Last Friday was the Wigan Athletic Supporters Club Annual Dinner and this year it celebrated the 25th Anniversary of us winning the Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley. Most of the players from the day were there along with the manager Bryan Hamilton, what a great night it was and congratulations have to go the committee of the Supporters Club for organising it, well done.
To many it won’t seem like 25 years ago since Wigan won their first trophy, to others they won’t even remember it. It was billed as a family day out for the 10-12,000 who made the trip south from Wigan to London and Wigan were seen to be the team making up the numbers in the final. Brentford packed out a lot of the old Wembley stadium with between 30-40,000 making the short trip across London.
With this in mind it seemed as if the odds were already stacked against Latics but ‘Little Wigan’ had other ideas. Bryan Hamilton, who had replaced Harry McNally, believed that the team could pull off a massive success under the twin towers. Wigan’s form in the 84/85 season mirrored that of this season with consistency being a major factor. Wigan didn’t travel well and had done remarkably winning away from home, with one notable result being a 3-1 victory against Lincoln City.
The evening at the DW Stadium was a celebration not only for the 25 years since Wigan won the Freight Rover Trophy but also the 30 years that Alex Cribley has spent at the club. Once the meal was out of the way, the audience was treated to a twenty minute highlight presentation of Wigan’s famous win against Brentford which reminded those lucky enough to go to the final of what an amazing day out it was and it was a chance for those who may not of even been born to watch a marvellous achievement.
This was followed by a range of the players and the manager speaking about how they remember the final and their preparations and it gave everyone in attendance an insight as to what it felt like to win Wigan Athletic’s first ever trophy. What the players didn’t know then was where the club would be 25 years after their momentous win.
Bryan Hamilton was grateful to have players like Graham Barrow and Alex Cribley at the club as they kept the younger players in line but also they proved a pivotal part in the success of Wigan Athletic. During the meal Bryan paid tribute to Graham and Alex for their work and effort during the campaign and he also highlighted that the team he had inherited was full of fantastic character and an abundance of skill. Bryan spoke at length on how Wigan hadn’t performed that well away from home but how his team drew on positives from games and he referred to the win against Mansfield with particular reference to Warren Aspinall’s performance. Bryan rounded off his speech by informing the diners that for the final he wanted to create a balance within the squad. This resulted in Graham Barrow partnering Mike Newell up front and for a central midfielder he did a fantastic job.
Graham Barrow spoke how Brentford already had champagne ready and said that they were “Big Time Charlies”. Barrow came out with an excellent quote which showed the passion which he had for the club and that was the game was what he lived for – to play at Wembley. Colin Methven joked about practicing his walk on the Friday up the famous Wembley steps not thinking he’d be doing that again. How wrong was he. Tony Kelly was another of the former players to pay tribute to the Cup Wining team and he also stated that if the team had the money of someone like Mr Whelan then the team could of gone alot further. David Lowe reaffirmed the fact that Wembley was a great occasion and he told those listening of the fantastic feeling of scoring at Wembley.
Finally the double celebration was topped off with long serving servant Alex Cribley taking to the floor. Already shocked to see his wife and family at the evening, Alex paid tribute to the team and when asked about his 30 years at the club, serving in many positions, he joked and said he couldn’t find the escape tunnel. Cribley, who was presented with a number of thank you’s and also received a standing ovation after those in attendance were shown a short video showing his rise from youth to Wigan legendary status. Cribley finished by thanking Mr Whelan for backing the club and recognised that the club would of struggled and not of been where it is today without him.
All together it was a fantastic evening with young and old remembering a key event in Wigan Athletic’s history coupled with a fitting tribute to a loyal club servant.
The Freight Rover Trophy certainly put Wigan as a footballing team on the map.
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