23 Proud Years

Wigan fans marked the end of an era with a standing ovation in the 23rd minute against Leeds at the weekend – in celebration of the 23 years the Whelan family have owned the club. Sunday’s game was the last under their reign, and although it wasn’t the result everyone at the club wanted, it was a time to reflect on the beautiful moments Wigan have experienced as a club.

“It is a massive disappointment not to be able to send them off with a win, especially considering everything they’ve done for the club, the town and the community over 23 years. But they’ve had plenty of highs and lows, and they’ll know each are part of the journey you go through in this game,” said Paul Cook after the game.

It all started in 1995 when Dave Whelan bought the club while they were in League Two (then called Division Three) for around £400,000. He always had big ambitions for the club, stating early on that the Latics would be a Premier League side. In his second season they earned promotion to League One, and it was a short few years later when they earned 100 points to win League One and earn promotion to the Championship.

In 2005 Dave Whelan’s dream was realised when the Tics reached the Premier League. By November, Wigan were second in the league and most fans were pinching themselves. Over the following eight years the Tics defied the odds and the critics to remain in the top flight.

I could see his great drive and determination when I was about to sign for Wigan in 2007. While at the ground I turned around and there he was walking down the tunnel towards me. He had this big smile on his face, and as he shook my hand he rested his left on my shoulder and asked what I thought of the new stadium.

I said it looks great, and he agreed and said “I think you should play here.” I asked him to reconfirm, “do you really want me to?” and he said, “yes and I would like to be my Captain so that you can keep us in the Premier League.”

He looked me in the eyes just like a businessman would do to see if you made a shift and see if his offer was good enough to be accepted. I said “let’s go inside and sign.” The terms had already been agreed the previous week when I was away on international duty, so all I’d needed to do was fly in to see if I liked the club.

We walked in and as I signed the deal the objectives were clear, which is how he had built the club. He would set targets and would do whatever it took to achieve them. And that’s exactly what his grandson David Sharpe did, too, when he took over in 2015.

I first met David in Los Angeles when he walked up to me and introduced himself in a restaurant. Soon after that we went for a hike with his brother and his wife. The young chairman’s determination and intelligence was spot on. He knew what he wanted and worked hard like his Granddad to achieve it.

That determination is the reason why I signed for this great club and I am honored that I was accepted by the fans from day one. Thank you my Wigan people! #mmlove