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I look to the future, it makes me cry

There we are, then. 115 years in the Football League. It took the Bollock Brothers 4 years to flush that down the toilet. With two games to spare, it’s been confirmed that our big local derby next season will be against Altrincham. Still think you’re doing a good job, lads? While it was almost a relief for the inevitable to finally come to pass, after the worst season in any Latics fan’s memory, probably in our history, the manner in which it happened was typically surreal and farcical. I expected us to lose. I didn’t think Barrow and Stevenage would both win, but they’ve both been on a decent run so it wasn’t a total shock. I expected that when relegation finally happened, I’d be devastated. I was worried I might get caught on TV crying. I did not expect to be in the OEC, watching the match on TV at 6.30pm, an hour after we’d been told the match had been abandoned, looking at the boarded-up fire exits and windows, laughing in disbelief and asking, “SERIOUSLY?!?!”. Apparently the EFL insisted that we quietly played out the remaining 11 minutes of the game in an empty ground “in order to maintain the integrity of the competition”. Lol. Maybe I should have anticipated all that. Viva the banter years. The club’s response has been embarrassing, once again. After the most basic of tweets immediately after the game stating that “Results this afternoon now mean we will be in the National League from next season”, it took until Monday for the club to issue a statement. To the surprise of no-one, there was no apology to supporters for what the Board of Directors acknowledged was “a total failure”, although they did nobly accept that “the buck stops with the Board”. They stated that they were looking to agree a new contract with John Sheridan. “With backing and preparation, we think he will get this club promoted back to the EFL, which is where it belongs.” With backing he probably could have kept us in the EFL, but instead he had to work with a paper-thin squad of Mo’s signings and could only sign a couple of players under the embargo. We took you at face value when you said you’d do everything you could to avoid relegation, and urged us to put the protests on hold and get behind the team. We can’t help feeling now that it was empty words and nothing more than a ploy to get people back through the gate spending money. On Thursday, the club confirmed that John Sheridan had signed a new contract to summer 2023. He told the press “It gives me an opportunity if I can bring players in of my own choice and make us stronger and get a team strong enough to get straight back up”. I sincerely hope he is allowed to do that, and I hope that by the time you read this, the club has announced that Mo has left his role as director of football. I kind of hoped that Shez would tell them to stick their contract up their arse and sail off into the sunset to enjoy his retirement. He deserves better than this shitshow. We all do. It says far more about him than about the Board that he wants to stay and put things right, and I desperately hope he gets to do that under a new regime. Having begged us all to buy season tickets, the following day saw another statement, because the Board just can’t help alienating the fans even at the same time as pleading for their support. They’re carrying out an investigation (another one? Barry must be knackered) into the peaceful protest that caused the game v Salford to be abandoned, and “efforts are being made to identify those who encroached onto the pitch which is a serious criminal offence”. Is running on the pitch a criminal offence? Yes. Is it a serious criminal offence? Are the Crown Prosecution Service going to look to send people to Strangeways for it? Give over. And guess what, lads? It was a criminal offence all the times that it was ‘limbs!’ and ‘scenes!’.

I’m not going to lie, I was delighted when the pitch invasion happened. I’d have been far, far more upset if we’d reacted to relegation with despair and helplessness. Maybe they should have waited til the end of the game, not that it would have made any difference to the outcome. But then maybe the media wouldn’t have been as interested. Good on you, kids. Direct action works, it’s the only thing that gets press attention, and now isn’t the time for hand-wringing and politeness. Predictably, Simon Jordan thought they were ‘crossing the line’. As a club owner who views supporters as a bit of an inconvenience, and a friend of Adam Moralee, he probably thinks anything beyond the occasional post on social media saying “I’m not terribly happy that we’re heading out of the league but never mind, up the Blues”, while meekly continuing to give the owner money, is crossing the line. Going too far would have been storming the main entrance, smashing up Mo’s office, and occupying the boardroom until evidence that a sale was going through could be produced. Which is why, after much deliberation (and failing to persuade anyone to join me), I decided against it. The one person we all felt sorry for during the pitch protest was Shez, who, true to form, was in the middle of it, pleading with the fans to allow the game to be restarted, telling them, “I know you’re disappointed, listen to me, listen to me….there’s one last hope, there’s 12, 15 minutes left….”. Meanwhile the Board that fans were protesting against weren’t there. Shez fronts up, doesn’t lose his rag with fans, doesn’t berate them, tells them he understands how they feel, because he gets it, just wants to have one last go while there’s a tiny particle of hope. The Board don’t show their face at the mess they’ve created, wait two days to put out a statement, then start sabre-rattling, saying they’re going to track down those responsible for the ‘serious criminal offence’ of peacefully protesting against their neglect and failure. The contrast in their characters is painful. Seriously, Shez, if they don’t let you sign the players and pick the team you want, tell them to stick their job up their arse. Incidentally, while encroaching on the pitch is a criminal offence, breaching a club-enforced ban isn’t. So if the club has sent you something saying that you’re banned from Boundary Park, and if you attempt to enter the ground you will be “liable for a criminal conviction”, contact Faircop. It's not just on the pitch where the decline is obvious, the state of Boundary Park shows how the club has been neglected for years. The Ernieflag Twitter account detailed what a shit experience going to Ice Station Zebra is – having to clamber up an unpaved hill to get to the RRE and Main Stand from the car park, inadequate toilet facilities, closed refreshment kiosks, broken seats. After using the flooded non-flushing women’s toilets in the Rocky I tweeted “Guess we’d best get used to flooded non-functioning toilets where we’re headed eh”, but that’s unfair to non-league clubs. In recent years I’ve visited Mossley, Glossop NE, Droylsden and my hometown club Prescot Cables, and all of them have facilities that put ours to shame. The last time I went to Cables, they had a basket of toiletries and sanitary products and fragrance reed diffusers in the toilets. At Boundary Park, you’re lucky to get running water and soap. Snort at the phrase ‘matchday experience’ and hark back to the good old days of pissing on the terraces all you want, our club is rotten to the core and I’m fucking sick of it. The gloves HAVE to come off now. Give the Board hell, keep the pressure on the Lemsagams to keep to their word and find a buyer, and let’s get our club back. Donate to the 1895 Fund if you can, because money talks. The eyes of the national media will be on the Crawley game, so let’s send them a loud and clear message. Safe journey if you’re going to Tranmere, don’t let their fans or Merseyside Police wind you up, and remember, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train.  

Written by Arlene Finnigan


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