Latics Shorts – The Games Of Our Lives
I’ve been a lifelong supporter of Wigan Athletic, my first game was 20th November 1971 an FA Cup tie against Halifax Town at Springfield Park, I’ve been a regular ever since, attending games with my mates, my family, my dad, then my own children and my grandchildren, I’ve also attended games by myself and made acquaintances at games that developed into friendships.
One such friendship was with the Eyre brothers, Brian and Keith.
I stood on the terracing at the half-way line at Springfield Park, St. Andrews side, I leant on the perimeter wall, had a great view of the game, each week the same people would gather in the same spot and we’d chat, share stories and watch the game together and slowly become good friends.
Keith was a quiz enthusiast and a member of a quiz team that quizzed in a league, I hadn’t realised there was such a thing, the quiz league ran on a Tuesday evening in pubs across Wigan, there came a dilemma.
Tuesday night fixtures at Springfield Park between early November and late March were a no go for Keith.
No such dilemma for Brian, never missed a game, loved his football and a proper character, he worked for GUS down at Martland Mill for years then, when the redundancies came, got himself a job as a Postie.
Brian was one of the good guys.
Tuesday 2nd December 1997, cold, damp
Wigan Athletic v Bristol Rovers, attendance 2,738
The score this night was Wigan Athletic 3-0 Bristol Rovers but the evening held a much bigger story than what the score-line suggested.
From setting out for the game to arriving home was one big adventure and one that remains etched on my mind.
The ex-wife always tried to be awkward (still does), picking up my lad from her place was never an easy task and when we had the dead-line of a kick-off to meet she took great delight in stalling as long as possible, anyway finally got to Springfield Park right on the last minute only to see my mate Brian waiting outside.
Brian Eyre was a great character, he was Latics through and through, I knew him, as previously explained, because I had stood next to him on the terraces for twenty years, sharing coffee, whisky and stories, we became very good friends.
Brian was standing outside the ground as I said, waiting for me and our Pete to arrive; when he saw us he said excitedly ‘I’ve got us in the stand tonight lads’. Brian had a mate who worked the door to the stand, Brian had lots of ‘mates’, and he managed to get us in for free, bonus, what with the CSA and all.
We sat in the Phoenix Stand that night, in the posh seats, there was a guy from Southampton sat with us, he was working in Southport that week and just fancied taking in a game, strange.
Any way it was an explosive game that saw Graeme Jones from the Latics and FOUR Bristol Rovers players sent off, Kevin Lynch was the ref, mad as a hatter.
Ian Kilford had given the Latics the lead on 20 minutes and the game was a bit to and fro after that, until the closing stages of the first half.
The first dismissal came on the stroke of half-time, a second bookable offence for David Pritchard following a challenge on David Lee on the Latics right, as the players lined up for the resultant free kick, it all kicked off!
Bristol Rovers pair Jason Perry and Andy Tilson along with Latics striker Graeme Jones were all shown straight reds and we were down to ten v eight with the whistle still not blown for the half-time break.
half got underway with Kilford’s strike giving the advantage to the Latics, but
we were struggling to create any real chances and the crowd were getting
impatient, they expected a cricket score.
There were more fun and games to come yet, Josh Low received his marching orders on 70 minutes for a 2nd yellow offence and the Gas just couldn’t keep the Latics out and David Lowe’s late double gave the score line some bite.
The game is as infamous amongst Gas fans as it is with the Latics faithful.
Courtesy of Ed Collier
At full time I said I’d give Brian a lift home, he didn`t drive and lived at the back of Billinge Hospital, two buses and a good walk away, it was a bitterly cold night and he’d got us in for free, it was the least I could do, couldn`t have my mate going home on the bus, I bet he`d wished he had done though.
Got to the car and I had a flat tyre…lifted the boot to get the spare, that was flat as well, decided to drive to a service station and blow up what I knew to be a slow puncture, without a lie every service station between Springfield and Orrell didn`t have a working air supply, ended up with a ripped tyre, had to change the wheel at the Stag service station at Orrell and get some puncture fix which cost a tenner, so the money I`d saved on the free admission, £7:50 was lost on the car repair, gutted.
What a night, got home at 11:15!! The ex-wife was on the phone to the current wife demanding to know what the idiot (me) had done with her son, Brian said ‘you wont forget tonight in a hurry Baz’ he was right.
Sadly Brian died in July 2006, his brother Keith said at least he saw the Latics in the Premier League…following the move from Springfield Park I sat with Brian and Keith in the South stand until we got in the Prem, with me living in Gidlow and the Eyre brothers from the other side of town we ended up in the East and West respectfully, the last time I saw Brian was at the Carling Cup final in Cardiff February 2006, I knew he was ill but not how seriously.
Mention of memorable games and I automatically think of the Latics v Bristol Rovers match and my mate Brian, brings a tear to my eye, but fantastic memories.
It’s a long wait until the new seasons starts, so to help the time go a little quicker and to get that Latics fix, we are running a series of looking back on selected games from down the years.
Hopefully these reflections will have a personal touch and we would be grateful if individual supporters would submit their own stories to feature in the series, if you would like to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The series is also in audio form via our podcast