An emotional day last Sunday as the Latics bid farewell to the Whelans. The 23rd minute round of applause was a great tribute celebrating 23 years of the family’s ownership of the club – and what a 23 years it has been.
Whatever your thoughts on Dave Whelan’s reasons for buying the Latics back in the day, and there are a vast array of opinions on this, one thing that cannot be disputed is the success that he brought to what was a very small club, struggling not only to retain its league status but also struggling to avoid going out of business.
The first game under his stewardship, a Tuesday night in late February, 1,452 fans turned up to a dilapidated Springfield Park as we beat Hartlepool 2-0 in what is now League 2, hardly an indication of what was to follow.
I was at that very first fans forum when he declared that the aim was Premiership within 10 seasons, I didn’t laugh, I thought that is just what we need - ambition and that had been missing at the club for a number of years where survival was the only goal.
The journey had started, the first promotion under John Deehan was achieved, the new stadium being built gave us the focus that we were indeed on the up, exciting players came to the club, great managers, two more promotions, eight years in the top flight, the magic of the FA cup win and a European tour, what an absolute privilege to be around to witness this.
So thank you Dave Whelan, David Sharpe and all the family who have provided me, through the Latics, with so much pleasure over the past 23 years.
Welcome to Melvin Yan Min Zhang, Thomas Chan, Joe and Darren Royle, you have big shoes to fill, hopefully you can build on the success and legacy that has been passed on to you.
Looking forward to the next 23 years.
Up the tics!