Wrestling with a passion - by Chris Howarth

Dare to dream?

August rolls around again but is there the same buzz at the start of this season as in other years past? Who am I kidding, of course there is!


Regardless of the ongoing mess off the pitch, the Latics provide a regular routine for me and many others like me, week by week regardless of the results the week before, we count down to wet Saturday afternoons and cold Tuesday nights.


Let’s be honest, I've never had it easy! In the year I was born Oldham were relegated to League 1 and I’ve never seen us play at a higher level. The odd FA Cup result is enough to ease the pain, but promotion is always the goal for me, year by year. Ideally I’d prefer going up in the play offs and a Wembley day out for the fans, however I think most of us will agree that under the current owners, it is likely a distant dream.


I think we have a few talents in the squad and, to be honest, Keith Curle is a fantastic manager for this level, with an abundance of experience in this division; but can he get the best out of Bahamboula and co this season? I’m not reading too much into performances at the back end of last season, it wasn’t Curle’s team and he’ll have his own idea of how he wants to do things (if he's allowed to do so, of course).


The opening day always brings hope and belief to football fans, regardless of their club and stature and I think that’s what makes football special. As Latics fans we’ve regularly been burnt on the season's opener. I think back to a few years ago when we took a 3-0 beating off Millwall and it killed our spirits nice and early! I think the last time we had a really positive run early doors would’ve been under Lee Johnson, just before he went to Barnsley. I think we were sat 4th in the table, on a 12 match unbeaten run before it ended at Ashton Gate. Then of course in typical Oldham fashion, the rumour mill whirled and Johnson was linked elsewhere, followed by the 4-0 drubbing to Yeovil and even worse, the 7-0 at Stadium MK. I was in the stands at that game and it's easily the most embarrassed I have ever felt, made worse by my mate from school, a City fan, coming along for the day out. He couldn’t stop laughing! I remember in school, he’d bring it up, for years after, a sickening feeling! I still cant understand how we finished 15th that year.


This club of ours

I have many fond memories of being an Oldham fan, some of the best times of my life have been in the away ends of various grounds, most recently at Fulham away with Peter Wild taking us. I think the one thing that can be said for Oldham is that our away support is always bouncing. There’s nothing that’ll keep us quiet. Conceding five at Mansfield and still singing? Where else would you see that??!


I think back again to the game at Ashton Gate under Johnson as a fine example, 15,000 plus that ground holds and they only gave us 500 tickets. For 90 minutes our little group of 500 fans were the voice of the stadium. Agard puts Bristol 1 up from a free kick, Bristol fans couldn’t believe we kept going and kept on drowning out the noise of the home fans! I think it’s something players who join Oldham really fall for. I think we perform slightly better away than at home and a huge reason for that has to be the travelling fans. At Bradford, Blackburn, Bolton, Fulham, the fans were exceptional, the results didn’t always go our way, but that’s football.


The one thing I can say to any of us is that no matter what, we’ll always have the best away following in the league, and now that we're allowed back into grounds across the country, we have to make that count. This club of ours will always shout the loudest and that’s something that the owners or anyone, can take from us.


Heritage

My love for Oldham Athletic was passed down to me from my Dad. He didn’t quite pass it onto my two older brothers but third time's the charm! My dad doesn’t cry much, but one evening after an away day at Bolton, there was an evening with Andy Richie at the OEC. Richie is, and I think will always be, my dads hero. Listening to him talk about the glory days and sharing his stories, that put a tear in his eye. The good times, as my dad says. He always says to me any time I talk about good Oldham sides of recent years, (not that we’ve had many), "you don’t know a good Oldham side until you saw the early 90’s team". Myself and many others, never saw the Littlewoods cup final of the the two FA Cup semi-finals.


Abdullah and Co

There’s been a lot said about Abdullah and Mo already. We all know it appears Mo can’t perform as a sporting director and that AL should probably sell up. I admit, I'm a little bit bitter because as I was fooled when he joined. I remember thinking it was a positive new start, if I scrolled back through my twitter feed I’d find old tweets talking about a new era, a buzz of excitement and how we could be onto something. Little did I know the famous words ‘Slowly, Slowly’ would actually mean he was putting us in reverse!


It seems that big characters just aren’t welcome anymore. Wheater, Clarke, Gerrard and Davies have all been huge characters and big personalities in the squad. Every one of them has been outcast or has a horror story about our club. Paul Scholes was a huge story, we made Sky News with that one, whereas we cant even get on BBC radio Manchester most weeks! When Scholes came in, again I believed; this is it now, were gonna have a right go, with a Champions League winner at the helm. My dad wasn’t as confident and ironically just said ‘Let’s just see how it plays out’. 28 days later it ended.


Season 2021/22

It can't get any worse, can it?! Keith Curle hopes for a top ten finish, but that’d be overachieving I think, but we do have some quality in the squad. Adams is an experienced pro at this level, who has tasted promotion from league two and knows how it's done. Hallam Hope is a good goal scorer, and has also been around at this level. We’ve signed Jayson Leutwiler, who if kept fit, could be quality in goal for us, an area we have lacked in since Conor Ripley. He could be the difference , considering the number of goals we shipped last season. Then you add the magic man, Dylan Bahamboula. Nothing else needs to be said, he’s top class and will definitely create chance after chance. Could a few more midfielders and another striking option put us in contention for that top half target?


It’s been 30 years since we’ve last been promoted this year and 14 since we lasted tasted the play offs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that mark hit 15 years either. But what’s one more year of hope? Fans can finally sit in the North stand and the work that Push the Boundary are doing is fantastic. The OASF new members are looking for change and I’m hopeful of just that. A successful season is what we need as fans to keep us around, and who knows, stranger things have happened, that’s the joy of football!


It’s another ride at the fairground, the circus is in full swing, but there will only ever be one Oldham Athletic.


Thanks to Chris Howarth for submitting this piece.


Chris is 22, lives in Winchester and is a professional wrestler.


Follow him on Twitter here


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