It was 15 years ago today that we waved a fond farewell to Springfield Park…
A personal memory by ED JONES, Head of Media.
Latics 1 Manchester City 1
May 15 1999
The end of an era…
Things would never be the same again we thought – and so it proved to be the case, although no one in the 6,762 crammed into Springfield Park on May 15 1999 to watch the final game ever on the old ground would probably have believed to what extent that would be the case: two promotions, eight seasons in the Barclays Premier League, winning the FA Cup, the Europa League, multi million pound player deals and crowds three, four, five times what we were used to seeing – all inside a new 25,000 all-seater stadium which took us into the modern era as a football club.
When Stuart Barlow pounced to put Latics in front with just a few seconds gone, Springfield Park erupted. Alas, Ray Mathias’ men failed to add to their tally (due in large part to a disciplined City performance marshalled by future Latics midfield enforcer Michael Brown) and it was old foe Paul Dickov who popped up late on to dent everyone’s spirits a little around the old place.
Still, when the final whistle went and the curtain fell on over 102 years of football at Springfield Park, it was time to remember. Wigan County were the first team to play there, in 1897. They were followed by Wigan United, Wigan Borough, and eventually, Wigan Athletic, in 1932.
It took over half a century for the ground to host regular professional football again, when Latics were finally elected to the Football league in 1978. And having flirted with near bankruptcy in the early 90s, David Whelan bought the club and, well, the rest we all know.
There had been some amazing moments over the years; Newcastle in 1954, Harry Lyon versus Doncaster in ‘65, promotion versus Mansfield in ‘82, reaching the FA Cup Quarter Finals in ‘87, then winning the Division 3 Title in ‘97, also against Mansfield. Everyone has their personal favourites. And the players who will always be synonymous with the old place, from the likes of Lomax and Lyon to Gillibrand, Houghton, Cribley, Barrow, Campbell, Jones, Martinez, Liddell.
All the supporters trooped on the pitch at the end to pay tribute to the old girl, and most of us went home with a bit of turf in our pockets! Somewhere in my garden – and probably in many others around Wigan - there are a still a few blades of grass from Springfield Park.
Gone but certainly not forgotten…
What are your memories of Springfield Park? Let us know on Twitter by getting in touch with @LaticsOfficial