Wigan Athletic fan Chris given a final standing ovation

Janet and Chris Hough on holiday
Janet and Chris Hough on holiday

Thousands rose as one to applaud a fellow Wigan Athletic fan who has died at the age of just 53 following a battle with cancer.

Businessman Chris Hough was a life-long supporter of the club and his family ensured he was honoured with an ovation at the DW Stadium on Saturday thanks to a pre-match social media request which “spread like wildfire.”

The family take part in the emotional applause in the 53rd minute

The family take part in the emotional applause in the 53rd minute

Relatives attended the Latics-Barnsley game for the deeply moving spectacle which came, as planned, in the 53rd minute.

The dad of two from Wigan Lane was diagnosed with bowel cancer last October and was at first told it was curable.

He underwent surgery to remove a large tumor and then chemotherapy which was mainly to remove two smaller ones, but one proved more difficult to eliminate than expected, not least because it was attached to his bladder; complications set in and eventually doctors said that, sadly, nothing more could be done.

Mr Hough died at home with his wife Janet at his side on August 15.

He leaves a daughter Katie, 27, and 23-year-old son Rob. Only six weeks earlier the family suffered another loss when Janet’s brother-in-law John Sidebotham, who lived in Poolstock, succumbed to pancreatic cancer aged 60.

Despite these tragedies, family have been heartened by a wave of support and good wishes.

It was standing room only at Mr Hough’s funeral at Swinley St Michael’s Church (family friend and Latics chief Jonathan Jackson was among the mourners); then the collective warmth at the game also gave great comfort, Rob said.

He added: “We contacted Wigan Athletic to ask about a timed ovation and they said that there was a policy that it was left to the relatives to do it off their own bats.

“So I put it on social media that it would be much appreciated if dad could get a round of applause in the 53rd minute, and the message spread like wildfire. There were 10,000 hits on Twitter.

“It was fantastic. My mum came, who does not usually go to football, and my girlfriend who definitely doesn’t usually come to football, my sister, cousin and I. We were all greatly moved.

“Even the TV commentator gave dad a mention, talking about the west stand getting to their feet for him followed by the east stand. I’m sure he would have been delighted.”

Born in Wigan, Mr Hough attended St Wilfrid’s and Wood Fold Primary Schools in Standish before going on to Shevington High and Winstanley College.

Rob said his father did not excel academically but, on leaving college, went into business with brother Jon, who already had experience working in the label industry, to set up Coppull-based Lion Labels to produce carrier bags, pricing guns and labels for retailers in the North West which is still going strong today.

He met his wife-to-be in Tiffany’s nightclub on Standishgate and they were married for 29 years. She gave up her part-time administrative job to care for him around the clock in his final months.

Rob said of his father: “He was a downright character: bubbly, funny, energetic. Nobody would say a bad word against him. He was just a good lad.”

Donations have been made in Mr Hough’s memory to Cancer Care Wigan Infirmary.