Recently I began thinking about which was my favourite Latics trip and there was a clear winner. In my 25+ years (thinking about it, it's more like 30) watching Latics there was only one choice. It was not one of the trips to Wembley or the end of season trips to Torquay or Bournemouth. Nor was it Wrexham away in the FA Cup in the early 70's even though we lost 4-0. I still remember that game/trip like it was yesterday probably because it was my first away trip with Latics. Neither was it one of the many London trips over the years. No the one trip that I really enjoyed and is still my fave is the Pre-Season jaunt to the Isle of Man in July 1992.
Initially I had planned to go alone as I only wanted to go for the weekend and most that were making the trip were going for the week. But after airing my plans to the lads one Sunday lunchtime several more decided to go and come the day around 30 of us made the trip. The ferry tickets were booked and around 7.30pm on Friday 24th July 1992 the weekend began. Two minibuses were sorted to take us to Heysham for the night sailing to Douglas. After a night's drinking in 'The Springfield' we were on our way and it didn't take long for the fun to start. By the time we reached Heysham Beanie was well out of it. Apparently he drank a whole bottle of Ouzo during the 45-minute trip up the M6, and proceeded to fall headlong out of the van on arrival. He was in such a state that the Captain of the ship refused to sail with him on board. He wasn't so concerned with what happened to Beanie he just didn't want it to happen on his ship as he'd be well for it. However after much serious debating in which the captain and ferry staff were told no one else was missing the trip and Beanie would be left in their hands they decided to let him on board. They did insist that he had to stay on deck with one of us keeping an eye on him.
Needless to say he slept like a baby outside on deck for the whole journey and believe me it was freezing as I found out when it was my turn to sit with him. Onboard that night were around 20 Huddersfield guys going across for the tournament as well. There was no trouble and Wigan and Huddersfield got on well not only that night but for the whole weekend. Several people thought it would be a great laugh to shave Beanie's eyebrows with one of the Huddersfield guys carrying out the deed as we all waited for him to wake from his drunken stupor. The trip across went quietly and on arrival in Douglas early morning was woken. Imagine how you'd feel. But all was not well and the lad was in serious pain. So a couple of lads took him to hospital with the help of a luggage trolley while the rest of us had the craic with Norman Wisdom who was waiting for someone getting off the ferry. At the hospital it was discovered he had a broken leg (ouch). The fool had broken it falling out of the van at Heysham and was so out of it he didn't know or feel anything until waking 8/9 hours later. He had a broken leg, horrendous hangover and no eyebrows. I'm glad it wasn't me. As he was meant to be staying the week he was booked on the trip home on the Monday with the weekend boys under the name of Mr Bean. Very appropriate I thought. We all booked into our hotels, as the owners were genuinely glad of the custom. I booked into one room with Little Jimmy and Keef. We had a room on the seafront overlooking Douglas Bay. Very nice! We arranged to meet at 12 noon in Bushy's and even though it was now around 9am everybody turned up. There were no games today so it was an all-day session ahead. We agreed to meet later for the night out and went different ways with me and Jimmy opting for a walk with Taylor to a pub he recommended at the opposite end of the bay. After about an hour's walk we arrived to find 2/3 people having a quiet drink. Top pub John! Anyway we stayed as it had by now started pissing down which resulted in us getting a tram back to meet the rest of the lads in the main area, grabbed some tea, a wash and a brush up and out again for the night. We again had a drink with Huddersfield who told us some Stoke had arrived in the afternoon and for some reason were panicking about it. Stoke seemed to have the Indian sign over Huddersfield and we couldn't understand it. A brilliant night was enjoyed by us with a good number ending up in some Rave Club where we were the only people drinking. Meanwhile the DJ kept referring to us as the "Wigan Posse in the House". Several were on the dancefloor but the rest not being ravers were on a balcony above the DJ. At this point young Fatboy Slim decides to piss from a great height onto the DJ. What a sight! Anyway I don't think any of these ravers (mostly kids anyway) fancied their chances with us, and nothing came of it. After leaving the club we talked a taxi driver into taking 8 of us back to the hotel in his taxi. He wasn't keen but we were very persuasive and 5 minutes later we were outside our hotel ready to turn in.
I awoke Sunday morning to a faint sound in my ears. Looking at the time it was around 6.30am and boy this bloody faint noise was annoying me. I thought that the room intercom had been left on but as I turned over there were Little Jimmy's legs dangling over the bunk (he was in the top bunk, me in the bottom) listening to his personal stereo. Keef was in the big double bed snoring his head off as usual. After showering and breakfast we swapped stories and back to the pub for Sunday lunchtime. Our game was an evening kick-off at 7.30pm against the Isle of Man team. The game was in Castletown and coaches were laid on to take the supporters from Douglas to the game. We again met Huddersfield who were playing Dutch team S.C. Cambur in the afternoon. After finding out that Sunday hours were a ridiculous 12.30pm - 2.00pm and 7.30pm - 10.00pm we were deflated as our evening game would take up most of the drinking time. We were delighted to hear that the hotel where Robbie and Dean were staying was prepared to serve as long as we wanted so that was sorted. As we had our afternoon drink, us in one corner and Huddersfield in the other laughing and joking about the previous night in walked Stoke, swaggering over to Huddersfield and then over to us. "Hi we're Stoke, you Wigan" to which we replied "Yeah so why don't you fuck off". We had seen Huddersfield all weekend and they were sound but these pricks really thought they were the Bees Knees. Anyway off they went and we never saw them again. When the bar shut we decided to go to the game with Huddersfield and spent the afternoon at the Douglas Bowl. Hudders won 1-0 and spent the whole game singing "You're just a bunch of poseurs" at us as the difference in dress was quite noticeable. Wigan in designer gear etc with Huddersfield in team shirts - you get the picture. Once again Wigan were showing others the way to dress. We went back to the hotel after the game and got ready for our match.
The coach dropped us at the ground in Castletown. This I remember was not as good as the Douglas Bowl earlier and consisted of a seated stand on one side and three, open un-terraced sides surrounded by open countryside. As it was so open it was too much of a temptation and not many of our lot paid to get on. Latics won the game 3-1 in front of a crowd consisting of lots of Wigan. By the time we got back to Douglas it was around 9.30pm and we managed to get a pint before last orders before we were back to Robbie's hotel. The girls were taken aback when 30 thirsty Wiganers virtually drank the bar dry. It was around 11.30pm when someone mentioned that the club around the corner was open so off we went to check it out. I knocked on the door and this little window opened and informed us that "yes it was open" and unbelievably served until 4am! Jackpot! In we went and had a great night. Hudderfield players, Latics players and fans all having a great laugh. And even after that back again to Robbie's hotel where we chilled before walking back along the prom to our hotel where the landlord couldn't believe we were just coming in. After packing and breakfast it was off to the boat for the trip home. More ale was ordered but guess what - the same pint was still on the table when we docked in Liverpool. I for one couldn't touch another pint after a mega weekend.
A couple of other memories from the weekend were Cainy 200 feet up on the roof of the hotel waving a Wigan Athletic flag and finding Keith Harrison under his bedcovers smoking a cig in a cloud of smoke. Loonies or what? Jimmy Meadows also spent the night sleeping in the bottom of the shower but that's nothing new.