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Wigan Athletic 1932 Football Team

Wigan Athletic 1932: The Founding Year And First Season

Following the demise of Wigan Borough in October 1931 and their subsequent withdrawal from the Football League, Wigan was left without a football team. Following the demise of Wigan A.F.C., Wigan County, Wigan United, Wigan Town, and Wigan Borough, the Wigan Athletic 1932 adventure was the sixth attempt to create a stable football club in the town.

Cheshire League Final Standing 1931-32

We Need A Football Club

On 9 May 1932, Councillor Hipwood, Wigan’s mayor, presided over a packed public meeting at Queen’s Hall and called on those present to ensure the town had a football and a rugby team.

The meeting carried the idea forward, and a committee was set up, founding the football club Wigan Athletic. The club’s first Chairman was a local JP, Mr. Joseph Howarth.

Springfield Park was soon purchased for £2,850 from the owners of Woodhouse Lane Dog Track (with the proviso that the ground would never be used for greyhound racing).

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An application was made to join the Cheshire League, but this was turned down. Undeterred, the club made an application to join the Football League. Unsurprisingly, with the memory of Wigan Borough’s withdrawal from the League and no solid basis to stake such an application, the club received no votes.

Luck, however, turned, as Manchester Central resigned from the Cheshire League, and Wigan Athletic 1932 football team were elected in their place.

However, the Lancashire FA were still unsure and held a meeting on 31 July 1932 at Lytham with Mr. Howarth, the club secretary Jack Farrimond and the club’s first manager, Charlie Spencer, before agreeing to the club’s future.

The tale has it that they were asked for a minute book, and they obtained an exercise book from a local stationer and filled in the required notes in a phone box.

Wigan Athletic 1932 playing kit
Wigan Athletic 1932 Playing Kit

Wigan Athletic 1932 First Match

A team of full-time professionals was assembled (earning between £3-£4 a week) just in time for the first game in the Cheshire League.

This was played on 27 August 1932 against Port Vale Reserves. The game attracted a crowd of 5,106, representing gate receipts of the princely amount of £161.; Admission was 7d (about 3p) – 1d less than Wigan County charged for their first league game in 1897!

The first Wigan Athletic 1932 team, wearing red and white halved shirts and black shorts, was Harry Abbott; George O’Dell, Harry Callaghan; George Allon, Charlie Spencer, Harry Wake; William Chambers, Gus Smith, Barney McCabe, Bill Henderson, and Vincent Murphy.

Harry Wake had appeared for Cardiff in the 1925 FA Cup Final but made what is described on Cardiff City’s website as “a tragic error” when he hesitated instead of cutting out the pass that allowed Sheffield United to score and take the cup.

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The Daily Mail reported, What was Wake thinking about?’ was the mildest remark applied to the poor half-back”. Overall he made 149 League appearances for the Bluebirds. Thus started Latics’ great tradition of signing players who’d made a hash of things elsewhere 🙂

Port Vale reserves were considered one of the best teams in the Cheshire League and lined up as Ben Davies; John Cope, Ernest Breeze; George Millington, Arnold Bliss, Len Birks; Horace Baker, Robert Davies, Wilf Nolan, Albert Beech, and Jimmy McGrath.

Vale at the time wore red shirts, and it isn’t known what they wore in this game. Considering that Wigan Athletic 1932 football team had only managed to get together a team days before the game, they performed well and held out for the first half.

With an hour of the game gone, McGrath hit a powerful shot into the Latics net, and three minutes later, Nolan gave the visitors their final winning margin.

springfield park wigan
Springfield Park Wigan

First Win

Latics (or, more accurately, The Reds) improved, and on the following Wednesday, they beat Tranmere Rovers Reserves by 5-1.

Gus (Angus) Smith became the first player to score a goal for Wigan Athletic. However, things got better as the season progressed, and at the end of their first campaign, Latics held fifth place in the table.

Port Vale Reserves finished in second place. The high point was a game on 23 October 1932 when Latics beat the up-to-then unbeaten League leaders Northwich Victoria by 9-0.

Beyond The Wigan Athletic 1932 Season

The Wigan Athletic 1932 team improved the following season and became the first Championship-winning side. Interestingly, of the players in that first season, only two were kept on to the next year – George O’Dell and the boss Charlie Spencer.

Even the top scorers, William Chambers and Barney McCabe, didn’t survive. So Charlie Spencer built a new team.

Even though Wigan Athletic is based in Lancashire, it won its first championship in the 1933-34 season, finishing atop the Cheshire League.

The club won the second league championship the following season, and in the first round of the FA Cup, they defeated Carlisle United 6–1, a cup record for a non-league club over a league club.

As a result of its third consecutive victory in the Cheshire League and Lancashire Junior Cup in 1935–36, the club won the third title in a row.

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