A wonderful article by the Guardian on Monday quoted Trevor Silcock, 63, arriving at the FA Cup victory parade with three generations of his family. He recalled going to Springfield Park with his father and grandfather.
“This is the greatest day of my life,” he said, before adding: “After the kids being born, that is.”
Trevor has to be the same person who was in my class in primary school. I have not seen him since he was ten. I recognized his name and age straight away and envied him for being able to be there for those cup celebrations. I left Wigan and have worked in many places since then. Living in different countries has been part of my way of life, but my heart has always belonged to my home town.
When Trevor and I were at school the rugby club would sometimes parade the Challenge Cup through the town centre. I can remember seeing it, but try as I might, I never felt an affinity for them.
Being brought up in Warrington Lane in the south of Wigan, I was constantly surrounded by rugby fans. Sometimes our teachers would take us up to St Patrick’s field – a bastion of rugby league – to play games, including football. It might have been regarded as heresy by the management of that wonderful amateur rugby club which has provided so many top players to the professional game.
I wish I could have been in Wigan’s town centre when the Latics paraded the FA Cup. To coin an overused description it was “unbelievable”.
But why should it be any different than the local rugby league club’s celebration parades?
Let’s try to be fair. Wigan are the best supported team in the rugby league and have won the Challenge Cup 15 times in my lifetime. Their record is unparalleled in their sport.
But then again let’s get things into perspective. Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup by beating a Manchester City team that was put together by mega-money. It was David against Goliath. In terms of relative economic power the rugby team have been the Goliath compared with the teams they have beaten. Wigan’s rugby team attendances average around 16,000 compared with a division average of less than 10,000.
The town of Wigan can support two teams. The rugby support remains constant, but in the past there have been so many football fans who have traveled to Liverpool or Manchester to support the big clubs. Most of the younger generation of football fans now prefer to go to the DW Stadium. Despite a difficult season and relegation Wigan Athletic averaged over 19,000 this season.
Through their eight years in the Premier League and winning the FA Cup, Latics now have a legacy that will keep them in good stead for years to come. Their success has helped dispel that old myth that Wigan is a rugby town.
Latics might not ever win the FA Cup again, but it will be remembered in Wigan for generations to come. I only wish I could have been there with Trevor to revel in the emotions of the celebrations.