Talking football: The Whelan/Sharpe legacy - and the future of Wigan Athletic under IEC

Dave Whelan and David Sharpe have handed over control of Wigan Athletic to International Entertainment Corporation
Dave Whelan and David Sharpe have handed over control of Wigan Athletic to International Entertainment Corporation

Well that’s it, there’s no going back now.

Almost 13 months since it was first mooted, the protracted takeover of Wigan Athletic has finally gone through. And it’s all about the International Entertainment Corporation ‘Believe’ bus from here... up the Hong Kong ‘Tics!

The new owners set out their vision yesterday, and it was all rather encouraging stuff.

‘Premier League as quickly as possible’ was the obvious stand-out headline, although it was slightly tempered by a ‘but we won’t be throwing money at it’.

One in the eye for those who were counting down the days until January, hoping for Paul Cook to be handed the kind of war-chest usually associated with oiled-up superclubs for whom FFP doesn’t apply (allegedly).

But also a reassuring sign the new owners won’t be chasing the dream with a boom-or-bust mentality that has seen certain other clubs in the local area teetering on the brink of insolvency.

The appearance of Joe Royle on the new board of directors should be another reason for confidence, given his decades in the game as player, manager and advisor.

Latics fans will also be heartened by the presence of Jonathan Jackson – one of their own – to ensure continuity in the handover.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating of course – and the first real test could come before even the January transfer window opens.

Fans will inevitably be hoping for a few additions to bolster Paul Cook’s squad.

But even more important will be to keep hold of the talent already at the DW.

And in particular the likes of club captain Sam Morsy, star man Nick Powell, and reigning player of the year Nathan Byrne, who are in the last 12 months of their deals.

That trio would arguably be worth as much as the £22million IEC have shelled out for the whole club, and you’d assume the moneymen wouldn’t be so keen to see that kind of money slip away.

Cashing in would be one option, but tying them to new deals would be the perfect statement of intent to reassure fans it really is business as usual post-takeover.

As one doors opens, another closes, and it’s been an emotional few days as the Whelan family have departed stage left.

There’ll be a sizeable chunk of Latics fans who won’t have known a club without Dave Whelan or David Sharpe at the helm, and it will take some getting used to.

What a wonderful farewell the Wigan fans gave Whelan, and Sharpe, both before and at the 23-minute mark of Sunday’s Championship clash with Leeds United.

Sadly, we weren’t treated to another Whelan speech on the pitch to serenade the Leeds fans – it wouldn’t have been right, with the club paying tribute to Remembrance Sunday and Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – or the right result, but we’ve been more than spoilt over the years.

Whelan, 82 this month, more than deserves his retirement.

He’s done his fair share – and much more – for the club and the town over the years.

For Sharpe, still only 27, the takeover will arguably have hit home even more.

It’s fair to say he had his fair share of doubters three-and-a-half years ago when he famously became the youngest chairman in the game.

But how he has proved those doubters wrong – and then some – with the way he’s picked up the baton.

Sure, he’s made some mistakes along the way – replacing Gary Caldwell with Warren Joyce, for example, will not be in his highlights reel.

But he got far more right than wrong.

And let’s not forget his grandad also kissed a few frogs before (and after!) he found his Roberto Martinez – for every Paul Jewell there was a Chris Hutchings.

But Sharpe leaves Latics in the ultra-safe hands of Paul Cook, who clearly understands the club as well as the departing chairman and owner.

And as Cook himself remarked last week: ‘Some chairmen don’t experience success in their whole careers... David Sharpe has two titles in three years, which isn’t too bad!’

Sharpe leaves with Latics mid-table in the Championship – despite running with one of the lowest budgets.

He wants to stay in the game, and I sincerely hope he gets that chance.

He’s grown into the role since taking over, representing Latics with passion, drive and ambition – and fully justified the faith shown in him.

He’s also shown an impressive human side, regularly interacting with fans on social media as well as happily getting involved with local charities.

For now, though, it’s all about the future.

The King is dead, long live the King.

If the new kings are anywhere near as successful as the last lot, we’ll all be happy.