Tom’s ton on the terraces

Tom Gill (left) with son Tom, grandson Andy and great-grandson Sam watching Wigan v Fulham at the DW Stadium this season
Tom Gill (left) with son Tom, grandson Andy and great-grandson Sam watching Wigan v Fulham at the DW Stadium this season

ON the face of it, Wigan Athletic are a relatively young football club.

But as they celebrate their 80th year in existence, not many can claim they have lived and breathed every single second.

Fewer still can say they remember their whole journey.

For Tom Gill though, this is not the case.

Set to celebrate his 100th birthday next week, he has seen it all; the highs and the lows of one of the country’s most ambitious clubs.

Living in Wigan his whole life, he’s also inspired the generations beneath him to follow suit and many are regulars at the DW today.

Born on October 24, 1912 to William and Anne Gill, Tom, who had two brothers, David and Bob, has lived in Wigan all his life in areas such as Hindley in his younger years before moving on to Crooke and latterly Standish Lower Ground, where he still lives today.

He worked as a joiner on building sites around Wigan before joining the Army in the Second World War serving in North Africa, Greece, the Middle East and Italy.

He married the love of his life, May Stopforth and they were together for 65 years, having three children as well as five grandchildren and four great grandchildren, which is soon to be five.

After the Army, Tom took a job at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows.

He came home the first day telling May he wasn’t keen on the job but would see it out till the end of the week.

He left 31 years later when he retired as foreman.

Much of his time was spent working to support his family, working seven days most weeks.

Even when he wasn’t at work Tom was helping friends and neighbours with their joinery needs. Anything that could be made out of wood he would make, even making wooden scooters and wooden briefcases for his children.

There was one other main love in his life, though, in Wigan Athletic and sport in general.

Taking his son, also named Tom, from a young age, they have seen the meteoric rise of their beloved club.

“I’ve seen a lot,” said Tom snr. “The good times and the bad. I remember them in the Cheshire League and also remember when we got elected to the football league itself.

“The club has come a long, long way.”

Tom sits with Tom jnr as well as grandson Andy in the West Stand, with great-grandson Sam sitting not too far away with his mum Fiona.

Meanwhile, his granddaughter Elaine sits in the East Stand while his son John is a huge fan but currently lives in Leicester.