WIGAN Athletic’s game against Wolves tomorrow is certainly an important one, but for one member of staff it will be quite emotional too.
Dr Mike Ashworth is retiring at the end of the season after 33 years working at the club.
Wigan Athletic is a different club, it’s a special clubDr Mike Ashworth
It’s a decision the 60-year-old made a while ago and one he made with a heavy heart after seeing the side he supported as a boy rise to the very top.
But after retiring as a GP from his surgery in Bryn, it was something which has been in the offing for some time.
“It’ll be a funny day on Saturday putting my boots in my bag for the last time, it’ll be a bit strange,” he said.
“My wife and my daughters should be there too. I just want us to win really and go into the last game of the season with a chance.
“It’s been just over 33 years; it seems impossible really.
“It’s flown, it started off as a hobby and then you sort of get into it and you find that you’re part of the furniture.
“Habitually what I’ve always done is wait until June for the fixture list to come out and then start booking my holidays but I think I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for that now.”
When Dr Ashworth, who lives in Appley Bridge with wife Angela, joined the club, they were enjoying their first ever football league promotion to the third tier and he’s been a part of one of the most remarkable journeys in sport.
Of course when listing his favourite moments, the FA Cup victory two years ago is right at the top, but there have also been many more along the way,
“Wigan Athletic is a different club, it’s a special club,” he said. “It’s a family club and the fans are important to the management and the chairman and I’m sure that’ll continue in the future. It’s been the best part of my medical career. I’ve been so lucky. The majority of doctors don’t get to do that and I’ve been a Wigan Athletic fan right from being little.
“I’ve got two left feet and I was always the last to get picked at school so to be involved in football at that level for a fan has been absolutely brilliant.
“I’ve met some fantastic people and I’ve known lots of really good footballers and football people.”
One of those he will be paying a particularly emotional farewell is club physio Alex Cribley. The pair have enjoyed a great working relationship over the decades which has grown into a firm friendship
“One thing I will miss more than anything is Alex Cribley.
“He was there as a player when I started so he’s been there longer than me, then he became a physio. He’s been a fantastic friend, a fantastic support, a proper professional and Wigan Athletic has been very lucky to have him over the years.
“I’m going to miss that day to day contact with Alex but I’ll keep in touch, I’ll still go to the games and hopefully get a season ticket now and go back to where I started.”
Another person who Dr Ashworth has worked closely with is new manager Gary Caldwell who paid tribute to the outgoing doctor, saying: “Mike has been with us from the day I signed at the club.
“He is one of those guys, like Alex, who epitomise all that’s great about Wigan Athletic.
“I have never known him to complain, he just gets on with his work and his friendly professionalism has been a constant in my time, and I’ve no doubt every manager he has worked under would say the same.”
For a full feature with Dr Ashworth, see next week’s Wigan Observer.