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Be Careful Who You Choose! by Alan Shaw

I blame my dad, he took me to my first football match, at Maine Road, sometime in 1961, I think. It was a night game, against West Brom. I can't remember the score, but I do remember sitting on wooden boards behind the goal that had the legendary Bert Trautmann in it. But, Man City weren't to be my team.

Some time ago there was an advert on T.V. about a man taking his son to his first game. The strap line was," Be careful who you choose to support, because they're yours forever". Although I had the pleasure of seeing Charlton, Best, Law, Herd and Crerand, et al at Old Trafford, I was never lured by the Red and Sky Blue commercial enterprises down the road.

My dad would come home from work some evenings and say "Do you fancy going to Bury/ Burnley/Huddersfield they're playing so and so?" and we also went to see Blackpool against Spurs once. It was near the end of Stanley Matthews time, but unfortunately he didn't play. I did see Jimmy Greaves score a cracker though!

But despite all this, it was Latics for me...what had I let myself in for?!

I don't remember my first Latics game, but I'm sure it was 1962/63 quite near the start of the season. My dad was a big fan of Oldham football and rugby league and was at Boundary Park and Watersheddings pretty regularly. In my early years he tried to get me to go to football with him, but I was happier going " up town " with my mum on Saturday afternoons. But somewhere around 11 years old, a light went on and I decided to go with him and stood in the Chaddy End, along with some of his mates, watching the likes of, Johnny Bollands, Ken Branagan, Bob Ledger (who played in every position, including goal, at some time!), Johnny Colquhoun, Bert Lister, Alan Williams, Bobby Johnstone (who it was rumoured, they had to get out of the Rifle Range in time for kick off) and of course Jimmy Frizzell, a not so cultured wing half, who signed from Greenock Morton and who would have a tremendous role to play later, as the manager that would turn the fortunes of the Latics around.

The 1962/63 season was a microcosm of the next 40 years of supporting Latics. By 6th October we were unbeaten and top of the league. Exeter who were 3rd bottom and had not yet won an away game, were next up at Boundary Park. Naturally, they went away with a 2-1 win and established Latics charitable habit of giving teams on a losing run their first win for months.

In what was to be a terrible winter, Latics managed to play all their home games on a snow covered pitch, with an orange ball, blue lines and built up quite a gap at the top of the table, although other teams had games in hand. On Boxing Day 1962, a storming blizzard is blew in and that morning my dad asked if I wanted to go to the Latics vs Southport. I looked out of the window and decided to stay warm at home and play with my Christmas presents. A logical decision at the time, but I'm not sure I have a bigger regret as Latics beat Southport 11-0, in front of a crowd of 14600! Six goals for Lister, three for flying winger Colin Whittaker and one each for Colquhoun and Ledger. Oh well, you win some, you lose some! Oldham went on to get promoted to the third division that year, finishing in second place, after Brentford and scoring 95 goals.

That was followed by six seasons in Division Three, the Ken Bates era and the change to the Tangerine & Blue home kit. Bates came in December 1965, with the whiff of money, and the hope that something might happen. He appointed Jimmy McIlroy an ex Burnley & Northern Ireland star as player manager and put admission prices up, but supplied a free matchday magazine for your money, the first incarnation of the ""Boundary Bulletin" He proceeded to buy a number of quite good, if not really brilliant players but McIlroy went to Stoke in 1970, and Bates lost interest, money, or both, left the club and relegation back to Division Four followed.

Jimmy Frizzell was appointed manager, we had two seasons in Division Four, before promotion and three seasons Division Three. There were many memorable players during this time, but in particular the goal scoring machines of David Shaw & Jimmy Fryatt. This was the time when the Ford Sporting League was announced and points were given for goals scored and deducted for bookings & sendings off. The mistake they made was that it was cumulative, not a fresh start each month and Latics walked it, taking £70000 off them to build the old Broadway stand. Ford never ran the competition again.

Then of course Big Joe arrived... on the back of a lorry (really!) and after a bit of a stutter, it all took off. Royle had some good luck, but did so well to get together that amazing group of players, who I believe, eventually thought themselves to be unbeatable. by 1989/90 there were some truly great games; battering the big boys like Arsenal and Aston Villa, who just didn't fancy the plastic pitch at a packed Boundary Park on a cold Tuesday night! Who could forget the Valentine's Day massacre of West Ham? A 6-0 thrashing in the semi final first leg of the League cup. There were the epic F.A Cup semi finals against Man Utd at Maine Road (and yes we were robbed of that Nick Henry 'goal' in the replay). Incidentally during the Littlewoods Cup run and the first F.A cup run, the season ticket was just a single plastic credit card type card. Every time you bought a cup ticket, they punched a hole in the card. By the time we got to the Final and Semi, there was only a half inch square of card left. They started using ticket books after that!

So, over 60 years as a football fan, I've seen the lowest of performances like getting beaten at home in an F.A Cup replay against South Shields or being devastated by losing the two-legged play off tie against Leeds. Just seconds after Athletic scored what would have been the winner and with Latics players still celebrating, Keith Edwards scored the away goal that gave Leeds the tie. But, I've been elated many times too, like in 2014, when we were losing 3-1 at half time to Peterborough, then 4-1, BUT! We clawed it back with Kusunga scoring the winner in extra time. So many great moments to remember, great events that I didn't think I would see, and probably won't see again; Latics at Wembley and in the Premier League and England winning the World Cup.

I don't have the same feelings for the club these days, the same as many others I guess and I don't go to that many games either. I don't know why, I've seen plenty of rubbish there before, I just put it down to getting older...

BUT, what I will say to those who didn't see the glory years is simply this...


Thank you to Alan for submitting this week's fan post!

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Edited by Matt Dean

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