Thursday, 11 April 2013
Let's get this right - Wigan have sold around 21,000 tickets so far. Our average attendance is around 16,000 home supporters. But more crucially - and take this in - the entire population of our town is 80,000. The problem Wigan has, is that it's a small town surrounded by two major cities, both of whom contain four of Britian's biggest - and successful - football clubs. When we say that our 'population' is 80,000, people like to point to the population of Wigan Borough, which is 300,000. People don't seem to understand that 'Wigan Borough' is just a name for the area, just like 'Greater Manchester' is. It's basically a drawing on a map. Those smaller towns in the borough are mostly populated by descendants of post-war 'immigrants' from Liverpool and Manchester, so who should they support if they do indeed take to football? A town that they don't even live in, or their parents' team?
Another tedious cliché is that Wigan is a 'Rugby Town', based on the success of the rugby club. Somehow they don't take into account that their crowds are on a level, even sometimes lower, than the football club. Unlike the football club though, the rugby are able to draw support from those smaller towns I mentioned, because they ARE the Manchester United and Liverpool of Rugby League, there are no other successful rugby clubs in any of the major cities, let alone 4 of them. If you like Rugby League in the Wigan Borough, you're only going to support Wigan Warriors, or maybe Leigh Centurions. Everyone wants success and only those who are truly proud of their town and who they are, will support their club. And that's what Latics fans are. They're not glory-hunters, sat on their arse in a pub with another city's shirt on, they support THEIR football club.
It was interesting to see how Burnley, with a similar population to Wigan, got many plaudits for talking a good chunk of their population to Wembley for their play-off final a few years ago, yet Wigan get pilloried for doing exactly the same. Unlike Wigan, Burnley are able to draw on support from smaller towns around theirs, as the only rival for 30 miles is Blackburn Rovers, so it was obvious that they were always going to sell out. We have this, what must seem like, a bizarre phenomenon in Wigan where people either support one Wigan team, or the other. The problem is though, the majority of those that watch the football have no interest whatsoever in Rugby League, whereas many of those who watch the rugby, do actually watch football. But they can't be seen watching Latics, so what do they do? In short - the myth that Wigan is a 'Rugby Town', is absolute rubbish. Ask 100 rugby fans which football team they support, then ask 100 Latics fans which rugby league team they support. I don't have to threaten to run naked down the street this time, as I know what the result will be.
Millwall deserve all the plaudits and many pats on the back for selling all their tickets. But once this season is over, how many of those 31,000 supporters will be at The Den in August? On Tuesday night, the crowd was around 9,000 for a game against Sheffield Wednesday. I don't understand why people are getting on our back for selling just over our average attendance, whilst the vast majority of the Millwall fans are clearly just there for the one-off and couldn't really give a toss about the Tuesday game which ended in a 2-1 defeat against near-rivals Sheffield Wednesday, which left the Lions 5 points away from the relegation zone. Personally, if I was a Millwall fan, I'd be asking why can't at least half of these people attend more regularly? Maybe then the club will have a bigger budget which will help them progress and more support inside the ground will always generate more noise and lift the players. I think it's a bigger 'shame' for Millwall selling out, than Wigan not selling 10,000, if I'm being honest.
I could go on and slip in even more excuses, after excuses - like the fact that there are no suitable train times to get back to Wigan, not to mention the ticket and travel prices - but I'll leave it there and get myself ready for the big day in a positive mood and not dwell on this any longer. Here at Wigan, all we're after is some respect for our support of OUR football club, like every set of supporters do. How about CELEBRATING the fact we've sold 21,000 tickets, which amounts to a quarter of our population? The amazing story of the club who has played at Wembley in the FA Trophy, Football League Trophy and now the FA Cup? Give people some positive news for once.
Is that too much to ask?