Numerous times over the past 20 years, I said I “would let you know when it finally sinks in”. Breaking the 100 points in a season barrier, scraping Premier League survival on a goal difference of just +1, recovering from 2-0 down to defeat West Ham in that intense relegation battle, and of course lifting the FA Cup. Just a selection of those magical moments perhaps not fully appreciated at the time.
You see, it’s only through the crystal clear lenses of time that the true scale of such things becomes apparent. Like the moment you are snapped out of a trance by the hypnotist, or when you return to the buttcrease of your living room sofa after a two-week holiday in the Caribbean, you have no regrets, just a genuinely nostalgia-free feeling of awe: “wow, that was amazing”.
It goes without saying that Uncle Dave’s contribution to Wigan Athletic is immeasurable – heck, one could even question whether the club would still be in existence to this very day had he not taken control in February 1995. You sprayed your spittle-washed cocoa through your nose in amusement when he claimed he would ‘guide the club to Europe’, but amid the raucous laughter of many an attention-grabbing pundit, he made good on those words. I speak from experience as I was one of the casual sceptics – for clubs of Wigan’s size, such feats are inconceivable in the land of Championship Manager, never mind reality.
Through the cup runs and Premier League giant killings, it is easy to forget the true Whelan legacy – financial stability. The club has worked its way to a point of self-sufficiency at a higher footballing level than even the most optimistic of Laticians would have dreamed in the 70s and 80s. Investment is important, but eventually there comes a time when your beloved child leaves home and ventures into the wide, wild world. Whether Wigan Athletic will ever again ‘make it’ in this cigar-chomping, suit-wearing climate is, for now at least, a question we should not concern ourselves with. To build an era takes time, and David Sharpe’s begins on this day.
Who is David Whelan?
I recall that my old geography teacher once posed a question to the class: ‘who is David Whelan?’ As you might expect, it was the last place I expected to hear that – school-yard discussions about Wigan Athletic were rarer than a good JWAW joke. But I was even more surprised by the fact I was the only person to raise my hand to offer an answer. That was in the year 2000, but I expect every school in the Wigan borough now has Mr Whelan as a central part of the curriculum, and that most, if not all pupils would proudly thrust their palms to the air, Shearer-like, if asked the same question today.
Let it be known that Mr Whelan is not ‘gone’ in the truest sense – he will remain owner of the club, most likely to his dying day. His name will reverberate around the stadium bearing his name for many years, nay, decades to come. He is the instigator of the Wigan Athletic Glory Years, the man who will certainly be discussed in books, films and Wigan Athletic fan websites dedicated to his accomplishments. I believe this image from 8 May 2005 encapsulates all these sentiments in three words: