|Dave Whelan in hospital after
breaking his leg in the 1960 cup final
In the 1950’s and 60’s I grew up in a rural south Yorkshire mining village. Later as a Leeds student in the 1970’s I observed at close quarters the policies of Margaret Thatcher which destroyed many vibrant mining communities.
As a lad I was a keen footballer, and shared dreams with many other small boys of running round Wembley with the cup after scoring the FA Cup final’s winning goal. My fantasy was to score a glancing headed goal which won the match for my local team Frickley Colliery, from the Cheshire County league.
Wigan Athletic played in the same league, and I saw several matches between the Colliery and the blue and white stripes of Wigan Athletic.
Roll forward more than half a century and yesterday I saw a glancing headed goal win the FA Cup for Wigan Athletic. It was scored by a red haired Wigan player whose previous claim to fame was that he was a dead ringer for Prince Harry.
What a payback for Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, who in the 1960 Cup Final was stretchered from an FA Cup Final at Wembley with a broken leg that ended his footballing career.
The few hundred pounds compensation he received enabled Dave to start a market business which has since grown into a multi million pound retail icon.
Along the way he bought Wigan Athletic, and pumped enough money into the club to take them to yesterday’s FA Cup final at Wembley, where they beat hot favorites Manchester City, and run round Wembley with the FA Cup.
It’s a fairy-tale ending.
But was Dave Whelan’s broken leg worthwhile?
In 2005 my wife broke her leg and ended up in the next hospital bed to Val Clayton, Ronnie Clayton’s wife. On a daily basis my wife saw the adulation fellow patients at Blackburn Royal Infirmary had for the Ronnie, Dave Whelan’s good friend and captain at Blackburn Rovers.
By his investment in Wigan, Dave will have won the love of a township. And as George Sand observed, “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved”.
Dave Whelan is now a contented and happy man.
On the other hand it’s intriguing to muse that were it not for Margaret Thatcher’s willingness to destroy anything that stood in her way it might have been Frickley Colliery, not Wigan Athletic, who yesterday ran round Wembley with the cup.
In any case Prince Harry will forever be told that he’s a dead ringer for the scorer of the winning goal in the 2013 FA Cup Final.
It’s a fairy tale ending for Lancashire.