12:32 15 February 2012
By Latics Staff
The Wigan Athletic football fairytale
For a list of managers, honours and records and much more, scroll down to the bottom of this page.
The Latics story is surely a fairy tale with few parallels in modern football…
From the bottom of the 4th tier of the league pyramid to the very top of the Barclays Premier League in a little over a decade, it has been a quite incredible rise for the small Lancashire club who only joined the Football League in 1978, but who will be rubbing shoulders with the giants of English football for an incredible 8th successive year in the 2012-13 season.
Many people have contributed to the club’s story in recent years – none more so than Paul Jewell, the former Latics striker who returned as manager in 2001 to guide the club from the third tier of English football to the Premiership four years later - but the two names most synonymous with Wigan Athletic’s current success are chairman Dave Whelan and manager Roberto Martinez.
Dave Whelan really has the right to be called Mr Wigan, a local boy who used sport to escape the tough working class streets of the mining town made famous by George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. When his football career as an uncompromising defender Blackburn Rovers was cruelly cut short after breaking his leg in the 1960 FA Cup Final against Wolverhampton Wanderers, he used the compensation to build his JJB Sports business empire. He purchased Wigan Athletic for around £400,000 in 1995, and has so far invested an estimated £100 million into his home-town club. The enduring legacy of his backing is undoubtedly the DW Stadium. Opened in 1999, the 25,000 capacity all-seater stadium replaced the club’s former Springfield Park home and provides a setting fit for the Premier League….seventeen years after buying the club, Dave Whelan remains the ever-outspoken driving force of Wigan Athletic.
Like Whelan, Roberto Martinez’s association with Latics also began in 1995, when he arrived as a part of a trio of young Spanish players eager to test themselves in English football. The former Zaragoza midfielder was an instant hit at Springfield Park, playing a major role in the heart of the team who won the 3rd Division Championship in 1997 and then began the club’s climb up the footballing ladder. He left the club in 2001 but returned following the departure of manager Steve Bruce in the summer of 2009, his reputation as a bright young manager having been formed at Swansea City.
After three seasons at the helm, his achievements so far cannot be overstated. Working within the constraints of a club punching above its financial weight, he has nevertheless constructed a competitive side whose philosophy of passing football has not only ensured the club’s survival three seasons running, but reached stunning new heights in 2011-12: first ever victories at Liverpool and Arsenal, plus a fully-deserved, maiden victory at home to then champions Manchester United.
The challenge now is to maintain those high standards consistently and build a structure which will provide the template for the club’s progress for coming generations.