The Checkatrade Trophy tie with Rochdale on tonight at the Crown Oil Arena will be the 60th meeting between the two clubs. There is as would be expected, a certain amount of rivalry between the sides whose homes are only 5 miles apart.
I was first introduced to the joy of playing Rochdale in November 1970 when our paths crossed in the FA Cup first round. Rochdale were enjoying a brief spell in a higher division than us, whilst we were about to embark on a departure from the bottom tier which would last 48 years.
It was evident that despite a relative handful of games since the clubs were formed, there existed a powerful rivalry which continues to this day. We are blessed or cursed depending on how you look at it, to be able to swap banter at will in the modern age thanks to technology. Back then it was limited to strongly worded letters to the local paper.
The FA Cup defeat to Rochdale in 1970 should have been forgotten in a matter of days. As the Oldham side went on to win promotion, but the embarrassment of losing to what was viewed as a club who wasn’t really a relevant threat stuck in the throats of Latics fans for a considerable period of time.
After three seasons of competition in the Third Division in which Rochdale failed to beat us, our paths took different directions and it was to be 36 years before we met again in the league. In all that time, Rochdale supporters relished any opportunity to ‘have a dig’ at any misfortune that fell on us but they were always viewed as the annoying cousin who you didn’t want your mates to know about. It was very easy to dismiss them as irrelevant when Latics’ fixture list contained games against Man United and Liverpool.
Rochdale have once again enjoyed a brief spell of fortune which saw them stay in League One this season whilst we have dropped into League Two. Recent meetings have shown that Latics are more than capable of turning our poor neighbours over and even if we fail to do so again on Wednesday night, it will mean an awful lot more to them than it does to us.
That FA Cup defeat is long forgotten.