Rise of The Athleticos PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 05 October 2014 22:17

Having not written a blog all season, after Saturday’s trip to Peterborough I feel compelled to comment on the atmosphere and the impact of the “Athleticos”.

In the summer, I heard about the group of fans who were calling themselves Ultras and had an aim to improve the atmosphere both at Boundary Park and at Latics away games. I didn’t really know what to think. To me, the atmosphere is a massive part of attending games. I want to be able to go and not only see a successful team, but to fully participate vocally in the day. There is nothing I like more than Oldham fans, be it 100 or 6,000 of them, out singing the opposition and the team responding to that support. At the same time, my experience is that the best atmospheres are generated spontaneously.

I have watched the development of the group of fans with interest from a distance over the first couple of months of the season. They arrived on the scene with a number of new songs which appear to have received a mixed reaction from the rest of the supporters. They are songs which are seen very much as Athleticos songs rather than Oldham songs. That’s going to take time and a number of them are starting to be adopted.

They have had a hard time at home games. The were based in the Rochdale Road End but appeared to spend more time having a running battle (not literally) with the stewards than getting behind the team. A decision appeared to be made very early that they would not be allowed to stand at games and that was only ever going to lead to conflict. Before long they were re-located in the Chaddy End where it seems that standing is more acceptable. The problem with this is that whilst from the Rochdale Road End we can see them jumping up and down and singing, we can’t actually hear them. I know there is a lot of debate about the acoustics but as someone with no bug to bear, I can assure those in the Chaddy End that we just can’t hear you.

I haven’t been to as many away games as I would like to this season but at Peterborough I found myself right in front of the Athleticos. Upon seeing the drum I was tempted to move. I am of the opinion that musical instruments are more of a hindrance to an atmosphere than an accompaniment. I stayed where I was though and was so glad that I had.

There were less than 400 of us at London Road but the atmosphere was exceptional. I am not saying that it didn’t have lulls but we pretty much sang at full voice for the whole game and the Athleticos (and their drum) were key to it. There was a great mix of both the new songs and the Oldham classics throughout the match. There was also a positivity that has been missing in recent years. Obviously the Peterborough manager received the stick he deserves but this was mixed in with songs for the team and individual players with an appropriate balance. The drum helped keep the atmosphere bubbling without trying to dictate what was being sung.

What impressed me more than anything was that the singing did not just come from the newly formed group. There were at least three groups of singers spread out across the stand which meant that most fans got involved. The cliques I worried would be generated just weren’t there. When the Athleticos started songs the other fans joined in and when songs were generated from other areas of the stand, the Athleticos were only too keen to get involved. So often when a group like this exists they are anxious to be seen as the atmosphere generators meaning that they will not acknowledge, let alone join in with, others who also want to create some noise.

I drove to the game at Posh meaning that I was watching the game sober for once. I thoroughly enjoyed it though and it was the atmosphere that made it. Lee Johnson commented on Twitter after the game about how much noise the fans made showing that it is appreciated by the manager and recent Tweets from the likes of George Elokobi suggest it means something to the players too.

I still don’t like the label of “Ultras” but I have come round to the opinion that they have genuinely added something to the atmosphere at Oldham games. If Saturday is an example of what is to come, I think that I will be doing more games than I had planned this season. Watching Oldham is enjoyable again and not just because we have a team that has both promise and commitment.

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Response to the FA Chairman's England Commission PDF Print E-mail
England
Written by Mark W   
Thursday, 08 May 2014 22:53

A response to the FA Chairman’s England Commission Report

In his foreword to the report issued by the FA Chairman’s England Commission, Greg Dyke urges people to ‘balance the specific, narrowly defined concerns of their particular club or league with what will be of the most benefit to the game overall, to the development of young English players and to the success of the England team’. He is right in this. It is easy to read the report from a perpective of a supporter of a League one club and ignore the bigger picture.

The scope and objectives of the FA Commission must be remembered when reading the report. The objectives were not to identify what is best for Football League clubs, or indeed Premier League clubs. The objective was to identify what would be most beneficial to the England national team. That said, Greg Dyke is the chairman of the FA. He has an over-riding responsibility to do what is best for the English game of which the national team is just one aspect.

When the Commission was launched a little over six months ago, I listened to what Mr Dyke had to say and to be honest I found it refreshing. I had my doubts about whether he was the right man for the job but he certainly said the right things and gave the impression that he was prepared to unset the apple-cart to deliver what was required to give our national team what they needed to have the best opportunity to succeed.

He’s certainly shown that he’s prepared to be controversial but in his key proposals, he has simply got it wrong.

Positives

I will start with the positives. It will be the proposals for the introduction of B teams and Strategic Loan Partnerships (SLPs) that will take all the headlines but much else of what he says is very sensible. He has identified that current rules regarding importing non-EU players just don’t work. There are rules in place which should limit the number of mediocre non-Europeans moving to the English Leagues but the appeals system makes them toothless. 79% of appeals by clubs are successful. That’s 8 in 10 of players who fail the test to come to this country who are let in anyway. The proposals to tighten this up and to completely stop the recruitment of non-EU players by teams below the Premier League is sensible and should be rushed through. I appreciate that this may not be in the best interests of my football club in the short term but if a player is only good enough to move the League one he should not be being granted a work permit to potentially take the place of a young English player.

Proposals to increase the number of ‘home grown’ players to be included in a matchday squad can, also, only be beneficial. At present, only 8 home grown players are needed in a 25 man squad. The proposals would take this to 13. The definition of home grown players means that this would not guarantee that the additional opportunities would go to English players but it is a huge step in the right direction.

Some very important issues on grass roots football are also considered within the report but bizarrely not really addressed. It is recognized that there are issues both with grass root facilities and the quality of youth football coaching. To me these are the issues which need to addressed if we are to genuinely understand why the number of English players making it through to top flight football and in turn the national team are not what we would desire. There are no proposals within the report as to how this can be addressed. Instead there is simply a pledge to look into it further. Sorry, but this is not good enough. The publication of this report should have been a springboard for making changes at grass roots. The fear is that we will hear no more about it.

I don’t think I can steer away from the main proposals in this report any longer. I will do exactly as Mr Dyke requests and look at this from an England perspective and not from an Oldham Athletic perspective but will then look at them separately from a practicality and wider footballing perspective.

B Teams & SLPs – The England view

The proposals for the inclusion of Premier League B Teams and changes in league rules to allow for the use of SLPs are two very different issues but are intended to lead to similar consequences.

The over-riding message throughout the report is that young English players do not have enough opportunities in the key years of their development between the ages of 18 and 21.

It is argued in the report that the use of the current loan system is flawed and not popular amongst Premier League managers. I can understand the reasoning behind this. I can see that if you are a manager that likes to play a passing game you will not be happy to send a young player out on loan to find that his new club plays a more direct style and that he is receiving coaching which is contra to what you would be trying to instill in him. The facts just don’t back this up though. Managers tend to send players out to clubs that they know will provide the player with the kind of footballing education which fits in with their own philosophy. If they don’t do this, they are failing themselves and their players. We are told that managers don’t like the loan system because they lose control of the players. If that’s the case, why does the report tell us that 32% of all Premier League players aged between 18 and 21 went out on loan during the 2013/14 season. That’s a very high percentage if managers don’t believe in the system.

Furthermore, if the issue that managers have is that current league rules restrict their ability to have control over players whilst they are on loan at football league clubs, why during the 2013/14 season wasn’t a single English player within this key age range sent out on loan to a non-British club? A number of Premier League clubs have very close link with foreign clubs where the rules are not so strict. Surely if this was the concern, they would be sending players to these clubs where they could carefully control what happens with them whilst they are there.

The introduction of Premier League sides into a new League 3 might solve the control issue but the competitiveness of this league must be called into question. Premier League clubs have wound up their reserve teams due to apparent non-competitiveness. I am struggling to believe that they are going to feel that League 3 is of an appropriate level. A player moving to what is effectively the conference is not going to then be ready to move to the first team the following season meaning that they would still need to have additional time on loan at a club higher up the football pyramid. And remember, we are supposed to be coming up with a solution which avoids managers having to resort to this ‘disliked’ loan system.

The use of SLPs is simply a half way house, giving some control but significantly less than through a B team. I do not understand why a club would choose to use this.

I acknowledge that players are clearly struggling to break into their Premier League club’s first time as early as would be ideal for their development but I do not see how these proposals really assist with this. The emphasis should be on trying to find a way of getting them more time on the pitch (ideally with their parent club) not on trying to create new clubs for them to turn out for at an even lower level than they can currently get through the loan system.

The argument against using the newly formed Premier League U21 league to blood these youngsters appears to focus on competitiveness and atmosphere. Managers want players to get used to the feeling of playing in ‘real’ matches. For me, Premier League managers can make those U21 teams whatever they want them to be. The Premier League brand is second to none in the footballing world. You are not telling me that they couldn’t get decent crowds at U21 games with the right marketing strategies. I think they might get a bit of a shock if they think that atmosphere’s will be significantly better at some of the smaller Conference sides. Crowds against the B sides would suffer from a lack of away fans as they are likely to be playing at the same time as their ‘parent club’ and fans would shirk away from paying full league prices to watch their reserve team.

There are also some wide assumptions included in the report with little or nothing to back them up. On a number of occasions the figure of 15 English players per B team is quoted. This is nothing more than an estimate. There is nothing within the proposals that forces the use of English players.

The wider football view

There is arrogance in this report. It purports to be about improving the England side but it is about doing what is best for the Premier League teams without due consideration for the damage it does lower down the pyramid. On page 65 of the report we are told ‘by creating spaces within the current footballing pyramid, no club would be displaced by this system’. How does that work. There will be clubs who are currently 4 divisions below the Premier league who following the implementation of these proposals would be 5 tiers below the Premier League. I am struggling to see how they have not been displaced.

There is much to dislike about football these days but there is a integrity and independence that we should be proud of. The ownership rules ensure that whilst there may be unofficial alliances between clubs we should never get to the position where one club can have undue influence over another. These proposals end this position in a heartbeat.

The proposals state that all Premier League clubs in the 2015-16 season would have the option of setting up a B team to move into the league the following season. There is no reference as to what happens when these clubs are relegated from the Premier League or when other clubs get promoted to the Premier League. There is no logic for having an arbitrary cut off with those teams getting B teams while no other club ever can. If you allow other teams to enter B teams when they are subsequently promoted to the Premier League, the number of B teams in the football league could easily get out of hand. B sides cannot get promoted beyond League one so what happens when Man City B go on to win League one in 2020? Presumably promotion goes to the sides in 2nd and 3rd with 4th to 7th entering the play-offs. If it is Liverpool B, Arsenal B and Chelsea B sat behind the champions you can soon get to the ridiculous situation where a bottom half finish can be enough for a promotion. The report tells us that this has not happened in Europe but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen here.

This brings me to a crucial oversight. There are a lot of references to how successful this set up is in Europe. I would personally question that but even if we take it as read, I feel we are comparing apples with pears. The English league is unique. Lower league football as we know it just doesn’t exist on the continent. There are conference sides in England with higher average attendances than top flight reams across Europe. There is no logic for saying what happens there would work here.

The argument about what happens if the B teams congregate at the top of League one is simple to solve compared with some of the consequences from the introduction of SLPs. Each Premier League and Championship side can have 2 SLPs but no connected clubs can play in the same division. This makes all promotions and relegations potential minefields. The ‘lower’ club will be receiving significant financial support from the ‘higher’ club and so if they look like they are going to get promoted to the same division as their partner, it may not be in their best interests to do so as in doing so they would be enforcing a ‘divorce’ and an end to the funding. Integrity may well go out of the window. Also, if say Oldham and Bury had a partnership with Blackburn and Bury were promoted to League one, would Blackburn have to decide which of the clubs to cut ties with? And then if Bury were relegated again the season after, could they be taken back on?

The report suggests that ‘significant financial settlement from the Premier League should be made to the clubs in the lower divisions of the Football League’ for agreeing to the proposals. If anything tells you who Greg Dyke recognizes is the prime beneficiary of these proposals, that does.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am very disappointed that an opportunity to discuss improving the England national team has been wasted by producing an ill-conceived idea which simply benefits the Premier League whilst causing significant damage to the clubs who are still the life-blood of English football.

It won’t happen as I don’t see who is going to give these proposals the support that they would need to make such a fundamental change to the structure of the game.

I would imagine that Mr Dyke will quit claiming that he did his best but lacked support from his colleagues at the top of the FA and so couldn’t force through what he believed to be the answer.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 22:55
 
2013/14 Season - Unofficial Awards PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 04 May 2014 22:37

With the Official End of Season Awards due to be announced on Tuesday I thought I would take the opportunity to announce the unofficial Ernieflag rewards for the 2013/14 season.

Player of the Season

I don’t think this is an easy call this season. The most consistent player has been James Wesolowski but I don’t think that necessarily makes him player of the season. If we are looking for the player who kept the season bearable when we were struggling to either win games or score goals after Christmas, you would have to say that Gary Harkins wins it hands down. On the other hand, the key player who has made the difference between us staying in League one or failing to beat relegation is  Adam Lockwood. Adam and James Wilson provided the strong defence that we had been lacking all season which was ironic considering they only came in to replace probably our best technical player as Tarky headed South.

If I need to call out one player I am going to go for Harkins as I do like a flair player.

Game of the Season

Probably the easiest award to decide on. The Peterborough game at Boundary Park will live in the memory for many years, both for those of us who were still there at the end and also those who’d disappeared at half time. I have my sympathy for those who left, not only because the first half performance was abysmal, but because it was bloody freezing that day. I’ve never left a game at half time but I think I would have to say that this was probably the only time I have genuinely been tempted.

The difference after the break was unbelievable and the atmosphere once we got back into it was electric.  The players piling into the Chaddy when our 5th hit the back of the net was something I can’t remember seeing too may times down the years.

Goal of the Season

Goal of the Season came on the opening day but it appears that we are not allowed to mention that. I was at the real Old Trafford watching Kevin Pieterson’s last ever century for England but that run from Montano would have been enough to win goal of the season on its own. The was he finished it with the cheeky flick which I thought was only possible on FIFA 2014 removed any element of doubt.

There were other contenders such as Kory Smith at Orient and Carl Winchester’s screamer at Boundary Park but for I can’t take it away from the unmentionable one.

Best Moment of the Season

I have already mentioned the 5th goal against Peterborough and it is difficult to look much further for this award.

Worst Moment of the Season

There are two contenders here. Waking up one Sunday morning to find that the club’s name was being dragged through the mud by Montano was going to take some beating. How one player can be so stupid is beyond me. Whether he actually tried to get booked against Wolves is irrelevant. To start showing off to your mates about doing so is bad enough but to do it while being covertly filmed… I give up. For what it is worth, I was at that Wolves game and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I certainly feel I would have noticed if the kind of tackles referred to in the now infamous video had been flying around. If he didn’t do it, it just makes the fact that he has thrown his career away even more frustrating.

It doesn’t win the award though. That ‘honour’ goes to the JPT exit against Chesterfield. I honestly thought this was our year in the JPT. I know a lot of people think it is a waste of time and effort but I believe winning a trophy of any kind is something which can be the spur we need to put in a promotion challenge. At that point in the season we were playing great football but still not getting the results. A Wembley trip would have, I believe, improved results and more crucially given the belief that the players need for next season. It should be remembered that when we last got promotion in 1991 it came on the back of the cup runs the previous season which showed just what this football club was capable of.

Disappointment of the Season

There are a number of players who failed to produce this season. Albert Rusnak came with a big reputation but refused to accept not being an automatic choice.

I’m sure that most people would give this award to Adam Rooney. The excitement was palpable when we managed to secure his signature as the season was about to kick off yet neither his performances or goals tally lived up to the hype. To make matters worse, once the decision was made to let him go he suddenly started to score for Fun up in Aberdeen. I’m not going to give it him though. I accept that his performances were not what we wanted on the whole but I didn’t think he was that bad and he did score a fair few goals (admittedly boosted by those he got from the spot. For me I would have liked to see us stick with him and see if he would come good next year but it wasn’t to be.

I am going to give the award to Jon Stead. I was genuinely excited on deadline day when Stead came in. I thought we had found our goalscorer. Not only that, he said all the right things about wanting to prove that he is worthy of a starting place in the Championship. In his month at the club I saw absolutely nothing from him. I was actually pleased to see that when we played Bradford he was just as bad for them. At least it wasn’t that he was not trying for us.

Best Away Trip of the Season

There have been some great away trips this season including the final trip to Carlisle but for me, one was head and shoulders above the rest. It had been a few years since we had been to Bradford and the return certainly didn’t disappoint. An easy train journey, plenty of blues drinking in the city centre. Drinking the pub dry up by the ground. Songs for Andy Clark, A superb atmosphere in the ground. A great victory. I’m not saying it quite lived up to Forest last season but it will do for me.

Supporter of the Season

I’m not going to pick any individual on this. I will share this award between anyone who has been to every game and managed to stay positive throughout. I have done less games this season that I have done at any point in the last 25 years. I have so much admiration for anyone who has dedicated the time to going to all or even most games, visiting grounds they have been to umpteen times before. If you have done that and got behind the lads on very occasion I take my hat off to you.

With the Official End of Season Awards due to be announced on Tuesday I thought I would take the opportunity to announce the unofficial Ernieflag rewards for the 2013/14 season.

Player of the Season

I don’t think this is an easy call this season. The most consistent player has been James Wesolowski but I don’t think that necessarily makes him player of the season. If we are looking for the player who kept the season bearable when we were struggling to either win games or score goals after Christmas, you would have to say that Gary Harkins wins it hands down. On the other hand, the key player who has made the difference between us staying in League one or failing to beat relegation is Adam Lockwood. Adam and James Wilson provided the strong defence that we had been lacking all season which was ironic considering they only came in to replace probably our best technical player as Tarky headed South.

If I need to call out one player I am going to go for Harkins as I do like a flair player.

Game of the Season

Probably the easiest award to decide on. The Peterborough game at Boundary Park will live in the memory for many years, both for those of us who were still there at the end and also those who’d disappeared at half time. I have my sympathy for those who left, not only because the first half performance was abysmal, but because it was bloody freezing that day. I’ve never left a game at half time but I think I would have to say that this was probably the only time I have genuinely been tempted.

The difference after the break was unbelievable and the atmosphere once we got back into it was electric. The players piling into the Chaddy when our 5th hit the back of the net was something I can’t remember seeing too may times down the years.

Goal of the Season

Goal of the Season came on the opening day but it appears that we are not allowed to mention that. I was at the real Old Trafford watching Kevin Pieterson’s last ever century for England but that run from Montano would have been enough to win goal of the season on its own. The was he finished it with the cheeky flick which I thought was only possible on FIFA 2014 removed any element of doubt.

There were other contenders such as Kory Smith at Orient and Carl Winchester’s screamer at Boundary Park but for I can’t take it away from the unmentionable one.

Best Moment of the Season

I have already mentioned the 5th goal against Peterborough and it is difficult to look much further for this award.

Worst Moment of the Season

There are two contenders here. Waking up one Sunday morning to find that the club’s name was being dragged through the mud by Montano was going to take some beating. How one player can be so stupid is beyond me. Whether he actually tried to get booked against Wolves is irrelevant. To start showing off to your mates about doing so is bad enough but to do it while being covertly filmed… I give up. For what it is worth, I was at that Wolves game and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I certainly feel I would have noticed if the kind of tackles referred to in the now infamous video had been flying around. If he didn’t do it, it just makes the fact that he has thrown his career away even more frustrating.

It doesn’t win the award though. That ‘honour’ goes to the JPT exit against Chesterfield. I honestly thought this was our year in the JPT. I know a lot of people think it is a waste of time and effort but I believe winning a trophy of any kind is something which can be the spur we need to put in a promotion challenge. At that point in the season we were playing great football but still not getting the results. A Wembley trip would have, I believe, improved results and more crucially given the belief that the players need for next season. It should be remembered that when we last got promotion in 1991 it came on the back of the cup runs the previous season which showed just what this football club was capable of.

Disappointment of the Season

There are a number of players who failed to produce this season. Albert Rusnak came with a big reputation but refused to accept not being an automatic choice.

I’m sure that most people would give this award to Adam Rooney. The excitement was palpable when we managed to secure his signature as the season was about to kick off yet neither his performances or goals tally lived up to the hype. To make matters worse, once the decision was made to let him go he suddenly started to score for Fun up in Aberdeen. I’m not going to give it him though. I accept that his performances were not what we wanted on the whole but I didn’t think he was that bad and he did score a fair few goals (admittedly boosted by those he got from the spot. For me I would have liked to see us stick with him and see if he would come good next year but it wasn’t to be.

I am going to give the award to Jon Stead. I was genuinely excited on deadline day when Stead came in. I thought we had found our goalscorer. Not only that, he said all the right things about wanting to prove that he is worthy of a starting place in the Championship. In his month at the club I saw absolutely nothing from him. I was actually pleased to see that when we played Bradford he was just as bad for them. At least it wasn’t that he was not trying for us.

Best Away Trip of the Season

There have been some great away trips this season including the final trip to Carlisle but for me, one was head and shoulders above the rest. It had been a few years since we had been to Bradford and the return certainly didn’t disappoint. An easy train journey, plenty of blues drinking in the city centre. Drinking the pub dry up by the ground. Songs for Andy Clark, A superb atmosphere in the ground. A great victory. I’m not saying it quite lived up to Forest last season but it will do for me.

Supporter of the Season

I’m not going to pick any individual on this. I will share this award between anyone who has been to every game and managed to stay positive throughout. I have done less games this season that I have done at any point in the last 25 years. I have so much admiration for anyone who has dedicated the time to going to all or even most games, visiting grounds they have been to umpteen times before. If you have done that and got behind the lads on very occasion I take my hat off to you.

Club to make the flag most welcome

I hate to say this but I think I’ll have to give it to Peterborough. There were a lot of negatives about going to the home ground of the wife beater. Getting charged £28 to watch League one football is nothing short of disgraceful and the closure of the terracing behind the goal is a huge loss. That said, the stewards were great. They allowed fans to stand and create a great atmosphere and they went out of their way to help with the flag, taking it into the closed terrace, tying it up and then delivering it back all folded up. For once you got the impression that they were happy to have us there.

Most ridiculous decision of the Season

It would be harsh to put this one down to Lee Johnson and his signing of Terry Dunfield or indeed simply the number of players that he has used and the lack of a consistent line up for the first three quarters of the season. I think that Lee has got a lot of potential and I think we are lucky to have him at Boundary Park but he has made a number of mistakes that he needs to learn from if he is going to take the club forward.

I’m not going to give the award to Lee. I am going to give it to the FA. The decision to play the FA Cup replay against Wolves the same night as England v Germany at Wembley was ridiculous. The international was arranged to celebrate the FA’s 150th anniversary. How can you possibly sanction the playing of a match in your organisation’s premier competition at the same time as the flagship game to celebrate your anniversary? I appreciate that a lot of fans do not care about the national side but there are a lot who do. I know of several people who had to make a decision about which game to miss that night. You should never be asked to choose between your club and country.

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'Diego Sideburns' has an appointment with 'God' PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Terry   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 22:15

Back in 2006, when word leaked out that John Sheridan had taken a 22-year-old Spanish striker on trial at Oldham Athletic, I trawled the internet for information and was amazed by what was found. Diego Cervero, a burly six-footer with long sideburns, was playing for Real Oviedo where he had become the idol of the crowd. He was also the drummer in a rock band.

YouTube video-clips showing some of this prolific goal scorer’s craziest goal-celebration moments created great excitement amongst Latics supporters on the fans’ Internet Forum.

Diego 4

I was also impressed to learn of his loyalty in refusing to leave Oviedo, when the club had flirted with extinction in 2003 and was demoted to the fourth tier, before leading them to promotion within 18 months.

He turned down a twelve month deal from Real Oveido and came to train with Latics for about three weeks. He started in three friendlies for the Reserves, scoring in two and causing nuisance to the opposition throughout.

Diego 3

Despite this, the fans’ excited anticipation and the Commercial Manager’s research of the Club’s potential marketing opportunities, all dreams were dashed when the Manager decided that he was no better than the existing strikers, and Diego returned to Spain to study medicine.

I did my best to ‘immortalise’ his memory as the Latics’ nearly-legend by adopting the name ‘Diego Sideburns’ as my Forum user-name and the name of my Flickr photographic site.

I met Diego briefly when he sat in the Chaddy End at Boundary Park, whilst on trial, and I liaised with him after he returned home, as he responded to Trust Oldham’s appeal for funds by donating two of his Spanish club shirts for auction.

During 2007 Diego was leading scorer in the top four divisions in Spain, outscoring Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o, Real Madrid’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy, et al!

After spells playing for U.D. Marbella, C.D. Lealtad and U.D. Logronés, during which he completed his medical training, he became Doctor Cervero.

Diego 1

Less than twelve months ago, Real Oviedo, the Club that produced Mata, Cazorla and Michu, was close to going out of business. Michu and Diego Cervero are best friends and together they had helped the Club win promotion from the third division to Segunda Division B (third tier). As an illustration of passion for the Club, Michu once turned down the opportunity to play first division football because the club making the offer was Sporting Gijón, Oviedo’s rivals.

The club was on the verge of liquidation and in desperate need of €1.9 million to stay afloat. However, Sid Lowe (correspondent of The Guardian) organised a Twitter campaign and worked tirelessly to raise awareness of Oviedo's plight among football fans. The three ex-players now in the Premier League, together with Atlético Madrid striker Adrián, who made his debut for Oviedo at 17, the year after Michu did, all promoted the drive to buy shares and they bought shares themselves in “significant” amounts. Thousands of people in more than 60 countries on 5 continents, purchased shares priced at €10.75 each, totalling around €1,930,000 to help save the club. A local radio station contacted the son-in-law of the world’s wealthiest man, Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, and joked that he should come and save the club. On the final day of the share issue Slim bought over €2m worth of shares, because of Oviedo’s “history in Spanish professional football and above all for the extraordinary support of its fans.” He owns 32.44% of the shares, but he is not the majority shareholder, the fans are: 40.81% of the club is owned by small shareholders and Oviedistas.

Mrs. ‘Sideburns’ and I kept promising that we would go to Oviedo to see Diego Cervero play, but our procrastination seemed to have cost us that opportunity when he moved elsewhere. However, he has returned to a hero’s welcome to play for Real Oviedo once again.

Diego 2

He is El Capitán and regarded as ‘God’ by his adoring supporters.

Diego 5

At last our promise became reality when we made the trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary – last year it was Leyton Orient, this year Oviedo! This was to be our opportunity to become Oviedistas and understand why Real Oviedo is such a distinct club, with a tragic history and, above all, a special soul.

After flying from Stansted to Asturias, we went the remainder of the way by bus to Oviedo, the birthplace of Formula One driver Fernando Alonso. Our flight had been delayed but the bus waited for us, which proved to be the first of many kindly gestures to be experienced over the weekend.

Having got a great deal, we stayed at the very futuristic-looking Ayre Hotel, designed by world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava, and built on the site of the original Real Oviedo Stadium. The Hotel thanked us for our support by leaving in our room a picture from Real Oviedo’s play-off last season and generously provided us with two free match tickets.

I am grateful to the Guardian’s Sid Lowe, who, on behalf of Diego Cervero, had previously requested information about his brief time at Boundary Park, and now in return had put me in in contact with the people who would arrange our meeting with the Latics’ nearly-legend.

Friday’s meeting with ROST President Matías García was the start of what will be a long friendship. He drove us to the stadium for a private tour, and then up to the top of Mount Naranco with spectacular views over the city, followed by drinks in a cider bar.

Diego 6

Our visit coincided with the Supporters’ Weekend festival organised by the Grupo Symmachiarii, (Real Oviedo’s Ultras) and the Real Oviedo Shareholders Trust (ROST).

On the Saturday, a full day comprised:

a walking tour of the city with ROST guides/interpretors;

a typical Asturian lunch courtesy of the Symmachiarii in a bar used by supporters for matches in the old stadium;

a visit to the Club Shop in the Modoo Commercial Centre: and

a six-a-side football match between locals and ROST members. Peterborough United supporter Malcolm looked like he had come off the Posh assembly line of strikers, as he scored four goals, and Port Stewart supporter Alan also scored in a 6-2 ROST victory.

We finished off the day in Matías’ local cider bar, which is decorated with Real Oviedo memorabilia. My preferred tipple is cerveza, and particularly cerveza negra. However, happy in the knowledge that the day’s football results back home meant that we would be going to Yeovil next season, it was only right for me to be a cider drinker.

Still cider in Asturias is always served escanciada, which means it is poured into the glass from a great height and the oxygen it acquires on the way down gives the drink an essential kick of freshness. The waiter holds a glass at arm’s length, as low as it will go. In his other hand, he brandishes a bottle, also at arm’s length, way over his head. Without looking, he pours a sparkling stream from on high. The cider splashes on the side of the glass and he hands it to you with a flourish. The cider is downed in one, but a little is always left at the bottom of the glass, custom dictating that this must be chucked out onto the floor to sterilize the rim of the glass.

Diego 7

It’s quite easy when you get the hang of it!

On Sunday April 27 we all met at mid-day (over six hours before kick-off) in the stadium car park, where the Symmachiarii had erected a large marquee with a bar, plus outdoor chairs and tables for the food and drink. We were joined by AFC Bournemouth and Luton Town supporters.

The meeting of ROST members, joined by a representative of Supporters Direct, was held in the media room, and was followed by a tour of the stadium, the museum and the trophy room to see the Club’s extensive silverware. We also visited the young oak tree planted to commemorate the formation of ROST.

Then it was time for my dream to come true, when Diego Cervero came along to meet us. He was as thrilled to receive a Latics shirt like he wore when scoring against Blackpool Reserves as Senora Sideburns was to be kissed by him!

Diego 8

Our mission to present the shirt was also covered in the local newspaper.

He still remembers fondly his time in Oldham, and he has not given up hope of playing in England before his career comes to an end. He has asked me to stay in touch by phone and email.

By this time a rock band was playing in the marquee as part of the Club’s 88th Anniversary celebrations. A presentation took place on stage to the man who was the Supporters’ President at the time of the twitter campaign to save the Club. This was followed by another presentation to the parents of Armando Barbón, the Club’s 19 year-old player who was killed in a traffic accident in 2003.

Then, to our great surprise, we were called up onto the stage with the announcement of our wedding anniversary, to great cheering and chanting by hundreds of Ultras. Gracias afición! Margaret was presented with a bouquet of blue and white flowers, and the ceremony made our special day extra-special and memorable, for which we are very grateful to the thoughtful organisers.

On entering the stadium as guests of ROST, we placed Margaret’s bouquet at the memorial to Armando Barbón and spent several emotional minutes chatting to his parents, with the help of Vic, our interpretor.

There was a minute’s silence before the game In memory of Tito Vilanova, the former Barcelona manager, who died aged 45, following his battle with cancer.

Strengthened by all that has happened since November 2012, Real Oviedo are still trying hard to get promoted to the second tier, from where the Club hopes to return to the place where it really belongs, La Liga, where it has not been since 2001 after spending 38 seasons there. However, it is notoriously hard to escape the Second division B, where four divisions funnel into one and an almost perfect season can be destroyed by one bad game in the play-off. (I just had déjà vu about Latics losing out to Leeds on away goals in the play-off.) Therefore against Sporting Gijón B today it was a must-win game.

The game started with the Oviedo manager preferring to play with a 5’6”striker (the same height as Oldham Athletic manager Lee Johnson), and with top scorer Diego Cervero on the bench.

All was going well until the 10th minute when, inexplicably, Javi Hernández cleared the ball against the body of Yacine and his pass allowed ex-Oviedo player Jony to put the visitors in front. It remained 0-1 up to half-time and the second half started the same way, with an obvious need for a tall, powerful, experienced striker. If you are the youngest manager in the League, who may not like the timing of his substitutions to be questioned by supporters, you may be in need of divine intervention. He chose to wait until the visitors’ Yacine made the score was 0-2 before bringing ‘God’ into the proceedings in the 55th minute.

Almost immediately, Sporting B, who included three youth team players, were almost out of sight. They were cutting through the Oviedo defence like a knife through tortilla, and then Dani Ndi used pace to get clear and score to make it 0-3 after 57 minutes.

By this stage praying for ‘God’ to work a miracle was asking too much. He started to make his physical presence felt and win the aerial battles, and his flick-on led to Sergio García reducing the deficit in the 62nd minute.

The season’s largest crowd of over 15,000 lived in hope and the Symmachiarii did their best to lift the team’s performance.

Diego 9

However, passes continued to go astray and crosses were over-hit, with the outcome of the match never being in doubt. In stoppage time Pablo Pérez completed the rout at 1-4, and the Stadium became a bleak place with the Ultras exploding to unleash their anger, screaming “mercenary players” and “you don’t deserve the shirt!”.

It was not only the result, but also the abject performance of the players which angered the supporters, illustrated in the local newspaper the next day, with a rating of ‘1’ for four of the starting eleven and ‘0’ for the others.

Diego 10

Diego 11

After the match the fans waited for the players, under police escort, to leave the stadium so that they could show their displeasure. It was a very sad ending to the Club’s 88th anniversary and Supporters’ Day celebrations.

The result ensured that the visitors were mathematically safe from relegation, but left Oviedo with the virtual impossible task of getting a play-off place, with only one game left and being one point behind the fourth placed club, which has two games left and a better goal difference. In addition to the likely failure to reach the play-off, there is a danger of losing the financial opportunity to take part in the Copa del Ray, with the overall financial loss estimated between €200,000 and €300,000.

The following day training took place at the stadium instead of the training ground, to avoid public view. With the Club under siege, the captain and the only Oviedo-born player, Diego Cervero, volunteered to face the Press. He is known to be the most passionate of the players and he described the team’s performance as his worst personal moment. He apologised to the fans, saying everyone started the season with some high expectations and the players did not reach the minimum required. Although it now appeared to be a lost cause, he pledged that the team would keep training and fighting in the final match next Sunday with the greatest possible dignity and professionalism.

We spent Monday sightseeing around the beautiful city and sampling the regional food and drink. Unfortunately El Desvan, the Ultras’ pub, was closed.

Diego 12

That owl resembles the one on the Oldham Athletic badge!

This trip has not been simply another of our many football excursions. It has established friendships, which I am sure will be long-lasting, similar to those we have already established with supporters of Shamrock Rovers and Eintracht Frankfurt. Not only did we have football-related interests in common with our hosts, but also music tastes ranging through rock ‘n’ roll, 60s, indie, Britpop, and even to a lesser extent, heavy metal. Without trying to cause a big s-s-sensation most of the time we were talkin' 'bout my generation.

It is difficult to express fully our gratitude for all their efforts. Special thanks to two of the other ROST founder-members, Matías García and Juan Ramón González (the driving force behind the Club’s campaign partners). Matías looked after us and went the ‘extra mile’ every day, much of which was at his own expense, to make our visit fantastic. Juan made arrangements for us to meet Diego and members of the Symmachiarii and some other supporters’ groups. We are also grateful to Vic, Deli and David for their interpreting skills and their fascinating knowledge and conversation. The city and the Asturias region should be proud of you for your ambassadorial roles carried out so effectively. Not to forget the friendships established with all the spouses/partners and children, two of whom now recognise Chaddy the Owl.

We look forward to the opportunity to repay our hosts in England

Until then, muchas gracias y hasta la vista amigos.

‘Diego Sideburns’

Links:

‘Diego Cervero’ thread on the Football Forum in 2006 when Diego was on trial at OAFC:

http://www.thefootballforum.net/index.php?/topic/93285-diego-cervero/

‘Diego Cervero = God’ thread on the OWTB Forum 2007 - 2013:

http://www.owtb.co.uk/index.php/topic/510-diego-cervero-god/?hl=cervero

La Nueva Espana newspaper article:

http://www.lne.es/cuencas/2014/04/27/albergue-angliru-estrena-area-autocaravanas/1575854.html

Diego Sideburns’ flickr pictures & videos:

Real Oviedo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/sets/72157644477285973/

Oviedo, Asturias: https://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/sets/72157644436356301/

‘The Real Oviedo Story’ is a film about fan support. It features interviews with Michu, Sid Lowe, Diego Cervero and others.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea9DeVodWPw

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 22:29
 
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
 
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