Saturday, August 17th 1996. I’ve still got stitches in my mouth from surgery at Alder Hey a week before but I’m determined to make the first game of the season. I lie and tell my mum I’m going with a mate, because there’s no way in hell she’s letting her 15 year old daughter get the train alone from Whiston to Oldham Werneth. We lose 1-2 to Stoke, and I have a horrible (and, unfortunately, accurate) feeling that we’ll go down this season.
Saturday, August 7th 2021. I now live off Furtherwood Road. I get up bright and early (well, 9am) to watch a lad from my adopted hometown win silver in the men’s madison, then head over to the Rifle Range for pre-match pints. And when fans are finally allowed back into Boundary Park for the first time in a year and a half, and we kick off the season at home to Newport……I’m sat at home watching St Helens v Catalans.
How did it come to this? How does someone go from being a season ticket holder and making 80 mile round trips to the game, to living next to the ground and refusing to go?
When people ask ‘how does someone who grew up in Liverpool in the 80s, with no connection to Oldham, end up supporting Latics?’, I usually answer with a sheepish ‘I’m a glory hunter’. The truth is I only got into football when I was 11 or 12, I didn’t want to pick between the red and blue sides of the family, Oldham seemed like a good neutral North West option and frankly I hadn’t done my research and didn’t realise that us being in the top flight was an aberration. I started following Latics in the 1993-94 season and we’ve been on an inexorable spiral of decline since so I can only apologise for being a jinx. It does, however, make me laugh when people dismiss my reasons for boycotting by saying “Well it’s easy to stop going when we’re not playing well”. Lads, I opted to not support my dad’s and brother’s team, who’ve won the European Cup 6 times. I opted not to support my sister’s and grandad’s team, the downtrodden underdogs who I’ve nevertheless seen win the league twice, the FA Cup twice and who were playing in Europe when we were playing the paint pot trophy. I have actively chosen misery. I renewed my season ticket when Dangerous Dave Penney was still our manager. We’ve been crap for a quarter of a century. That’s clearly not the reason.
And it isn’t easy. It breaks my heart walking past Boundary Park on a match day, thinking of all the times I’ve taken 2 days off work to go to a midweek game v Hartlepool and got home at 1.30am. It kills me walking past the ground every day on my way to work, wondering when I’ll be going to the match there again. It’s not a decision I’ve made lightly. But under the current regime, I don’t know what else to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I was as happy as anyone when Abdallah took over. If Corney had stayed at the helm, we’d have gone bust. It seemed to herald a new era of hope. Even when we went down, I thought that we’d finally run out of luck, we were in a transitional phase and hopefully things would get better from here.
It’s ironic that Scholes quitting was the final straw, because I never thought he’d be a good manager for us. I couldn’t see him being prepared to put in the necessary work, I didn’t think he’d be able to coach players who didn’t have anything like his natural ability, and in his very brief tenure I saw little to convince me otherwise. But he was a huge name, someone who had been a world class player, who also happened to be a Latics fan, someone who could hopefully use their contacts and their status to our advantage, and the Chuckle Brothers couldn’t stop meddling in team affairs to keep him on board. And more and more stories emerged to suggest that not allowing the manager to do his job was far from the only problem. Pension contributions not being paid; wages not being paid on time; employee after employee leaving suddenly, and unfair dismissal claims being settled out of court. Things had become awful under Corney, but this is another level of catastrophic incompetence.
I have nothing against people who choose to continue to go to the game, and it’s not my place to tell people what to do. I appreciate that it’s especially hard when you go with family – you can’t let your kids become City or United fans, and no one should begrudge anyone going to matches with their parents or siblings. But when you’ve lost all faith in the current owners, it doesn’t feel like there are many other options to try to force change. Don’t tell me I’m part of the problem and you can’t expect the club to improve if you restrict their income. When I gave them my money they spent it on Sonhy Sefil (who couldn’t get a game at Ashton United) and Urko Vera (who could trap a ball further than I can kick it), instead of, say, paying the tax bill, so excuse me if I’m no longer prepared to throw good money after bad.
I don’t want to be boycotting. I can’t wait to be in Boundary Park again. Hopefully Abdallah will do the decent thing and sell up. This is our club, he won’t be here forever and we’ll be here long after he’s gone. For now, however, it’s back to only going to games that involve train journeys.
See you all at Bradford.
Thank you to Arlene for submitting this week's fan post!
You can follow Arlene, the glory hunter, on Twitter @arlenefinnigan.