If you’re lucky enough to be in the 35+ age group and an Oldham fan, there’s a fair chance that you will have been around to witness Oldham’s greatest season. It wouldn’t matter if you’d started the season in a state of complete apathy towards the club or even football in general because within a matter of months you’d have been hooked like the rest of the country.
That sounds like a bold claim but as the season moved into October, Athletic had beaten Leeds over two legs in the Littlewoods Cup and had drawn Scarborough in the next round. History was made that night when striker Frankie Bunn, now Oldham’s manager scored six goals in a 7-0 victory, a record that still stands in the League Cup to this day.
The reward was a home tie against Arsenal in the fourth round. This was unknown territory for Oldham. Previous attempts at success in the League Cup had invariably faltered at the first attempt with defeats at the likes of Carlisle on a wet Tuesday night and the inevitable coach breakdown on the way home.
To say that Arsenal were completely outclassed on the 22nd November ’89 doesn’t do the game justice. Two goals from Andy Ritchie and another from midfielder Nick Henry in a 3-1 win makes the game a contender for one of Oldham’s greatest performances.
Latics entered 1990 having overcome Birmingham in the FA Cup 3rd round and now faced a trip to Southampton in the Littlewoods Cup Quarter Final. Once again, Andy Ritchie featured prominently with an equaliser deep into stoppage time. The win that put us into the semi-final in the replay at Boundary Park was almost too easy.
Brighton became the next to fall in the FA Cup before Latics took on West Ham in the Littlewoods Cup semi-final on Valentines Day at Boundary Park. The Hammers were slaughtered 6-0 prompting headlines of ‘The St Valentines Day Massacre’ in the next morning’s papers. Despite going down 3-0 in the second leg, Oldham were at a Wembley final for the first time in their history.
Their onward march in the FA Cup didn’t look like faltering either with a victory over Everton in a second replay and then a 3-0 win over Aston Villa in the quarter-final four days later in what was fast becoming a fixture pile up.
On the 8th April, Latics faced Man United at Maine Road in the FA Cup semi-final which ended in a 3-3 draw. Barry Davies’ commentary as Roger Palmer hit Oldham’s third is legendary “This is the stuff of Schoolboy comics“. The replay saw United win 2-1 after extra time and Oldham were left with a Wembley appearance but not in the FA Cup.