Friday, 5th May 2017 17:24 by Tim Whelan
Our visit to Wigan Athletic is on Sunday with kick-off at 12 noon. All the games have to start at the same time on the final day, but this isn’t one of the games selected for coverage by Sky.
If you're coming by car on from Leeds the best way is to stay on the M62 till you reach the M6, then go northbound. (There is a more direct route via the M61, but it would probably be slower as you’d have further to go once you’d left the motorway and you’d have to go through a couple of towns. Come off the M6 at junction 25 and follow the A49 to Wigan, and in two miles you should pass an Aldi store on your left, before reaching a large traffic light controlled roundabout.
Turn left at this roundabout into Robin Park Road and continue into Scot Lane. The stadium is down Scot Lane on your right. The official JJB Stadium Car Parks have 2500 spaces in the on match days, and if you park anywhere else in the Robin Park complex you run the risk of getting a ticket. Most spaces are unreserved, so if you'll need to get there early to ensure you have a space. There are spaces allocated for disabled supporters too.
Wigan has two railway stations within 100 yards of each other, both being about 20 minutes walk from the stadium. If you're coming from Leeds via Manchester you'll find yourself at Wallgate. The other station (Wigan North-Western) is on the other side of the road and is served by Virgin trains on the London Euston-Glasgow route.
From either station you need to go under the railway bridge and keep to the right, following the same road for around 10 minutes, passing the Seven Stars Hotel and then going under a second railway bridge. By now you should be able to see the JJB Stadium, and you just have to turn down Robin Park Road and you'll be there.
Due to engineering works, the direct line from Leeds will be blocked on Sunday, so you will need to change at Manchester Piccadilly. The last service to give you a serious chance of making it for kick-off is the 09.16 from Leeds, eventually getting to Wigan at 10.48. And it’s likely to be a bit packed, as the Manchester-Wigan trains are only going to be hourly with to carriages in each, so it’s obviously beyond Norther Rail to cater for demand by lengthening the trains.
There are usually a few places to get a swift ale or two before the game, but given the early kick-off time I can’t guarantee that any of the establishments I’m about to mention will be open before kick-off.
Beside the away turnstiles there is a large indoor Marquee Bar, specifically for the use of away fans, and another option being the Red Robin, which is only a few minutes walk away from the ground, opposite the Cinema Complex. You could try the Wetherspoons 'Moon Under Water' or the ‘Anvil’, both of which are listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
Also worth a mention are the ‘Berkeley and 'The Swan and Railway’ near the two railway stations. If you need some scoff, Frankie & Bennies, Pizza Hut, and Burger King are within the Robin Park complex near the stadium, and there are also some takeaways opposite Wallgate train station.
You can also get alcohol inside the stadium for the usual inflated prices, and one irritation is that if you want food as well you have to queue up again at a separate counter.
If you were one of the 2,000 Leeds fans who managed to get a ticket for our FA cup 6th. round tie at Springfield Park in 1987, you'll remember being crammed onto a shallow open terrace where it was almost impossible to get a good view of the game. Things have certainly changed since, thanks to the deep pockets of Dave Whelan, who was chairman of both the football and rugby league clubs. He played for Blackburn in the 1960 FA cup final before making a fortune though his company JJB sports, but is no relation to me as far as I know.
There was no chance of improving the old ground to meet the standards demanded by the Taylor report, and Whelan's first idea was for Wigan Athletic to share the rugby league clubs superior Central Park ground. When this plan fell through he decided to build a new stadium for both clubs to share, which cost £30 million and opened at the start of the 1999/2000 season.
The total capacity is 25,023 and Wigan's official site boasts of all sorts of exciting facilities, which ominously include a purpose built Police Station and cells. We were given an allocation of 4,300, even though the full capacity of the North Stand is 5,400.
Our tickets were sold through the ‘attendance tracker’ and needless to say they were snapped up, as at one stage it looked like this game was going to be important. The prices £28 for adults, with concessions at £25, £15 and £10, or even £2 for under 5s. Tickets for the home stands are limited to supporters with a previous booking history, and they aren’t selling any to those who have only just registered on their website.
All in all Wigan is a pretty good away trip, so it’s a shame that it could be a while before we pass this way again.
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com .
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