Opinion - Whelan’s retirement part of club’s renewal

Charles Graham

Charles Graham

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FOR a man who has so long been in charge and seen so many grand, long-term designs come to fruition just the way he wanted, this week’s resignation came not in the circumstances that Dave Whelan would have envisaged a couple of years ago.

Things have taken a sour turn of late, what with a decline in on-pitch fortunes and the racial slur furore surrounding both manager and chairman.

Some fans I have spoken to fear that Whelan has given up his seat just as the club is heading back to the point where he started with it more 20 years ago.

But that is unfair. Wigan Athletic is a far bigger and better club than it was in the mid-1990s. It has an excellent stadium, it is one of the best-run clubs in football as far as its finances are concerned and its fans now have a far richer bank of great sporting memories on which to draw.

It takes more than nostalgia to keep a club’s performances above the water, of course, but at least fans and players now know of what can be done at the DW as new bids are made to recapture the glory days.

Whelan’s money is still behind the organisation and his stepping-down as chairman could be seen as part of the club’s current process of renewal. I also think he was right to go.

He admits his memory isn’t as great as it used to be, while that FA rap that he has struggled to accept just hasn’t gone away. He is 80 next year and has long talked of relinquishing power, so it wasn’t a great surprise after his weeks of suspension and convalescence after an operation, that he decided that now was the time to take a back seat.

Grandson David Sharpe is a relatively unknown quantity as the new chairman: so he might be at the tender age of 23!

He will have a lot to learn, although there will be plenty of advice and support to be found from chief executive Jonathan Jackson and of course grandad, although the departure of other experienced board members this week came as another shock. But taking control at such an early age is not unprecedented in English football. Just ask Karren Brady.

It could take a while for him to shake off the barbs about the failed Sharpy’s fish and chip restaurant (a lot of national media made a meal of that line this week), although from what I’ve heard on the QT, it is unfair to saddle him with much, if any, of the blame for its demise.

So we enter a new Latics era with some trepidation but hope too. Meanwhile the tycoon dubbed Mr Wigan retains all of his other business interests and I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of him by a long chalk!

IT was difficult to avoid thinking of the motoring term “U-turn” after Wigan Council announced it was scrapping the reviled chicanes on Kitt Green Road.

After all, it says they are being removed in order to improve road safety - which was precisely the phrase used by the authority when they were first introduced around 10 years ago!

As a route that is on my daily commute and used for many other journeys besides, it has been a motoring bane of my life.

Not only does it cause heavy traffic to become horrendously and unnecessarily congested during peak hours (there are enough highways around the borough that happens to without artificial help), it also inadvertently encourages risk takers to endanger lives.

Many have been the times when some fool has got to one of these pinchpoints and nipped through against the right of way, causing the on-coming motorists to slam the brakes on to avoid a head-on collision.

And as for the damage to a succession of car suspensions...(and I’m in no way a speeder).

Perhaps it looked like a good idea on paper but I don’t know of any other roads around here where the scheme was replicated, so perhaps the local authority realised its folly pretty quickly.

All traffic calming measures to a point rely on driver courtesy, but other ones like mini-roundabouts and speed bumps are likely to slow down even the more reckless motorists whereas these chicanes cause some of them to speed up.

I know Kitt Green Road isn’t supposed to be so heavily used, but that’s the way it is in this borough with notoriously narrow arteries. The alternatives aren’t exactly open-wide US-style freeways that folk are stupidly ignoring.

So a more reasonable compromise to maintain a smoother traffic flow while keeping speeds down is to be welcomed as better late than never.