PART TWO: Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'Our fanbase has been given an opportunity to heal after a very divisive season that did just as much to split us apart as it did to bring us together'

Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts are still drunk on the sheer happiness – and relief – of seeing their club saved from the abyss by local man Mike Danson...
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Matt Auffrey:

I’m ‘Danson’ for joy! We’ve been saved! What a marvellous day it is to be a ‘Tic. After we’ve been plagued by instability over the past three years, we’ve been given a lifeline towards a more sustainable and prosperous future under local hero Mike Danson. One week ago, we were staring down the barrel of a gun that could’ve put a very abrupt end to our club as we knew it. My confidence in a hero emerging dwindled by the day to dangerously low levels. The lack of positive updates over such a prolonged period of time took a heavy toll on my spirits. Monday’s news of a HMRC winding-up order was only another thorn in our side. The brave soul who did decide to take over Latics was going to have their hands full cleaning up an enormous mess. When Danson’s supposed interest first became public knowledge, it seemed too good to be true. An extremely wealthy entrepreneur with close personal ties to the town of Wigan - what did we do to deserve this godsend? Danson appears to be nothing short of the saviour we’ve so greatly yearned for since Dave Whelan sold the club.

Latics aren’t an experiment you walk away from when the first sign of hardship arises. They’re not a pawn within a get-rich-quick scheme where you can inject a few million quid and expect to dump the club for a healthy profit just months later. We’re a community club and the club’s greatest strength is the people of the community it represents. We need an owner who can earn and keep the trust of our community. Mike Danson has the opportunity to right the wrongs of a very painful era of this club’s history. For the first time in a long time, we are able to finally look beyond the immediate short-term future when creating a vision for Latics. Paydays will hopefully no longer be a source of stress for players and staff. Our gaffer, Shaun Maloney, can start making proper preparations for pre-season, and assemble a squad that will maximise its potential in League One. It’s essential we secure a partner for our Academy, who can support Gregor Rioch and company, as the future of our first team will rely heavily on the development of these young men from this point forward. Just as important as anything else, our fanbase has been given an opportunity to heal after a very divisive season that did just as much to split us apart as it did to bring us together. We’ve been given every reason to laugh together, sing together, and dream together. It’s time we all kick back and enjoy a proper off-season because, when it’s time to turn it on, Maloney and the lads will need us back in large numbers and full voice. Up the ‘Tics!

The Latics fanbase will be celebrating all summer following the takeover by Mike DansonThe Latics fanbase will be celebrating all summer following the takeover by Mike Danson
The Latics fanbase will be celebrating all summer following the takeover by Mike Danson
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PART ONE: Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'There is a beauty in a local ground-ro...

Red Ned:

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The ownership reign of Mr Al Jasmi and Talal Al Hammad is now over, thankfully. What a reign it's been - joyful, mad and harrowing in equal measure. Phoenix 21 'saved' us two years ago now when we faced our previous financial abyss. Latics fans at the time were unsurprisingly optimistic, and the chairman's social media presence fuelled expectation and excitement. Players such as James MaClean, Charlie Wyke and Jack Whatmough were brought in, at serious expense for League One level. Along with promising lads who had come through the Academy, like Callum Lang and Thelo Asgaard, the club was looking up. The season panned out in immaculate fashion results wise, and another title was racked up in due course. Back up to the Championship, and around October it all started to unravel. Late wages, rumours of financial issues behind the scenes, followed by continued late wages, rumours of skulduggery, the sacking of Leam Richardson (so soon after signing an extension), the subsequent appointment of Kolo Toure and another sacking nine weeks later, told us the club was in disarray. Forward to the past four weeks, and it has been a rollercoaster for the fans. Social media became quite toxic at times. Promised financial commitments from Phoenix 21 never came to fruition and, in the space of a week or so, Michael Danson has purchased the club. Mr Danson's intervention is obviously welcomed, a local guy who will hopefully run the club with care and consideration. Obviously, there are concerns he is a 'Rugby Mon' not a 'Latics Mon', but it seems there were very few other options out there willing to do what was needed to rescue the club. As fans we also have a responsibility to strike the right balance in terms of our own expectations. We need to expect a club that is run sensibly, with considered investment in the playing squad and, probably more importantly, the Academy. I think it's obvious to nearly all of us that splashing out on aging players, commanding massive multi-season contracts, is not a sustainable way to ensure our future. Finally, it seems like a good few folks have spent a lot of time the last week or so, ensuring the right people were having the right conversations, that ensured a positive outcome, so thanks to the people involved. Mon the Latics.

David Hassett:

As reality begins to settle in ,it’s time to pause and reflect on the latest development at our small but never dull club. No doubt all Latics fans will welcome the end of months of doubt and uncertainty. New owners bring a mix of emotions - securing the future of our club is obviously a cause for celebration but, for many, the overriding emotion will be relief we’ve avoided the worst case scenario and still have a club to support. For many, there will also be anger at things reaching the depths they did, and at the broken promises that affected so many good people. Even if nothing else changes, that can never be allowed to happen again. While we can celebrate in the immediate term, we also need to look to the future, and think about the vital role for all supporters in making sure we are never in this position again. Fans need a voice in the running of their club, and they must be a critical friend, supporting those running the club when appropriate and necessary, but never being afraid to challenge or say no where that is necessary. All fan groups need to play a part in that, and all fans need to be engaged if we are to move forward. We will have differences of opinion and different ideas, but we must never lose sight of what we all surely want - a secure, stable football club to support. And of course, we need to make sure differences don’t lead to abuse, however frustrated we may get. Alongside that, there is a wider issue affecting all clubs. The need for football finance and governance to change is beyond dispute; things simply can’t carry on as they are. Too many clubs have been lost and had to start again, whether that’s Bury or Macclesfield, Chester or Maidstone, Hereford or Darlington (to name just a few). Too many have been pushed to the brink, whether that’s Latics or Bolton, Reading or Coventry, Luton or Southend (again, to name just a few). Things have to change, and that has to be driven by the fans and fans have to be at the heart of everything. So celebrate, breathe again, relax and begin to look forward, and let’s work together to make sure we come out of this in a far better place.

Sean Livesey:

It's often darkest before dawn. And my word, there have been dark days in Wigan over recent weeks. It's been said why haven't Amazon or Netflix decided to film a Sunderland or Wrexham-type documentary about us. The reason is it would simply be seen as too unrealistic to ever be taken seriously. But this is the reality we've been living with throughout the last six months (in reality even longer than that). How did it go so wrong with Phoenix 21 in such a short period of time? Well I'm convinced we haven't heard the full story, and now probably never will. But I think you will struggle to find a relationship between owners and club (supporters) that soured as quickly as the one. There may well be mitigating circumstances that shine more light on what has gone on at our football club, but the ownership group allowed us to experience feelings they promised we would never experience again. The last few weeks and months have been every bit as painful as 2020 was. A scarred supporter base was thrown back into a situation we should never have had to deal with in the first place. The trust that had been built up between owners and supporters disappeared. Wiganers will put up with a lot, but if you lie to us then it's game up. I'm sure our former chairman's heart was in the right place, and I'm sure he enjoyed his time in the limelight. But unfortunately the money wasn't his to spend. So the continuous promises of cash injections that came to nothing were simply lies. At that point, there was no way back. Phoenix 21, you promised so much, and I'm afraid you massively under delivered. It could well have been so different. If the owners had appointed a board that knew the club and had its best interests at heart. If they hadn't made consecutive expensive and costly management mistakes. If they had actually stuck to their spending plans. If they hadn't fed lie after lie in an effort to remain popular.

But shoulda, woulda, coulda...that's the past. Let's instead look forward to the future. What this football club craves and indeed needs now is stability. Hopefully our new owner will provide that. As a fanbase we need to ready ourselves for a period of stability. It's of course an infamous stat, but we've had about one mid-table finish in the last quarter of a century. Other than that, every single season has had something riding on it. Promotion, relegation, play-offs, administration, etc. We need some calm seasons. If the realistic budgets spoken about in Mike Danson's statement come to pass, then perhaps a calm season is what we'll have. A side full of young players graduated from the Academy, along with some strong signings identified by the manager, could well give us a side we crave. If it means we tread water for a couple of seasons, then so be it. It'll mean the foundations are stronger when we do eventually climb again.

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So to our new owner, firstly a huge thank you. After five highly damaging years post-Whelan, we are back under local ownership. It sounds like how that came about once again is tribute to those hard-working people we don't hear about behind the scenes, in this case people like Caroline Molyneux - from the Official Supporters Club - Lisa Nandy MP, and Wigan Council. It's all too easy to throw abuse at these individuals, and far harder to actually get involved and be of use. But we owe them a debt of gratitude. We should be proud we have people in positions of power willing to speak up for us. Many others wouldn’t and, if no one had shouted for us this time, it could well have been the end. Speaking of getting involved...this is an ideal time for fans to mobilise. You never know when it may be our time to fight again. We've been lucky this time, and it looks like we've finally got someone who can offer us stable ownership once again. But as the last five years have shown, we can quickly become a discarded play thing to some owner in foreign climbs with no real connection with Wigan. The difference this time is we’ve got a Wiganer back with his name above the door and, in an ideal world, we would have someone like Jonathan Jackson back in his rightful place as chief executive. But I realise I’m being greedy. After a tumultuous, highly damaging period for our football club, we are back. Now we can all enjoy the summer in peace, and look forward to those fixture releases and that day in August...when we’ll be back at the Dave Whelan Stadium.

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