|Rise of The Athleticos|
|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.