Thursday, 10 April 2014

Fight Like Hell

As Wigan Athletic, the club I've supported for over thirty years, prepares to meet Arsenal in defence of the FA Cup it won so wonderfully in 2013, I decided to reflect on the Lancashire club's journey through adversity and what we can all learn from it.

Long columns were written in newspapers about Wigan's rise through the leagues when they won the Cup last May. Everyone now knows of their former history as a non-league club and that they were plying their trade in the fourth tier of English football as recently as 1997. 

Failed 34 Times

It's less well-known that Wigan Athletic was formed from the ashes of a failed professional football club called Wigan Borough in 1932. It was the fifth attempt at establishing a viable professional club in Wigan and perhaps because of the troubled history of football in Wigan, the Football League rejected the new club's plea to join their ranks. The League carried on rejecting the Latics' applications another 34 times between 1932 and 1978.

This is the moment where I pause for thought. 

Humilitation and Rejection

Firstly, Wigan Athletic was the fifth attempt to form a professional football club in the town. 

Secondly, it went on to humiliate itself nearly three dozen times by risking rejection before finally being accepted by the other clubs which made up the Football League in 1978

Didn't these football fans know when to throw in the towel? What kind of bloody-minded, stubborn people do they make in that town, that they were prepared to go through that ritual so many times over the space of more than forty years? The people of Wigan had shown they didn't want football hadn't they? Why go on?


The only conclusion that I've ever been able to come to is that determination is in the DNA of the people there. It's a refusal to give up no matter what the odds. 

Dave Whelan, the club's present-day owner and steward of all that history, has often been quoted as saying his team have to “fight like hell” to achieve their aims.  

He grew up having to fight to just keep warm at times and his early experiences are shared by many in the “ancient and loyal” Borough of Wigan. He knew that against established clubs and the new power blocs in the game, there is only one way to compete and that is through determination and a will to succeed.


A close ally of determination is a belief in one's ability to succeed (and it's no coincidence that Wigan Athletic's unofficial motto is now “Believe”). 

In my role as a qualified personal performance coach, I see many clients whose only stumbling block to achieving their aims is self-belief. They feel that their goal is too big or that their past achievements somehow are too small. 

I work with them to see what tools they have at their disposal to move forward. I ask them questions about their experiences, their skills (their obvious ones and ones they may have forgotten about) and their relationships and help them see that they have a strategy already in place for success. We all do. 

Our strategy is what we're comfortable with because it draws on our real talents and skills and we've used it time and time again. I just help people realise it. 

It's the same process for over-coming adversity.


Just like Wigan Athletic, we've all succeeded against the odds many more times than we think. We've all had challenges of one kind or another and probably you've used a similar process to win those battles over and over. 

In my case, I know that such things as relentless positivity; concentrating on things within my control; looking for opportunities rather than threats; and reframing the situation are things I've successfully used time after time.
What steps have you taken to achieve goals and meet challenges in the past? 

Consider carefully these following questions and you'll begin to realise that you can succeed in adversity just as you have done in the past. 

With that realisation will come a belief in your ability always to rise to whatever challenges life throws at you and just like little Wigan Athletic, on the 11th May 2013 at Wembley Stadium, you can show the world how far determination and belief can get you.

Questions For You
When faced with a significant, previous challenge in your life

1. How successful were you? (Be specific.)


2. What exactly did you do to reach that point?

3. What worked well?


4. What didn’t work?


5. What have you learnt to use to help you move forward?

6. What would have made a difference to your success?

7. So, what components are there to your strategy for your next challenge?

photo credit: <a href="">Inmediahk</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

photo credit: <a href="">illarterate</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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