1978–79 Wigan Athletic F.C. season
|Football League Division Four||6th|
|FA Cup||First Round|
|League Cup||Second Round|
|Top goalscorer||League: Peter Houghton (13)|
All: Peter Houghton (14)
|Highest home attendance||9,427 (vs Barnsley, 3 March 1979)|
|Lowest home attendance||4,459 (vs Scunthorpe United, 30 September 1978)|
The 1978–79 season was the 41st season in the history of Wigan Athletic F.C. and their first as a professional club in the Football League. After finishing 2nd in the Northern Premier League during the previous season, the club was nominated to apply for Football League status, and were elected into the league to replace Southport. After a poor start, the club exceeded expectations in the league, and towards the end of the season, a second consecutive promotion seemed possible. The club eventually fell short, finishing the season in 6th place with a total of 55 points.
Wigan entered the FA Cup in the first round, but were knocked out by Bury following a replay. The club also entered the League Cup for the first time, winning against Tranmere Rovers before being defeated in the second round by Luton Town. The club's first signing as a member of the Football League was Ian Purdie, who along with Tommy Gore and Jeff Wright, went on to play every league game during the club's first season. Peter Houghton was the team's top goalscorer with a total of 13 league goals (14 in all competitions).
In the 1977–78 season, Wigan competed in the Northern Premier League, and secured a second-place finish in the last game of the season with a 1–0 win against Matlock Town. Under normal circumstances, league winners Boston United would have applied for Football League status, but the League Management Committee had decided that their ground was not up to the required standards. As a result, runners-up Wigan became the Northern Premier League's nomination to apply for Football League status.
At the time, the only way a team could be promoted into the Football League was if their application received more votes than one of the bottom four teams of the Football League in an annual election system. In practice, this process was usually a formality, and very few teams were promoted – Wigan's application to join the league had been rejected on 34 previous occasions. The vote took place on 2 June 1978. In the first poll, York City, Rochdale and Hartlepool United were all re-elected, Southport and Wigan tied, and Bath City, the Southern League nomination, received the fewest votes and were eliminated. A revote took place to determine whether Southport or Wigan would be elected into the Football League. Wigan Athletic received 29 votes to Southport's 20, confirming that Wigan would replace Southport in the Fourth Division next season. It is believed that Wigan's strong performance in the FA Cup, where they reached the third round, earned them the support they needed to be elected into the Football League.
On 19 August 1978, Wigan Athletic played their first Football League game against Hereford United at Edgar Street, captained by the club's appearance record holder Ian Gillibrand. The match finished 0–0. Their first home League game was against Grimsby Town ended with a 3–0 defeat. Wigan were awarded a penalty with the scoreline at 2–0, but was missed by Ian Purdie. A defeat against Reading followed. On 2 September, in the club's fourth game of the season against Newport County, Joe Hinnigan became Wigan's first ever League goal scorer, but the team went on to lose the match 3–2. After losing 2–1 away at Wimbledon, the club's fourth consecutive defeat, Wigan found themselves at the bottom of the table. The club recorded its first League victory in the next match against Rochdale, winning the match 3–0 following the dismissal of Rochdale defender Bob Scott.
|1||19 August 1978||Hereford United||Away||0–0||5,674|
|2||23 August 1978||Grimsby Town||Home||0–3||9,227|
|3||26 August 1978||Reading||Away||0–2||4,788|
|4||2 September 1978||Newport County||Home||2–3||5,319||Hinnigan, Purdie|
|5||9 September 1978||Wimbledon||Away||1–2||3,217||Corrigan|
|6||13 September 1978||Rochdale||Home||3–0||5,746||Wright, Corrigan, Hinnigan|
|7||16 September 1978||Bradford City||Home||1–3||7,090||Purdie|
|8||23 September 1978||York City||Away||1–0||3,307||Gore|
|9||26 September 1978||Portsmouth||Away||0–1||13,902|
|10||30 September 1978||Scunthorpe United||Home||1–0||4,459||Brownbill|
|11||7 October 1978||Huddersfield Town||Away||1–1||5,150||Brownbill|
|12||14 October 1978||Doncaster Rovers||Home||1–0||5,788||Ward|
|13||18 October 1978||Halifax Town||Home||1–0||5,216||Hinnigan|
|14||21 October 1978||Barnsley||Away||0–0||9,841|
|15||28 October 1978||Northampton Town||Home||2–0||6,264||Purdie (2, 1 pen.)|
|16||3 November 1978||Stockport County||Away||1–0||8,357||Hinnigan|
|17||10 November 1978||Newport County||Away||1–2||4,142||Houghton|
|18||18 November 1978||Reading||Home||3–0||5,858||Houghton (2), Ward|
|19||9 December 1978||Darlington||Away||1–1||1,967||Moore|
|20||16 December 1978||Halifax Town||Away||2–1||2,437||Moore, Purdie|
|21||26 December 1978||Crewe Alexandra||Home||1–0||7,586||Houghton|
|22||30 December 1978||Aldershot||Home||3–2||7,289||Moore, Houghton (2)|
|23||9 January 1979||Port Vale||Away||1–2||3,744||Wright (pen.)|
|24||3 February 1979||Portsmouth||Home||2–0||8,289||Wright, Corrigan|
|25||14 February 1979||Wimbledon||Home||1–2||6,704||Purdie (pen.)|
|26||17 February 1979||Huddersfield Town||Home||2–1||7,420||Ward (2)|
|27||24 February 1979||Doncaster Rovers||Away||1–0||4,612||Wright|
|28||28 February 1979||York City||Home||1–1||5,896||Houghton|
|29||3 March 1979||Barnsley||Home||1–1||9,427||Wright|
|30||10 March 1979||Northampton Town||Away||4–2||2,275||Brownbill (2), Purdie, Corrigan|
|31||14 March 1979||Torquay United||Home||3–1||5,722||Moore (2), Hinnigan|
|32||17 March 1979||Stockport County||Home||2–0||7,610||Wright, Smart|
|33||19 March 1979||Rochdale||Away||2–0||3,621||Purdie, Moore|
|34||24 March 1979||Grimsby Town||Away||1–3||8,252||Wigginton (o.g.)|
|35||28 March 1979||Hereford United||Home||0–0||4,876|
|36||31 March 1979||Bournemouth||Home||1–0||5,527||Houghton|
|37||3 April 1979||Hartlepool United||Away||1–1||2,081||Houghton|
|38||7 April 1979||Torquay United||Away||1–1||2,969||Houghton|
|39||13 April 1979||Port Vale||Home||5–3||8,452||Houghton (3), Brownbill, Moore|
|40||14 April 1979||Crewe Alexandra||Away||1–1||4,604||Purdie (pen.)|
|41||16 April 1979||Hartlepool United||Home||2–2||8,217||Wright, Purdie|
|42||21 April 1979||Aldershot||Away||0–1||5,466|
|43||28 April 1979||Darlington||Home||2–2||6,153||Moore, Brownbill|
|44||1 May 1979||Scunthorpe United||Away||1–0||1,582||Gore|
|45||5 May 1979||Bournemouth||Away||1–2||3,063||Purdie|
|46||7 May 1979||Bradford City||Away||1–1||3,748||Moore|
|First||25 November 1978||Bury||Home||2–2||10,142||Gore, Houghton|
|First (replay)||29 November 1978||Bury||Away||1–4||9,339||Moore|
As a newly promoted Football League club, Wigan Athletic were also entered into the League Cup for the first time in their history, and were drawn in the First round against Third Division side Tranmere Rovers. The first leg of the tie was played at Prenton Park, and was Wigan's first competitive fixture as a League club. The match finished 1–1, with Tommy Gore scoring a late equaliser with an effort from long range. Wigan progressed to the next round after winning the return leg 2–1. In the Second Round, Wigan played Luton Town of the Second Division at Kenilworth Road, but despite producing a strong performance they were ultimately defeated 2–0.
|First (1st leg)||12 August 1978||Tranmere Rovers||Away||1–1||4,902||Gore|
|First (2nd leg)||16 August 1978||Tranmere Rovers||Home||2–1||8,512||Corrigan (2)|
|Wigan won 3–2 on aggregate|
|Second||29 August 1978||Luton Town||Away||0–2||6,618|
Final league table
|1||Reading (C) (P)||46||19||3||1||49||8||7||10||6||27||27||65|
|2||Grimsby Town (P)||46||15||5||3||51||23||11||4||8||31||26||61|
|League||FA Cup||League Cup||Total|
|FW||Derek Brownbill||20 (10)||6||0 (1)||0||0||0||20 (11)||6|
|MF||Alan Crompton||7 (6)||0||0||0||2||0||9 (6)||0|
|DF||Neil Davids||10 (2)||0||0||0||1 (2)||0||11 (4)||0|
|FW||Peter Houghton||23 (3)||13||2||1||3||0||28 (3)||14|
|FW||Mick Moore||40 (1)||9||2||1||0||0||42 (1)||10|
|FW||John Wilkie||3 (1)||0||0||0||3||0||6 (1)||0|
|MF||Micky Worswick||0 (1)||0||0||0||0||0||0 (1)||0|
|Alan Crompton||MF||Blackburn Rovers||Summer 1978|
|Neil Davids||DF||Swansea City||Summer 1978|
|Geoff Gay||MF||Southport||Summer 1978|
|Mick Moore||FW||Port Vale||Summer 1978|
|Ian Purdie||MF||Motherwell||Summer 1978|
|Ian Seddon||MF||Rochdale||Summer 1978|
|Kevin Smart||DF||Plymouth Argyle||Summer 1978|
|Derek Brownbill||FW||Cleveland Cobras||September 1978|
|Dave Fretwell||DF||California Sunshine||October 1978|
|Geoff Gay||MF||Macclesfield Town||1978|
|Ian Gillibrand||DF||Retired||End of season|
|John Wilkie||FW||Retired||End of season|
|Mark Grew||GK||West Bromwich Albion||December 1978||One month|
|John Curtis||DF||Blackburn Rovers||March 1979||End of season|
- Cherry, D. B. (1979). The League: At Last. D.B.C. Enterprises.
- Wigan Athletic Football League players - A to Z[permanent dead link]
- Wigan Athletic Results 1978 - 1979
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 27.
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 28.
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 26.
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 30.
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 31.
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 133.
- "Wigan break duck". The Times. London, England. 14 September 1978. p. 8. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
- Cherry. The League: At Last. p. 68.
- "Wigan Athletic Results 1978 - 1979". Cockney Latic. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Roberts, John. "It can't be said Wigan was agog . . . one woman was reading a Bagley novel". Sporting Intelligence. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- "The English National Football Archive". Soccerdata. Retrieved 20 February 2013.