Dave Whelan is the Nigel Farage of English football: a man living firmly in the past.
In Whelan’s world, it is “nothing” to call the Chinese “ch**ks”; Jewish people “do chase money more than anybody else” and his local MP doesn’t understand football “because she’s not a Wigan lass”.
Both the Wigan chairman and the Ukip leader are plain speakers who give spin doctors short thrift.. The difference is that Farage scrupulously avoids anything that could be construed as racist whereas Whelan appears to have no such qualms.
He appointed Malky Mackay as Wigan manager even though the Football Association is still investigating racist, sexist and homophobic texts he exchanged with his former Cardiff City colleague Iain Moody.
To everyone in football, Mackay was an untouchable. Everyone except Whelan.
When the texts became public knowledge, Mackay was the front-runner for the manager’s job at Crystal Palace. As a result, club chairman Steve Parish took the conversations no further.
Iain Moody was Palace’s sporting director at the time. Parish was staggered by those texts; he liked, Moody, didn’t believe he was racist and couldn’t understand how he’d got involved. Nevertheless, he knew immediately it was impossible for Moody to stay in his job and the sporting director resigned within hours of the texts being made public.
Football often appears to be an amoral sport yet few imagined Malkay would be back in front-line football a mere three months later.
Far from keeping his head down, Whelan inflamed the controversy with his ill-judged (and that’s being charitable) remarks to a Guardian reporter. It’s typical of Whelan, and one of his endearing qualities, that he didn’t try to hide – instead he tried to qualify the remarks in an interview with the BBC. He told them he doesn’t think it’s offensive for a Chinese person to be called a “ch**k” because he doesn’t mind being called a limey.
As damage limitation operations go, it left a bit to be desired.
Dave Whelan has always done things his own way. He has been a fantastic, bloody-minded football club chairman, taking Wigan to the improbable heights of the Premier League and an FA Cup victory.
He is his own man but he needs good advisors around him. Sometimes he needs to be saved from himself. Shooting from the lip is not always the best solution. Nor is appointing a manager with a tarnished reputation who is yet to rehabilitate himself.
Mind you, good luck to anyone trying to restrain a man with lifetime of straight-talking behind him.