A new decade, a new era for Wigan

The last time Wigan won the league, B*Witched and Billie Piper topped the charts while Sky digital was launched.

Since then, they have won the Challenge Cup once and endured years of torment and failure.

Once the biggest and most feared name in the sport, Wigan are now referred to as has-beens. The nearly men of rugby league, yet still seen as a scalp to those who claim victory over them.

But just why have Wigan experienced such a dull 12 years?

Blame it on what you want. A string of bad players as well as off-field uncertainty has meant that results have suffered. Academies at clubs like St Helens and Leeds have massively improved and have produced some of the great players in the game.

Personally, I think Wigan’s biggest mistake came back in the mid-noughties. After some promising youngsters such as David Hodgson, Luke Robinson, Martin Aspinwall and Kevin Brown came through the ranks under Stuart Raper and Mike Gregory; they were released by the club.

All to make space on the salary cap for experienced players to take a greater wage.

But going against what they stand for hit Wigan hard and as the above players flourished, Wigan deteriorated with the players they brought in failing and not living up to expectations.

With the pack of youngsters they had and under the guidance of Gregory, Wigan reached two successive finals in 2003 and 2004. A side which was really coming together was torn apart and the club have really suffered over the past five years.

But with Ian Lenagan came a new era. Wigan have signed just one player in the off-season, with Lenagan insisting that the crop of youngsters the club are producing are the future and backbone.

And where is his evidence? Sam Tomkins and Shaun Ainscough.

Last season, both lads erupted in Super League. Before losing his place, Ainscough was on fire and was running tries in for fun while Tomkins just got better and better.

Michael Maguire has allowed his squad to gel and there will be few sides in Super League who know each other as well as the Warriors.

It’s early days yet but the foundations of the club are being re-built. There is commitment from the very top to the very bottom and belief as opposed to blind arrogance is being re-possessed by the Wigan fans.

Wigan’s problem in the past has been that people have expected trophies. It has taken the last decade to realise that they need to earn it. No-one is saying 2010 is definitely the year, but there is certainly a strong belief that it could be.

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