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AFC Bournemouth: Spotlight on Wigan Athletic
WHEN a group of disconsolate Wigan supporters carried a coffin around the Brighton Beach End at Dean Court in 1993, little did they know what the next 20 years would hold.
A 0-0 draw against Cherries on the last day of the 1992-93 season was the final nail in the Latics’ first relegation since they joined the Football League in 1978.
An all-conquering force in non-league, their elevation had not been without controversy with Wigan eventually replacing Southport following a tense election campaign which had gone to a second vote.
Established in 1932, the Latics claimed four Cheshire League and Lancashire Combination titles, together with two Northern Premier League crowns before joining the big boys.
And after just four seasons, they were celebrating their first promotion when European Cup winner Larry Lloyd guided them into the third tier where they stayed until their fate was sealed at Dean Court 11 years later.
Four years in the basement ended when the Latics were crowned Division Three champions in 1997 with promotion coming just two years after Dave Whelan had bought the club for around £400,000.
The arrival of the local businessman, who built the JJB Sports empire, was to herald the start of one of the greatest success stories in the history of English football.
Bankrolled by Whelan, the man having invested an estimated £100million into his hometown club, Wigan rocketed through the divisions, climbing from the bottom flight to the Premier League in just eight years.
Although many scoffed when Whelan said he would one day take Wigan to the top flight, the doubters were forced to eat their words when his prophecy came true in 2005.
The journey also included a 1999 victory in the Auto Windscreens Shield against Millwall and the opening of a new 25,000 capacity all-seater stadium to replace the club’s antiquated Springfield Park.
Wigan, whose highest finish in the top flight came in their first season when they came 10th, spent eight years defying the odds and silencing their critics until they tasted relegation for a second time in May.
Their fate was sealed just days after Roberto Martinez’s men had pulled off one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history by beating Manchester City in the final.
Wigan returned to Wembley five days ago when two goals from Robin van Persie saw them beaten by Manchester United in the FA Community Shield.
However, perhaps more relevant to Cherries supporters, will be the Latics’ start in the Championship – a 4-0 thumping of Barnsley in new manager Owen Coyle’s first competitive game as boss. Coyle said afterwards: “The Championship can punish you very quickly but our quality shone through and, on another day, we could have scored six or seven.”
Among Coyle’s 10 summer recruits were striker Grant Holt from Norwich and midfielder James McClean from Sunderland – both signed for around £2m – and Chris McCann, who was appointed captain at Burnley by Eddie Howe.
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