When Neil Redfearn scored from the penalty spot in the final seconds of the last game of the 1990/91 season, winning the club the old league two title – he set the clock ticking on what has become an unwelcome statistic.
Absolutely nobody who was associated with the club that day could have been persuaded that 28 years would elapse, without any further honours. It would have been described as unthinkable.
Oldham Athletic were on the cusp of joining football’s elite, having endured life in lower league football for what seemed like an eternity. Joe Royle, the magician who built a side who had proved they could take on anyone, acknowledged the adoration of the fans and surely believed as we all did, that the future was bright and the only way was up.
Latics had won something far more precious than silverware in the previous two seasons. They had won over a sceptical Oldham public who now flocked to Boundary Park at every opportunity. If we were now to be playing the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, surely a stab at European competition was only round the corner?
At first, everything seemed to be going to plan. Record season ticket sales, a new stand, membership of the breakaway Premier League and signings that we could not have hoped for or afforded in the past.
Fate is a cruel mistress however and before long, with a relegation near miss in 92/93, the season tickets were being swapped for fishing tackle in the newspaper classifieds. The new stand had empty seats and the signings were nowhere near as good as the players they’d replaced.
Oldham’s fall from grace was rapid and swift with many believing we’d had our allotted 15 minutes of fame. They were absolutely correct.
A toxic mix of poor leadership from the boardroom, 29 changes of manager, poor signings and an exodus of fans led to where the club find themselves today.
It can be argued that Oldham are hardly in a position at present to break that 28-year record, but if the likes of Tranmere Rovers can exit this division with a bunch of average to poor players, then anybody can.
The key is consistency, something we lacked both on and off the pitch last season. If the club can make a decent choice when appointing the new coach, and ignore those whose patience doesn’t stretch past three poor results. We can perhaps begin to believe that promotion and the end of a very long wait is a possibility.
‘Thirty years of hurt‘ is certainly not something Latics fans want to hear sung from the stands.