Elected to Division Four 1978
Aug-Dec 1934 a
Jan-May 1935 a
1935-1939 a o p q
1947-1950 a o
1952-1953 a k o
1953-1955 o p
1957-1958 o p
1959-1960 a j
1965-1967 a o p
1968-1970 a o p
1972-1973 e f
'73 FA Trophy Final p
1977-1979 m p
1980-1981 m n
1981-1982 d h o
1982-1983 d h
1983-1984 a d e h
August 1984 d e
Sept 1984-1985 d e
1985-1986 a e h
1986-1987 d h
1987-1988 a d
1988-1989 a h
Aug-Sept 1989 e
1991-1993 c d
1994-1995 c i
1995-1998 c i
1998-2000 c d
2000-2002 c d
2003-2005 c i
The first professional football match in Wigan was between Wigan County and Burton Swifts in 1897. County collapsed three years later but in 1905 Wigan Town was formed and shared Springfield Park with Wigan RLFC. Wigan Town also collapsed within three years and the town was dominated by rugby league until the formation of Wigan Borough in 1920. Borough were elected to Division Three (North) in 1921 but after eleven years of struggle, they resigned at the beginning of the 1931-32 season.
The "Latics" were formed a year after the demise of Borough and joined the Cheshire League, winning the championship three times before the outbreak of World War Two. They wore red and white halved shirts with black knickers (although these were often washed out and appear as dingy grey in some photographs). White shorts were adopted for the 1934-35 season but when the team met Millwall in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in January 1935 it appears they had reverted to black knickers.
When league football resumed after the war, Wigan's local kit suppliers could only offer blue and white shirts due to clothing shortages so the Latics dropped their original red and white colours. After finishing bottom of the Cheshire League in 1947, Wigan joined the Lancashire Combination. They were champions in 1948 and over the next six seasons, the Latics won the title three more times.
In 1950 the Football League was extended with the addition of two clubs to each of the regional Third Divisions. Wigan Athletic applied for membership: competition was fierce and it took three ballots before the issue was decided - Shrewsbury and Scunthorpe were elected and Wigan would have to wait. In 1954 Wigan took Newcastle United to a replay in the FA Cup Third Round and again applied for membership of the League but were unsuccessful. In 1961 Wigan rejoined the Cheshire League and in 1968 they became founder members of the Northern Premier League (NPL). In 1971 the Latics won the title and played an epic FA Cup match against European Cup Winners' Cup holders, Manchester City, which they narrowly lost 0-1. Hopes of election to the Football league were, however, again dashed. In 1972, perhaps to make a point, the club applied for election to the Scottish League. The stunt backfired - Latics received no votes at all when the League met to vote on re-election and Hereford United replaced Barrow.
In 1973 Wigan played at Wembley for the first time in the FA Trophy final wearing a kit designed for the occasion with a special crest. They lost the match 1-2 to Scarborough.
In 1975 Wigan won the NPL for the second time but a financial crisis was looming and the club was forced to sell off its players. With fewer than 650 supporters turning up and Latics barred from further applications to join the League until they sorted out their financial problems, it looked like they would go the way of all the other Wigan clubs. The following season, they finished second in the NPL behind Boston United after another successful FA Cup campaign. The League had decided that only the champions of the NPL would be considered for election but as Boston's ground failed to meet safety standards, Wigan were allowed to apply in their place, the 35th time Wigan had attempted to join the League. After they tied with Southport on the first ballot, Wigan won the second vote by 9 votes. After 47 years, League football returned to Wigan.
For their second season in the League, Wigan introduced a crest which became universally known as the "tree and crown". The fleur de lys crown represents the Plantagenet dynasty and appears on the town's coat of arms, while the tree represents a rowan, known in local dialect as a "Wiggin (i.e. Wigan) Tree."
In 1982 the Latics were promoted to Division Three but with an overdraft of more than £250,000. Despite their financial problems, the Latics remained in the third tier for the next ten seasons, finishing fourth in 1985-86.
In 1989 the popular tree and crown crest was replaced by the coat of arms of the Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.
In 1993 Wigan were relegated to Division Four and now faced bankruptcy. In February 1995 local business tycoon Dave Whelan bought the club. Whelan had made a fortune establishing the JJB Sports Wear retail chain and set about reinvigorating the club. The colours were changed to those of the JJB chain and a string of signings made. In 1997 Wigan were promoted as champions of Nationwide Division Three (the old Fourth Division). In the summer of 1999 the club moved into the brand new JJB Stadium, built at a cost of £32m and in 2003 they became Nationwide Division Two champions and began a serious challenge for a place in the Premier League. Their ambitions were realised at the end of the 2004-05 season when the Latics won promotion to the Premier League.
A successful run in their first season in the top tier saw Wigan in second place in November and they eventually finished in tenth position. Against the odds, the team consolidated their position in the Premier League over the following seasons.
In 2008 a reworked version of the tree and crown badge replaced the municipal coat of arms.
Between 2005 and 2007, Dave Whelan stepped down as chairman of JJB Sports and disposed of his shares although he remained chairman of the football club. In 2009 Whelan acquired the JJB Fitness Clubs, re branding them as DW Sports-Fitness. As a result JJB's sponsorship of the team's shirts came to an end and the stadium was renamed as the DW Stadium. The distinctive blue used since 1995, which was derived from JJB's corporate colours, was also dropped in favour of conventional mid-blue.
The 2012-13 season proved a momentous one for the club. They reached the FA Cup Final where they unexpectedly beat Manchester City to win their first major trophy. For chairman Dave Whelan this was a particularly poignant occasion as his professional career was ended when he broke a leg playing for Blackburn in the 1960 final. Days later the team became the first FA Cup winner to be relegated.
- (a) Ultimate Wigan Athletic Website
- (b) Club Colours (Bob Bickerton)
- (c) empics
- (d) True Colours (John Devlin 2005)
- (e) Tom Darbyshire
- (f) Wigan Athletic Official Site
- (g) Ye Olde Tree & Crown has nice graphics of recent home and away Latics kits.
- (h) Pete's Picture Palace
- (i) David King
- (j) Ralph Pomeroy
- (k) Brief History of Wigan Athletic
- (l) Toffs
- (m) Alick Milne
- (n) True Colours (John Devlin 2005)
- (o) Keith Ellis
- (p) David Duckworth
- (q) Richard Lewis
Crests courtesy of Ultimate Wigan Athletic Website. Modern crests are the property of Wigan Athletic FC.