A Leicester City Fan Remembers Oldham Athletic May 7th 1983
By Gilbert the Filbert
Monday 06 Oct 2008 12:15:00
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I Was That Man

Sometimes for no apparent reason you turn the telly on and sit down with a cheese sandwich. You flick around the channels. It’s the usual dross Street Crime, Road Wars, Cops Uncut you know the sort of thing. But occasionally, very occasionally maybe only once or twice in a life time you stumble across something that just blows you away. This has happened to me a couple of times; once it was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid another time I recall was that great film with Hayley Mills in it; Whistle Down the Wind.
It’s been a dismal week, lets be honest we’re all right down there in the dumps aren’t we. I’m tired, listless, can’t settle at anything, can’t concentrate, drinking heavily, quiet, withdrawn and not even tempered. I keep thinking to myself we were one of only nine clubs never to have dropped into the third division. The words weigh heavy on my troubled brow.
Anyway I sat down with my sandwich, red Leicester it was and a bit of chutney and I turned on the telly and began my customary ‘flickaround.’ I came across a long gone but pleasantly familiar face; Brian Moore.Remember him? I quickly worked out that ITV were showing footie matches from way back when. Quite interesting I thought and then the moment happened. My mouth fell open as I discovered that the Big Match from the past featured Oldham Athletic playing at home against promotion hopefuls Leicester City. Unbelievable.
I was at that match, I remember it well although it was twenty five years ago almost to the day. I can be seen in the crowd standing with a dead pan face but exploding inside as Paul Ramsey netted our second goal in ‘Of Fossils and Foxes.’
Afterwards I got out the book, yes there I am on page 116 standing among the Oldham fans above the letter T on the billboard in my new blue anorak. I went along on that day on a whim, in my old red jalopy,no ticket, no map, no mobile phone, no cd’s to listen to, no sat nav nothing. You could do that in those days, just turn up and pay at the turnstile. I was in for a couple of quid.


I had to stand with the Oldham lot as the City end was a sell out. I was drenched too, there was an almighty cloud burst as I was walking to the ground. I’d never been to Oldham before but it was easy to find the ground, I just stopped on a hill overlooking the town and scanned the scene till I saw the floodlights and I just drove towards them. Easy.
I parked in the street bought some chips. Happy Days. I went on my own, my son was just a bit too young in those days.
I clicked in through the turnstile and moaned about the weather with the locals. The sun almost came out and I looked hopefully towards the sky as ‘the lads’ came out for their warm up which in those days didn’t consist of very much at all. It was more of a trot about and haphazard kicking of the various footballs lying about.
I learned from the tinny tannoy that Ian Wilson, Steve Lynex and some young striker called ‘Line-acre’ were out injured.

The TV re-run was in colour though which showed City wearing their bright red away kit. The game itself passed quickly and brightly. We never looked like we were going to lose it. We were up for it, chipper, confident, quick witted and ambitious. They had names I understood like Wallington, O’Neill, Smith, Ramsey, Young, MacDonald, Peake and Daly. The manager was called Gordon and he sat in a box with a couple of mates and watched studiously.

 

There was no technical area, and by the way what exactly is a technical area? What technical processes are carried out in there? It’s a mystery to me.
There were no garish sponsors daubed over the shirts. The pitch was not perfect, in fact it was a bit muddy.
The ball was white. The referee wore black and he had two linesmen. There were no bookings. No one dived, feigned injury or spat or swore or did anything other than politely salute the crowd when they scored.
There was no truculence no tetchiness. No manager at any time had to be wrestled from the touchline spitting foul mouthed venom by yet another official.
No stretchers came on to the pitch carrying players who miraculously recovered the moment they got off them.
The word million was never even dreamt of.
There were no members of the Russian mafia hanging around in the directors box glaring menacingly at their team.
Call me old fashioned if you like but I think the football looked better, it was more open. You could call it naïve if you wish but I would call it honest and above board. And what was specially nice was that people weren’t scraping past me every few minutes with yet another burgher or a can of coke.

We had a first timer playing, Robert Jones, we had to play the lad since we didn’t have a squad of sixty players to call on with two or three specialists in every position. He scored the opening goal and Paul Ramsey scored our second. Yes I saw myself in the crowd standing there in my blue anorak with the Oldham fans getting soaked every few minutes by the showers of rain. But I didn’t mind that the stadium was ‘state of the ark’ all I cared about was the football. The football was good. Oldham were good and we were better, much much better than we are now despite all the fancy dandy fluff that has settled on football in the last twenty five years.

Do you know where we went wrong? I’ll tell you where we went wrong, it was when we moved to our new ‘much improved’ ground. Nothing wrong with the ground really, apart from one thing: The crowd is now too far away from the players and the atmosphere is zero as a result.
So before we get an Indonesian Tea Magnet to buy the club who appoints a certain Jean Claude Michel Pfaf-Pfaf who’s first signing is Olong Nbongo Nbongo from Timbuktu Typhoons….before we do that we want to get back to how it used to be when the game was something we could identify with. When it was not some multi national plaything when one of us might just might get lucky and get in the team and be cheered on as a local hero. We need something to identify with. We don’t need the fancy money brigade ruining it for us. We don’t want to feel cut off. We don’t want to be divorced.
We want to be so near the players we can smell the liniment on them and we can hear the tackles going in and when we shout they can hear us. So that’s simple then build another ten rows of seats.

But what is that I hear? It’s the voice of the 21st Century shouting at me to get real, to wake up and smell the coffee. But no I just look at myself standing in the crowd at Oldham twenty five years ago and I shake my head.
Currently football is on a course of self destruction. It has been wrested from our hands, the real hands, the very hands that made it the great game it is. And we stood there and not only let it happen but we financed it.



The Big Match finishes, Brian Moore signs off and it’s back to the future. Is it just me? Am I wrong? Is the game better now? Is it just that I can’t see it? Tell you what lets look at it all again in twenty five years time. I hope football and us are still in existence then.
The adverts flash onto the screen, slick and smooth and polished. I turn off and wish for better days. Are they around the corner or have we had them already. Only time will tell.
I remember driving home from Oldham that night. One of the wonders of the world is that we just don’t know what the future holds but we can have an influence on it. Who would have thought an ex Forest player would have lit up our team brighter than ever before. If that can happen there must be some hope. Surely!!!!!!!!
And that is why I hope Sir Alex Ferguson wins everything in the next couple of weeks.

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