Whelan scoops top award

Sir Bobby Charlton presents Dave Whelan with his award
Sir Bobby Charlton presents Dave Whelan with his award
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DAVE Whelan admitted his huge pride last night after being awarded the ‘Lifetime Contribution’ at the North West Football Awards at Old Trafford.

The Latics chairman scooped the prestigious gong in front of a packed gathering in Manchester for his services to the game.

After a distinguished playing career with Blackburn Rovers and Crewe, Whelan then built JJB Sports into the biggest sports chain in the UK, as well as guiding Latics into the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Latics were ‘highly commended’ in the Community Club of the Year award, which was won by Everton, and were also nominated for the Community Initiative of the Year award.

Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez, who attended the awards dinner, believes Wigan Athletic have dodged a bullet despite a number of players being on international duty this week.

Latics don’t have any representatives in the Scotland squad after Shaun Maloney’s withdrawal, with James McArthur and Gary Caldwell having already been left out.

And Maynor Figueroa has been spared a trans-Atlantic trip to Texas where Honduras will take on Peru in a friendly.

Ali Al Habsi was given the green light to join up with the Oman squad for their crucial World Cup qualifier with Japan, while Franco di Santo is hoping to make his Argentina debut in Saudi Arabia.

However, that is it as far as the long-haulers go, with the Ivory Coast playing in Austria and Chile are facing Serbia in Switzerland, which shouldn’t tax Arouna Kone and Jean Beausejour too much.

And Wigan’s other international representative, James McCarthy, has only gone as far as Dublin where Ireland will be facing Greece.

“We are lucky because we haven’t got anyone making a really long-haul flight this time,” Martinez acknowledged.

“Chile and the Ivory Coast are playing in Europe, while James (McCarthy) will only be in Dublin.

“Oman are playing against Japan, which is the furthest one of our players will go.

“But Ali will be back on Thursday night - that is not a problem for us.

“The main thing is that Ali is used to the travel. It’s not really the physical effect, it’s the mental side.

“Ali has real experience of dealing with this and he will have 72 hours between the games to sort himself out.

“Franco will be over in Saudi Arabia, but I have no issue there. He won’t need a plane to come home - he’ll fly all the way back on the adrenaline alone.”