Author Archives: Pete Mason

Bury fans must try and envisage a future, no matter how difficult that may feel

It would be too easy to join the queue of people offering their condolences to Bury fans following their expulsion from the EFL this week. Instead, what is needed is a plan for the future, not just for Bury FC but for all the clubs who might find themselves in the same situation.

There was almost an inevitability to Bury’s expulsion from the league and Bolton’s extension of their extension. I don’t wish to suggest that Bolton were in a less perilous state than Bury, but if both clubs had been treated the same by the EFL and Bury had been allowed to play their fixtures. The situation might have panned out differently.

The people at the EFL meeting that took place after the 5pm deadline, must surely have been aware of the enormity of expelling Bolton Wanderers from the league given their rich history and long membership of English football.

That does not mean that losing Bury might soon be forgotten. However, there is a danger that the impact on the game may be less, given that the club will always be looked upon as a minor side who spent most of their time in the lower divisions.

Bury’s due diligence

It is possible that the EFL may want to see the back of this episode quickly and sweep the whole debacle under the carpet. Therefore, if there is one thing Bury fans can do, it is to keep the club in the limelight and demand an inquiry into how Steve Dale was allowed to pass a test of due diligence.

Consequently, it is imperative that Bury fans dust themselves off and plan for the future as soon as possible, no matter how difficult that might seem at present. There is a great deal of vitriol aimed at Dale on social media but that needs to be abandoned. The Poundland tycoon with his scant regard for the local community and the livelihoods of his employees, cannot harm the people of Bury any more. Forget him and hope that his long-overdue date in the dock is just around the corner.

Other clubs have started from scratch again and prospered – there is no reason why Bury can’t. Football has long been called The People’s Game. It’s time we took it back.

Football may soon be awash with Bury’s 11th-hour deadline

Football fans should be worried about the future of the game. If they’re not, they should have a pretty good excuse why and be prepared to subject themselves to a fit and proper examination of their mental state.

Bury fans have already subjected themselves to such scrutiny and they won’t want to relive the final hour of Friday 23rd August in a hurry for fear of tipping themselves into madness.

As the minutes ticked by to the EFL’s 11.59 pm deadline, social media appeared to be adding insults to injury. First claiming that Bury had been expelled from the football league and then reporting an 11th-hour reprieve.

None of this did anything for Bury fans who were hoping for a decent nights sleep for the first time in months, as the EFL retired to consider the latest position and extend the agony longer.

You have to wonder how a club like Bury can survive two World Wars, the depression and years of decline in the North of England and yet face extinction due to a man who bought the club for a pound.

Give the game back to the working class

The simple answer is that the game was generally in good hands when it was solely watched by the working class. It only seems to have gone downhill since the people with money came sniffing around the dressing room doors.

There will be other anxious fans watching the situation closely given that the list of owners with financial troubles or questionable agendas grows longer every day.

It is how the EFL deals with the situation which will decide how future catastrophes of this nature pan out. Unquestionably they have the power to avoid this happening anywhere again, but their record in implementing due diligence checks is flawed and in need of a complete overhaul.

Undoubtedly there are clubs who are hanging on by their fingernails to avoid being the next ones facing a winding-up order but as with Bury, success on the field tends to hand supporters a set of blinkers. They are hardly likely to demand to see the accounts if their side is riding high in the table, and booking an open-top bus for the first week in May.

The situation at Bury won’t change anything however as owners may feel that they can deal with the EFL’s due diligence checks with ease. If Steve Dale can and the fans will continue to have tunnel vision as long as the ball is still flying into the net.

Only when we have lost clubs like Bury and Bolton, are people likely to take notice of the crisis in the game but by then it may be too late.

Memories of the 80’s fanzine phenomenon recalled this weekend by Oldham Athletic fans

The start of Oldham Athletic’s 2019/20 season will be a landmark for two Latics supporters now in their 60’s. Thirty years ago, Pete Mason and Harry Crompton launched the club’s fanzine ‘Beyond the Boundary’ at a pre-season friendly against Banik Ostrava at Boundary Park.

Football fanzines were a 1980’s phenomenon which saw most clubs have one or even more publications, written by fans. 

The fanzine provided Latics fans with a chance to air their views on the club, swap good-humoured banter about rival teams and reminisce about games and players from Latics’ glory days in the 1970s.

For Pete and Harry who were to be joined by Brian Green the following season, producing a magazine on a regular basis was something that neither of them had much experience in. “We purchased a typewriter which had seen better days for £5” said Pete “Then we pretty much guessed at how to prepare the pages for printing. We were lucky in getting help from Oldham Resource and Information Centre who gave us a brief introduction to printing and after that, we were on our own.

Printing the fanzine proved to be just the start of what was to become a time consuming, but ultimately worthwhile experience. “The week before we launched the fanzine, we had to collate it, fold it and staple each copy. There were some very late nights” said Harry.

Without the advantage of any official launch, both Pete and Harry struggled on that first day of selling outside the ground. “I guess most people didn’t know what a fanzine was” Pete said “but word got around during the game and before long we were planning issue two with only a handful of the first issue remaining”

The appearance of Beyond the Boundary coincided with the most successful period in Oldham’s history which saw them reach the Littlewood’s Cup Final and face Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final. “We can’t take credit for that” said Harry “but the increase in supporters certainly helped spread the word”.

Pete, whose flat in Werneth served as the fanzine’s HQ soon realised how popular BTB had become by the amount of mail he received weekly. “I’d expected a decent response” he said “but at times we were knocked out by the amount and quality of the articles we received. It wasn’t all serious, in fact some of it was downright bizarre but Latics fans lapped it up”.

Players intrigue

The club kept the fanzine at arm’s length but one or two players regularly bought a copy just to see if they’d been mentioned!

The increased workload eventually resulted in the purchase of a word processor and the services of a professional printer and at the height of Oldham’s success in the newly formed Premier League, each issue of ‘BTB’ was eagerly awaited.

There was a cartoon strip, ‘Dufflecoat Dan the Latics fan’, regular and guest writers, match reports and detailed stories of past games played in some of football’s furthest outposts. Latics exiles abroad became subscribers and the fanzine was posted to Mali, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada.

Here’s Pete Mason with the first season’s issues

All good things come to an end however and with the arrival of the Internet and instant opinions via smartphones, the era of the fanzine slowly disappeared. The last issue of Beyond the Boundary hit the streets in April 2005 with just Pete remaining as the main contributor. “I decided that issue 100 was going to be the last one and, in the end, it wasn’t a difficult decision. There are still a few issues available on eBay if anybody wants to find one”. Pete, Harry and Brian remain keen Latics fans with Pete still writing about the club for ‘The Football Manc Cave’

Examining Oldham Athletic’s 19/20 League Two Opponents: Swindon Town and Walsall

The Football Manc Cave continues the definitive guide to the 19/20 League Two season for Oldham Athletic supporters in our final round-up.

Swindon Town

Richie (not my fault) Wellens may well be the first manager to get the push this season given that Swindon fans think he’s pretty dire. Oldham supporters could have told them that a long time ago.

Nickname: Robins (because of their red kit – uninspired)

Sponsor: ‘Imagine Cruising’ which is perhaps a suggestion of what to do rather than watch Swindon.

Star Supporter: Diana Dors

Club Mascot: Eeyore

Half Time Entertainment: Group Therapy

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: They might do just to wind up Richie Wellens

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Lee Power who the fans don’t think much of. Appointed Wellens so wins the Maddest Chairman Title. 10/10

One to Watch: Michael Doughty. Turned down a move to League One and signed on for two more years with Swindon. Needs help.

Style Of Play: Dour and depressing

Speciality Pie Flavour: Something bland and unappetising. The pie kiosk people won’t understand an Oldham accent anyway.

Away End Capacity and Condition: 1200 in an adequate stand.

Likely Pre Match Songs: Richie’s favourite ‘Heaven knows I’m miserable now’              

End of Season Prediction: 21st (10 points deducted for having a miserable so and so as a manager)

Walsall

The best view of Walsall’s ground is out of the rear window of your car as you travel south on the M6.

Nickname: The Traffic Cones

Sponsor: The Highways Agency

Star Supporter: Lenny Henry probably

Club Mascot: Ronnie the roadblock

Half Time Entertainment: Trying to understand what the announcer is saying.

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Doubtful as most of them will be stuck in a traffic jam near Stoke.

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Jeff Bonser who charges the club for the use of the stadium. Needless to say, the Walsall fans aren’t keen. 5/10

One to Watch: Stuart Sinclair who looks like he’s just been rescued after 10 years from a remote island.

Style Of Play: Stop, start, stop, start

Speciality Pie Flavour: If you can get anybody at the Bank’s Stadium to understand a word you’re saying then good luck as regards the pie contents.

Away End Capacity and Condition: 2000 but a few pillars in the way.

Likely Pre Match Songs: Autobahn- Kraftwerk

End of Season Prediction:

And finally…….

Oldham Athletic

If the club and some of its doom obsessed supporters can agree on something for more than five minutes they may do everyone a favour and we can get on with competing in League Two this season.

Nickname: The Latics (there is another side with the same name. Ignore them)

Sponsor: ACAS

Star Supporter: Inspiral Carpets

Club Mascot: Chaddy the Owl

Half Time Entertainment: Croquet

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Looking at the fixtures it seems unlikely that there will be a full house at Boundary Park this season.

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Tempting though it might be to score AL highly, the jury is still out on his attempts to develop a Moroccan/French hybrid side. He will ultimately be judged on results, not the circus that appears to be in full swing behind the scenes. 8/10

One to Watch: Urko Vera. If ever there was a player who needed to show his critics what he’s made of it’s our Urko.

Style Of Play: French Division Three standard spliced with an occasional rock, paper scissors approach to tactics.

Speciality Pie Flavour: Humble

Away End Capacity and Condition: It’s been a long time since Oldham fans have seen the ground filled to its 13,500 capacity and unless there is an FA Cup 3rd round game against decent opposition, the empty spaces are going to remain.

Likely Pre Match Songs: Given recent events, it’s likely to be “We don’t know what we’re doing”            

End of Season Prediction: 1st of course!

Is the latest drama from Oldham Athletic, Lemsagam’s last stand?

With just over two weeks to go till the start of the new season, Oldham Athletic have been rocked by another news story that has nothing to do with the team.

Supporters hoping to sit in the North Stand for the friendly games against Rochdale this weekend and Bolton the week after, have been told that the stand will be closed due to ‘unreasonable commercial terms’ from the people who own the stand.

For those Oldham fans who get their information about the club away from social media and are not privy to the myriad of untruths, half-truths and blind speculation that exists online. The news that any part of the ground is not owned by the club may seem ludicrous.

However, at Oldham anything is possible and the North Stand which was built with funding from Oldham Council. Remains unfinished to this day and was not part of the deal which saw Abdallah Lemsagam take over the club.

Brassbank Ltd

Instead, the stand is owned by Brassbank Ltd who lease it back to the club. Two of the directors of Brassbank are Simon Blitz and Daniel Gazal who along with Simon Corney were previous joint owners of the club.

Having part of a football ground still owned by a person or persons who have no current affinity with the club, reeks of poor financial planning at the very least. One would have thought that such a major detail, would have been one that Lemsagam would have ironed out before he opened his chequebook.

It transpires however that this is not an unusual occurrence. Walsall Chairman Jeff Bonser owns the club himself, but the freehold titles of the stadium are held by Suffolk Life – a pension firm of which Jeff, his wife, his brother and his brother’s wife are beneficiaries.

Walsall Football Club then pays rent to the pension firm to play at the Banks’ Stadium each year.

There was hope however as far as the situation at Boundary Park was concerned. In February this year Trust Oldham announced that they had been invited by a fan-led group (FLG) to join talks with Brassbank to purchase the stadium.

A month later, Trust Oldham announced that a deal has been agreed to purchase the freehold of the stadium, the North Stand in its entirety and the car parking space. The FLG also announced that part of their purchase agreement was to take over the operation of the Oldham Event Centre, which is an event catering business based in the North Stand.

Noises were also made about completing the 2nd floor and other developments within the North Stand, and offering fans the chance to become co-owners through shares. Likely in the form of both equity and/or investment bonds.

This all sounded incredibly positive of course. however, there was one minor fly in the ointment in that no one knew who the FLG was back in February and still don’t.

Oldham public meeting

Supporters will have to wait till the 27th July to find out what vision the FLG has for the club at a public meeting.

Meanwhile, the club statement regarding the ‘unreasonable commercial terms’ put paid to the FLG opening a bar in the hospitality area of the North Stand before the Rochdale game.

Their response was to point out that they had contacted the club to discuss a service level agreement for the coming season but had been ignored. The increase in costs amounted to 4%.

Consequently, the club now has several factions all competing to be seen as either the saviours of the club or the ones dragging it into an abyss.

Talk of moving the club away from Boundary Park to frustrate the FLG into complying with whatever would bring a solution to the situation has now, become a hot topic despite there being no indication of intent to do so.

It is the last thing the club and its supporters need at the moment, and the situation is only going to get worse.

Expecting Lemsagam to step away from his ‘project’ is a big ask however and unless the FLG has been backed with the sort of money needed to take Lemsagam on, they are doomed to failure.

Will Paul Murray’s return to Oldham Athletic be third time lucky?

On the whole, football fans are always pleased to see an experienced ex-player return to the club in a coaching capacity. Therefore the return of Paul Murray to Oldham Athletic has been greeted positively.

Murray was part of the side who played under Iain Dowie and John Sheridan in 2004/5 which included Calvin Zola, David Eyres and Chris Killen. Although the club had shown signs of challenging for promotion via the playoffs in 2002/03. The momentum had not been maintained despite the inclusion in the side of quality midfield players like Murray.

Like many players nearing the end of their careers, Murray moved around several lower league clubs such as Hartlepool, Carlisle and Shrewsbury and also had a spell at Gretna who were liquidated as a club in 2008.

He had a short spell at Hartlepool as manager but returned to Boundary Park as an assistant to Lee Johnson in 2014.

Murray now returns for his third spell with the club as Academy manager and has a vital role to play, given the importance owner Abdallah Lemsagam has put on developing the club’s young players. With George Edmundson fetching a fee of £700,000 recently. It is vital that Oldham bring their Academy players into the first-team squad and cash in when the time is right.

Much has been said about the future of the Academy at Boundary Park, but it must surely be clear that there are no plans to scrap it as was rumoured. However, Murray may well find himself linked to other roles at the club before long. With last season showing that anybody can end up being a coach at the club at the drop of a hat.

Oldham fans are already looking for odds on Paul getting that position before long.

Examining Oldham Athletic’s 19/20 League Two Opponents: Salford City, Scunthorpe Utd and Stevenage Borough

The Football Manc Cave continues the definitive guide to the 19/20 League Two season for Oldham Athletic supporters.

Salford City

The involvement of several bored ex-Man Utd players and their money in Salford City has seen the club catapulted into the football league a lot quicker than expected.

Nickname: The Ammies (no idea why)

Sponsor: Should be Holts Brewery but is probably some IT Consultancy on Salford Quays

Star Supporter: L S Lowry

Club Mascot: Mick the Matchstick Man

Half Time Entertainment: Welly Chucking

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Nailed on certainty

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Karen Baird. Accountant. Knows her way around a paper shredder

One to Watch: Adam Rooney. Ordinary for Oldham and a bit past it. Ginger.

Style Of Play: Attempted Class of ’92 style but more hopeful kick and rush.

Speciality Pie Flavour: Tripe and Cow Heel

Away End Capacity and Condition: Not that many in a ground undergoing a revamp.

Likely Pre Match Songs: The Coronation St. Theme

End of Season Prediction: 5th

Scunthorpe United

Scunthorpe have been up and down the lower divisions for years without ever looking like achieving anything. Had a ludicrous interest in George Edmundson turned down.

Nickname: The Iron (Something to do with the steelworks I guess.

Sponsor: Not British Steel, they have less money than the football team

Star Supporter: Metal Mickey

Club Mascot: Iron Man

Half Time Entertainment: Jousting

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Probably not but we’ve made valiant attempts in the past.

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Peter Swann, owner of Cool Fun Ltd which is the last thing you’d expect in Scunthorpe

One to Watch: Certainly not George Edmundson.

Style Of Play: Desperate

Speciality Pie Flavour: Meat but look out for the iron filings

Away End Capacity and Condition: 1678 in a soulless void of a ground

Likely Pre Match Songs: Anything Heavy Metal

End of Season Prediction: 15th

Stevenage Boro

If you had been on a ten season-long run of attending consecutive away games, Stevenage would probably be where you decided to call it a day. It is one of the most boring places on the planet.

Nickname: Boro (eye roll)

Sponsor: The local scout troop

Star Supporter: Nobody famous has been anywhere near the place.

Club Mascot: Whoever gets in the ground first.

Half Time Entertainment: Watching paint dry.

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: No chance

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Phil Wallace. Asking fans to fund the club. 6/10

One to Watch: The traffic lights changing outside the ground.

Style Of Play: Painful

Speciality Pie Flavour: Bland

Away End Capacity and Condition: 1400 but no one ever wants to go there

Likely Pre Match Songs: Boredom – The Buzzcocks

End of Season Prediction: 7th

Next Week: Swindon Town, Walsall and Oldham!

The contrast between Man City & Bury FC fans shows there’s no stream coming from the big pond

You can train 1000 nurses for the price that Manchester City have paid for Rodri, but there will be little concern about the €70 million price tag.

The amounts of money involved in building a Premier League side are mind-boggling and show no signs of diminishing. It appears that there is no limit that a club will go to in a search for the player they need. Without any danger of being admonished for their reckless extravagance.

Little or no attention is being paid to the crisis at the other end of the league pyramid. With local teams, Bolton Wanderers and Bury FC facing uncertain futures before the season has got underway.

Money

The idea that money from the top trickles down to the lower leagues is a myth. Clubs like Bury would have been rubbing their hands at getting a percentage of the fee Manchester City paid for Mahrez.

In fact, Bury could wipe out their total debt with what Mahrez earns in 10 months at Man City.

The difference on social media between Man City and Bury fans today sums up the chasm that lies between them.

Bury fans are currently studying the list of creditors the club has. Bizarrely one of the creditors is ex-Man City player Shaun Goater who is owed £800. He applied for the Bury manager’s job in 2013 but there is no evidence the money is linked to that!

The people in charge of the game may feel that the clubs who find themselves facing winding up orders and liquidation have only themselves to blame. But the current checks on potential owners have been shown to be flawed on numerous occasions.

If the future of football is to be fought out with a drastically reduced number of clubs, just because checks cannot be made precisely on the suitability of owners. Then it is the game that will suffer as a consequence.

Man Utd Women set to benefit from these 2 things

With the Women’s World Cup at the forefront of the Nation’s attention. The Football Manc Cave feels it seems entirely fitting that an ex-Manchester City player, now with Manchester United Women should be involved in the Manchester derby on the opening weekend of the new season.

Jane Ross has all the ingredients needed to become one of Manchester United Women’s top players. The recently promoted side has given an early indication to the rest of the Super League, that they aren’t just there to make up the numbers.

Followers of the game will be well aware of Jane who began her career at youth level with Paisley Saints Ladies. In June 2006, she joined Glasgow City, where she won six Scottish Women’s Premier League titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups. She also helped the club reach the last 16 of the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the 2011–12 campaign.

The two attributes Jane will bring to United are the sort of skills any side needs…

Goal scoring Ability

Jane’s record of 104 goals in 118 appearances for Glasgow City between 2006-12 is phenomenal by any standards. Her subsequent goals in Sweden for Vittsjö GIK, Manchester City and West Ham as well as 58 International games for Scotland, gives any side with her in an automatic advantage. Man United fans were quick to show their excitement at the signing.

Long Term Ambition

Having rejoined the Women’s game after a 13-year absence, following the Glazer’s decision to disband the side deeming the women’s team to not be part of the “core business” and unprofitable. Manchester United Women can show that they are at the forefront of the interest in the Women’s game. Signing a top player like Jane Ross gives a clear message to the rest of the league, the fans and the Glazers that Manchester United Women mean business.

Examining Oldham Athletic’s 19/20 League 2 Opponents: Northampton, Port Vale and Plymouth

Continuing the definitive guide to the 19/20 League Two season for Oldham supporters.

Northampton Town

Northampton appeared to be trying to sign as many players as possible before anybody else in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t worth having.

Nickname: The Cobblers (quaint)

Sponsor: Doctor Scholls

Star Supporter: Bigfoot

Club Mascot: Freddy the foot fetishist

Half Time Entertainment: Clog dancing

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Doubtful but we have taken a decent number in the past

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Kelvin Thomas, search for him on the net and you’ll find stories of dodgy dealings, missing loans and police involvement. 9/10

One to Watch: Harry Smith ex Macclesfield forward. Yes, ex Macclesfield.

Style Of Play: Big hoof

Speciality Pie Flavour: Everything tastes like shoe leather so it doesn’t matter what you buy.

Away End Capacity and Condition: 800 in an awful new build with no decent pubs for miles.

Likely Pre Match Songs: These boots are made for walking

End of Season Prediction: 17th

Port Vale

Burslem was once described as the worst town centre in the UK and it’s gone down a lot since then. However, Vale fans are a cheerful lot and deserve a lot better.

Nickname: The Valiants

Sponsor: Take That Fan Club

Star Supporter: Robbie Williams (eek!)

Club Mascot: Paul the Past It Pop Star

Half Time Entertainment: A Take That Tribute Band

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Good chance if we’re doing well

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Carol and Kevin Shanahan Port Vale fans for years made good. Just as it should be. 0/10

One to Watch: Tom Pope, Vale’s only hope up front about to enter his 34th year. Desperate stuff.

Style Of Play: Wing play with an encore

Speciality Pie Flavour: The Robbie Williams Special. Past its sell by date with little substance.

Away End Capacity and Condition: 4500 in an old but pretty decent stadium

Likely Pre Match Songs: Got to be Robbie.

End of Season Prediction: 9th

Plymouth

Plymouth is determined to become the Bury of the South West, not by dabbling with extinction but by signing up anybody going spare at Gigg Lane.

Nickname: The Pilgrims

Sponsor: Captain Morgan Rum

Star Supporter: Sir Francis Drake

Club Mascot: Some sort of Pirate Character

Half Time Entertainment: Keelhauling

Will Oldham Take Over The Town?: Not a chance

Mad Chairman Score Out Of 10: Simon Hallett who sounds pretty normal 0/10

One to Watch: Danny Mayor who will be homesick by the end of August

Style Of Play: Just like Bury

Speciality Pie Flavour: There are no such things as pies south of Exeter Services

Away End Capacity and Condition: 1300 in a ground being refurbished

Likely Pre Match Songs: Sea Shanties

End of Season Prediction: 6th

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