The following is an extract of AGL’s interview with Latics legend Ian Kilford, first published in Issue 09 of the All Gone Latics fanzine.
How did your move to Wigan come about?
I started my career at [Nottingham] Forest under Brian Clough and things were going well (but I’m sure everyone knows what happened to Brian Clough [resigned as manager]), then it was a case of a new manager coming in, signing a load of new players and I found myself way down the pecking order.
I came on loan to Wigan on an initial month loan soon after via Kenny Swain [Wigan manager at the time] who was obviously an ex-Forest player so he had contacts within the club. I did okay at Wigan, I enjoyed it – then in the summer, the contract I was promised at Forest didn’t materialise because of the change of manager.
Before the new manager came in it was set up for me to sign a three year contract but the new boss wasn’t prepared to give out that length of a contract and I felt a bit let down really.
I enjoyed my time on loan at Wigan that much I decided I wanted to move over that summer.
So when you were on loan at Wigan, did you have any intention of signing for Wigan in the following summer or were you solely focused on getting into the Nottingham Forest side?
I think with every young player who goes out on loan, you go out for experience and at that time I was only young – I made my debut for Forest when I was only 17 so it was a bit frustrating [to not now be playing for Forest].
When I went to Wigan I made quite a big impression. It’s alright playing reserve team football, but you can’t beat playing on Saturday afternoon’s.
It was a good club to go to at the time with Wigan being in the middle of the North West’s footballing hotbed. It meant that if I was to do well, there was always the possibility of me moving on to a bigger club seeing as at the time Wigan were a third division club [League Two].
The wheels fell off in January during the 1999-2000 season. Why do you think that was the case?
Football’s funny that way and I think that’s why so many people watch it. I look back now and there was a couple of pre-season’s where we went through them winning games but then as soon as the season kicked off we struggled.
One pre-season I remember we scored one goal and didn’t win a single game, so we were all saying we weren’t going to do well – but we won promotion that season along with Fulham.
That season [1999-2000] it happened the other way, we struggled in pre-season but we kicked off against Scunthorpe at the new stadium and won 3-0 [AGL insists on telling Killer that we were classed as the away side that day, even though he obviously knows because he played in the f*cking game].
How did Paul Jewell compare with the other managers you played under?
It was a funny one with Paul Jewell because he was the manager who actually released me [AGL now regrets asking this risky question]. Working under the amount of managers I did at Wigan: Kenny Swain, Graham Barrow, John Deehan, John Benson, Bruce Rioch, Steve Bruce, Ray Mathias [AGL: even Colin Greenall!]. All these managers coming in, I was always having to prove myself.
I remember one end of season we went abroad and Paul Jewell was manager of Bradford at the time. He spoke to me while I was on holiday and asked if I fancied moving to Bradford (those types of things happen in football), saying that he already knew a lot about me as a player, etc.
Whether they did put a bid in I don’t know, but there was a few bids placed for me that year.
But regardless, he was a manager who obviously liked me. So when he got the Wigan job I thought, ahh great, finally a manager who already knows a bit about me.
Bruce Rioch when he came in, I know he wasn’t one of the most favoured managers we’ve had shall we say, but he was one of the best managers I’ve had because he’d work a lot with the midfielders in training – not just focusing on defence and attack like some other managers.
Bruce came with a big reputation, he brought Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal and was working with the likes of Ian Wright and that so I thought well my time at the club’s over now with the type of player he’s going to want to bring in. But to be fair to him there wasn’t a huge overhaul of players, he decided to work with the squad we already had and I learnt a lot while he was manager.
Going back to Paul Jewell, he tried to sign me a few years before he joined Wigan as manager but when he did join the club I ended up with my contract running out and there was no chance for it to be renewed so that was disappointing.
As a manager he went on to do great stuff for the club and as a replacement for me he signed Jimmy Bullard and looking back at it now I can’t argue with that because I was getting on in my career and Jimmy went on to have a great time with Wigan.
When the fixtures came out in pre-season, which matches would you look out for first?
Well being from Bristol the first time we played Bristol City away all my family and friends were down there and I remember we went in 3-0 down at half time [final result 3-0]. It was horrible for me. Looking back we never had good results away at Bristol City or Bristol Rovers – I remember getting done 5-0 at Rovers and 3-0 at City and it was a time of the year that I was supposed to look forward to with all my family coming down to watch. They probably used to think ‘Wigan, they’re rubbish, what you doing there?!’
Other than those games it was Preston, Burnley and other local derbies. Of course if you manage to go on a cup run that’s great too – I remember playing Villa a couple of times.
Then there’s a few in the FA Cup I don’t want to remember like going out to Altrincham and Canvey Island, but upsets like that are why so many are gripped by football because those sorts of things can and do happen.