MILLIONAIRE Dave Whelan has hailed Bolton Lads and Girls Club for providing the perfect blueprint for a similar facility in his home town of Wigan.

The 77-year-old owner of the DW Fitness Gyms and Wigan Athletic was one of three businessmen who ploughed £5 million into a new club in the heart of Wigan in 2012.

But Mr Whelan — special guest at the University of Bolton’s Business School — told broadcaster Gordon Burns the new club in his native town would not be what it is now without the example set by the club in Spa Road.

In front of a lecture theatre packed with local business leaders, he said: “We came to look at what had been done at Bolton and it was fantastic.

“The only advantage the one we have in Wigan has is that it has more land for playing fields than Bolton. Our local authority gave us four acres to play with.

“The Wigan club is now starting to have football and boxing matches against their Bolton counterparts. It’s great for the youngsters in Bolton, and I am amazed at how well their club is run.

“All we can do is to try to match it.

“Bolton is one of our great partners. Whatever we can do together can only be a good thing.”

Mr Whelan said his interest in the boys’ club ethos stemmed from when he was nine years old. He was caught stealing vegetables from a farmer’s field at a time that food was still rationed following World War Two.

He added: “A policeman came round to talk to my dad and, when I admitted it, he marched me round to Wigan Boys Club.

“It was the best thing he could’ve done. I learned to play in the brass band on the big Eb bass and the euphonium.

“It was a fantastic environment for a young boy, but eventually the club closed down.

“I am delighted that three of us have managed to put money into a new club.

“But it is purely down to me going to look at that Bolton club.”