Dave Whelan Column: I did it my way

I have to say it was an overwhelming feeling for me to unveil the fabulous statue outside the DW Stadium at the end of last week.

Monday, 28th November 2016, 4:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:41 pm
Dave Whelan with his statue outside the DW Stadium

This is not something you would ever expect to happen.

It was a real surprise, and I didn’t know it was happening until a week or so ago.

The family kept it really secret, my grandson David organised it and didn’t say a word to me.

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I couldn’t believe, if I’m being honest, that it was possible to make a statue that could be so much like you see yourself in the mirror.

The sculptor has done a wonderful job, he really has.

It was also very kind of everyone to come along.

I have such pride in this town, whether it’s the football team or the rugby league team, and I always will.

When we managed to win both the FA Cup and the Challenge Cup three years ago, that was absolutely remarkable.

I still don’t think that achievement was acknowledged as much as it could have been by the national media.

For one town to win both cups, which had never been done before...it will probably never be done again – unless Wigan does it again of course.

There are some great towns, some big towns, up and down the country, but Wigan just did it – and that was wonderful.

Everyone knows I am Wigan through and through, I love the town.

I think the people are the friendliest people in the world.

It’s just a great town, and I’m just so proud of it.

Whenever anyone asks me where I come from, I proudly say I come from Wigan.

I’m from Wigan, me.

It was great to see so many people who mean a great deal to me join us on the day of the unveiling, including Billy Boston, Emmerson Boyce and Roberto Martinez.

When I brought Roberto over from Spain back in 1995, as part of the Three Amigos, it was absolutely wonderful.

Wonderful for Wigan, and wonderful for putting Wigan on the map.

The Three Amigos were all good lads.

Roverto was a great player, he did wonderful things on the field, and when he started to manage he did wonderful things at Swansea.

My ambition was always to get Roberto to manage Wigan Athletic.

Luckily I managed to get him here, and we all had such a fantastic time alongside him.

He is over in Belgium now, running their national side.

They are one of the favourites to win the World Cup, I wish them good luck, and I know everyone in Wigan will feel the same.

He travelled all the way over from Belgium to be here on the day, just to see the statue and to wish me good luck.

That sums him up. He’s a great lad and I cannot thank him enough for that.

Everything I have, I owe to football.

I was serving an apprenticeship at Worsley Mesnes ironworks, Mellings, when I signed for Blackburn Rovers at 17.

That was the door opening for me, to see the world, how wide it was and all the opportunities out there.

I had to go into the army then, for my two years of national service, and I was lucky enough to play in the British Army team alongside Bob Charlton, Duncan Edwards, Dave Mackay, some great players.

I had a fantastic career until I broke my leg in the cup final, but I never thought I would be able to get back to Wembley and lift the FA Cup.

It was such an unbelievable day, the excitement in our family was enormous. We will never forget that day.

A lot of people forget that I played in the 1960 FA Cup final for Blackburn Rovers, and I was carried off with a broken leg.

I was only 23, but I never managed to get back playing in the old First Division.

That has lived with me all my life, and I’d never been back to Wembley before Wigan Athletic got there – because I couldn’t face it if I’m honest.

When we got there in 2013, I was so excited that we were going to be going back to Wembley, it was something that I can’t describe.

I was just so full of emotion and pride – it was all there.

On the day itself, when the FA gave me permission to lead out the team, I cannot describe the feelings I had when I walked down the tunnel.

It was obviously a different tunnel, because the stadium has been redeveloped, but you’re still at Wembley and I was still leading out Wigan Athletic at the national stadium.

It was over 50 years since I’d made that walk with Blackburn Rovers, and it was a remarkable experience.

So to have this statue outside the DW Stadium, that commemorates that day forever, makes me feel so proud – and I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in the process.