Classic Old Sports Grounds: No4 Central Park, Wigan

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.

Central Park

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.

Graeme West

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

Wigan Wallgate

or taking an ex Lancashire United Transport 559 bus.

Lancashire United Transport

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.

LUT 395 at Bolton

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!

Freeview Box

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.

Central Park

Central Park

Wigan v Castleford

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.

Springfield Park

Now what else was Wigan famous for? Oh yeah… The Casino! So here are a few Northern Soul memories.

 

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7 responses to “Classic Old Sports Grounds: No4 Central Park, Wigan

  1. Great stuff John. Brought back some excellent memories!

  2. thedrunkbirder

    I’ve got more good old grounds to come.

  3. Andrew Gallon

    ‘Drew me back time and time again’. I had a similar relationship with Central Park during my student days (1983-86) at Liverpool University. On Sundays, our little group of rugby league fans had the pick of Lancashire and Cheshire clubs, and headed to Wigan many times. I recall particularly the Lancashire Cup final of (I think) 1984 when a Mal Meninga-inspired St Helens beat Wigan in front of 26,000 fans. What a day! Mind you, any game at Central Park was a biggie!

  4. thedrunkbirder

    We must have been at many of the same games. Mal Meninga – what a player!

  5. Nice piece, John … & I hope you don’t mind me ‘borrowing’ the Springfield Park pic for http://www.sportnw.co.uk/lets-hang-on-before-we-berate-the-latics/ (complete with a credit of course). Keep on bloggin’, as Eddie Kendricks almost said.

  6. thedrunkbirder

    Thanks.

    I don’t own the picks, I myself nicked them and couldn’t find anyone to credit. No-one’s come back and told me off! Yet…

  7. Thought that was the case, but think of it as classic schoolboy blame avoidance … “The drunkbirder dun it first!”

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