You’re not nineteen forever…(the past)

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And in my case it’s probably a good thing because when I was nineteen we were getting tonked by the likes of Port Vale and Plymouth not Chelsea and Blackpool. I travelled to Bournemouth in a game where we’d already been relegated, spent 12 hours driving 500 miles in a battered old Toyota Corolla while my mates got pissed and watched a coffin get carried around the away end and we just about made it back in time to crawl into the Pagey for last orders. I had miles more enthusiasm then than I can ever muster up now but that is just the passage of time. The love is still there though, it’s like a relationship or marriage: it’s rarely going to live up to those passionate early days when everything was so exciting and new and sometimes you’ve got to work to hold things together and stay positive. Remind yourselves of all the good times. Take a step back and look at where we are and what we’ve got and how many people would love to swap places. Walking away might be something you’ve occasionally considered during your dark moments but then you snap out of it and realise just what it means to you and what an empty vacuous life you’d lead without it.

 

A decade earlier and just before I came onto the scene Wigan was a very different place from a sporting perspective. Of the two professional sports clubs in the town, Wigan Athletic since getting into the League had matched and often bettered the attendances of their Rugby League counterparts, who had been languishing with barely 3,000 on at Central park most weeks. Many people watched both, indeed many people watched both AND United/Liverpool/Everton et al. You supported your town at whatever it did and maybe did a bit of glory hunting on the side as well. Then along came Maurice and along came successive Wembley visits and along came a massive San Andreas fault sized divide cast across the town. We’d done nothing wrong.

As Wigan Athletic, we’ve been kicked from pillar to post by all manner of bodies and individuals over the past few decades and you can only get kicked so many times before you learn to fight back. So many people surreptitiously colluded to try and put Wigan Athletic out of business or at the very least stood there with their hands behind their back when the begging bowl was passed along and guess what we’re still here and we’re thriving. We’ve been on an adventure that 90% of match going fans would give their right arms for, note the bit in bold there – we’re talking about the fans that are the lifeblood of clubs up and down the country here not the armchair experts who live in our community yet look down their nose at their home town club as if it somehow makes them superior.

For the life of me I’ve been scanning through the past 25 years since I have supported Wigan Athletic and trying to pinpoint the answer to this question: Why do the rugby hate us so much? What have we ever done to hurt them? Why do all these people in our town call themselves football fans yet like to mock their one and only local football club? Their rightful home town team. Fair enough if they don’t have an interest in our game but they do: it’s empty seats this, crowds that, your players aren’t local – like ours – the other. They know all about us but this interest stops short of actually supporting us, just like the pure Wigan snides they prefer attempted ridicule. One of them gets a bee in their bonnet about summat and they repeat it time and time again like mindless sheep until it becomes fact. The good news is that every single one of their retorts can be dissected and spat back out at them, the bad news is that they feel the need to do it in the first place.

Now I know what you might be thinking, yes we’ve given a bit of stick out on the way up but that’s not the point: who hasn’t felt the need to point out when a bully gets their come uppance? We’ve earned the right to celebrate the progress of the club and after the many obstacles put in the club’s way by the rugby, the council, the media, the police all in cahoots with each other, well as I say you can only get kicked so many times before you give a bit back. The fact of the matter is though that if the rugby fraternity in Wigan had always supported Wigan Athletic, had always kept an eye out for the little club across town – then they would have shared our success with us and we wouldn’t have had a reason to rub their noses in it when we have done well. But they were too busy not watching us and being indignant and insistent that we had no right to even have a professional football club in the town.

And as for the last few years, well I’ve been casting my eye over the past few years Mudhutter editorial and you know what the rugby don’t even warrant a mention in most of them, indeed in some issues they aren’t even mentioned at all. There will be some grudges harboured here and there but most Latics fans are happy to see our own club progressing than concerning ourselves with trying to wipe out our neighbours and indeed many people do now watch both and want both to thrive and prosper. All the hatred comes from them men: they hated us when we were bottom of Division Four, they hate us now we’re in the Premier League. There’s the difference – since we’ve been on a par with them and arguably much bigger on the world stage, we’ve just let them be. When we were insignificant to them, they still embarked on a crusade to boot us through those try posts of oblivion.

To attempt to answer the question three paragraphs up: the reason they hate us is because we exist. The reason many Latics fans hate them is because they tried to kill us.

Although half of them do not even know why they hate us, all these kiddies on Facebook and not rights that appear on Granada Tonight: ‘Ooh no I support the rugby, you can’t support the Latics as well, it’s a rugby town’ Really? Who told you that? The person who removed your brain and replaced it with a turnip perhaps? That little word can’t is the lazy excuse for people who are unable to think for themselves.

With idiots like this perpetuating our town and spreading the anti-Latics mood amongst their kindred, the football club is up against it and we must work with the club to maintain a positive image and do what we all can do to introduce fans to this wonderful football club of ours.

They love to perceive us as hooligans and bad guys but never forget. Never forget they are the bullies and we are the bullied ones. Keep fighting the prejudice.

I’ve been drunk a thousand times(present)

And these should be the best days of our lives. I’m 37 now and feel the club is at a cross roads. We’ve taken everything we fought towards for granted. We achieved what we never believed possible and all we did was fall out with each other. The malcontent about the manager, well we’ve given them stick as a fanzine, individually and collectively, but then we’ve always gone against the grain. It’s all irrelevant, it might not seem that way after a weekend when utter shite has been served up by the team (yes as directed by that Martinez chap) but I’ll say this every issue if I need to: that’s just the football, what about the football club. We took our eye off the ball and turned on each other, forgetting who our real enemies were.

We’ve all been guilty of languishing in our own gloom: happy to argue with each other about the state of the club rather than pulling together and remembering what made us become such a remarkable football club in the first place. Cyber bickering, bitching and back biting with each another. Of which yes Mudhutter will take our share of the blame. Rather than working together as fans of the same club. Meanwhile across town – shit I can’t say that any more but you know what I mean – they’ve b

een waiting for this moment: building their fanbase, hoisting their flags, brown nosing the council, surreptitiously promoting themselves as the good and football as the evil. All geared up to boot the cheeky upstart who knocked them off their perch back to obscurity.

Not this time, not by you anyway. We may well be masters of our own destruction with the general malaise surrounding the fanbase over the ‘finishing 17th syndrome’ but we won’t be beaten by you lot. The bullies got a whiff of blood at little old Wigan Athletic and thought they’d put the boot in. Too often were the council, the media, the press, the police force all on their side, lining up to kick the poor defenceless little football club across town. Not this time, I lived through the late Eighties in this town and you aren’t going to get away with it this time I’m afraid.

Then came Latics United. I doubt there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t got internet access, albeit there may well be one or two who stay firmly away from Wigan Athletic sites because of the reputation they have for hysterics and slanging matches. The thing is we’ve all done that for a bit and it’s got us nowhere so now we’ve started talking to one another. The cluster of websites and this fanzine working together to make a difference: The Springfield Park Stand, those road signs and The Anthony Ramsdale Appeal and no doubt much more to come. Hopefully positive stuff but we’ll also react if people are taking the piss out of our football club. We won’t let them.

The time has come to stick together again. We forgot who we were, the enemy in our town, for no other reason than because we exist. The road sign was just testing the water, and when paid directors of Wigan council come up with drivel such as ‘When Latics win the Premier League we’ll gladly put a sign up’ shows what a set of sneery bastards we are up against.

Never confuse the shallow molehill of success with the long game of achievement. So Wigan Warriors won the Grand Final, it took twelve years in a sport where only one of six teams are ever likely to win it. Big deal: Compare to a small town club finishing sixteenth in the biggest league in the biggest sport in the world where they still remain for six years (and hopefully many more). We’re half way up Mount Everest, they’re at the top of Winter Hill and we climbed to where we are despite their desperate attempts to pull us back down at every step.

Those were the days my friend(the future)

I don’t know about you, you may have grand kids, I don’t but I’d dearly love to be around to tell them all about Wigan Athletic and it’s history and in return they will tell me about the WAFC of the present (in the future). Let’s pick a year, oh I dunno: 2032 for argument’s sake. I hope you are all still with us and I certainly hope I am still with you, by now knocking 60 years of age. What a party we’ll have to celebrate 100 years of Wigan Athletic! Yes that football club will be one hundred years old; we’ll toast the non league cup fighters, the players (and managers) that got us into the league, the players and managers who got us up through four divisions, the Premier League years and whatever happens from now till them.

I’m getting ahead of myself here though because who knows whether there will even be a Wigan Athletic in 22 years, let alone at what level. The money, or specifically debt in the game is the biggest threat and has seen off many bigger clubs than ours: Leeds, Pompey, Sheffield Wednesday but they had a tight, strong fanbase and fought back. We know from previous articles that we are at the behest of Whelan and God knows what his plan is but nevertheless whereas we can’t control that we can co-ordinate the actions of the fans.

If we want to stay together we need to stick together: Latics United. All pulling together for the football club we love in a town where so many people seem to loathe us for no justifiable reason. Never forget, we are the underdog, we are the bullied and we’ll be the survivors but only if we stick together. Never doubt that we are decent people and good football fans, ignore the smears from elsewhere. This is our town and our football club, we might not have great support but it’s time to prove that we do have great supporters.

It’s not pretty out there at the minute but never take your eye off the long game.

We’ll get there one day and we’ll have that party….

 

Taken from the Editorial Mudhutter Issue 30. Issue 32 is on sale this weekend

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