My first game was in the Chadderton Road End in November 1986. I spent my first 5 seasons in there. There was nothing like it, it was an explosion to the senses – the mix of bovril, meat and potato pie and tobacco smoke. The roar before the game, the roar when we scored. The bog rolls being thrown at opposition goalkeepers. The crush when the crowd was shoe horned in for a big game. Clinging on for dear life to the fence at the front and post Hillsborough sitting on the bar at the front during the Championship season. The Chaddy End WAS Latics in those first five years.
I loved going in there, first with my dad, then later my mates. I loved the funny squeaky guy at the back, the tea trollies coming round the pitch and shooting downhill into the Chaddy in the second half. I got my first up close glimpses of Andy Goram, Tonmy Wright at al at the Chaddy End. I learned the songs and match day etiquette of giving the opposition goalie as much grief as possible but also to grudgingly respect moments of brilliance from the same player.
Then a combination of success and the consequences of Hillsborough saw the Chaddy End become all seated. It was ST Holder only for the best part of 3 seasons meaning I didn’t go in there until after relegation back to the football league so between May 1991 and October 1994 I led a nomadic existence between the RRE, Main Stand Paddocks and Lookers Paddocks. It didn’t alter the fact I still got to see my team every week and the view to be fair was far better. When I did go back into the CRE on that wet October afternoon, it wasn’t the same. Sitting seemed alien, the atmosphere was flat (ok, we were still suffering the hangover of relegation but it wasn’t the same. The buzz wasn’t there, the characters had changed, even the sensory experience was far removed from that of my first few years. We get older yes, but for me the Chaddy End experience died with promotion and the progression of an all seated stand. The facilities were supposedly better and to be fair in the first few years they were – but at the expense of the heart beat of the CRE match day experience.
I continued to go in the Lookers Paddock for a number of years before moving back in there with a bunch of mates in the late 90s until the end of Dowie’s Play Off season. More often than not my Season Ticket choice would be down to where my dad wanted to sit too. Becoming a mature student in the middle of the last decade saw me prefer the cheaper but better view back in the Lookers Paddock and I was disappointed when the decision was taken to demolish the stand in 2008. I tried the RRE for a season but I preferred standing on there back in the early 90s, the RRE experience still feels alien. I went back in the Chaddy End for a season before relocating again for a season or two in the Main Stand Paddock, the view was great, the whingeing pensioner wasn’t. So this year it was back into the Chaddy End, but with the dawn of the Athleticos the whole Chaddy End experience feels like a youngsters game. I prefer the side view these days and I will be going back ‘Home’ to the Broadway Stand in 2015/16. The Chaddy End will always be my spiritual home as that’s where I always stood as a kid with my dad, but in truth it hasn’t felt like home for nearly 25 years.
I can appreciate how disappointed some people are in having to move next season and in truth I’d probably move away fans into the Main Stand Paddocks, logistically though I can see that being a nightmare. I can see initially many refusing to attend, but with the dawn of the new stand we have a facility the club can be proud of. The previous improvements smack of being done on the cheap, thus the Chaddy End looking so tatty, The RRE hasn’t aged well either and the Main Stand looks like a stiff breeze may well take it out.
Sadly, there is no room for sentiment in modern football, we have to move with the times. We accuse the club of backward thinking but for me they have got this spot on. We have looked back for too long, let’s look forward and for once embrace change….after-all we support the club not a blue plastic seat.

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I’ve been an Oldham Athletic fan for 28 years and to be honest I’ve seen it all, promotion, relegations, a cup final, hammerings, destructions, defeats that have driven me to the depths of despair. There’s been wins that have left me so elated I have walked on air for weeks – see the besting of Manchester United in 1993, the epic cup win over Liverpool and numerous wins over Manchester City in their old back yard in Moss Side.

However, recently there’s been a touch of déjà vu around Boundary Park, slipping to all familiar odd goal defeats, enjoying the lion’s share of possession but offering the attacking threat of an impotent octogenarian has seen the defeats arrive all too often with a knowing regularity. We go behind in games and usually we huff and puff but tend to come up short – brave losers, all too often. Not just this season but over the last 5 years or so, often home games have been bereft of any real excitement (last season’s cup run excepted). So yes, I’ve seen it all – well I thought I had…..

During the late 80s just before Joe Royle’s side well and truly clicked, we were known as the entertainers. We couldn’t defend for toffee but could score for fun so the Boundary Park whilst frustrated at the team’s leaky defence forgave the boys in blue week after week. I remember my first season, we hadn’t conceded a goal all season and headed over to Huddersfield in good spirits – in typical Latics fashion the goal was finally breached and another four times before the end of the game. Latics banged in four of their own but Huddersfield ran out narrow winners by the odd goal in nine! So no goal conceded in the first half dozen games and in true indomitable style – allow their next opponents to go nap hand. I remember a 5-3 at Valley Parade the season after, a 5-3 at home to Plymouth the year we went up. Even when times became grimmer a 3-0 lead was wiped out by half-time against Bristol Rovers before the game had eventually ended 4-4. I’ve seen loads of comebacks over the years 2-0 down, 3-1 down to win 4-3 against Millwall. Late comebacks to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat such as the win over Barnsley in November 2004 or Wrexham in 1998 etc… yep I’ve seen it all…..

Until yesterday that is! Oldham Athletic never cease to amaze me! Now I might be in the minority but I truly believe we had not been that bad in the first half yesterday – we’d had our fair share of chances and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. Ok, we had defended rankly, and Peterborough had offered an exhibition in quality finishing for goals one and three and in all fairness if they had truly had their shooting boots on they could have been five or 6 to the good as the half-time whistle went.

Ten years ago, I would have voted with my feet at half-time thoroughly frustrated but as you hit your late thirties and claiming to have seen it all before I didn’t feel the need to boo, it’s counter productive – 3-0 down and down and out seemingly. No point kicking the players in the bollocks any further. I understand those that did walk, mostly bereft of goals and excitement at home for a couple of months, a freezing cold day and the prospect of a real shoeing by the end of the game. Still, I was strangely calm as I enjoyed my half-time cuppa. I hoped we could get a goal back quickly and then build from there. Posh had struggled over the last few weeks and a quick reply, might, just might wobble them. Right on cue a goal almost immediately, ‘ok it’s a start’, quickly followed by a smashing effort from Worrall; 2-3 Game Massively On, just as I was hoping their issues were coming to the fore. But of course, this is Oldham Athletic and it wouldn’t be Oldham Athletic without a bit of charity. Jonathon Grounds wayward throw gleefully accepted with the gratitude of Lenny Henry collecting a cheque from the staff at Greggs on Comic Relief Night – sees Ajose steer home into an opening as wide as Lenny himself used to see every night when married to Dawn French and we’re 4-2 down! Comeback halted you might be forgiven for thinking. A lull followed for five minutes anyway! Quickly Wesolowski squirms home and again the comeback incredibly is on!

Wave after wave of attacks, it ignited memories of those many wonderful afternoons under Joe Royle when the team smelt blood and would go for the jugular. Tarky’s header seemed to be cleared by a terrific header on the line. The referee initially thought so, so did most of the Chaddy End. The Assistant Referee flagged furiously and it was magical to see him lay his flag across his chest to signal a spot-kick. Now, recently I have had a habit of videoing penalties – Kuqi at Chesterfield, Simpson v Notts County, Baxter v Bournemouth and Rooney at Walsall, all missed. Yesterday I didn’t bother as Broady smashed the equalizer home. I have to say Lee Johnson’s withdrawal of Gary Harkins and sending Latics marketing executive into the fray really was an inspired substitution. Is there no end to the man’s talents?

The celebrations were of relief, releasing pent-up frustration and of ‘bugger me!’. The players raced back to the centre-circle, they fancied a winner. In the last minute of injury time the ball came in from a corner, initially blocked and then gleefully smashed home by Derek Kusunga. The scenes were as wild as anything I have ever seen in a long time at Boundary Park, including the FA Cup run last season. Even my old man who is half blind and struggles to walk was leaping about like Uncle Albert once Del Boy had administered his miracle back massager – I swear he moonwalked out of the Chaddy End! The scenes were pandemonium, players in the crowd – referees kissed, ball boys adopted and marriage proposals aplenty.

It really was one of those days, when you could proudly say you were there (or you had been but you buggered off to the pub when the going got tough)! As I got back in the car, I realized in 28 years it was the first 5-4 I had seen in a competitive game watching Latics, the first 5-4 at Boundary Park and the first time I had ever seen us overturn a 3-0 deficit. As I say I have seen it all as a Latics fan – until yesterday.

Yesterday was truly a day to mouth the words….Typical Latics….

Ah yes there’s something gratifying about a manky 1-0 win, rather like when the attic or shed needs tidying – you dread the idea but by the time you finish there is an inert sense of relief and satisfaction, that actually you have finally accomplished something that looked unlikely earlier that day.

 

I’m sure if offered a 1-0 win over Graham Kavanagh’s Cumbrians many of us would have bitten off the hand proposing it, however unlikely it may have seemed. Goals have been at a premium at Boundary Park this season, which is in direct contrast to the thrills and spills encountered on most away days this year. The clean sheet at Preston in the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy win at Preston offered some encouragement that a first league clean sheet was not too far away.

 

And so it proved, whilst not at their free-flowing best Latics ground out a hard fought win – thanks to Adam Rooney’s early penalty and the biggest surprise of the day was that proved enough to secure the points. The dirty, scruffy wins are the ones you instantly forget. A bit like at the end of the night in the nightclub – you’ve tried your hand with the stunners and come up short – it’s 1.55am and your standards have slipped, let’s be honest all you want now is a kebab and a fumble and anyone will do. You will worry about what they look like in the morning!

 

The manky 1-0 win is just like that, like the munter you pick up from a nightclub, if you score at worst it boosts your ego and gives confidence for the next week where you might play free-flowing football, and a hatful of goals may arrive. Alternatively you may have more confidence with the girl wearing a nice dress, perfume and sporting a beautiful smile instead of the one wearing, tracksuit bottoms, a hoodie and drinking a pint of snakebite.

 

How many gritty 1-0 wins can you honestly remember? Pick out games so far from this season and automatically perhaps we would look back fondly at Stevenage, Port Vale and Shrewsbury. A workmanlike win at home to Carlisle will be long forgotten by the end of the month – but it can and should be a platform. Their first win for eight weeks can and should be a starting point, the monkey of a first league clean sheet is off the players’ backs and now they have kept their goal in tact there is no reason why the feat cannot be repeated over and over. A scrappy 1-0 win over Scunthorpe in September 2006 was the catalyst for a run of only 3 defeats in 25, from such small changes of fortune can belief be fostered and a season defining run begin.

Do Nice Guys Always Finish Last?

 

Our first visit to the Rotherham’s impressive New York Stadium was an eventful one to say the least. We began with an early start from Mills Hill Station as we headed into Manchester – the plan was to meet at the Wetherspoon’s at Piccadilly Gardens, however Manchester United’s early kick off and hoards of thirsty weary Southern Stretford Enders fresh from their journey from Croydon had unfortunately packed the place out and the first disappointment of the day had presented itself, when the bouncers told us in no uncertain terms we not be allowed in. Nevertheless, as resourceful as ever I had foreseen such problems and brought myself a few ‘cold ones’ for the train. We partook in a quick snifter in the bar at Piccadilly Station whilst the other lads stocked up on supplies for the arduous hour-long journey over t’hill.

 

An uneventful journey saw us arrive in Sheffield – where we were immediately met by South Yorkshire’s finest constabulary. We were filmed as we disembarked and made our way through the station. Several of us remarked we found this overly zealous bearing in mind there wasn’t one ‘casual’ on the train, most of us were wearing club colours and even my 14-year-old son was with us. We were then ordered to wait on a link way by an officer, where we would be ‘escorted’ to the Platform to wait for the train to Rotherham Central. I found this particularly helpful as the swathes of families arriving for a day’s shopping at Meadowhall were clearly intimidating and as several of our group had only travelled by train thousands of times were clearly confused. The information monitors being clear and presented in English were too complicated for the highly educated amongst us and we were grateful that the Officer was able to point us down a staircase clearly arrowed and whose number corresponded with the Platform number displayed on the information screen – if the Officer had not taken upon himself to make that link for us – well I don’t know what we would have done?

 

On arriving on the Platform- we found more helpful officers with video cameras, body armour, military style trousers and steel toe capped boots. We really did feel honoured to have such a well-equipped escort. We were ordered to wait at the edge of the Platform. Thankfully the train arrived and within 10 minutes we had arrived in Rotherham. More friendly representatives of South Yorkshire’s Constabulary, we were ‘ordered’ to go the pub across the road from the Station. -The Bridge Inn.  We were told in no uncertain terms we would not be welcome anywhere else. Thankfully the Bridge Inn was a decent enough watering hole and we had a pleasant 90 minutes or so having a chat and catching up with fellow fans. However, I couldn’t help but notice the police presence outside the pub was steadily increasing. Perhaps the landlord was upset with how much he was taking through his tills, perhaps he felt intimidated by the 150 or so Latics fans, families and a smattering of Rotherham fans all peacefully enjoying a natter and a pre-match pint. There was a carnival atmosphere in the pub and unusually the singing and chanting had not even started to disrupt the good-natured banter flowing through the place.

 

At 1.30pm one of our group whilst outside having a smoke was informed that a train was due in a matter of minutes, once the passengers made their way into the pub the Police were considering closing the pub and issuing anyone in the vicinity with ‘a notice to leave Rotherham’, I thought this to be a joke so another one of our group and later myself asked the Police what this was about. The Police said they were acting on orders and there were a few ‘undesirables’ on the arriving train. The Police were apologetic but it was clear there was a sense of conflict seeking amongst them. Sheffield United fans had caused havoc the week before, we were being tarnished with the same brush and we were going to pay for the misdemeanours of the previous Saturday. I was having none of it and neither were the rest of our party. We decided to leave the pub and go into the ground. We had to wait a few minutes to round up everyone and standing across from the Bridge Inn, the scale of the Police Operation became much clearer. Two vans, a Video Unit, two cars and around 15-20 officers were all outside the pub, with lots more a little further along the road. As we left the pub we were again videoed and enquires were made as to where we were going. It was at this point I actually began to feel more than intimidated – I felt downright bloody angry with mine and the treatment of my fellow fans. My only crime was to travel independently with my 14 year old son and friends to a football match.

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We decided to make the 10-minute stroll over to the New York Stadium, and I have to say and a few locals I spoke to confirmed. I bet they cannot believe their luck to now find themselves residing in such an excellent facility. Entry into the stadium was uneventful and the initial interaction with stewards was polite and friendly enough. As we had arrived into the Ground about an hour before kick off we sampled a couple of beers before taking up our seats.

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The game itself started slowly for the boys in blue, Lee Johnson had seen the need to make three changes (two enforced) from Monday’s excellent display at Preston. The team started slowly and right from the off it was clear that Mr. Clark our referee was overly favouring the home side. Rotherham had clearly done their homework and were pressing us high up the pitch. We were struggling to retain possession – particularly in midfield yet even so, we managed a quick break that saw Korey Smith shoot close to the Rotherham Keeper and from a cross Matteo Lanzoni was hauled to the floor – the referee set the precedent for his whole performance by ignoring our pleas.

 

The game burst into life after 20 minutes when Lanzoni was adjudged to have handled a cross. From where I was sitting I couldn’t see and thought it generous – although replays did subsequently prove it probably was a penalty. Former Latics loanee Daniel Nardiello sent Oxley the wrong way from the spot. From then on it was one-way traffic with Mark Oxley making two terrific saves to keep the score at 0-1. Then shortly before half-time came the flash point in the game. Adam Rooney received a blatant shove, David Mellor challenged for the loose ball before also getting a shove and a sneaky stamp from Frecklington. Mellor saw red literally as his kick out earned him an early bath. The referee was right, but had chosen to ignore two shoves and a red card for Frecklington in his urgency to send Mellor off.

 

The red card galvanised Latics – Danny Philliskirk who had struggled up to that point was sacrificed for James Wesolowski. However, Wesolowski would enter the field with his team level as just before the substitution a fabulous run and cross shot from Cristiano Montano saw us level, right before half-time and a time to regroup at half-time. From nowhere a second best Latics were on terms and despite the bizarreness of Mr Clark’s refereeing.

 

Latics seized the initiative in the second half; the pace in the team is always a threat to any team that wants to go toe to toe with us. And within seven minutes of the restart Latics had edged in front. Mills’ free-kick was net with a great header from Adam Rooney, the keeper could only parry into the path of Matteo Lanzoni who gleefully knocked home from close range. Sensing blood, Latics continued to pour forward but from nowhere 10 minutes later Rotherham were level. Lanzoni went to sleep on a corner and Frecklington the villain of the piece had brought the home side back into it. Latics were still not done there, Rotherham still looked an occasional threat but Cristiano Montano produced a good save from the home keeper with a lovely curling effort, before Jonson Clarke-Harris could have been braver in attacking a delicious cross that if he had used all his power in meeting would have seen both ball and defender in the back of the net.

 

Sadly there was a twist in the tale, the referee again involved as he saw fit to award a free kick as the game ticked over into injury time. Jonson Clarke Harris about to make a challenge saw the psychic referee had already given a foul a second before the young forward could actually make the challenge. The ball was wellied upfield, headed on, a kind bounce – shot comes in, blocked (not very well) and Nardiello gleefully smashes home to win the game. The 4th Official immediately signals 5 minutes to be added on and Steve Evans sees fit to run onto the pitch and gesture twice to the 1,349 Latics fans. The man is a nasty piece of work, who has operated beyond the rules in ruining Boston United Football Club – detested in the game and hated by fans of many clubs. He can now add Oldham Athletic to that list and I can confidently say that come Tuesday 11th March, tickets in the Main Stand lower paddock will be at a premium as we queue up to return with interest Evans’ abuse.

 

Injury time was equally bizarre from Mr Clark, as he saw to award a procession of free kicks to the home side, delay the taking of them and basically ensure the home side were home and dry. At the final whistle every Latics fan remained to clap and show their appreciation (well those that were not removed by the over zealous stewards and police for celebrating goal or vociferously disputing ridiculous decision over baffling decision) a battling display that deserved far more than it got.

 

On leaving the ground, Rotherham fans were complimentary about performance but to be honest I just wanted to get my son and me out of that God Forsaken place. On arrival back in Sheffield we were again met by Police informed of the Platform and an attempt to escort us back to the train. I had had enough and decided to purposely travel back on the slower train, some of the other lads went for a drink outside the station before finding out our train had been replaced by a bus, and most of the rest of the night’s trains back to Manchester would be too. Luckily we managed to cram on the slower train. It had been a real experience, and I have to say I will not be back to watch a football match controlled by South Yorkshire Police any time soon. After the bad press they have received and the blood as a force they have on their hands they still insist treating football fans like scum. I have sympathies for the way Sheffield United fans waged war on them the week before but to take it out on fans of another club the week after is ridiculous, yet having had plenty of experience with this particular force and its’ approach to policing events Saturday and our treatment was not an isolated incident. My main issue was filming people despite them not having committed any offence, and none of us not even being under suspicion of breaking the law. Some of our party were minors yet they were still being filmed, any other walk of life then permission would need to be sought from a Parent or Carer. The Police are flouting civil liberties under the sinister umbrella of Section 27, yet Under Section 27 ZERO offences had taken place. The police are taking liberties our only Crime is being football fans. Yet, we are not only football fans we are Fathers, Sons, Daughters, Mothers, Company Directors, Teachers and Health Professionals amongst others. They are Police Officers and treating their fellow man like scum.

 

 

SECTION 27:

 

Section 27 legislation allows police to move someone from a specified area for a period of up to 48 hours. No offence needs to have been committed for the act to be enforced: the legislation gives police the power to move on people who they say pose a risk of alcohol-related disorder.

This is meant to be a specified locality but in the instances we’ve heard of police have moved people across the entire country under threat of arrest if they don’t comply. No hard evidence appears to be required, and no crime needs to have been committed.

The legislation was clearly designed to allow the moving on of small numbers of individuals who have been misbehaving under the influence of alcohol – for example, clearing areas outside of nightclubs at closing time. It was not designed to enable, in effect, football-banning order to be imposed by the police on an entire pub.

Now I am no legal eagle, but if a railway station has CCTV, the train has CCTV, the arriving platform has CCTV as does the entrance to the staion. The pub we patronised had CCTV as did the streets outside the pub and of course every area of the ground had CCTV too – so why did the Police feel the need to video our every move from arriving in Sheffield? Maybe South Yorkshire Police were not taking any chances after ‘losing’ the CCTV tapes on that fateful day in April 1989 and perhaps they managed to take better care of their notebooks last Saturday too…..

 

Back to the game…..

 

 

Team Ratings:-

 

Oxley: A couple of brilliant saves, but should have done better on the winner – 6

 

Lanzoni: Gave the penalty away, didn’t react for the equaliser. Reacted well for his goal at other times assured but needs to concentrate. – 6

 

Kasunga – I was impressed good on the ground, stong in the tackle and dominant in the air – 8

 

Grounds – Found his home at Centre-Back –  7

 

Mills – Another assured performance – 7

 

Schmeltz – Pace, trickery and a threat. Tired after 70 minutes and should have been replaced. – 7

 

Smith – Grew into the game as it progressed – 7

 

Mellor – One delicious cross-field ball. Not his best 40 minutes but was in good company. Saw red for retaliating to a stamp/tread. Will learn and come back stronger for it– 5

 

Montano – Another slow starter, who took it upon himself to drag his team back into the game, From then on a threat all afternoon. Manager took the wrong winger off. – 7

 

Danny Philliskirk – After the Lord Mayor’s Show after his performance at Shrewsbury and a decent knock at Preston. Important to remember this was only ever his SECOND League Start. – 5

 

Adam Rooney – Not getting the service he needs, he needs balls flashing across the box and he will score goals. His initial header forced the second goal. – 5

 

Subs:

Rusnak – Too little time to get involved – 4

Wesolowski – Helped steady the ship – 6

JCH – Raw, needs to channel his energies for the TEAM – 5

 

 

My MOM

 

For me it was Kusunga, didn’t put a foot wrong and for his first game in English football in a real cauldron of an atmosphere he coped well. He will only improve and be a real astute signing I feel.

 

The manager

His tactics when down to 10 men showed what he was about. Instead of shutting up shop and possibly sacrificing a wide man he went with Wes to steady the ship and still allow Montano and Schmeltz to attack at will. Showed real balls and it nearly paid off.

 

We are constantly being tagged as brave losers at the moment but when we click we will be a real force to be reckoned with. Cut out the silly mistakes and costly lapses in concentration and the wins will come and frequently….

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