“Dave Whelan: Racism row forced me to quit.”
So said the Daily Express headline yesterday. Sadly another example of gutter journalism, of which we have seen far too much over recent months in the national press.
That newspaper, along with others, was once more ready to condemn a man who has done so much for English football over the years.
They neglected to mention his record as a chairman over the past two decades:
- Bought the club in February 1995. Finished in 14th place in Division 3. Average attendance for 1994-95 season was 1,748.
- Summer 1995 – arrival of The Three Amigos – Diaz, Martinez and Seba.
- Division 3 champions in 1996-97.
- Plans for new stadium announced in 1997.
- Beat Millwall 1-0 at Wembley to win Auto Windscreens Shield in 1999.
- JJB stadium inaugurated in August 1999 with a friendly against Manchester United.
- Division 2 champions 2002-03.
- Won promotion to the Premier League in 2004-05.
- Reached League Cup final in 2005-06, finishing 10th in Premier League, average attendance 20,609.
- Eight seasons in the Premier League from 2005-2013. .
- Second half of 2011-12 season rally with first win against Manchester United and away victories at Liverpool and Arsenal –all won on merit.
- FA Cup Semi-Finals in consecutive seasons 2012-2014.
- FA Cup winners in May 2013.
- Community Shield appearance in August 2013.
- Group stages of the Europa League with trips to Belgium, Russia and Slovenia in 2013-14 – also reaching FA Cup semi final and championship playoffs.
Listening to Whelan’s interview by the club brought tears to the eyes. He even brought up the matter of the broken leg a couple of times. It contrasts with that on Sky Sports where the interviewer was clearly intent on treading the beaten path of the racism saga.
However, during that Sky interview Whelan was able to blow away much of the recent uncertainty about the club’s future by saying:
“Contrary to some suggestions, there are no plans to sell the club, which will remain in family hands and I have every confidence that (grandson) David (Sharpe), along with chief executive Jonathan Jackson, will lead us forwards with wisdom.”
Following in the steps of a Wigan icon like Dave Whelan would be hard for anyone, let alone a 23 year old like Sharpe. However, the young man got himself off to a good start by handling his interview with Sky with considerable aplomb.
It is the end of an era.
Dave Whelan has gone out as gracefully as he could, given the pressure from the national media.
He leaves behind a remarkable legacy, the like of which was unimaginable two decades ago.