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My First Game: Oldham v Colchester United 26.8.1961

I have my doubts when people claim to remember intricate details of the first game they attended as a child. For a start, the decision to go was probably not in their hands. It certainly wasn’t in my case as I was bundled up in a knitted scarf and bobble hat shortly after my 5th birthday to enjoy/endure the experience of following Oldham Athletic. I was also provided with a football rattle which required a certain amount of manual dexterity to produce any sort of noise. I remember that it was only ever brought out for trips to Boundary Park and banned from being used in the house.

Without doubt, my memories from back then certainly include the smell of cigarettes and pipe tobacco. Everybody smoked whether they were on public transport, in cinemas, pubs, cafes and especially football grounds. It was to be another 10 years before I tried my first Woodbine you’ll be pleased to hear.

Only the well-off sat at games, everybody else stood on the terraces. Our choice was always the vast uncovered Rochdale Road end. I never understood why we couldn’t stand in the other end as it had a roof but I was told that anybody who went in there was ‘rowdy’. They might have been rowdy but at least they were dry.

The 1960s were an exciting period in history. Space travel, advances in medicine, science, music and fashion. This was Oldham however, and the swinging sixties took a while to infiltrate the world of flat caps, cotton mills and smog. 

Football was the perfect weekend retreat for working class Oldhamer’s and I soon found out through comments on the terraces and on the bus home who were the best (and worst) Latics players. Bert Lister, Bobby Johnstone and future manager Jimmy Frizzell were all crowd favourites. I don’t recall any halftime trips to the pie stall but on reflection, thrusting a meat pie and a cup of Bovril into the hands of a five-year-old probably wasn’t that wise.

Whilst not being the best club in the country at the time, the noise, smell and excitement of attending Boundary Park obviously grew on me and I’m glad my Dad decided to drag me along. For the record, we drew 2-2 with Colchester that day but I have no idea who scored or whether we deserved to win. I still have the programme somewhere from the game but the rattle is long gone which is probably for the best.



What Oldham fans would give to have this player in their team right now

There are some players who are synonymous with a particular club irrespective of who else they played for before or after. Oldham’s most successful period in their history, between 1989 and 1994 coincided nicely with the inclusion in the side of Andy Ritchie who was signed by Joe Royle from Leeds United.

Ritchie wasn’t just a prolific goalscorer for the club, he had that rare quality – a footballing brain. On numerous occasions, Andy could turn a game round by seeing an opening that others couldn’t.

After playing for England Schoolboys (once scoring three goals against Germany) Ritchie started his career in 1977-78 with Manchester United. He scored a hat-trick against Leeds United while aged just 18 and another hat-trick against Spurs when 19, but was then surprisingly sold to Brighton

He later signed for Leeds until he was brought to Boundary Park by Royle who was building what was to turn into Oldham’s best ever side. He spent eight years with the club as a player reaching the FA Cup semi-final on two occasions, the Littlewoods Cup Final and was instrumental in the club becoming founder members of the Premier League.

Ritchie scored 250 goals for the club in 104 appearances with some of the more notable ones being in the Littlewoods Cup campaign in 89/90. He gained respect throughout the game for his sportsmanship and level of skill. Manchester United midfielder and Oldham Athletic fan, Paul Scholes once told foreign journalists in the 2002 FIFA World Cup that his all-time footballing hero was Andy Ritchie.

He struggled with injury later on in his Oldham career but even a half-fit Ritchie could turn a game on its head if he was used as a late substitute. With the current Oldham side sometimes missing that vital ingredient to finish off opponents, Andy Ritchie would be just the player to motivate the team.




My Greatest Season: Oldham Athletic 1989-1990

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.