Anybody who watched Oldham Athletic in the 1970s cannot possibly have a discussion on that era without mentioning Alan Groves. He regularly features in any ‘Best 11‘ polls and there are still a few t-shirts that bear the legend ‘GROVES 11’ knocking about.
To the teenagers of the 70’s, Groves was a God. He had skill, charisma, strength, good looks and fearsome pace and, most importantly, he wore beads round his neck.
Making an impressive start to your career at a new club is always a good idea. Wayne Rooney made a decent start to his Manchester United career I seem to remember however, Oldham fans will not forgive me for mentioning him in the same breath as Alan Groves so I’ll move quickly on.
You don’t have to score a hat trick on your debut to ensure hero status however, which makes Groves’ single goal against Aldershot more impressive. Latics fans were well aware of Groves as he had faced us playing for Bournemouth on a number of occasions. He was one of the most exciting players I’ve ever witnessed with his bursts of speed to get past defenders and his perfectly measured passes.
He went straight in at No 11 against Aldershot due to an injury to Tony Bailey and made an immediate impact. The match reporter in the Oldham Chronicle was as impressed as the supporters.
“In debutante Alan Groves, Athletic had the man of the match, the games most decisive influence and most exciting competitor. Groves slotted perfectly into Athletic’s side and provided the pace, poise and pedigree that has occasionally been missing. Once or twice he caught Athletic’s own players by surprise with instant through passes of great deception and his effect on the Aldershot defence was utterly demoralising. He capped a spectacular debut with a finely executed goal in the 31st minute. A cross from Garwood on the right was headed on by McVitie and Groves accelerating into acres of space shot past Johnson with great ease.”
Groves was to go on to be a key part of Latics’ surge towards the Division Three Championship and although there were other great games that he was involved in, many will point to his debut as being the best they’ve ever seen.