The tired trio (quad wouldn't rhyme) HAVE to make a call at Oldham first to sample their first Holland's pudding in years. After four lots of pudding, chips and peas with gravy the next stop is the local pub to wash it down with a pint of ale. Who is standing at the bar in his plaid shorts? None other than Martin Platt from Coronation Street! Carolyn has a chat and gets him to sign her five dollar bill which Martin had hoped to spend on a few pints. However, the next jaunt is another drive north to Barnoldswick, home of 'The Bradshaws', to meet Mrs. Chairman's family.
Saturday comes. The Chairman and Spot head for Boundary Park whilst the women roam the town centre to enjoy the outside market, shops and Spindles. After a few in the Elevenways, a couple of donners and then a few more in the Elevenways, it's finally off to Boundary Park and the prospect of thrashing York City to go to the top of the second division. In the pub Spot was observant enough to spy the photograph of a true Latics fan with his personalised car number plates, which most loyalists would die for, hanging on the wall of fame between the two pictures of that "Redders penalty". True to form we miss the kick-off and the new song. I was still expecting Mouldy Old Dough! I couldn't work out the new chant which sounded like "get a wheelchair, Tommy". I eventually was told that it was "Neil Warnock's blue and white army". For Spot it was the first time he had ever been to a league match. I tried to explain the euphoria experienced when a goal went in. Before I had finished he was jumping up and down like a veteran after Garnett had popped in the first goal that the Latics had scored in the third level since 1974. Half time was spent socialising with fans who recognised the shirt and I wallowed in the positive comments about the Canadian LSC web page. All in all a successful start to the campaign and one which offered optimism for the forthcoming season.
Tuesday arrives. The deadly duo again head for Oldham after yesterdays visit to Manchester to tour Coronation Street (which was closed due to filming). The rest of the day was allocated to finding a cheap Latics shirt. No such luck! Even Spoilsports only had small and an extra small, hardly likely to fit a Chairman bulging with pride amongst other things. After a few in the Elevenways we set off, this time early enough to see the kick-off. It's a wonder Cilla wasn't there to shout Surprise! Surprise! We all agreed to meet back in the Elevenways after the game in case we got lost due to the huge following that Grimsby brought with them. We walked back together! The game was a non event in my humble opinion but the result was good enough to suggest that we might just have done enough to meet Tranmere in the next round. I was also proud to have witnessed the first goal since the return of the prodigal son. The night ended well enough with pompadums, onion bargees and a Ruby Murray of Madras quality.
Thursday is the day Spot and his wife have to return to Canada. Still no luck with the shirts although a few mates have a few irons in the fire. I promised to follow through. After the seeing off it was a trip to Windsor Castle to witness The Queen in residence (honest - the flag was flying). I was singing "flying high up in the sky......" and I'm sure she came to the window of the tower to give a wave of support for the boys in blue. I phoned another mate on his mobile but he was in Anglesey on holiday. As the lads were playing in Wrexham on Saturday I decided to call and have a pint in Anglesey. Off north yet again.
Saturday again. I had arranged to meet my reporter, Phil Costelloe, at 2:00pm outside gate number 40. As we had only previously communicated over the internet it was an historic moment for the both of us. Phil arrived 15 minutes early, pen and paper in hand, thankfully giving us time to quaff a few in the local watering hole before the game. At the match I was boasting that it was because of me that we had had such a promising start to the campaign. Me and my big gob! We were soon 2-0 down due to the Latics inability to defend from corners. I thought a coach worked on those things! After the break I was convinced that Warnock has passed the message on to the team that The Chairman was watching as they attacked the second half with such gusto that we were almost blown out of our 45 degree forward sloping seats. It was unfortunately to no avail as, soon after McCarthy's ray of hope, we were 3-1 down and heading for our first defeat of the season. Dejected and miserable for the first time since leaving Canada I now have the option of blaming the defeat on Spot (for going back to Canada) or Phil the reporter (for being there). My last game 'till who knows when? The only good thing to come out of the match was the fact that I heard one of my favourite songs of all time. When the St. John ambulance man ran onto the field and the Latics fans sang "Who's ate all the pies" I was emotionally taken aback. Whatever the reason it can't be my fault as I previously had two wins under my belt (amongst other things).
To summarise the experience I am still impressed with England and the enthusiasm of the new breed of zigga-zagga boys currently resident at Boundary Park. Also on the positive side I can see that the game is heading back to the time when opposing supporters could walk to the ground together, with shirts and scalves showing, without the fear of someone jumping you from behind. Mrs. Chairman is convinced that the Government are putting something in the drinking water to subdue the peasants. I hope the trend continues as England is still a green and pleasant land. I was impressed with the cleanliness as I remember lots of litter. There are still some areas but on the whole I can see pride returning to the country. On the negative side I learned about 'twoccing', a new word for me. I couldn't believe that after three games into the season I still couldn't get a Latics shirt at a reasonable price. I went to the Latique two days before I flew home. Even they didn't have a shirt larger than small. They did promise that they would be in tomorrow. Another 1.5 hr. drive to Oldham finally unearthed a blue/red striped extra large shirt but forty quid is far too much to pay. I can return to Canada reasonably happy. Another bone of contention is the obscene fact that whichever town/city you visit you see a plethora of kids wearing shirts with Sharpe written on it. I was under the impression that he had resigned!
On the playing front I have to be honest when I say I know it is going to be a hard year. The sad part is that we do not possess any 'star' players like we used to do in the glory years. The Latics are in a deserved position and I only hope the management team are capable of building a playing team that Oldham can once again be proud of. Let's get out of the basement and bring some respectability back to the town.
20th. August 97, 2,300 driven miles later and a short 7,000 miles still to travel. At least I can be thinking what to write for my report when I return to the world of the internet. Good luck to you all. I'll be back!