Our sadly missed neighbours have become an unfortunate byword for financial and administrative mismanagement in football. ‘At least we’re not Bury.’ ‘We don’t want to become another Bury.’ ‘Is this a Bury-like scenario?’ You might remember our match there in April 2013. Some of us were lucky enough to watch it; hundreds more were locked out. After a week of the Bury chairman pleading with fans to come to the game because they urgently needed £1 million to survive, a huge number of fans who wanted to pay on the gate were refused entry as the stand was supposedly full. Bury were rightly criticised for not making a game that was both a relegation 6-pointer (our 1-0 win sent Bury down) and a local derby all-ticket, then catastrophically failing to accommodate pay on the day spectators. Imagine being on the verge of going bust, then turning away hundreds of people wanting to give you money!
Imagine a club that’s been in financial trouble for years, that narrowly avoided going into administration as recently as June 2020, where a club director recently condemned boycotting fans as “trying to kill the club” …...who then restricted tickets for the next away game to one per season ticket holder in person at the ticket office that’s only open part-time, refused to let fans buy any tickets for their next home game, and took season tickets off sale. You couldn’t make it up. Ok you could, someone made up Star Wars, but you see what I mean. The current regime’s dedication to pushing the boundaries (pun intended) of incompetence and farce is remarkable. Simon Jordan – who once had talks with Colonel Gaddafi about selling Crystal Palace to him – seems to think it’s our own fault, tweeting “maybe if fans didn’t invade pitches and throw tennis balls it wouldn’t happen?”. Don’t be ungrateful, children, or we’ll take away your football club like the toy we think it is.
Abdallah Lemsagam has this week again stated his intention to not sell the club. In a typically soul-destroying statement, he hilariously claimed that “the Club is in its most stable position since I took over”. We’re 2nd from bottom of the entire Football League, we’re under a transfer embargo, and we recently had to bring in a keeper on an emergency loan because we didn’t bother reading the terms of the EFL loan we received. Stable. I remember Theresa May using that word, she was talking bollocks as well. Abdallah was more equivocal when asked if he would consider selling the club on talkSport, saying “Maybe if we stay like this. Every business is for sale.”
If he does stay, I honestly don’t know what his end game is. There is no disputing that we’ve gone from bad to worse under his leadership and he is showing no signs of turning it around. His relationship with the fans is irretrievably broken. So where does he go from here? What’s his next move? Playing in an empty ground, with Mo sitting on his own in the Main Stand, muttering “we’ll show them, we’ll show them all, you’ll see”? Where the hell is the club going? To quote the Manics, from despair to where?
The past few weeks have been a turning point. Obviously PTB and the Foundation can’t condone the pitch invasions and the tennis balls, and the whistles made me think my tinnitus was playing up when walking past the ground, but direct action gets attention. The media is now focusing on our plight, and there have been several articles on ‘the next Bury?’ in the national press. Lots of fans of other clubs have expressed their sympathy and solidarity on social media. There’s been a few attention-seeking trolls chipping in as well, but that’s what the Block/Mute button is for. There’s a spotlight on us and a lot of goodwill towards us and we must make the most of that. We need to keep the pressure up and we need to make sure that any potential buyers know that there’s a strong, passionate supporter base at Oldham Athletic who love their club and want it back.
Enjoy the Orient game if you’re going, stay off the pitch and have a pint for me. See you outside BP on September 18th. I’ll be the one in the clown wig.
Thank you to Arlene for submitting this week's fan post!
You can follow Arlene, the glory hunter, on Twitter @arlenefinnigan.