Wigan given hope by Whelan



Wigan and Wembley have been virtually twinned during the Nineties, with all the kudos and cash going to the Lancashire town's rugby league giants. If Dave Whelan has his way, which he usually does, this will be the season Wigan Athletic fight back.

Cheered on by a budding businessman called Jack Walker, Whelan played for Blackburn in the 1960 FA Cup final - but the team lost and he broke his leg that day. He later resurfaced in Wigan, supporting the 13-a-side code and building up a chain of sports shops.

Happily for the round-ball minority, the multi-millionaire's interest in football was rekindled. Whelan bought the ailing Latics and, like some apprentice Uncle Jack, gave notice of his ambitions by signing three Spaniards a year ago.

Roberto Martinez, Isidro Diaz and Jesus Seba - "Los tres Amigos'' - coped well with the culture shock of cold nights at Hartlepool and Mansfield. Not well enough, though, to keep Graham Barrow in the manager's job, his autumn replacement by John Deehan revealing the owner's restlessness for progress.

Wigan missed the play-offs by two points, but look equipped to make sure this time. Deehan soon recruited Kevin Sharp, an England youth contemporary of Butt, Campbell and Fowler, for pounds 80,000 from Leeds. This summer he has added Doncaster striker Graeme Jones (pounds 150,000) and Barnsley midfielder Charlie Bishop (pounds 40,000).

Carlisle, whose title 15 months ago underlined the importance of financial muscle, may be Wigan's chief rivals. Relegation was embarrassing after Michael Knighton's boasts of "Europe in 10 years", but Mervyn Day has added imaginatively (French defender Stephane Pounewatchy) to a squad tried and trusted at this level.

The picture of potential Northern domination is completed by Darlington. To lose only one away game was extraordinary; not to go up even more so. The attempt to improve at home will be undertaken without Matty Appleby, the division's best defender having joined Barnsley.

Money is so scarce at Hereford that mention of the market usually concerns cattle rather than players. A play-off place confirmed that Graham Turner's coaching and organisational skills were intact after his woes at Wolves, and they should challenge again.

Despite a tight budget, relegated Swansea show signs of responding to the ideals Jan Molby brought from Liverpool. Northampton, for whom 11th place represented genuine progress, may draw big crowds to Sixfields if they improve further, while Colchester, Chester and Scunthorpe should also be in contention.

Torquay's most important pre-season fixture was in court, where Stevenage failed to oust the bottom club. A colourful chairman, Mike Bateson, has a new management team - including best-selling author Garry Nelson - and has wagered pounds 7,000 on their landing the title.

Hard-up Hull could be Conference-bound, with the similarly strapped Scarborough or potentially homeless Brighton also candidates to replace Torquay as the League's last resort.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk