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Talking away

Words by Will Holdaway


Oldham Athletic Supporters in the South (OASIS) is the club’s oldest and most dedicated fan group, and the one the club values above all others, which is as it should be. Founded in 1986, the group in the early years would send out a newsletter saying which train everyone was getting to the next game so that people could travel together. They sponsored a match ball and the young lads got dibs on mascot spots without having to go through the desperately uncool route of Junior Latics membership. Things have evolved since then. None of those pioneer Founding Fathers in 1986, with their mailing list, could have foreseen that we’d one day become an end-to-end encrypted digital entity.

 

The happy news is that we are having our best season south of the Watford Gap since time began. Last week’s borefest routine victory over Dorking meant that we took the lead in the only league that matters to OASIS: the Tour of Southern Community Leisure Centres. We have never before been in front in this league. Those of us who travel a few stops on the tube to be told that we’ve “made a great effort to come all this way” are having the season of our lives.

OASIS: a bunch of cosseted southern softies
OASIS: the game had already started when this pic was taken

The Bromley problem

 

Of all the teams in the National League, Bromley are the ones who keep me awake at night. The problem is they’re very good at football. We’ll probably have to beat them if we’re going up, and we have not beaten them in three attempts so far. The point we took off them at Boundary Park last season has the stain of dead rubber on it, and at their place they’ve tonked us 3-0…twice. You can tell me that they were Unsworth’s first and last games all you like, but Bromley are an exceptionally good football team and put us away without breaking sweat. We did not play a single minute at their place when you thought we could do any damage.

 

It's not as if their strategy for winning games is a mystery. Everyone knows how they play. They play with five players in the part of the pitch (front, middle, back) where the ball is. There’s always a minimum in midfield and defence – two or three depending on the match circumstances. These numbers include the keeper.

 

They’ve been playing this way for years, so why can’t they be stopped? The fitness of the players and their commitment to the plan is why. They’re way fitter than us and probably everyone else in the league. It’s not our biggest game in the second half of the season when they come to Boundary Park in February, but it will be our biggest test: we have to show them we can beat them before the play-offs.

 

Marc up

 

The love affair with Marc White continues. He’s the man right? Owns and manages his own football club. Brought them from the municipal park to a ground and a hell of a lot of respect in the game. I’ve seen right through Marc White and I still love him.

 

Back in the day, right after the Rothwell takeover and right before our first game in the National League, Frank said something along the lines of not knowing where Dorking was. Our first game was against Dorking. A lot of managers (who are not also owners of their football club) would have taken umbrage, but your man White saw the bigger picture. He’s one of the few people to go to Oldham and see the pound signs.

 

So there he is on the opening day, being lovely to everyone, including Frank, making friends all over the shop. Dorking lost that game but dominated it for long periods, showing the fitness, commitment and organisation that characterises this league (rather than quick feet or a powerful shot or pace). Everyone warmed to them for not ruining our day.

 

Manager Marc White must’ve been seething that they didn’t get at least a point. Owner Marc White must’ve been cock-a-hoop.

Marc White's real hat

Somehow we managed to take 800 to Dorking last season and about the same this season. Let’s say that’s an average of £16 entry apiece, so £26,000 for two games. Then everyone spends a few quid on food and beer in the Fan Zone, which is a bit like a stadium concourse and also a bit like a beer garden. Last season, he put his £500 behind the bar in a couple of local pubs. That might be because the weather forecast said rain. So he’s thrown a favour the way of those pubs and still provided beer in the ground. I’m going to say the 800 there last year spent an average of £6 in the ground. So that’s £26,000 plus about £5,000.

 

This season, Marc White put the £500 behind his own bar at the ground. It’s his own beer so he’s paid probably £200 for it. The Fan Zone was rammo by 1.30pm, just half an hour after opening. By the time I got there at about 20 past, the free beer was all gone. The bar was busy busy busy, so I reckon we were spending at least £10 per person.

 

I reckon owner Marc White made about £50,000 out of hosting us twice. Of course, you have to subtract unknown costs (the bar was very well staffed for both games). That’s still an absolute fortune.

 

This is not to say that Marc White has exploited anyone – he absolutely has not. The man’s business acumen is a thing of great beauty. We’ve taken the mickey out of Aldershot and Bromley and Ebbsfleet for their countable away followings, but Marc White has got me thinking an unkind thought about Oldham Athletic Football Club. Could we do anything more to entice more people to Boundary Park? It’s all very well having Frank’s bank card, but our commercial lads and lassies can do worse than Marc White for a role model in getting the tills ringing to ensure a viable long-term future. At some point this season, I’m gonna do a secret shopper and go to BP as an away fan to see what it’s like. Watch this space.

 

Vase

 

I couldn’t give a monkeys about the vase, but it’s important to me today for one reason: it will be Arlene’s first time back at Boundary Park since October, when she started caring for her mother at weekends. As many of you know, her mother died on 30 December. I hope she has a good time. If there’s ever a time to have red wine behind the bar in the RRE…this is it.

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