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Yer twisting my Mellon man

Written by Martin Barlow. Photos by Thomas Lee Stacey.

We’ve met at the right time,” he said. “We do what we do for them. They are the lifeblood of this football club."

Cliched or not, Micky Mellon’s words will have been music to the ears of OAFC fans (oops, I mean supporters) last week. No matter your thoughts on the decision to hand Unsworth his P45, there was very little love lost for Rhinoball by the end. Of course, it’s still early days in this new era, but last Saturday’s first slice of Mellon was sweet, refreshing and dare I say it, started to quench our thirst for “fast, dynamic football.” Hungover or not, those who went to Dogdale must have been as pleased as Punch when they woke on Sunday morning. It’s a shame the fruit had gone bad by Tuesday evening.

Within his first week in charge and armed with a new assistant in Gary Brabin, Mellon was thrown head first into the highly anticipated 409 derby. With Dale refusing to increase their allocation of 3,118 and controversially exercising their right to pocket the cash of those OL1 chancers who bought a ticket for the home end, it was always likely there would be fireworks both on and off the field. And boy, it didn’t disappoint with “el crapico” proving to be anything but shit. In what must have been a fantastically bonkers game of basketball, Latics took the spoils (just) with a 3-4 victory. A teacher on half-term, I was nervously checking for updates from a rented hot tub on t’other side o’Pennines last Saturday. I’m pleased to say I was still in that hot tub for the farce that occurred on Tuesday too.

Micky Manager Micky Mellon taking his first concerned look at our fans.
I am happy but also concerned - about you lot in the stands. You look drunk. Call the cops.

Saturday’s showcase seemingly had everything and looking back on the highlights, I am incredibly jealous of those 3,000-plus blues who packed a noisy Willbutts Lane stand to witness 106 minutes of pure madness. Good work from the industrious Lundstram and a fine lay off from Devarn Green (who seemingly turned to shit three days later) invited Sheron to fire Latics in front. Cue pandemonium in the stands, excitement which was unparalleled until Green met a pinpoint cross from Mark Kitching (equally as shit just three days later) with a superb header early in the second-half. In truth, the result should have come much easier than it did and in typical fashion, Latics surrendered their two-goal advantage all too easily. Indeed, the duo of Hobson and Hogan seemed to visibly wave the white flag when Dale gleefully accepted the opportunity to peg us back to 2-2 after some pinball action from a corner. In the midst of the madness, Dale’s number nine Kairo Mitchell had a fistful of Will Sutton’s shirt, but with no pesky VAR in the doldrums of the National League, we were back to all square.

That was until fresh Hope arrived in the form of the reborn Hallam. Clearly taking inspiration from Harrison McGahey’s unexpected resurrection at Alty, Hope expertly opened up his body before curling the ball beautifully beyond the despairing dive of the keeper. In his post-match interview, Mellon unselfishly handed the credit for Hope’s selection to Paul Murray, the man also responsible for McGahey’s reintegration. A somewhat surprising survivor from the Abdallah days, Hope has undeniably had more downs than ups since Keith Curle convinced him to sign on the dotted line in June 2021. On this evidence, and despite being hooked early at Fylde, he clearly still has something to offer Mellon as the Paisley buddy begins to plot a route back to the football league. Indeed, it was Hope’s knockdown which provided the assist for James Norwood to ghost in beyond the last defender before cheekily dinking it over the advancing keeper. Such was Hope’s disbelief at Norwood’s phenomenal skill, he put his hands on his head as Norwood wheeled away to take the acclaim of his adoring public. Reunited with Mellon, a man who unquestionably got the very best out of him at Tranmere, you have the feeling there is much more to come from Norwood. Of course, new era or not, this is Latics and there was still time for a characteristic wobble with Dale adding a third, but the defence stood firm through 16 (SIXTEEN) added minutes to cling onto all three points and importantly, secure the Ernie Cooksey trophy. Just.

Phew. Who doesn’t love basketball, right?

From the sublime to the ridiculous. What followed on Tuesday could have been a cricket score. Once again, supporters arrived in their droves and could have been forgiven for their newfound confident swagger, as Fylde were firmly rooted at the bottom of the table. That swagger was abruptly shrouded in darkness. I mean, pure darkness. Floodlight failure and clearly unexpected queues at the turnstiles delayed the kick-off for a full fifteen minutes. Most could sense what kind of night it was going to be when they saw Sheron and Shelton on the same team-sheet. Sorry, Micky. Hopefully you’ll learn fast that this is one partnership that just doesn’t work. After just thirteen minutes of play, those in the away end were left wishing someone would shut the lights off permanently and tell them to piss off home. Latics were exposed down the right twice with Ustabasi and Kay cashing in before the night got worse with Hogan receiving a second yellow after a tussle with Nick Haughton (remember stalking him all summer on Twitter, Latics fans?) before half-time. He may have been a tad unlucky, yet there was no disguising the fact that we were second best throughout. A mate of mine described the first 45 minutes as “absolute chlamydia.” I’m not sure how able he is to make that comparison, but I’m not going to argue with his judgement. According to most, we were better after the break. I doubt that was ever going to be difficult. A third in the final moments sealed a thoroughly miserable night on the west coast and one which most will hope to forget in a hurry. Only Latics could turn such united euphoria into downright despair in the space of three fucking days.

As I said, it’s still early days and we mustn’t get carried away. But there’s no denying that within a week Mellonball has reignited an already passionate fanbase, successfully propelling us into hysteria before the inevitable and almost immediate crash landing. There’ll be no panic from me. With his track record, Mellon has the potential to paint smiles as wide as a drink-and-drug-fuelled Bez from the early nineties. Now where are those maracas?

Sending very warm wishes to the fabulous Arlene. Family first. Always.

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