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Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic is a football (soccer) club from England.

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About Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic Football Club is a professional association football team based in Wigan, Greater Manchester. They compete in the Premier League, the highest division of football in England, in which they have been playing since their promotion from the Football League in 2005. Wigan's current spell in the Premier League is the only top flight run in the club's history.

They play at the JJB Stadium, which they share with the rugby league club Wigan Warriors. It has been their home since 1999; before that they played at Springfield Park (Wigan) for 67 years.

As of the 2007–08 in English football season, Wigan Athletic were the youngest club in the Premier League, having only been formed in 1932.

In the club's first season of League football, Wigan finished in sixth place, just six points off promotion in their first League season and in front of an average crowd of 6,701. Two more top-half finishes came in the following seasons. The Latics gained their first Football League promotion in 1981–82 in English football, when a points tally of 91 saw them join the old Division Three for the first time, beginning a 10 year spell in the third tier of English football. The next three seasons all saw the Latics finish in the bottom half of Division Three, but the club did win its first silverware as a League club in 1985, winning the Football League Trophy. They were beaten in the Northern Final of the same competition the following season by Bolton Wanderers F.C..

The 1985–86 in English football saw a marked improvement in the club’s league form, eventually finishing in fourth position, a then-club record high which would stand for 17 years, until 2002–03 in English football. In fact, the Latics finished the season just one point outside the promotion places in the final season before the Football League introduced the Football League play-offs for promotion and relegation. Wigan managed an identical fourth place finish in the 1986–87 in English football, but this time were rewarded with the chance to compete for the final promotion place in the new play-off system. (In the first two years of the play-off system, teams finishing 3rd, 4th and 5th joined the team finishing 20th in the division above to play off for the promotion place; this was changed to the teams finishing 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th from the 1988/89 season). The Latics lost at the two-legged semi final stage to Swindon Town F.C., who went on to win the final promotion place.

The fourth place finishes of the 1985–86 in English football and 1986–87 in English football seasons proved to be the high points of Wigan Athletic’s first stint in Division 3. For the next five years, they finished in mid-table, flirting with relegation in 1988–89 in English football and 1989–90 in English football, until they were relegated for the first and only time in the club’s League history in 1992–93 in English football. Wigan finished in 23rd place, amid tumbling attendances which had fallen from averages of 3,000-4,000 in Wigan’s Division 3 years to 2,593 in 1992/93. A year later, with the club back in the fourth tier of the English League, the Latics finished 19th - fourth from bottom – to complete their worst-ever league season. Attendances would fall to a lowest-ever Wigan Athletic League average of 1,845 by 1995.

Rising through the league: 1995-2005

In February 1995, local millionaire and owner of JJB Sports David Whelan purchased the club, which was then playing in the Football League Third Division (fourth tier), and stated his ambition to take the club to the Premier League, a statement which was widely ridiculed at the time. 10 years later Wigan were playing Premier League football.

At the end of Whelan’s first season as Chairman, Wigan finished in 14th position in the old Third Division, or on the 84th rung of the 92-club English Football League ladder. Whelan and Wigan made headlines in the summer of 1995 when Whelan’s business connections in Spain helped him attract three Spaniards to the club – Roberto Martinez, Isidro Diaz, and Jesus Seba – who became known as ‘The Three Amigos’. Martinez and Diaz would later become the first Spaniards to play in the F.A. Cup, and the trio became the on-pitch symbols of Whelan’s ambitious plans.

‘The Three Amigos’ were joined at the club by John Deehan, who replaced Graham Barrow as manager during the 1995–96 in English football following a 6-2 home defeat to Mansfield Town F.C.. Deehan had coached Norwich City to an unexpected 3rd place finish in the FA Premier League 1992–93, and his influence took the Latics within two points of a play-off place in his first season. The following year saw the first step towards Whelan's dream come true, when Wigan became Division Three champions on the last day of the season, in no small part helped by Graeme Jones’ club record 31 league goals for the season. Following a mid-table finish in Division Two the 1997–98 in English football, Deehan quit to become Steve Bruce’s assistant at Sheffield United. He was succeeded by Ray Mathias, who returned for his third stint as Wigan manager. Mathias’ team won Wigan Athletic’s second trophy under Dave Whelan, when the Latics beat Millwall F.C. 1-0 to win the Football League Trophy at Wembley Stadium (1923) in April 1999. More significantly, he took Wigan to the Division Two play-offs in 1999, losing 2-1 on aggregate to neighbours Manchester City F.C.. This ultimately cost Mathias his job as he fell victim to Whelan's relentless drive for Premier League football.

His replacement John Benson led the squad that he inherited from Mathias to a commanding position at the top of Division Two in his first six months, including the demolition of local rivals Preston North End F.C. 4-1 away, only to collapse in the second half of the season. This was largely attributed to the dropping of leading goalscorer Stuart Barlow who was responsible for much of the side's early success, which coupled with a series of poor quality signings of ageing, and reputedly highly paid players and a run of poor performances led to strong disapproval of the management among fans. The 1999–2000 in English football ended in failure at Wembley as Wigan lost 3-2 after extra time to Gillingham F.C. at the last ever Football League One play-offs to be played at the old Wembley Stadium (1923).

Benson moved 'upstairs' to the new post of Director of Football in the summer of 2000, when former Arsenal F.C. manager Bruce Rioch took the manager’s job for the 2000–01 in English football. Rioch was hampered by severe injury problems and after a difficult and often unimpressive first half of the season left the club in February 2001. He was temporarily replaced by club stalwart Colin Greenall, before the surprise appointment of Steve Bruce for the final eight games of the season. His arrival brought renewed vigour to Wigan performances, but the club ultimately lost in the play-offs once again, this time against Reading F.C.. Following this blow, Bruce left for Crystal Palace F.C. after repeatedly pledging his future to Wigan, leaving behind a club both grateful for his help in getting so close to promotion and also angry and bitter at his betrayal.

In the summer of 2001, highly regarded young manager and former Latics forward Paul Jewell took over as manager following an unsuccessful spell at Sheffield Wednesday F.C.. His first season in charge saw mixed results and an embarrassing defeat to non-league Canvey Island F.C. in the F.A. Cup first round, although the club eventually finished in mid-table. Jewell’s second season in charge was far more successful. Wigan went on a run to the quarter finals of the Football League Cup 2002–03, beating FA Premier League 2002–03 opponents West Bromwich Albion F.C., Manchester City F.C. and Fulham F.C. en route. Wigan won the Division Two championship in 2002-03 in English football with a points total of 100, powered by the goals of then-record £1.2 million signing Nathan Ellington, with a run of 10 consecutive wins along the way. The club lost only four times all season, and Wigan secured promotion to the second tier of the English Football League for the first time in their history.

After losing their first ever game in Football League Championship, Wigan confounded expectations to go unbeaten for the next 17 games and sit atop the division by November 2003. A weak finish saw Wigan win only three of their last 10 games to finish seventh in The Football League 2003–04 - a last minute goal by West Ham United F.C.'s Brian Deane in the final game of the season saw the Latics drop out of the play-off places in favour of eventual play-off winners Crystal Palace F.C..

Hoping to build on the previous season’s disappointing finish, the Latics went one better than The Football League 2003–04 by remain unbeaten for the first 17 games of the The Football League 2004–05 season. Along with Sunderland F.C. and Ipswich Town F.C., the Latics remained in the promotion hunt all season. By the last day of the season, Sunderland had already won the title and Wigan needed at least a draw against Reading F.C. - who themselves needed to win to finish in the last play-off spot - to beat Ipswich to automatic promotion. A 3-1 victory in front of their home fans at the JJB Stadium earned Wigan Athletic promotion to the top division of the English football league system for the first time in their 73-year history.

Wigan in the Premier League

Wigan were only the fourth English team in the last 20 years to win promotion to the top division for the first time. The club's first ever Premier League game was a home match against Champions Chelsea F.C., a game they lost only to a 94th minute winner by Hernán Crespo. A successful run followed, and by November Wigan were second in the league. Good league form was coupled with an equally strong performance in the Football League Cup, with the Latics reaching their first ever major cup final after defeating Arsenal F.C. on away goals in the semi-final. In the 2006 Football League Cup Final, Wigan were defeated 4–0 by near neighbours Manchester United F.C.. Wigan eventually finished the season in 10th place - the club's highest ever league placing. Right-back Pascal Chimbonda was included in the 2005–06 PFA Team of the Season. Wigan failed in their bid for European football and opted not to take part in the UEFA Intertoto Cup.

During the close season, Wigan sold many who had starred in their first season in the Premier League, as Jimmy Bullard left for Fulham F.C., Jason Roberts (footballer) joined Blackburn Rovers F.C., and Stéphane Henchoz was released. Wigan brought in high-profile replacements including Emile Heskey, Denny Landzaat, Chris Kirkland and Antonio Valencia to try to build on their successful Premier League debut. After a mid-table start to the FA Premier League 2006–07, Wigan's fortunes dipped dramatically with eight consecutive losses from mid-December, but after arresting the slump Wigan stood 15th in the Premiership in early March and finally seemed to be moving away from the relegation mire. But a series of defeats and the resurgence of rival strugglers meant Wigan faced the serious threat of relegation. On the final day of the season, Wigan battled to a 2–1 away win against Sheffield United F.C., guaranteeing their Premier League status for another year and in doing so relegating Sheffield United to the Football League Championship. The following day, Paul Jewell unexpectedly resigned as manager; his assistant Chris Hutchings was appointed as his replacement.

Wigan's third Premier League campaign saw the club trying to fully establish itself in the division following a disappointing second season. The playing squad had changed almost entirely from the promotion-winning side. Ageing fan favourites Arjan De Zeeuw, Matt Jackson, John Filan made way, along with Lee McCulloch, who sealed his dream move to Rangers F.C., and Leighton Baines, who rejected a new contract and signed for his boyhood team Everton F.C.. Titus Bramble, former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot, Jason Koumas (for £5.3 million) and much travelled striker Marcus Bent were among the players brought in. Melchiot was installed as the new club captain. For the Premier League 2007–08, Wigan's home shirt returned to the club’s traditional blue and white stripes, having been blue with white sleeves in 2006–07. The away shirt became white with slate trim, with slate shorts and slate socks. A slate grey third kit with royal blue trim was also introduced.

The Premier League 2007–08 began well for Wigan, topping the Premier League after four games for the first time in their history. Wigan's strong start saw Emile Heskey recalled to the England national football team for the first time since 2005. He became the first Wigan player to represent England whilst a full member of the squad (Chris Kirkland earned his first cap while at Wigan, but was on loan from Liverpool F.C. at the time). However, Heskey broke his foot immediately after his England call-up, and was out injured for six weeks. The club's league position subsequently worsened, and on the back of a run of six consecutive defeats Wigan plummeted into the relegation zone. Chairman Dave Whelan took the decision to sack manager Chris Hutchings on 5 November 2007, after only 12 games in charge.

Former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce replaced Hutchings. Bruce had just resigned as Birmingham City F.C. manager, and signed a £2m-a-year deal to try to keep Wigan in the Premier League. Wigan had to pay a reported £3 million in compensation to Birmingham for Bruce's services. His appointment saw Wigan end their losing streak, but consistency evaded the Latics, although Bruce did soon achieve something neither Jewell nor Hutchings had managed previously - a 1–1 draw at Anfield against Liverpool FC; the first time Wigan had taken points off one of the so-called 'Big Four' Premier League clubs. Bruce eventually oversaw a comparatively comfortable end to the season for Wigan, who finished 14th in the final table with 40 points - three places and two points higher than their finish the previous season.

The summer of 2008 was Steve Bruce's first pre-season with the club and his overhaul of the playing squad continued. The two biggest deals saw Lee Cattermole sign from Middlesbrough for £3.5 million, and highly rated Egyptian striker Amr Zaki sign on an initial one-year loan. Zaki had scored 10 Premier League goals by February 2009, as Wigan reached seventh place in the table with 34 points from 25 games and looked likely to remain in the Premier League for a fifth successive season. Once more, the team's kits were altered for the new season, in part due to the club signing a new contract with Champion (sportswear).

January saw the departure of two key first team members Wilson Palacios, and Emile Heskey to Spurs and Aston Villa. Despite these massive changes, Wigan finished the season with 45 points in 11th place, their second best finish ever in the Premier League. On June 3rd 2009 Steve Bruce left Wigan Athletic (for the second time) to take over the vacant manager position at Sunderland.

Stadium

Wigan Athletic's stadium is the 25,138 capacity JJB Stadium, part of the Robin Park complex in Wigan. It has been the club's home since the 1999-2000 in English football season. Wigan Athletic share the stadium with rugby league team Wigan Warriors. The ground cost £30 million to construct. Previously, home games were played at Springfield Park (Wigan), the former home of Wigan Borough.

The record attendance at the JJB Stadium for Wigan Athletic is 25,133 for a match against Manchester United F.C. on May 11, 2008.

The JJB Stadium was the fourth attempt at re-development/re-location for Wigan Athletic, the first coming in 1986 when then-chairman Bill Kenyon revealed plans for a 15,000 all-seater development at Springfield Park including a hotel and shopping facilities. The club were to play at the nearby Woodhouse Stadium (formerly Wigan Municipal Stadium - now demolished) while the building work took place.
In 1990, Kenyon submitted his second scheme which would cost £3m, hold 12-15,000 fans and involve moving the pitch nearer to the car park. Neither efforts got past the planning stage.
The next chairman, Stephen Gage, spent most of 1993 and 1994 trying to relocate the Latics to the then Robin Park Stadium (now demolished) until his plans were scuppered by Wigan Council when the local authority announced plans for their own ground involving Wigan Warriors. Mr Gage finally admitted defeat when he sold the Latics to Dave Whelan on 27 February 1995 for around £1m.
Plans for the JJB Stadium were first published in 1997.

Contracts for the new stadium were signed in late 1997 with work starting immediately. Originally the ground was to be built for Wigan Athletic and Orrell R.U.F.C., as grants were only available for multi-use stadia at that time. Wigan Warriors did not figure in the equation until Dave Whelan bought the rugby club some 12 months later after protracted negotiations with the directors of the rugby club.
The modern all-seater stadium was officially opened on August 4, 1999. Its inauguration was marked with a friendly between Wigan Athletic and neighbours Manchester United F.C., who were then reigning European Champions, with Alex Ferguson officially opening the stadium. However, Wigan hosted Morecambe F.C. three days earlier on August 1 as a dress rehearsal for the official opening against Manchester United. 4,020 supporters braved a fierce electrical storm and torrential rain but the game ended in a goalless draw. The first competitive football match took place on August 7, 1999, with Wigan Athletic facing Scunthorpe United in a Division 2 match. Simon Haworth scored twice, including the first competitive goal at the new stadium, as Athletic won 3-0.

On March 7, 2005 Greater Manchester police announced that they would stop policing Wigan Athletic matches at the stadium from April 2. This move would almost certainly have resulted in the stadium's safety certificate being revoked, effectively forcing the team to play behind closed doors. The move was part of an ongoing dispute between the police force and Dave Whelan surrounding £300,000 in unpaid policing costs. (Under current arrangements, football clubs have a minimum legal requirement to pay for any costs incurred inside their stadiums or property). The situation was temporarily resolved on March 8 with both sides reaching an agreement that would allow Athletic to play at the ground until the end of the season. Four months later, Wigan, facing the prospect of playing their home games in the Premier League in an empty stadium, grudgingly paid the money they owed to the police. However, following the ordeal the club appealed against the payments in court and won it, with the claims expected to earn the club around £37,000.

On March 25 2009 it was announced that Wigan would change the name of their stadium to The DW Stadium, after chairman Dave Whelan's commercial venture, DW Sports Fitness.

Football / Rugby Feud

Curiously for an English football club, Wigan Athletic's chief rivalry is not with another football club, but with the local rugby league club, Wigan Warriors. It is a long-standing rivalry and in fact predates the club's formation, as previous football teams within the town are said to have struggled to attract support due to the success of the Wigan Warriors.

Relative fortunes have also fostered resentment. In the 1989-1990 season, Wigan Athletic, deep in financial trouble, were given a lifeline as they were drawn against Liverpool F.C. in a two-legged tie in the second round of the Football League Cup. When approached, the Wigan Warriors board refused to allow the football club use of their Central Park (Wigan) ground, which would have given the home side a greater share of the gate revenue (due to the fact Central Park (Wigan) had a larger capacity of around 32,000) forcing both ties to be played at Anfield. The need to move the game came as Springfield Park had recently had its capacity cut from 20,000 to 10,800 in 1985 by Metropolitan Borough of Wigan due to safety concerns.

Relations have not been improved by both clubs' move to play their home fixtures at the JJB Stadium. A poor playing surface for football matches at the JJB Stadium in recent seasons has often seen Athletic fans blame the rugby matches for ruining the pitch.

The rivalry resurfaced in 2008 when a Super League play-offs between Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls on September 12 was moved from the JJB Stadium to Halton Stadium due to the Latics playing Sunderland A.F.C. a day later. This outraged Wigan Rugby fans, as the club had earned a home game due to their standing in the league table. The decision was made by Whelco, owners of the JJB Stadium, following alleged pressure from the Premier League suggesting that Wigan Athletic will get preference in the event of such clashes. Similarly, the Good Friday clash of Wigan Warriors vs St Helens RLFC in 2009 also had to be moved to the Thursday before Good Friday due to a Latics game against Arsenal F.C.. Almost 23,000 fans were in attendance, including 5,000 Arsenal supporters, compared to the 22,232 fans of the Wigan Warriors vs St Helens match, which included over 7,000 Saints supporters.

In recent seasons, attendances for both clubs have hugely changed with the football team's attendances on the increase, building on the large, young fanbase that the Latics currently have. This is in relation to the club's ambitions of 'building for the future' and it certainly seems that in 5–10 years time, the JJB Stadium (DW Stadium) should be a fuller sight on a regular basis when the Latics play.

It must also be noted that some fans support both teams and have tried to discourage the animosity.

Fanbase & Supporters

Attendance


Attendances at Wigan Athletic games are disappointing by Premier League standards. By the end of the 2007/08 Premier League season, the club had the lowest average attendance of any club in the division. Yet, supporters argue that, for a club that has only been playing league football since 1978, year-on-year increases in average attendance—from 1,845 in 1995 to 19,046 in 2008—in fact represent a huge success. Each of these teams currently play in the Premier League, whilst five of the six clubs lie within a 20 mile radius of Wigan. Many fans of Wigan Athletic see the growing fanbase of what is a comparatively 'newer' team as something that does not deserve to be criticised; that they are 'a club on the rise'.

Attendance growth at the JJB Stadium has stagnated since Wigan's first season in the Premier League which averaged 20,233, falling to around 18,000 for the last two seasons. For the Premier League 2006-07, chairman Dave Whelan raised ticket prices, angering fans. Responding to criticism and falling attendances, Whelan not only reduced ticket prices but also promised they would remain low in following seasons at a time when ticket prices are driving many away from attending live matches. The price cut had a positive effect on attendences for Wigan's 2007-08 Premier League campaign, as crowds increased on average by almost 1,000 fans. This has not been the case for 2008-09

As of March 8, 2009, Wigan was the 32nd best supported club in England with an average attendance of 17,884 and, along with the other 19 Premier League clubs, ten Football League Championship clubs and two Football League One clubs had better average attendance figures for the 2008-2009 season. Comparitively, the lower league clubs with higher attendance figures have a large population in their respective localities or are towns with large surrounding cities providing wide Catchment area (human geography).

Wigan's average attendance is good by international standards. If Wigan was in the French Ligue 1 then it would be the 10th (out of 20) best supported club in terms of average attendence; the 8th (out of 18) best supported in the Dutch Eredivisie; the 4th best supported in the Portuguese Portuguese Liga and American Major League Soccer; and the 3rd best supported in the Scottish Premier League and Russian Premier League respectively.

Club shop

On April 9, 2009, Steve Bruce, Brenda Spencer, Michael Brown (English footballer) and club captain, Mario Melchiot, unveiled the Latics' new club shop, housed in the West Stand of the JJB Stadium. As Wigan previously had no club shop, supporters had to rely on the town's JJB Sports stores to purchase Latics merchandise. The shop was built in the former offices of Wigan Warriors manager Brian Noble, who was moved to Edge Hall Road ending all administrative ties the rugby club had with the stadium.

International support

Wigan Athletic have found a fanbase in Honduras, Ecuador and Egypt due to the permanent or on-loan signings of players such as Maynor Figueroa (and earlier, Wilson Palacios), Antonio Valencia and Amr Zaki, respectively, and following the signing of Hugo Rodallega, South American-based support for the Latics' has further increased. The team is featured globally via Premier League broadcasts on a regular basis and the current squad features players from all over the world, bringing the club to wider attention on a world scale.

During the 2008-09 season, some supporters wore Egyptian hats to show their support and affection of Wigan's Egyptian strikeforce (Zaki and Mido).

Players







Management

- Manager: Roberto Martinez
- Assistant Manager: Graeme Jones
- General Manager: John Benson (footballer)
- First Team Coach: Frank Barlow
- Reserve Team Manager: Vacant
- Youth Team Coach: Dave Watson
- Goalkeeping Coach: Inaki Bergara
- First Team Fitness Coach: Will Royall
- Head Physio:Dave Galley
- Physio: Alex Cribley
- Youth Team Physio: Neil Fitzhenry
- Masseur:Oscar Brau
- Kit Manager: Alan Jackson
- Head Scout: Kevin Reeves

Notable former players


- Peter Atherton
- Leighton Baines
- Marcus Bent
- Carl Bradshaw
- Jimmy Bullard
- David Thompson (footballer)
- Roy Carroll
- Pascal Chimbonda
- Peter Corr
- Jason De Vos
- Arjan de Zeeuw
- Graham Kavanagh
- Kevin Kilbane
- Nathan Ellington
- David Fairclough
- John Filan

- Archie Gemmill
- Andreas Granqvist
- Colin Greenall
- Emile Heskey
- Matt Jackson
- Paul Jewell
- Alan Kennedy
- Ian Kilford
- Neil Mellor
- Denny Landzaat
- Andy Liddell
- David Lowe (footballer)
- Harry Lyon
- Roberto Martínez
- Lee McCulloch

- Stephen McMillan
- Colin Methven
- Mike Newell (footballer)
- Wilson Palacios
- Joe Parkinson
- Micky Quinn
- Neil Redfearn
- Jason Roberts (footballer)
- Neil Roberts (Welsh footballer)
- Josip Skoko
- Allen Tankard
- Ryan Taylor (footballer born 1984)
- Gary Teale
- David Unsworth
- Andy Webster
- Gary Walsh (footballer born 1968)
- Amr Zaki

Notable former managers



- Joseph Parr
- Ian McNeill
- Gordon Milne
- Bobby Charlton
- Larry Lloyd
- Harry McNally
- Ray Mathias

- Bryan Hamilton
- John Deehan
- Bruce Rioch
- Paul Jewell
- Chris Hutchings
- Steve Bruce

Honours

Titles and positions

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Other achievements

- Football League Fourth Division: Promoted in 1981/1982
- FA Cup: Best performance: 6th Round 1986/1987
- Elected to The Football League 1978
- Record win for a non-league side over a league side, beating Carlisle United 6-1 in the first round of FA Cup at Brunton Park (a record victory that still stands) in the 1934-35 season.
- FA Trophy: runners-up in 1972/1973

Records

- Record League victory, 7–1 vs. Scarborough F.C., 11 March 1997
- Record League defeat, 1–6 vs. Bristol Rovers F.C., 3 March 1990
- Record attendance, 25,133 v Manchester United F.C., May 11, 2008 (Premier League)
- Most League appearances, 317, Kevin Langley 1981–1986, 1990–1994
- Most League goals scored, total, 70, Andy Liddell 1998–2003
- Most goals scored, season, 31, Graeme Jones 1996-97 in English football
- Highest league position, 10th in the Premier League 2006
- Football League Cup best, Finalists 2005/06
- FA Cup best, Quarter Finalists 1986/87
- Record consecutive league appearances, 123, Jimmy Bullard (Jan '03 - Nov '05)
- Record transfer fee paid, Charles N'Zogbia, £6 Million, from Newcastle United F.C., February 2009
- Record transfer fee received, Wilson Palacios, £14 million, to Tottenham Hotspur F.C., January 2009




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