It’s been a momentous week in the history of Wigan Athletic. The retirement of Dave Whelan, the appointment of his grandson David Sharpe as his successor, and two back-to-back wins for the first time since August have revived hopes of surviving relegation.
The announcement that Dave Whelan was retiring after 20 years came as a shock to some, but it was always going to happen in the near future and it became more likely following his ban for his comments in support of Malky Mackay and his acceptance of an FA charge.
Dave Whelan’s contribution to Wigan has been nothing less than incredible. When Whelan took over in 1995 Latics were struggling in the bottom division and few could have expected that the club would have such a meteoric rise.
To climb through the divisions and to enjoy eight years Premier League, reach a League Cup Final, FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa League is an almost unbelievable achievement.
When Whelan said he would he would take the club into the Premier League many people mocked. When he said he would like to see the Latics play in the FA Cup Final many people said it was an impossible dream. But during Whelan’s chairmanship Wigan did these extraordinary things.
Whelan’s investment in Wigan should also be recognised for the social and economic benefits it has brought to the town. The DW Stadium development and associated sporting facilities are a huge bonus for the local community. Raising the town’s profile in front of a global TV audience has had many positive benefits.
He has also given significant financial support for Wigan Youth Zone, which has made a big contribution to the sporting and life opportunities for young people in the town.
Whelan has invested heavily in the club, and despite the club’s current position near the bottom of the Championship it is in a sound financial position and without the debt of many other Football League clubs.
Whelan has achieved so much more than he could ever have imagined, Wigan Athletic fans should be very grateful for an amazing 20 years of success. The Whelan family has confirmed that the club is not for sale and they will remain as majority shareholders.
The appointment of his grandson 23-year-old David Sharpe as his successor makes him the youngest Chairman of a Football League club. It is certainly a risk to appoint someone of his age to such a high-profile position, but he will have the experienced CEO Jonathan Jackson alongside him and he will also have his grandfather as his mentor.
The back-to-back away wins at Blackpool and Norwich City have reignited the hope that Latics can survive in the Championship. Wigan have now reduced the deficit to fourth bottom Rotherham to six points.
Leeds United are our next opponents and are in a rich vein of form, but if we can win our first home game since August it will round off what has been a momentous week for the club.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on 6th March 2015.
Lot’s to learn you have, young Sharpe. Mr Whelan, we salute you.