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.