Oldham’s official attendance for the home win against Notts County on New Year’s Day was 4336. Five days later, in the FA Cup played in the capital on a Sunday with a 2pm kickoff, Oldham fans numbered just over 4000 having sold out the allocation given them by Fulham.
Of course, playing a Premier League side cannot be compared to playing a struggling League Two side but the logistics of getting to London from Oldham on a Sunday were pretty tough. Nevertheless, it was a game that Oldham’s ever-increasing away support were not going to miss and they received numerous messages of support from Fulham fans for their good-natured but noisy presence. Videoed from the stand housing the home fans, the ‘Athleticos’ made their presence felt which obviously spurred on the Oldham players.
Early in the campaign, it was obvious that Oldham supporters were going to put the disappointment of last season’s relegation to one side and take the opportunity to visit several grounds in League Two that they hadn’t had the opportunity to in the past. Forest Green Rovers, Macclesfield, Morecambe, Grimsby and Newport are all clubs we’ve avoided in our lengthy stay in League One and I first witnessed Athletic’s ‘12th man‘ out in force at Grimsby back in September.
Despite a first half that was dour, to say the least, the Oldham fans provided everybody with a steady supply of songs favouring their own version of Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough‘. It was certainly enough to rally the Oldham players who knocked in three second-half goals for a deserved victory.
Oldham haven’t always had such a large away support except when playing local rivals Bury, Rochdale, Bolton and Blackburn but it has definitely increased in recent years and Latics fans were a credible 31st with an average of 936 in the table of away support for all football league teams in 2016/17.
Much of the praise for this welcome increase in support must go to the predominantly young, noisy, drum beating tribe who call themselves ‘Athleticos‘. Undeterred by being led by these youngsters, the rest of the visiting supporters join in with the singing and I felt drawn into the community spirit at Doncaster despite my long-held belief that any song by Depeche Mode was truly awful on the ears.
On numerous occasions, the players and manager have pointed out the value of the vocal support from the terraces and how much it has contributed to important victories. Although we are now out of the FA Cup and attendances may suffer as a consequence, there are still vital ‘away days’ for the Athleticos at Bury, Cambridge and Lincoln to look forward to and if the level of support from the terraces is matched by performances on the pitch then the club has a future we can all look forward to.