Whelan’s out to inspire next generation

Dave Whelan with local businessman Simon Haydock
Dave Whelan with local businessman Simon Haydock

Dave Whelan may well be sick of the sight of tangerine, but it’s not stopped him investing in the next generation of young Seasiders.

The multi-millionaire Wigan Athletic chairman was on the Fylde coast yesterday to look around his brand new indoor football complex Vicarage Lane in Marton.

He’s linked up with local businessman Simon Haydock to build the first indoor soccer centre in the town.

And despite his club’s poor record against Blackpool, the 78-year-old is hoping he can help improve the town’s next generation.

“Blackpool are our bogey side, every time they come to Wigan they batter us!” joked Whelan.

“Blackpool surprised me when I first opened a health club here as the facilities for youngsters are zero.

“For a town with a reputation like Blackpool’s it’s difficult to believe there’s so little for kids to do.

“Blackpool is a place I’ve always regarded as a football town and always a place I’ve envied. In my younger days Blackpool had a very special football team and was a very special place.

“Opening this indoor soccer centre will give kids something to do and somewhere to play football, especially in the winter.

“Once October comes and the dark nights set in I hope this will give the people of Blackpool somewhere to enjoy themselves.

“I bought this property for a the health club and it’s doing remarkably well.

“This unit has been empty for a while and after having a drive around Blackpool I thought the town could do with an indoor facility for the kids to play football.”

Whelan quit football in 1966 and has gone onto become one of the UK’s most successful businessmen and has amassed a fortune of £190m according to the Rich List after setting up the JJB Sports retail chain. But it’s his time in football he remembers most fondly, with clashes against Blackpool some of his most memorable moments.

He said: “When I was 18 I came to Blackpool and played against the great Stan Matthews.

“After the game I went and asked for his autograph after I’d kicked him on the field, that was the only way to stop him.

“I always remember asking for him at the door and he asked what I want.

“He the asked me why I kicked him and I said it’s the only way I could stop him.

“I promised not to do it next time, but that was tongue in cheek as that really was the only way to stop him – to clog him.

“He was a gentleman and those are the sort of players the club have always been famous for, with Stan Matthews, Mortensen and Jimmy Armfield.

“Blackpool has a very special place in my heart.”

The DW SoccerCentre is now open and you can book by calling 01253 600111.