An A to Z of Wigan sport

B is for British Bulldog - aka Davey Boy Smith.
B is for British Bulldog - aka Davey Boy Smith.
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WIGAN is known across the world for its sporting heritage and success.

From thousands taking to pitches to play rugby and football every week to working in gyms across the borough in search of that next medal, the list is almost endless when it comes to top athletes in the area.

As well as a rich history in sport, Wigan also has a very bright future. Here, in what is by no means a definitive list, sports reporter Tom McCooey looks at some of the town’s wealth in our A-Z of Wigan sport.

A - Ashton Town/Athletic: Playing from the North West Counties leagues, for a small place Ashton can be proud of two great football teams. OK, so both have been heavily affected by adverse weather this season but when both are in action they please the crowd. Town’s latest success was the Atherton Cup in 2013 while Athletic took home to 2013-14 North West Counties Challenge Cup.

B - Boston: Billy Boston is arguably Wigan rugby league’s most famous past player and certainly one of the most popular. Billy signed for Wigan in 1953 from Welsh Signals rugby union and stayed at Central Park until 1968, scoring 478 tries from 488 appearances.

The man from Tiger Bay still lives in Wigan – and is to be honoured with a statue in Wigan later this year.

C - Challenge Cup: Warriors are 19 times winners of rugby league’s oldest trophy, out in front ahead of second-placed Leeds with 13 Cup wins.

The last time the famous trophy resided in Wigan’s trophy cabinet was in 2013, and fans of a certain age will remember when booking trips to the Final was an annual event as Wigan won the competition eight times on the bounce between 1988 and 1995.

D - DW Stadium: Home of Warriors and Latics since 1999, while both Springfield and Central Park are fondly remembered, no one can deny the DW Stadium has already made a huge mark on the town. Having hosted eight years of Premier League football and Europa League matches to rugby league World Club fixtures and Test matches, its appearance on the Wigan skyline is now part of the furniture.

E - Extra-time: Both Warriors and Latics have suffered recently in extra-time. Warriors lost their golden-point World Club Series match to Brisbane thanks to a Corey Parker penalty in the 90th minute while Latics suffered FA Cup heartbreak in the 2014 semi-final thanks to a penalty shoot-out loss to Arsenal and in this season’s JPT against Barnsley.

But both have enjoyed victories in extra-time in the past. Latics reached the 2006 Carling Cup Final by beating Arsenal on the away goals rule while Wigan RL reached the 1995 Regal Trophy final after a tense extra-time battle at Widnes in the quarter-final.

F - FA Cup: It still feels like yesterday doesn’t it? Nearly three years? No way! Throughout the 90 minutes in the Final against Man City Latics were the better, more adventurous side and the more we dared to dream, the more tense the afternoon became. Ben Watson’s goal signalled a throw your pint in the air and hug a stranger moment but the whole team were heroes for holding on to that precious lead. We saw Wigan win the FA Cup!

G - Grundy: Mike and Sarah: The siblings both competed for the England wrestling team in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, with Mike earning a bronze medal.

The pair are aiming for a place on Team GB for Rio 2016.

H - Hardcore: Wrestler Davey Boy Smith, aka The British Bulldog, hailed from Golborne and had three stints in the WWF (which became WWE) in his career between 1985 and 200.

He defeated the Big Boss Man for the WWF Hardcore Championship in 1999. Smith isn’t Wigan’s only link to WWF wrestling. Footage exists of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts wearing a Wigan RL away top from the early 90s while taking part in a tag team match.

Away from theatrical wrestling, the town has a rich history in the sport through organisations such as Wigan and Leigh Wrestling Club.

I - International Pool. Built in 1968, before its closure to make way for the Wigan Life Centre in 2008, Wigan International Pool was home to Wigan Wasps (later Wigan BEST) swimming club. Legend has it that the pool was a couple of inches too short to be an international standard pool beacuse of a measuring mishap during construction. And who could ever forget the high diving board? Many a swimmer had to be helped down from its nauseating height over the years.

In any case, Wigan still enjoys a strong swimming scene with many Wasps members part of Great Britain train on squads.

J - Josh Daley - Following in the tyre tracks of another high octane Wiganer Russ Mountford, who has recently retired, motorbike racer Josh Daley will embark on his first Idle of Man TT in 2016. Look out for him between June 9 and 10.

K - Kyle Evans - BMX Team GB support rider for the London 2012 Olympics - Kyle will be doing all he can during the upcoming season to make sure he’s on the plane to Rio for this year’s games.

L - Latics: From humble beginnings in 1932 to mixing it with the top sides in the Premier League for eight years between 2005 and 2013. Remember during the early days of the 2005 season and seeing Latics on Ceefax sat at the top of the table?

M - Martial Arts: From kickboxer Steve ‘The Hammer’ Taberner, to future karate ace Bradd Parfitt and developing stars at institutions such as Team Kaobon at Eckersley Mill, Wigan enjoys a place on the sporting map across a wide range of martial arts.

N - Nil: Warriors are not only famous for entertaining attack, but also mean defence. Nilling teams is one of the things coach Shaun Wane finds most satisfying - and it’s something Wigan do well.

Since Super League started in 1996, 17 sides have failed to score against the cherry and whites in regular season games.

O - Olympics: Jenny Meadows (Atheltics), June Croft (swimming), Kyle Evans (BMX), David Grindley (Athletics) and Bradley Wiggins (cycling) have all appeared at an Olympic games while Rachelle Booth (Taekwondo), Mike and Sarah Grundy (wrestling), Nicole Haines (snowboarding) will be hoping to add their names to the


P - Premier League: OK, so the last couple of years hasn’t been great for Latics as they suffered the drop from the top flight to League One, but the Premier League years will never be forgotten.

Chelsea, Liverpool Arsenal, Man United – you name them – Latics have beaten them. Eight years was a long time to upset the establishment and who knows – maybe the blue and white army will get there again.

Q - Queen: The band’s smash hit, ‘We are the champions’ is on iPod playlists all over town as it is needed on such a regular basis.

R -Rugby league: Wigan were one of the founder members of the Northern Union when northern rugby clubs met at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in August 29, 1985 to form what was to become rugby league. At the time it was probably unforeseen that what was to become a religion in the town was born.

S - Speedway: One of the few sports to have an unsuccessful history in Wigan, the town’s place in the speedway history books is short.

Based in Poolstock, Wigan competed in the 1947-48 British Speedway League and limped through the season, finishing near the bottom before folding.

The sport returned in the 1950s thanks to Wigan Panthers who raced at Woodhouse Lane greyhound stadium but there was no league racing.

In 1960, the Wigan Warriors returned to Poolstock for open meetings during the summer months.

T - Tour de France: Bra dley Wiggins, a Wigan Warriors life member won cycling’s most prestigious event in 2012.

Wiggins is married to Wiganer Kath has strong ties to the town.

U - Union: As well as rugby league, the town has strong links to the 15-a-side version of the sport.

Orrell were a powerhouse of the sport in the early 90s and can still be found plying their trade from St John Rigby College, while Wigan RU provide an outlet for enthusiasts of the sport from Douglas Valley.

V - Green Vigo: Sure, we know there are players who made bigger impact, had better careers, and more fondly remembered. But how many other players have been named Green. Green! For that reason alone, deserves place on this list.

Anyone with the video 101 Top Tries will have seen he could light up the wing while scoring one of his 86 tries from 168 appearances between 1973 and 1980.

W - Wembley: The spiritual home of both Latics and Warriors. The town’s rugby league side have won 17 times at the venue from 24 appearances - both records - while Latics have also enjoyed second home status with the national stadium having first appeared at the ground in the 1973 FA trophy final, the won the competition in 1999.

And four appearances between 2013 and 2014, including the unforgettable FA Cup Final triumph in 2013.

X - X - the Roman numeral for 10 - which is how many trophies Wigan sides have brought back to the DW Stadium:

2002–03 Football League Division Two championship

2013 FA Cup

2002 Challenge Cup

2010 Floodlit Nines

2010 Super League

2010 League Leaders Shield

2011 Challenge Cup

2012 League Leaders Shield

2013 Challenge Cup

2013 Super League

Y- Yanic Wildschut: One of Latics’ leading lights this season - the on-loan man from Middlesbrough’s deal was made permanent last weekend - and if Gary Caldwell’s assessment that we haven’t yet seen the best of him turns out to be true - the rest of the season looks very bright indeed as Latics push for promotion back to the Championship.

Z - Zaki: Remember when the South Stand was awash with Fedoras? Amr Zaki set Wigan alight with some of the best goals we’ve seen during his 29 appearances with the club. But a series of mishaps behind the scenes meant his loan deal wasn’t made permanent, and in May 2009 he left the club.