only because they have never faced the situation so many football fans in the town have over the years. As we’ve already established, Wigan Athletic were a non league club just over 32 years ago and a lower league club for the twenty six years after that. Now many rugby fans also follow St Pats or St Judes and Wiggin Rugby AS WELL. Now what would happen if one of those teams got into Super League, would they be forced to choose or get called a phoney because they happened to have watched both teams? I doubt it. And yes, the scenario sounds unlikely but then so does the scenario of a non league football club who went all the way to the Premier League eh?
We’ve all had a giggle over the years at those people who have turned up at the DW when we used to remember them years before claiming to support another team but here’s the big news: IT DOESN’T MATTER. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been going five minutes or fifty years. If you are a Wiganer and you are a football fan, it is your duty to support Wigan’s team. And this is not an MK Dons scenario: because unlike them Wigan Athletic have always been here. There has always been a Wigan Athletic in the town for people of the town to support, and before that there was Wigan Borough and Wigan Town and Wigan County.
Sometimes there have been a few watching us, sometimes there have been many, it generally contrasts with the club’s own fortunes but I think you’ll find that is in common with any other football club in any town or city in the country. The football fans have always been out there though as 20,000 Wiganers at Everton or 27,500 at Springfield Park for a cup replay testifies.
What isn’t commonly found in most cities and towns in the country is when there is a large body of people out there in our town who were born and live in our town who actively hate and ridicule their home town team. What sort of football fan would do that? I mean thousands of Wiganers a few weeks ago probably celebrated in the pubs when United beat Wigan, and probably the week after a whole host of city fans in the town, many frantically clambering out of the woodwork did the same. How can people like that – born and bred in our town – ever possibly take the footballing moral high ground over those of us who do support our local team? What sort of football fan has nothing but contempt for the team who represent the town they live in and revels in their demise?
We’ve even heard tales of the children of certain backroom staff at Latics getting teased in the playground for wearing their Latics kit by other kids whose parents support United and Liverpool and pass it on to their offspring. Most Latics kids watch their team in the flesh at least once a fortnight, for which there is no substitute and no amount of playground bullying can change the fact that they are being brought up to be true football fans like the bulk of you good people reading this because they actually watch football.
It’s just a shame that football is beamed into every pub and PC in the land these days and it costs more than a couple of quid to get in as it seems to offer many football fans the excuse they need to act superior over the fans of our little club. Just remember, watching the glory boys on telly will never become a substitute for getting behind your local team in the town of Wigan or wherever you might like and it’s about time that we stuck up for ourselves more in this respect.
Let them keep backing the favourites by all means, in the meantime we support a football club that beats the odds time and time again, a true underdog for which we are still very proud to have in this town of ours….
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