Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday December 21 2012
Where next? Wigan Athletic`s DW Stadium.
Where are we seated? Wigan are generous, both with their ticket prices and with their allocation. We have the whole North Stand, with 4,500 Gooners making the journey. Tickets are £28 adults.
What`s it like? The DW is one of the more unique and slightly surreal stadiums in England. Based in the middle of a retail park, there are Sunday league pitches at the Eastern extremity of the stadium next to the car park. There is a JJB Sports virtually attached to the stadium. Whilst Wigan also boasts two dedicated pubs within the shopping complex style site of their stadium. One is a banquet hall that puts one in mind of an uncle`s wedding reception in the 1980s. The other has the characterless feel and disinfectant smell of a Wetherspoons in Surrey.
Inside, the stadium itself feels roomy enough, possibly a feeling aided by Wigan`s small and tight knit fanbase. It holds 25,000 spectators. Having only opened in 1999, it has a modern enough feel with four single tiered stands. Much like the Britannia Stadium, the corners are wide open with little in the way of high buildings behind them. This will leave your southern, lily livered bones exposed to those unsightly northern gales. The ground does have a slightly all purpose feel to it, which makes sense given that it`s used for rugby as well as football. It`s probably slightly large for Wigan`s support to be able to infuse it with an intimidating or personal character. But 4,500 fans in a single tier does allow the away fans to impose themselves on the acoustics.
What are the facilities like? It being a modern stadium, the facilities are very good. As mentioned, Wigan even provide a kind of away pub attached to the North Stand for your convenience. The concourses are wide and, as you`d probably come to expect from this small Lancashire satellite, the pies are to die for. There is also plenty of space between seats and in aisles etc, with a nice gradient on the stand providing excellent views and aiding atmosphere in the away end.
There is a large car park less than a 3 minute walk from the away end and you can even buy yourself a fetching pair of asics trainers on your way to the ground. Wigan is a rather strange ground and it`s not to everyone`s tastes (it is to mine, personally), but you definitely can`t complain about the facilities.
What are the home fans like? I have a fair amount of time for Wigan fans. During their entire seven year stay in the Premier League, they`ve had to endure all manner of folk telling them that having a small crowd somehow means they don`t "belong" in the league at the expense of so called bigger clubs like Leeds and Nottingham Forest. The fact that their crowds have not significantly risen in the wake of promotion to the big league is used as a stick to beat them with when it should be to their credit.
In 1999, Wigan took 7,000 fans to Wembley for the Auto Windscreens Final, whilst their opponents Millwall took 47,000. I always interpreted that looked better on Wigan (average home gate 5,000 back then), than Millwall (who averaged crowds of 10,000 at the time). That said, they struggle to impose an atmosphere on the ground because of the large cadre of empty seats at each game. They also have a really annoying drum in the East Stand and I`ve often found their "banter" largely unoriginal.
How to get there? Trains run from London Euston directly to Wigan North. A virgin train will take you a shade under two hours. Return via Crewe on London Midland for a cheaper (but obviously longer) return journey. You need to get in early for train tickets to Wigan however. They start at £48 and rise quickly. A return bought tomorrow will set you back more than £100.
The station is about 20 minutes away from the ground on foot. It`s not a challenging drive on the M6 and, as previously mentioned, there`s a big car park next to the away end. Unless you nab a train ticket early, stick to driving.
Any historical landmarks? Robin Park is situated right next to the ground, a small complex which hosts athletics as well as Wigan Reserves games. Other than that, errr, not really. Wigan is a sleepy town.
Where to drink? The Marquee Bar is set within the ground next to the away turnstiles. Beers are a good price and there are large screens with Sky Sports. However, it does have a wedding reception feel to it. Last year I queued for 45 minutes for a pint too. The more popular away pub is the Red Robin opposite the cinema complex. There is a Wetherspoons in the town centre known as 'The Moon Under Water` that is popular with away fans too.
If you fancy something a little more off the beaten track, 'The Anvil` adjacent to Wigan bus station is listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. There`s a good selection of ales there I am informed. Pub prices are very good in Wigan, which is just as well because our train arrives shortly after 9.30am!
Date:Friday December 21 2012
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