Wigan Athletic chief remembers Steve Jagielka ahead of return to Accrington
Wigan Athletic’s trip to Accrington this weekend will be a hugely emotional occasion for Leam Richardson on a number of levels.
The Latics boss spent eight successful seasons with Accy between 2005-13, finishing his tenure there as caretaker manager.
During that time, Accrington regained their Football League status after a number of years in the wilderness.
One of Richardson’s team-mates in the historic promotion season of 2005-06 was Steve Jagielka, who tragically died earlier this week at the age of just 43.
News of the passing of Jagielka – the brother of former Everton and England defender Phil – came as a bolt out of the blue for Richardson, who was two years his junior.
“I found out early on Wednesday morning, and to say it came as a shock was an understatement,” he said.
“I had the pleasure of not only knowing Jags as a footballer, but as a person and a friend.
“He was a fantastic lad to share a dressing room with, or a coach, or a hotel, or whatever.
“He was surrounded by a lovely family, and the news is absolutely devastating.
“He was a massive part of the success we enjoyed at Accrington.
“We had such a small group of players, and if it hadn’t been for people like Jags, the club maybe wouldn’t even be playing in the Football League now.
“It’s such sad news, and obviously all our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Accrington being today’s opposition will make it even more poignant for Richardson, with opposite number John Coleman having been in charge of the Stanley side that made it back into the Football League 15 years ago.
“It’s been a tough week, it’s tough to come to terms with,” acknowledged Coleman.
“My heart goes out to his family. All we can do is draw on the very happy memories we have of Steve, what a good job he did when he played for us and how he helped us get where we are today.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without those players and that team and he was a big part of that.”
Latics won the corresponding fixture at the DW back in December by the odd goal in seven, but this will be their first ever trip to the Wham Stadium – formerly Crown Ground – where
Richardson played for the majority of his career.
“I’ve got plenty of very, very fond memories of Accrington,” added Richardson.
“I’ve still got some very, very good friends there who I would genuinely class as proper friends.
“It’ll be nice to bump into the management team, and I think they’ve been outstanding for many, many years.
“It’ll be another challenge for us, but one we’ll be absolutely ready for.
“And it’s only going to be a nice return for me if we can come away with a positive result, and we’ll be doing everything we can to achieve that.”
Get 20% off our sports subscription package and stay up to date with all the latest Wigan Athletic news with a year’s subscription to WiganToday for less than 9p a day. Use promo code TRANSFER20