The Time The Oldham Chairman Suggested the Unthinkable
There have been some flamboyant Chairmen in football over the years and there have been many who remain almost unknown to the club’s supporters, quietly remaining in the background until the day the manager needs a vote of confidence.
Ian Stott fell somewhere between the two and was on the board at Boundary Park for 27 years with 16 years as Chairman, enjoying a spell at the club which coincided with the most successful period in our history. His friendship with manager Joe Royle was often commented on and Joe, like his predecessor Jimmy Frizzell, spent 12 years as manager.
Joe departed for Everton in 1994 however and Oldham installed a revolving door at Boundary Park which saw the club go through seven managers in the next ten years. Stott must have realised that the days as part of the Premier league setup were not going to return and he was no doubt concerned about his ambitions to one day become Chairman of the FA.
Whether it was an attempt to get himself in the news to support his aspirations or a gaffe of monumental proportions, Stott announced in January 1999 that he had been in talks with Bury FC to couple the two clubs and what’s more they were preparing to speak with Rochdale about making it a threesome. This unholy alliance even had a name. Manchester North End.
The Bury Chairman and a spokesperson from Rochdale were quick to point out that the opposition to this from all sides was likely to be vociferous but Stott argued that the future of all three clubs was uncertain given meagre gates and struggling finances. A stadium built adjoining Boundary Park which would house the new club and apparently an amalgam of supporters who had set aside their past differences was the way forward.
Almost immediately, it was pointed out that all three clubs would lose evidence of their past history. Bury with their two FA Cup wins, Oldham’s Littlewoods Cup final and FA Cup semi final appearances and whatever Rochdale can claim fame to. Also, under the Football League rules the new club would have to take its place in the lowest division of the merged clubs, which in this case would have been the Third Division, where Rochdale played.
After the expected furore, Stott wisely stood down as Oldham Chairman and surprisingly ended up on the board at Rochdale some years later. His claim that none of the three clubs could hope to survive the modern age of football proved to be as absurd as Manchester North End. Nineteen years later, the three clubs may not have set the footballing world alight but at least they are still here.