Former skipper De Zeeuw reflects on Dave Whelan 20-year tenure as Latics Chairman.
- Arjan De Zeeuw on Dave Whelan's 20 years as Chairman.
- "He's a tough businessman, but on a personal note he's different class." - De Zeeuw.
- De Zeeuw looks back on signing for Latics the first time and visiting the Chairman's local.
That, amongst many other reasons, is why De Zeeuw says he respects his former Chairman so much. Now working back in his native Netherlands, De Zeeuw took time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts on the news of Whelan’s resignation.
“It came as a bit of a surprise to me to be honest, but I think it’s probably a good time for him to hand it over to his grandson who is full of energy and enthusiasm.
“Mr Whelan has done everything he can do for the club and probably even more than he should have, because he loves the club.
“If anybody deserves some time for themselves it’s Dave Whelan. He’s worked so hard over the last 20 years to achieve what he has achieved for the club; he and the club have surpassed everyone’s expectations.”
De Zeeuw describes Whelan as ‘a tough businessman’ but says he holds ultimate respect for that very reason.
“He is a top businessman, on that side he could be as tough as anything, but he is a good person and he was always a very good friend to me.
“John Benson was the manager at the time I joined the club and he introduced me to the Chairman. He said ‘this is our Chairman, he’s a very good guy but don’t over play your hand with him’, and that’s why I got on with Mr Whelan so well, because he was straight to the point with everything.
“We sat down, he told me what he wanted from me, what he expected of me and what he was willing to give me to join the club. That was more or less it, he left me to sign my deal with John Benson and that was it, he was so clear in what he wanted that he made it the easiest decision of my career.
“After I signed the deal he came back into the room and said ‘I’m very happy with this deal, let’s go for a pint’, so we got into his car and went to his favourite local, had a couple of pints and straight away that relationship gave me a good feeling about moving to Wigan.
“Being at Wigan was one of the best times in my footballing career, one of the most enjoyable times for sure.”
Recalling another meeting with Whelan, De Zeeuw continued:
“Once I tried to negotiate bonuses for the players because we were playing at a different level at that stage.
“I went into his office, as captain of the team, thinking I’ll have a good chat with Mr Whelan, explain the situation and it’ll be fine, but he said ‘no, not happy with that, that’s final’. He was very straight to the point and tough, but that’s why I respect him so much because he sticks by his decisions in that way.
“On a business level he is tough, but on a personal note he is different class.
“When my father was terminally ill and we were going to Wembley for the play-offs he flew my family over in a private jet to make sure they were at the game, he didn’t want them to miss that moment in my life.
“Mr Whelan is what I like to call a proper person, he is driven and focussed on what he wants to achieve, but he also shows a lot of compassion and to me that’s all I could have asked for during my time at the club.”