DAVE Whelan gave an emotional speech to the DW Stadium crowd ahead of Wigan Athletic’s fixture with Leeds.
The 78-year-old announced his retirement from his role as chairman earlier this week, handing over the reins to his 23-year-old grandson David Sharpe.
And ahead of Latics’ crucial Championship fixture the man who guided the club from the bottom of the football league to the top took to the pitch to say a special “thank-you”.
Whelan’s honours while at the helm at Latics include titles in the second and third tiers, promotion to the Premier League where he saw them stay for eight years, a League Cup final and of course FA Cup glory which in turn brought European football. That’s before even mentioning building a stadium and Wigan Youth Zone.
Whelan received a fantastic response from the Wigan Athletic fans, and despite Leeds’ fans’ best efforts, he delivered a moving speech. And when the boos from the away end crept up a notch, he reminded them it had been a while since they had won a cup.
After he had finished, he received a guard of honour from both sets of players as he made his way down the tunnel and to his seat next to his grandson.
Below is a full transcript of Whelan’s special message to the Wigan Athletic fans ahead of Saturday’s game:
“Firstly I would like to welcome the supporters of Leeds United to the DW Stadium.
“Ladies and gentleman, thank-you for everything, for the last 20 years you have been magnificent supporters.
“We all remember when we first played at Springfield Park and I bought the club and we were third from the bottom of the old Fourth Division. With your support and with the support of the players and the staff we built this stadium and we fought our way up to the Premier League.
“We had eight fantastic years in the Premier League and two years ago we brought the FA Cup back to Wigan.
“Leeds United have not won the cup for 25 years. (It’s actually 43 years - Ed’s note)
“However, everyone from Leeds, we welcome you to Wigan Athletic. You are a great club and you are a great bunch of supporters.
“To our supporters, we have played two and won two under our new chairman, my grandson David.
“I hope you all give him the support like you have given me. I am still going to be the greatest supporter Wigan Athletic has, I will be at every game I can get to and I wish every bit of success to my grandson David. I’m sure you will all support him. Thank-you.”