WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Wigan Athletic’s first Football League team 1978-79
JOE HINNIGAN is in the history books as being the first Wigan Athletic player to score a goal in the Football League. The Latics had a long tradition of success in the Cheshire League and Northern Premier League before they were elected to the Football League for the 1978-79 season.
But they failed to score in any of their first three games and were 2-0 down at home to Newport County in the fourth when Hinnigan’s moment of glory came.
“It was a Jeff Wright corner and I rose above somebody to head home but it never ever dawned on me that I was the first to be honest,” he says.
“It was only when we were in the bathroom when somebody said ‘Joe do you realise you will be in the history books’.
“We had just lost the game so it didn’t really matter to me. I was more disappointed with losing the game.”
Wigan's first victory in the league didn’t come until their sixth game when they beat Rochdale 3-0 at Springfield Park.
They ended up finishing sixth in the league, six points off the promotion places but Hinnigan admits that survival was their priority.
He says that Springfield Park, which has long since disappeared gave them a real edge because it was open to the elements.
Hinnigan reckons that especially teams from the south were beaten as soon as they stepped into the car park and felt the chilling northern winds.
“We drew the first game nil-nil against Hereford, then we lost our next four. A lot of it was down to confidence. As soon as we started to get a few results the confidence in the lads just grew and grew.
“We were more or less unbeatable at Springfield Park at one stage. Teams hated going there.
“It was open to all the elements, the wind and rain, and the southern teams were more or less beaten in the car park
“The likes of Reading when Kerry Dixon was playing for them and Portsmouth who were a massive team in the division.
“Wimbledon were the exception. They were very similar to us, they had come from the nonleague they had lads who were hungry.
“We had all types of different players turn professional for the year and give it a go.
“Teams just didn’t get elected back then. Wigan had tried for years and The Football League was like a closed shop.
“You had the Rochdale, Hartlepool, Crewe applying for re-election every year but the chairmen used to like keeping it in house. They voted for each other.
“But we managed to get in on ta re-vote on the back of Southport going out of the league.
“We surprised a lot of teams. That was great credit to manager Ian McNeil, who brought in some good Scottish lads.”
1. Kevin Smart: The right back settled in Dover after finishing his career and earned a living by working as a bricklayer.
2. Peter Houghton: The scorer of Wigan's last goal in non-league football, lives in Liverpool and works as a car engineer.
3. Neil Davids: Lived on the Flyde Coast, building up a chain of jewellery shops and then a property portfolio until his death in December 2011 aged 56.
4. Geoff Gay: The midfielder was a civil servant in Horwich and then close to his Westhoughton home.
5. John Brown: The goalkeeper spent many years working as a bus driver in the Preston area.
6. Frank Corrigan: He lives in Winnington near Northwich and spent 16 years working for the local waterboard. For the last eight years he has worked in a paper mill.
7. Noel Ward: The centre-half broke his leg three days before he was due to sign for Chelsea. He became a supermarket manager and is still a regular at the DW Stadium.
8. Joe Hinnigan: The defender has been coach at Chester, Wigan, Bury, Rochdale and a physio at Shrewsbury, Accrington then Rochdale.
9. Jeff Wright: The midfielder spent 18 years working for Pearl Insurance in Bellingham where he still lives, before setting up his own mortgage and insurance business.
10. Ian McNeill: He had two spells managing Wigan and another stint at Shrewsbury and was assistant boss for six years. He scouted for Bolton, Leeds, Norwich and Chelsea.
11. Alan Crompton: The midfielder lives in Blackburn and has been working as a driver in the local area.
12. Ian Seddon: The midfielder coached at the Bolton academy and has worked in the building materials industry. He is the biographer of former England player Tommy Banks.
13. Tommy Gore: The midfielder lives in Billinge and ran a snooker club and a golf landscape company. He now has a company providing cleaning contractors for ferries.
14. Ian Gillibrand: The captain became reserve-team coach and was then manager of the Robin Park sports complex, until his death in September 1989 aged 40.
15. John Wilkie: A chartered accountant before running nightclubs and became the manager of a holiday park in Rhyl, north Wales.
16. Ian Purdie: The first signing following election to the Football League settled in Canberra Australia, where he has set up his own haulage business.
17. Kenny Banks: Served Wigan as trainer for over 20 years and died in Abergele near Colwyn Bay in August 1994 aged 70.