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It happened. It finally happened. The day we’d all been waiting for. After over four years of statements, financial mismanagement, relegations, “lifting his dog”, banning orders, farcical fan forums, and stand closures, the Lemsagam era is finally, mercifully over. And I for one welcome our new flat-capped overlord.

The #oafc timeline on Twitter has been in meltdown for weeks, so I’m surprised the site didn’t crash when Mike Keegan and Suzanne Geldard both tweeted on Wednesday that there would be a press conference at Boundary Park at 5pm on Thursday. Champagne was bought, work schedules were hastily rearranged. We were in the Joe Royle stand car park with a carrier bag full of drink when the much-anticipated club statement was released, confirming the sale of the club was complete, the sale of Boundary Park should hopefully be completed next week, and our new chairman is, as was rumoured, Manchester Cabins owner Frank Rothwell. Hallelujah!

The press conference began shortly afterwards, with Darren Royle confirming that the Rothwell family have completed the purchase of the club. The new board will consist of Frank Rothwell and his son and daughter, Darren and Joe Royle (yiirrss), former Pepsi CEO Kevin Roberts and former FA lawyer Peter Norbury. Bit of an upgrade on Mo, Barry and the bloke Tony Bellew called ‘Will from The Inbetweeners’. Darren thanked the various fan groups – Push The Boundary, the Supporters’ Foundation, Stadium Park 32, and OASIS, who “were there first” – and praised the Athleticos as “an inspiration”. He also thanked the FLG, and said that the Oldham Event Centre and Glo Gym will be integrated and consolidated into the new club structure.

Mike Keegan asked the first question, asking Frank Rothwell why he decided to buy the club. Frank pretty much ignored the question and read from his script, which he began, bizarrely, with “I apologise in advance if I’m not politically correct”. I feared he was about to go on some bigoted rant, but thankfully he instead reeled off his credentials and achievements. A few minutes into this we all started singing outside, and he asked “they’re asking me to wave?”. Yes, Frankie, yes we are. He clearly loves Oldham and is full of civic pride. For the first game v Dorking – “who knows where Dorking is?” – he’s planning to have a brass band and a dancing troupe. Oh yes. He told us that he and his wife used to have a corporate season ticket for Man City, where they were “treated like shit”. The presser then descended into beautiful chaos as he interrupted it to go to the window to wave at the crowd outside, and we opened the fizz. Setting off flares, singing and cracking open the champagne……for a press conference. Imagine the scenes if the team were actually good.

When some vague sense of order was restored, Suzanne Geldard asked Frank what his vision for the club was. He said our level should be challenging for the Championship, and “let’s get the people of Oldham proud of their football team….make them feel that they own the club”. He wants to make Boundary Park more welcoming to women, declaring “I’ve got a passion about ladies’ toilets”. Wow. Bit weird, but also kind of music to my ears. He wants to broaden the ownership once the club is on a more even keel, so hopefully increased fan ownership will be an option in the future. He said that until a couple of months ago, he didn’t think he could make a difference for the club, but that changed when he went to the Leyton Orient game and was impressed by the Athleticos. You know, the kids Barry wanted to ban. He said that Darren Royle approached him in his role as ambassador for business in Oldham to ask if he would be interested in putting together a consortium, but he felt that would take too long and spoke to his family about them buying the club. He also said that he wants the fans to keep backing Shez – “Please give John all your support all the time”, which Shez responded to with “they always have”. Gulp. No I’m fine, just got the smoke from the flare in my eyes.

The presser concluded with Frank continuing to praise the Athleticos, and challenging them to come up with a new song. He wants the ground full for the first game, and wants it to be an occasion, with a brass band and dancers. Then, still wearing his flat cap, he got stuck into his pint of bitter. All that was missing was a whippet and an old woman in a shawl and clogs.

Afterwards, he came out to address the party in the car park, much to our delight. He again asked “does anyone know where Dorking is?”. He clearly wants us to be the Billy Big Bollocks horrible bastards of the National League, and I’m all for it. Then he started singing The Wanderer, because of course he did. He is CRAZY. This is going to be a lot of fun.

So here we are in a Rothwell wonderland. We told you we could do it. We told you someone would want to buy the club. Everyone who refused to accept the terminal decline under the previous regime – Push The Boundary, OASF, everyone who attended a protest, everyone who threw a tennis ball, everyone who donated to the 1895 fund, everyone who was proud to be rebel scum – YOU made this happen. You helped pull the club back from the brink. The past was theirs, the future is ours. We’ve been promised brass bands. We’ve been promised dancing girls. We’ve even been promised decent toilets. Welcome aboard, Frank. It’s going to be quite the ride.

Written by Arlene Finnigan. Photos © Oldham Athletic.

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