What’s Wigan most famous for? Pies? The Wigan Casino? Wigan Pier? Maybe a combination of all three feature but for me Wigan is famous for one thing… Rugby League.
I moved to Bolton in 1983 and being mad on Football and Rugby League I was soon making my way to various grounds in Lancashire but one place drew me back, time and again… Central Park, Wigan – home of Wigan RLFC. In 1983 Wigan were not long back in the 1st Division and were just starting to build a great team led by New Zealander, Graeme West… a mountain of a man and a fantastic player.
Living in Bolton I had a choice of ways to get to Wigan and I used to alternate between taking the train to Wigan Wallgate
or taking an ex Lancashire United Transport 559 bus.
At the time LUT had been absorbed into the GMPTE fleet and most of the buses were painted orange and white but a few still clung on to the old red and grey. Being the saddo I am, I’d see if any old LUT buses were out earlier in the day and then take one of them… I was never so picky on my way home in the rain. A bit like this summer it always seemed to be raining in Bolton and Wigan.
The walk down to the ground was not much of a walk as Central Park as its name suggests was pretty central. A new footbridge over the inner ring road even gave cheapskates a free vie of the game!
One of the great things about Central Park were the acres of terracing… never has there been a better way to watch a game. For big games the place was rocking, I don’t think anywhere else in Rugby League quite came close.
I was sad when in 1999 it closed to be replaced by the bland, soulless monstrosity that was the JJB and is now the DW Stadium. What a sterile place, no leg-room and certainly no fun!
Across town the home of Wigan Athletic FC (the only non-league club so far to have dumped The Owls out of the FA Cup) at Springfield Park, Rugby League was also played for a while when Springfield Borough RLFC had a few seasons there… another classic Northern ground.
Now what else was Wigan famous for? Oh yeah… The Casino! So here are a few Northern Soul memories.