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Dreams Do Come True

Early this morning I stayed awake to watch the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Wigan Athletic. Not because the FA Cup has any real interest to me in regards to the soccer, and certainly not because I have any affinity with either of the teams playing (my team is Leeds United). I stayed awake for one reason, the man in the photo above, Dave Whelan.

Whelan's story is quite remarkable. In 1960 whilst playing for Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup final, he suffered a broken leg which effectively ended his career. He set his mind to commerce, and opened a sports retail store in Wigan (the original shop now sells fish and chips). The sports business prospered and became an empire.

Whelan bought Wigan Athletic in 1995 when they were playing in the Football Association's Division 3.

When Dave Whelan took over the reins he announced that he would get Wigan Athletic into the Premier League,and instigated a one word slogan 'Believe'. He fulfilled his promise in 2005. This began with the Division Three title in 1997-98, the Division Two title in 2002-03 and promotion to the Premiership as Championship runners-up in 2004-05.

He funded the $60million construction of the club's new JJB Stadium which opened in 1999 and on its completion was one of the largest football stadiums outside the Premier League.

Thanks to Whelan's resources, Wigan, who were tipped to be relegated from the Premier League in their first season, not only managed to stay up (and have stayed in the top flight ever since), but claimed a 10th place league position and also reached the final of the Football League Cup.

Today, 12 May 2013 (Aus time), in a dramatic ending to the FA Cup Final against Manchester City, Ben Watson scored a header in the 91st minute to win the game 1-0. This was Wigan's first major trophy in their Premier League history and gave Whelan the chance to hold the FA Cup trophy 53 years after breaking his leg as a 1960 finalist.

Dave Whelan(r) with his team manager Roberto Martinez

Amongst the crowd at Wembley Stadium thousands of 'Latic's' fans were waving banners saying simply 'I believe'. And to add a little cream to the story, the FA gave Dave Whelan 'special permission' to lead his team on to the pitch for the pre match celebrations.

Yes, Dreams Do Come True.

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