A Tale Of Two Teams’ Supporters With One Spirit PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Terry   
Thursday, 12 December 2013 17:16

Frankfurt 1

My earliest recollection of Eintracht Frankfurt FC was during the Club’s 1960 European Cup campaign with its legendary Final against Real Madrid at Hampden Park, Glasgow in front of a crowd of over 127,000 and shown live on TV in black and white.

Frankfurt 2

Picture courtesy of SMG/Press Association Images

To score first and add two more goals in such an important game would normally be enough, but to lose 7-3, in what is regarded as one of the greatest ever games, attracted my sympathy as a supporter of Latics, a Club with a history of inconsistency and many a ‘nearly’ story.

Members of the SGE Bockenheim and Rhönadler supporters’ groups of Eintracht Frankfurt FC met some Oldham Athletic supporters during an international fan club football tournament in Paris over 30 years ago. They camped by the River Seine and not only did the two teams share food, drinks and songs, they also met in the Final.  I am assured that Latics supporters would have won if a player had been alert enough to follow-up when the ball stuck in the mud, thereby avoiding a penalty shoot-out, which the Germans won – no surprise there! One of the Latics supporters won the player of the tournament prize of a large bottle of Pernod, which was shared by both teams. They formed a friendship which has stood the test of time, and since 1982 supporters of both Clubs have continued to visit each other to attend games, social events and World Cups.

One of the founder members of this friendship link was lifelong Latics supporter and part-time Club Scout Colin Shaw. In April 2006, Col died of a heart attack aged 49, at Stansted Airport on his way to meet his friends and to see Eintracht Frankfurt play in the German Cup Final. The continuation of the friendship is a testament to Col’s memory.

R.I.P. Colin

Margaret and I first met our German friends in 1998 when they joined us in a pub, which Bernhard remembered was named the Black Horse, in Newport, South Wales, before attending the F.A. Cup-tie between Cardiff City and Latics at Ninian Park. Their impressive display of male tattoos and their insistence on standing topless during the game, with its four seasons’ weather including a mini-tornado during half-time, endeared them to us. ‘Eintracht’ is German for ‘harmony’ and traditional Latics songs sung in English and German harmony certainly puts the Eurovision Song Contest in the shade.

While in Newport our visitors distributed scarfs commemorating the link between the two Clubs and I was one of the lucky recipients.

Frankfurt 3

Some years later, a couple of Latics supporters, who had each received a scarf, swapped one of them for a Shamrock Rovers’ supporter’s shirt, as part of the Latics/Hoops link which started in the Isle of Man in 1997.

Over the years we had met up with our German friends at Boundary Park, Anfield, Goodison Park and various social events in Oldham. 

Now we were to realise the ambition of meeting them on their home turf.  We were even foregoing a second round F.A. Cup tie at Boundary Park, for this weekend away incorporating a Bundesliga game against TSG Hoffenheim.  Our Eintracht friends were already hoping for Latics to face Liverpool again following Sunday’s F.A. Cup draw, but Mansfield had to be beaten first.  Thoughts were also straying to the more realistic possibility of a Wembley appearance in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final if Chesterfield and Fleetwood/Rotherham could be overcome.

Up long before the crack of dawn on the Friday morning, a party of 23 Latics supporters flew from Manchester and we flew from Birmingham. We all met up in the Arrivals hall bar, where our host Bernhard greeted everyone.  He proved to be an organisational meister, with immense patience, to be tested to the limits in the next few days.  The only disappointment of the trip was experienced here when there was no pilsner available in the airport bar - the loss was more than compensated for over the next few days!

After travelling into the city, we dropped off the bags at the hotel, being unable to check-in until after 3:00pm.  The time was filled first in Bockenheim’s Doctor Flotte pub, where it was like going back in time, particularly with smoking being permitted.  A few of the long-serving members of our group took time out to visit their friend Clemence, who was unable to leave his apartment due to serious illness. It was good to hear the next day that Clemence was still feeling better for their visit.

Then a short train ride took us to the Christmas Market.  We had visited previously the Frankfurt Christmas Markets in Birmingham and Manchester, the latter having been visited coincidentally by Latics’ management and players, shortly before we left home.

Frankfurt 4

Picture courtesy of Oldham Chronicle

This was the real thing, which dated back to 1393.  The elaborate and creative stand decorations, the picturesque surroundings of the Römerberg and Paulsplatz and the huge Christmas tree created a wonderful atmosphere.

The air was filled with the scent of baked apples, chestnuts, gingerbread and Bethmännchen, Frankfurt’s popular marzipan delight, as we warmed ourselves with a cup of the famous Applewine, served piping hot. Not forgetting the bratwurst, stollen, glühwein and giant glasses of beer - wunderbar!  

Frankfurt 5

Friday evening saw a get-together with our Eintracht friends in the Fox and Hound pub.  The management had reserved tables for us, but by this time we were running about three hours late and Bernhard’s phone was red hot with calls from his wife Judith, who had been waiting there since 2:00pm with their younger daughter and friends from the SGE Bockenheim Eintracht supporters’ group.

Frankfurt 7

Here we met Klaus and Mischu, two of the original friendship-formers from way back in 1982, and we were joined by Members of the SGE Rhönadler Eintracht supporters’ group.  A great evening was helped along with a ‘virtual juke box’ (a young lady dialling-up requested tunes on her laptop for 50c each). The pub resounded to a sing-along, ranging from ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ to Dead Kennedy’s ‘California Über Alles’ and Nena’s ‘99 Luftballons’. There was also what proved to be the first of several renditions of the Eintracht Club anthem.

Video link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322591335/in/set-72157638575421523

Saturday was match-day, but first there was a visit to the Farmers’ Market, with its colourful array of produce and many stands selling grilled foods, delicious cakes and hot drinks of all kinds.

The street entertainment was certainly different to what might be seen on the way to ‘Ice Station Zebra’.

Frankfurt 8

The match ticket included free rail/tram travel all day. We headed to the stadium via the S-train early and outside the Stadion station is the fans’ pub where memorabilia from Latics and other clubs is displayed.

The stadium is situated in a forest about 5 km to the south of the city and, after walking down a woodland track, we arrived at the parking area, where we met many other supporters sampling the refreshment at the ‘beer stand’ (the boot of Klaus’ car).

Frankfurt 9

The underside of what was a grey concrete bridge has been turned into a colourful spectacle thanks to the Frankfurt fan project and the Ultras, in collaboration with artist friends.

The Commerzbank-Arena is still known by its former name of the Waldstadion. With its steel-cable inner roof (incorporating a suspended video-screen cube) and retractable outer one, the capacity is 51,500, including 9,300 standing home fans filling the Kurve West immediately behind the goal and seated tiers above. There was a free Eintracht Santa hat on every seat. Away fans are also given standing room.

The Club now has over 650 official fan clubs with around 17,000 members world-wide. A big part of the Eintracht fan-base is represented by the ‘Ultras Frankfurt’ group founded in 1997.  About 600 members (one of the largest organisations of its kind in Germany) play a major part in creating impressive colourful and elaborate displays ahead of and during games.  Elliot, our group’s youngest member, was invited to join the Ultras for an experience he’ll never forget.

Video link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322863243/in/set-72157638575421523

Frankfurt 10

This got me thinking…should Chaddy the Owl be replaced by a real one?

Eintracht had not won a home league game all season, but over 40,000 supporters turned up and there were high hopes that good luck had been brought from Oldham.  Those hopes proved to be misplaced, as Hoffenheim received early Christmas gifts from the home defenders, even though they squandered most of them.  After a goalless first half, the visitors took the lead through Sven Schipplock in the 46th minute, but optimistic noises were made when the equaliser arrived from Joselu two minutes later, even though the ball had gone out of play before being pulled back to him.  However, gift-wrapped opportunities continued to be presented at the other end and Firmino must have said "danke schön" as he scored what proved to be the winner in the 51st minute.  If only the visitors’ finishing had been better, they could have won by three or four more goals.

Match video highlights: http://www.goalsarena.org/video/germany-bundesliga/07-12-2013-eintracht-frankfurt-hoffenheim_en.html

It’s traditional for the Eintracht players to go to face the Ultras’ end of the stadium after each game, and on this occasion they were left in no doubt that their performance was unsatisfactory, as verbal abuse was hurled at them.

Frankfurt 11

We had been kept up to date via text message with events at Boundary Park, where the game kicked-off 30 minutes after ours.  Early hopes of a victory were dashed when Mansfield equalised, but at least Latics would be in the third round F.A. Cup draw on Sunday.

We tried to lift our hosts’ spirits following their team’s woeful performance, and the appearance of an extrovert Brighton fan and his friends was just what was needed to bring smiles to all our faces.

Frankfurt 12

After sampling the post-match food and drink outside the stadium, we headed back into the city by train and sampled more food and drink in the Christmas Market. Then on the way to a pub with Bernhard and Judith, we discovered one of Frankfurt’s hidden gems – the Liebfrauenkirche Kapuzinerkloster Lourdes-Grotto with votive candles lit for special intentions, which proved to be the weekend’s most poignant moment.

The Opera House, which was featured in the design for this year’s glühwein mugs, looked impressive as we went for the train back to our Bockenhem hotel.

Frankfurt 13

On the Sunday the train took us to the Baroque city of Fulda in Hessen, with its Christmas Market.  We were grateful to Judith and Bernhard for providing us with the special Christmas beer and food nibbles on the train. In Fulda our host Stefan met us to transport our luggage to the hotel in his van.

Frankfurt 14

During the afternoon, a text message revealed that our hosts’ prayers to see Latics play at Liverpool in the F.A. Cup might be ansewered if the replay is won.

From Fulda a taxi ride to Steinau in Petersberg took us to Stefan’s hotel, where we were all accommodated overnight.  A friendship party with food and live music had been arranged in his Irish pub and this was a wonderful evening of drinking, singing and dancing.

Frankfurt 15

Judith, Margaret and Bernhard

Video links: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322671876/in/set-72157638575421523

http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322760853/in/set-72157638575421523

http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322792673/in/set-72157638575421523

http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322758396/in/set-72157638575421523

The rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ was memorable and it looks like there will forever be a little corner of the pub dedicated to Pete and John, the ‘Wild Boys’.

Frankfurt 16

Margaret’s helium-filled ‘Yard Dog’ (two-legged version), which she carried around most of Frankfurt, has found a good home among Stefan’s Latics souvenirs.

Frankfurt 17

Video link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322720826/in/set-72157638575421523

For the first time ever, Stefan’s Irish pub was drunk dry, but by 7:30am the brewery had replenished his stocks.

The aforementioned friendship link with Shamrock Rovers has taken us around Europe on a great adventure with the Hoops.  Eintracht Frankfurt took an amazing 12,000 supporters to Bordeaux, all dressed in special orange-coloured outfits.

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqsEKRpEH9E

A 1-0 victory qualified the Club for the group stage of the Europa League, and we’re hoping this may lead to us enjoying a similar adventure following Die Adler (the Eagles) over land and sea.

Frankfurt 18

Monday saw us heading back to Fulda for drinks in the Felsenkeller pub attached to a brewery, hosted by Hans-Udo, before returning to Frankfurt by train.

There were some weary travellers on the flights home and it was back to reality on Tuesday night when Latics took the lead and then lost to Chesterfield in a penalty shoot-out ending one of this season’s Wembley dreams.

Now we look forward to meeting up with our friends again when they return later this month to watch Latics in the away games against Sheffield United and Coventry City………… and possibly Liverpool next month.

Frankfurt 19

Design courtesy of GuyGermanLatic

Heartfelt thanks are extended to our hosts for all the gifts and for the hospitality, kindness and friendship shown to us.

More pictures available on my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/sets/72157638575421523/

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Preston (a) JPT PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Terry Doran   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 15:59

 

Preston North End v Oldham Athletic – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy 2nd Round

Deepdale, Preston

Tuesday 8th October 2013

 

I wasn’t going to bother writing anything about our latest trip with the Flag. After all, it had been to Preston before, and Latics had played PNE as recently as a month ago.

There had been discussion on the Fans’ Forum about the uselessness of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy competition, with many turning up their noses at the prize of a trip to Wembley, on the basis of it not being as worthy as getting there in one of the more prestigious competitions. I feel that the opportunity available at the end of a yellow-painted brick road, of a day-out at the National Stadium, is not to be scorned. In this deep dale hamlet, surely not to sleep: perchance to dream of Wembley: aye, there's the rub.

Although, in that recent League match, Latics had played brilliantly in defeat in front of the cameras, with unanimous critical acclaim, they had failed to rise to those heights since then and the first clean sheet was still awaited. Was it a question of TV or not TV – the players only raising their game when appearing on the ‘box’ (e.g. versus Liverpool last season), when no motivation was required?

On the approach to the stadium, roadside direction signs still read ‘National Football Museum’, but unsuspecting motorists have a long way to drive before reaching its new location in Manchester.

Preston 1

We had arranged to meet up with North End supporter Ian, to renew our 16-year friendship since a legendary trip to the Isle of Man in ’97. Our venue was a back-street PNE-stronghold pub, so no colours were worn to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Preston 2

We had a good session relating our respective exploits, some of which mirrored each other such as trips to Derry, Belfast and Paul Heaton’s King’s Arms pub in Salford. We also shared our disappointment at not being able to see Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup Final, after the players had apparently failed to turn up in last Sunday’s semi-final defeat to Sligo Rovers.

At the stadium the North End/Latics supporter bond was displayed to passing home fans, with Ian joining Margaret in the Flag picture in front of the poorly-lit ‘Splash’ statue of North End legend Tom Finney.

Preston 3

There had been only 295 Orient supporters visiting Boundary Park last Saturday to see their table-topping, unbeaten team, but tonight 827 visitors had made the trip to Preston, including one who had amazingly left his hospital bed, and was hoping to avoid a penalty shoot-out to delay his return, before being missed by the over-worked NHS staff.

Preston 4

After seeing this caravan parked near the pub, was it a symbol – was a goal going to be scored after 515 seconds or at 5:15? Were we going to get maximum rhythm from the Blues? Who knows!

This welcome poster dotted around inside the stadium was a nice touch from one of the Football League’s founder members in this 125th anniversary year.

Preston 5

Latics made a dream start after only 13 seconds. With many supporters, including PNE’s Ian, still thinking about finishing their drinks and taking their seats, Danny Philliskirk met Rooney’s low cross from the left and wrong-foot the keeper. The home fans thoughts may have drifted to Danny’s dad Tony scoring 6 goals in 14 appearances for their Club.

The lead was doubled on nine minutes after a great passing move, when Dayton cut the ball back for Wesolowski to drive in off the bar from about 12 yards. With 81% possession by 30 minutes, Latics went on to dominate the first half, with slick passing, pace and composure to slice-open repeatedly a dreary Preston side. It was a real football master-class, and the visiting supporters salivated over it, while out-singing the home fans throughout the match. Ian didn’t miss the second goal and he texted to say Latics were playing like Barça, with the way they were closing-down North End.

Preston 6

The second half was much more even, with Preston manager ‘Larry’ Grayson getting his limp defence to shut that door. In the seats Latics continued to win easily, despite frequent visits from the ‘Search and Response’ team to extract perceived transgressors. On the pitch the visitors’ failure to climb to the first-half heights was understandable, when it was revealed that they were carrying casualties: Tarkowski had been ill and got out of his sick bed to play; Mills played with a calf strain and a golf ball-sized lump on his leg; and Smith had pulled a thigh muscle in the pre-match warm-up.

Preston 7

A 4-1 away taming of the Shrews and this 2-0 victory has put gloss on this competition, compared to some lack-lustre results in the League. Wembley is still a long way off and it’s much too soon to tell your ma to put the champagne on ice, but a place in the Northern Area Quarter-Final keeps the dream alive. Que sera, sera…

Meanwhile more ’total football’ displays like this must surely mean onwards and upwards from now on.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 16:04
 
Walsall Reserves ( at Chasetown) PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Terry   
Friday, 04 October 2013 07:31

Walsall Reserves v Oldham Athletic Reserves – Central League West Division

The Scholars Ground, Chasetown

Wednesday 2nd October 2013

Walsall 1

Having had custody of the Flag since Rotherham, we took the opportunity to display it at Chasetown F.C.’s Scholars Ground, the venue for this Reserve fixture.

The return to this ground was a sentimental journey for us, as in the 2005-06 season it was the scene of the F.A. Cup First Round tie between Chasetown and Latics in front of 1,997 supporters and watched by a Sunday lunch-time audience of 3.2 million on “Match of the Day Live”, in which the minnows earned a replay at Boundary Park.

In 2007-08 this little Club became even more firmly embedded in F.A. Cup folklore when it defeated Football League Division One side Port Vale in a Second Round Replay, to become the lowest-ranked side ever to make the Third Round. The marathon ten-game Cup-run was rewarded with a home tie against Championship side Cardiff City, who boasted multi-millionaire players like Robbie Fowler, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Trevor Sinclair amongst their highly-rated squad.

The Club’s record-breaking achievements are recorded in a series of photo collages displayed in the Social Club together with trophy cabinet mementoes.

Walsall 2

The name of this Ground was appropriate for the visitors’ 14-man squad, which contained ten scholars. Latics were captained by Edijs Joksts, who has still to make his League debut, so it was an opportunity for us to see the Latvian under-21 international, whose wages we had been contributing towards through the supporters’ PlayerShare Scheme.

Walsall 4

The successful Cup runs had enabled Chasetown to improve the Ground with the introduction of stands behind both goals, and we had only just sat down in one of them, with some other visiting supporters, when the more experienced Walsall team took the lead through Amadou Bakayoko after only 11 seconds.

Latics’ keeper Luke Simpson kept the score down

Walsall 4

and he was also called into action to retrieve the ball from the back of the stand, with the ball-boys still being at school for this 2:00pm fixture.

Walsall 5

The Saddlers scored a second goal through Bakayoko just before half-time and added a third in the second half when centre-back Matt Preston headed home.

Walsall 6

The Walsall keeper Richard Jones was called into action eventually, when saving a shot from Danny Byrnes and two follow-up efforts from Emile Tancinda. Latics were finally rewarded with a last minute consolation goal, when Jordache Walters bravely headed home in the process of being clattered by an outstretched punch from keeper Jones.

 

More pictures available here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/sets/72157636123663345/

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Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 07:38
 
Tallaght to Boundary Park via Ryanair and Stagecoach PDF Print E-mail
General Football
Written by Terry   
Monday, 12 August 2013 07:56

What better way to push to the back of your mind Friday night’s nightmare memory of a 4-0 home defeat to rivals St. Patrick’s Athletic, with two men sent off, than to leave Dublin to watch the real Athletic at Boundary Park?

So the lone Rover landed at Manchester Airport early on Saturday morning, with plenty of time to kill, before following my detailed instructions on the bus service to take him to the nearest point to Boundary Park, where we could meet up for lunch and a few jars before third-placed Latics took on second-placed Walsall.

It’s easy to relax when taking in the delights of Manchester and, when relaxed, does it really matter than you haven’t brought with you those detailed travel instructions? After all, it’s just a matter of looking for a bus going to Oldham and getting on it. Oh no, it isn’t! The intrepid traveller chose the Stagecoach 76 service, which took him on a tour of residential estates, including the never-before-heard-of Terence Street, Newton Heath. I wonder where that name came from…

Map

After doubling the length of the intended journey, and finding himself in Oldham town centre, a taxi took him to his destination. NOTE: Future fans visiting ‘Ice Station Zebra’ please avoid this route and take the First 181 service.

Better late than never, with the lunchtime session cut short and long queues at the bar of the Clayton Green, it wasn’t long before we were off to the match, and what a let-down that turned out to be!

Only one team turned up, and it looked as though Walsall had come on the 181, with Latics still delayed on the 76. The visitors took the lead in the 25th minute and were never really troubled thereafter, in an instantly-forgettable game. The highlight of the afternoon for our Irish visitor was hearing at half-time from a Latics supporter about his trip from Dublin to Belfast with Rovers’ supporters, which resulted in missed return transport and sleeping on the floor at the Cliftonville FC manager’s house.

Back in the Clayton Green, we caught up with stories from our respective ‘adventures’, and the good news that Shamrock Rovers Ultras were to end the withdrawal of their Internet Forum service (in protest against the Club’s mismanagement), which I had missed very much.

It’s now 16 years since supporters of Latics and Shamrock Rovers struck up a long-lasting friendship in the Isle of Man, and discussion arrived at the Latics/Eintracht Frankfurt Supporters’ 30-year friendship, and news of the forthcoming trip to Frankfurt for the Christmas Market and a match, which we have added to our ‘must-do’ list.

Frankfurt

I was drinking Coke as I was acting as chauffeur, and a short drive took us to meet up with more Latics supporters in Royton’s Blue Belle pub, where a karaoke was in full-flow.  It was a joy to see football supporters trusted to drink out of proper glasses instead of plastic ones.

Fans together

A great night ends in shirt-swapping, doesn’t it? This one did, albeit only a temporary swap to our visitor’s disappointment.

Hannah

The quickest way back to the traveller’s Manchester Airport hotel was by chauffeur-driven car. It was the least I could do, before we continued home via the M6 after a short stop at Knutsford Services to sample the Burger King ‘Chicken Royale’ – anything tastes good when you’re hungry!

The return of the SRFC Ultras’ Forum is just in time for this to be shared with the Hooperati.

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Last Updated on Monday, 12 August 2013 08:00
 
Another Season Dawns PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Terry   
Tuesday, 06 August 2013 07:49

Here we were again, eagerly anticipating another season in Football League One – the 17th consecutive one for Latics. The pre-season had gone well, with five games unbeaten against opposition ranging from Rumania’s to Ashton under Lyne’s second most successful clubs. Some players had jumped ship and others had been pushed overboard. The new arrivals had injected experience, skill and pace, and Lee Johnson, the League’s youngest manager, had created a tangible camaraderie amongst the squad and backroom team, with everyone believing in his football philosophy.

There was the usual atmosphere of optimistic excitement amongst most of the supporters, but this time it seemed to be based more on realistic expectation rather than the usual blind faith. Could this be a repeat of the last time Latics spent the 17th consecutive season in one division, which had ended in promotion? 

We had arranged a day out in London on the Thursday, but when the Football League computer threw up an away game at Stevenage, it was converted into a two-night stay in the capital, in readiness for the short drive from Stanmore to Stevenage on the match-day.

This meant two days away from the computer without news of whether a potential major signing had taken place. Subsequently, I found out that, when taking this picture on Thursday, the announcement of Latics signing a goal-scoring Rooney had been completed - would you Adam and Eve it?

Pic 1

Our visit to Tate Britain had included the capital’s first major exhibition of the work of L. S. Lowry, the affection for which is a lot to do with the familiarity of his subject matter to very many Northerners of a certain age, particularly ‘Going to the match’ (on loan from the Professional Footballers’ Association).

pic 2

The view of John Berger, art critic, novelist, painter and poet, that Lowry’s pictures document the collapse of Lancashire’s industrial heritage between the wars and express the workers’ stoicism in the face of continuing decline, was captured in his ‘New Society’ article, which included: “These paintings are about what has been happening to the British economy since 1918, and their logic implies the collapse still to come. This is what happened to the ‘Workshop of the World’. Here is the recurring so-called production crisis; the obsolete industrial plants; the inadequacy of unchanged transport systems and overstrained power supplies; the failure of education to keep pace with technological advance; the ineffectiveness of national planning; the lack of capital investment at home…; the shift of power from industrial capital to international finance capital…”. If I didn’t know this comment came from 1966, I would have thought it was of now. 

The exhibition seemed to be designed to introduce Southerners to the perceived grimness of life in the North.

pic 3

Moving on to the match-day, this was our third visit to the Lamex Stadium, with the previous ones having been for night games, which had been inconvenient for many away supporters. The car park opposite the stadium is next to Monks and Whomerley Woods, which existed before 1600, so we used the spare time to follow the woodland trail through Shackledell, admiring the flora and fauna.

pic 4

While some Latics supporters were enjoying the fixture-clashing Ashes cricket at Old Trafford, we were at Hertfordshire’s only site inhabited by the great green bush cricket, Britain’s largest insect.  

Last season’s match had resulted in a 1-0 win for Latics with a Tarkowski goal, and I was determined to follow the same pre-match routine to avoid breaking the ‘good luck chain’. This involved the taking of the picture of the Stadium fixture-board, before arriving at the ‘Our Mutual Friend’ pub three hours before kick-off, and sitting in the same seat. The pub had replaced an original one where Charles Dickens was reputed to have drunk with Lord Lytton, and it was appropriate that we were going into the new season hoping Hard Times would lead to the realisation of Great Expectations.

pic 6

The barmaid was apologetic for the use of plastic glasses, which were a Police requirement (the cheaper option than the alternative of employing bouncers on the door) since the club was promoted to League One. Apparently, the Police believe that football supporters can be trusted with glass up to and including League Two, but then they evolve into members of one of the sub-groups discriminated against in British society.

The warm sunshine meant the pub’s beer garden was doing roaring trade, with supporters of both clubs mixing happily.

Not only was it sixty years since the Queen’s coronation, celebrated in an exhibition in Buckingham Palace, which we had also visited on Thursday, but it was the same time-length since Latics had shared eight goals in a season’s opening day fixture at Luton. Such results are extremely rare and last season it had taken Latics five games to reach the four-goal total.

A turnout of 735 visiting supporters greeted Latics and they got behind the team throughout the match, creating a great atmosphere. After almost scoring in the first minute, creating several chances and having a ‘goal’ disallowed, Latics went into half-time one goal down, and some of that optimism was starting to waver a bit. At least we were only three points behind the League leaders, with the second half to come.

And what a half it proved to be! Tarkowski got the first goal and Baxter put Latics into the lead at the second attempt, after his penalty had been saved by Chris Day. Then we went 3-1 up with a sensational goal from Cristian Montaño. He intercepted a Stevenage pass on the edge of his own penalty area, and raced the length of the pitch supported by three team-mates, before going wide of the goal only to dink the ball over the keeper and a defender into the net – a definite contender for the ‘goal of the season’ award!

The rarely-heard “we are top of the League” chant reverberated from the visiting supporters, only for it to turn into cries of “typical Latics” as Stevenage scored two goals to set up a nerve-jangling finale. Dark satanic clouds appeared (no doubt from the North), the floodlights were switched on and heavy downpours helped to cool down the players. Then a rainbow appeared over the stadium with a pot of three golden points awaiting the victors.

pic 7

I had been wondering why manager Lee Johnson was wearing his pullover on such a hot day, but it was obviously his ‘lucky’ one, as his boys rose to the occasion and scored the fourth and winning goal from a Baxter penalty.

Pic 8

The manager paid tribute to the travelling supporters, saying: "It was a brilliant turnout and they sang their hearts out. Of course it lifts the players ... I thank them for the effort they put in because they were as much a part of the win as the players".

pic 9

In his post-match interview, the Stevenage manager Graham Westley said :  "Oldham might not have been fancied to do particularly well in the league this season but we have seen from this match that they are going to be a real threat. They have brought some good quality in during the summer and they are going to upset a few teams."  Regardless of what many say about him, I always thought he was a man of great perception!

You can guarantee that if we visit the Lamex Stadium again, we’ll follow the same routine which guarantees a Tarky goal and a Latics’ victory by one goal. If the hosts are relegated, at least Our Mutual Friend’s plastic glasses will be ditched and the drinks will taste even better.

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In Response To Oliver Holt PDF Print E-mail
England
Written by Mark W   
Saturday, 30 March 2013 17:19

If you read my trip report from San Marino you will know that I was quite forthright in my criticism of elements of the England support. I was shocked however to read this article by Oliver Holt making accusations of racism. HERE

The article makes some very serious accusations about the English supporters in the Stadio Olympico and some of the songs that were being sung.

The key song that the article refers to is the 'Bonfire' song. I was at the game and have spoken to dozens of other people that were there. Not one of us heard this song. Of course, that does not mean that it was not sung. There were England fans all around the ground and it may have originated in an area away from where everyone I have spoken to were sat. I have no reason to think that Mr Holt would have invented this song and so can only take his word for the fact that it was sung.

What I can say, however, is that if there were people in the ground singing this, there could not have been very many of them. A group of say 30 fans singing a song would have been clearly audable in that small stadium. My assumption, therefore is that if it was sung there may have been perhaps 5-10 people involved.

It is the nature of the article that upsets me. The inference is that England supporters are racist and this inference is damaging. A lot of work has gone on from the FA in 'cleaning up' the England support over the last decade or so. In many cases, I think they have gone over the top in this but without doubt they have made fantasic inroads when it comes to racism. To suggest that the England support is still racist, therefore is truely unfair.

Do not get me wrong, I am not for one moment claiming that there are not people with racist view who still follow the England national team. Of course there are. There will always be people in all walks of life who hold these views, but to say England have some racist fans is completely different to saying that England's support is racist. Every club and every nation has some racist fans be it football, rugby, cricket or syncronised swimming.

If there were a small number of fans who were singing racist songs, they need to be dealt with by the FA and by the police. We do not need these people following England. Mr Holt is right here. One person shouting racist abuse is one person too many. If it just a handful though, they should be being dealt with in an appropriate manner, ie. identified and banned. This should not have been sensationalised headline news.

Having been in Rimini and San Marino on the day of the game, I can confirm that there was a lot of anger about Rio Ferdinand's decision to comentate on the game in the Middle East rather than play for his national side. You have to remember that many fans had paid a significant amount of money and booked a week off work to follow the team to San Marino and Montenegro. Is it surprising that they were frustrated with someone who was seen to 'not be bothered to play'? At no point during the day, however, did I hear one racist comment about him.

There is, of course a secondary issue. Assuming we take the song as read, is it actually racist? On the face of it, no. There is nothing at all in that song which uses any kind of racist language and as has been well documented the somg is used at grounds around the country with no racial conotations. The only way, however, to know whether a song like this is being sung with racist undertones is to know the individuals singing it. The same song could easily be sung by two different people for different reasons. As we are yet to identify any individuals as having sung it, I do not understand how a conclusion can have been reached that it was racist.

If you wonder why this matters so much, it is not because of the threat of England playing a game behind closed doors. FIFA are perfectly entitled to investigate and I fully expect the outcome to be that England have no case to answer. The problem comes from the perception of England fans to the general population. I have already heard friends tell me "That's why I don't follow the national team". Some members of the press seem to thrive off criticising the England supporters who care passionately and will follow the team all over the world. Surely we want to be encouraging fans to support England, not turning them away. Furthermore we want to attract fans from different backgrounds. There is a small but increasing number of black and Asian fans following England. That's a good thing but inaccurate reporting like this will put others off.

I care passionately about England and I care passionately about the image of England fans. I have many friends who follow England home and away much more frequently than I do. These are good people who are helping to promote the good name of England fans. It's a real kick in the teeth when someone comes along and tries to undermine this for the sake of a headline.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 30 March 2013 18:20
 
One Moment In Time PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 17:36

It’s Saturday 16th Febrruary 2013 and the time is about 19.50. Latics are 2-1 down to Everton in the FA Cup 5th round.

 

We’ve played well enough, certainly haven’t disgraced ourselves in front of the TV cameras but we’re out of the cup. Despite the good performance, we’ve not created much in the way of clear cut chances in the second half and when that illusive chance finally fell to Robbie Simpson he fluffed it. Howard did well from the original shot but he should have buried the rebound. You always suspect that a chance will come but you simply have to take it at this level.

 

I shouldn’t be as upset as I am. We never had any right to expect to get anything out of this game. We are playing the 6th best team in the country based on their current league position. I am upset though. Not devastated, that would be overstating it but upset all the same. I dared to believe. We were 2 games away from Wembley and I let myself get carried away. Instead of looking forward to tomorrow afternoon’s quarter final draw, all I can look forward to is trying to scrape together enough points to stay in this league. I hate being in this league anyway. Perhaps we’d be better going down. New grounds to go to, new pubs to find… No, don’t be stupid. We’ve picked up a bit of unforeseen revenue from this cup run but relegation could prove terminal.

 

They’ve done well though, if we play like this we will stay up. They don’t play like this though do they? That’s the reason we’re in this situation.

 

Come on lads, last chance here. Swing it in and someone get their nut on it. Deano, what are you doing, don’t gift them a free kick by handling… Ohhhh my Goddddddd, Yessssssssssss. Shit, check the lino, his flag’s up, I know he’s put his flag up. No he hasn’t. We’ve done it, Ohhhhhh my Goddddddd. Who scored it? Was it Smithy again? Who cares? Get Innnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

 

By this point I’m two rows further forward than I was ten seconds ago. I don’t know how I got here but the cuts and bruises on my legs suggest I’ve been dragged over the sharp backs of the seats. I only realise that later in the night as I certainly can’t feel any pain now.

 

I’m screaming with delight but the overwhelming sense, ridiculously, is relief. All those feelings I had moments earlier have dissolved and been filled with pure euphoric relief.

 

Then it starts, I’m crying. Tears rolling down my cheek. Get a grip man, what are you doing? I don’t know why, but there’s nothing I can do. The whistles gone and I should be looking forward to Goodison but instead I’m blubbering like a baby. It’s not the first time. I was close after Liverpool and a right state both when we were relegated at Norwich and when we lost the Play-off at Loftus Road. It doesn’t make it any less pathetic though. The non-stop chanting I’ve witnessed from the small section of the Roachdale Road End is getting even louder and that’s just making me worse.

 

It’s twenty years since I’ve seen Boundary Park like this. This is what it’s supposed to be like. I love football.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 17:38
 
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