Opinion - Criticism was well-intentioned

Wigan Evening Post staff pictures'Charles Graham
Wigan Evening Post staff pictures'Charles Graham

WE in editorial thought long and hard about last Saturday’s front page and inside feature about Wigan Athletic’s terrible season.

The local newspaper wants, whenever it can, to throw its weight behind its local sports teams, back them through tougher times and trumpet their achievements if and when they come. And, boy, we have had quite a bit of the latter from Wigan Athletic in the past few years, haven’t we?

We all want the same thing for this proud club which has shown on many occasions that it is capable of defying negative expectations

But there also comes a point when things need to be said; and that not to say things amounts either to an unhealthily slavish loyalty or an ostrich mentality.

And we felt that that moment had arrived, perhaps quite a few weeks ago in fact. A catastrophic series of losses and draws had left a team that was a pre-season favourite for promotion back into the Premiere League frighteningly adrift in the relegation zone and with few signs of an upturn in fortunes on the horizon.

It is distressing to see such a rapid downturn in fortunes, especially after so many years of progress up from the lower leagues and the achieving of several undreamt-of highs while in the top flight.

And we knew that what was written was bound to cause some discomfort and annoyance at the DW Stadium. No-one enjoys being criticised, let alone by their local newspaper.

But I hope the club took the constructive remarks and heartfelt appeals from our journalists (who are genuine fans, incidentally) in the well-intentioned spirit they were written.

We all want the same thing for this proud club which has shown on many occasions that it is capable of defying negative expectations. And there is still time for it to fight its way out of this crisis.

I KNOW that some shops are having to move because of the planned overhaul of the Galleries.

The £60m revamp aims to breathe new life into a precinct which has long struggled to fill its units.

But it saddens me that this 25-year-old shopping centre is clearly still haemorrhaging businesses to the newer Grand Arcade that wouldn’t need to move purely for reconstruction purposes.

New Look from the central atrium and Clarks from the ramp up from Standishgate are the latest names to announce they are jumping ship.

I can understand the shoe shop’s wanting to move because it has been a little odd occupying two separate and rather cramped premises. But there are plenty more than enough spacious units in the Galleries still available.

But sentimentality counts for little in the cut and thrust world of retail, and the shrewdest operators follow the money - and the customers. Clearly Clarks and New Look feel there is greater trade to be had in the Grand Arcade even once the Galleries overhaul is complete.

I’m pleased for the GA of course but the reason it was built in the first place wasn’t so it would simply suck the life out of the town’s pre-existing shopping centre.

We were told that, yes, some aspirational businesses in the Galleries might move to the larger units that the new place offered, but what vacancies they left behind would soon be occupied by new arrivals.

A decade on from that promise - granted there’s been a horrible recession inbetween - and that prediction has patently not been fulfilled.

The Galleries looks emptier now than it ever has.

What confounds me is that a borough the size of Wigan should easily be able to sustain two relatively modestly-sized precincts.

Forgive me a moment of treachery, but neighbouring Warrington - with a population a third smaller than Wigan’s - has by and large a better retail offer and boasts two centres - Golden Square and Cockhedge - which complement each other very well.

If anyone has any solutions to this Wigan mystery, please let me know.