I arrived the following day after an overnight flight and was looking forward to my first game at Scunthorpe the following day. A time mix up on my behalf meant that the flight arrived at 5:15pm and not 5:15am as I had anticipated. The rush was on to get to Stockport to pick up the hire car which was booked out at 9:00am under my name. I managed to get through customs in express time but a delay in picking up the baggage meant that it was 5:45pm when I got to the taxi rank outside the airport and the car hire firm closed at 6:00pm. After a quick conflab with the man who gets you a taxi it was decided that it was a lost cause so a casual stroll to the railway station became the order of the day.
Destination Greenfield meant a train from the airport to Salford, then a change to Manchester Victoria followed by another train direct to Greenfield. Quite a bargain for £2-35p each I thought. It was around 7:00pm when Mr. and Mrs. Chairman finally trundled up and over the railway bridge with suitcases in tow and a final walk through the main street of Greenfield to our rented cottage. After the pleasantries of keys and access, how this works etc. it was a trip to the local chippy to sample a Hollands pudding once again, a local low fat delicacy unavailable in the colonies. Next stop was over to the King Billy to sample the local wares of the local hostelry. Mrs. Chairman did the honours of unpacking whilst I did the business with the pints. Needless to say, I bumped into a few old acquaintences and didn’t leave there till about 2:15am. Not a bad first day in all.
Tuesday 6:10am. and wide awake! Those plane rides have a lot to answer for. After watching some early morning TV I strolled to the local butchers and bought a large slice of gammon, some Cumberland sausages and half a dozen eggs. A Warburton’s loaf complimented the breakfast superbly. Ecstacy!!! Gammon is also unavailable in the colonies. One of my mates from the pub graciously offered to drive me over to Stockport to pick up the car. Now with wheels it’s a bit easier to get around. I phoned Bazanold who offered to drive to Scunthorpe as I drove to Rotherham last time I was over. The Dukinfield Dazzler was also phoned and we arranged to meet up at the Village in Hyde. After quaffing a few the Dazzler arrived and we set off for Scunthorpe.
The last time I visited Scunthorpe (no need to mention Ty-Phoo tea here) they played at the Old Show Ground. We parked up and duly dropped into the Old Barn to whet the appetite before the game. Here we met Fryatt and several other Latics fans whom I knew only by their LSC message board pen-names. It was a pleasure to meet them after having communicated with them in hyper-space for several years. To say that I was disappointed by the ‘stadium’ at Glanford Park would be an understatment. It looked like it had been built by a primary school class experimenting with Lego for the first time. My travelling companions must have been sick and tired of hearing me say, “It’s disgusting, it’s tacky, it’s a disgrace” but to their credit they humoured me and did put up with it. The game itself was strange and was made even more peculiar by the strange surroundings inside the cardboard box (here I go again). I was also surprised by the £1-60p charged for a pie but was convinced that it is now par for the course but it gave me another chance to complain about the ground in general. The game was a hard fought affair with a patched up team playing against opposition from a lower division. It was rumoured that Iain Dowie was considering playing as they were that short of cover. I knew I should have brought my boots! I personally thought that Pogliagami had an outstanding game as he saved the Latics time and time again. The ride home was a sombre affair after a 2-1 loss and the Dazzler slept most of the way. I was thinking of renaming him to the Dozeler. I was just happy to have seen a game.
The next action was to be a trip to Sheffield Wednesday and it was decided that we would take the train. The Dazzler had previously booked on the ‘boozer cruiser’ so a decision was made by Bazanold who wanted to relive our last trip to Wednesday in 1985 for a cup game where we got hammered 5-1. John Bowden got the consolation goal that day. I seem to remember that the ‘special’ trip took about five hours and we were then herded like cattle into the Leppings Lane end. This trip was different. We met at Manchester and decided to walk to Piccadilly to catch the train. Once in Sheffield we jumped on the tram and into the first pub we found in the City centre. A good pint and very reasonably priced. I think we limited it to four pints till we moved on to the next pub. After several other dives in for a quick one we finally settled at the Walkabout, an Australian themed pub although they didn’t have any kangaroo burgers on the menu. I found that strange as we sell buffalo burgers in Canada. We had a long chat with some friendly natives who were relishing the thought that their previous hero/legend, John Sheridan, would be lining up against them.
The game itself was electrifying. With 24,630 fans shouting on the teams how could it be any different? Curier went down in the box in the fourth minute and it was none other than John Sheridan who stepped up to compound the woes of the recently relegated club by converting the spot kick. He didn’t celebrate! It was a moment reminiscent of when Denis Law scored the goal for Manchester City to drop their cross city counterparts into the old second division. A classic moment. I also enjoyed the Latics fans taunting the home fans with the cry of “Small town in Barnsley”. The game was sheer enjoyment from start to finish and the visitors were very unlucky not to come away with three points. Near the end of the game I turned to Bazanold and stated, “This cannot be allowed to die”. Time will tell if my wish will be fulfilled or not. We kept the old motto going of “win or lose, have a booze” and frequented a few hostelries on the way back to the station as you have to. A few more in Manchester and then seperate roads to Oldham and Greenfield. All in all a great day.
The next official outing was to be a home game against Blackpool. My first for two years and I wanted to make a day of it. I phoned every mate on my list in an attempt to double the gate on the day and therefore do my bit for the club. It’s funny but they don’t get together unless I organise it. The plan was to meet in the Queens at 12:00pm which we duly did. I was disgusted that I had to watch the Newcastle v that other team on the large screen although it was good to see that nice Alan Shearer score a goal. Anyway after sevarlty pints we started the treck walking down the Sheepfoot Lane to see Ian Dowie’s aces. As if by a miracle we actually saw the kick-off, something of a rarety as we never seemed to see it when we used to walk from the Eleven Ways. It must be a weakness in the beer or something.
The match started well but finish with another loss. Five good goals but only two for my beloved Latics. Where did I go wrong! I did come out with another famous quote half way through the second half, one which I never thought I would hear myself say, “I’m not even bothered if we lose, I’m just glad that we have a team to support”. There was only one thing for it - back to the Queens to drown our sorrows. Here we met up with The Dukinfield Dazzler, Carl Marsden of Oldham Advertiser fame, Fryatt and the Preacherman of messageboard fame. My original mates slowly dwindled and I could tell that the ravages of time were catching up with them. As I bade them a fond farewell, I was determined not to let a good night slip by. The traditional after game shirt swapping took place after Fryatt took a fancy to the LSC shirt which I was wearing. I received a beautiful England shirt with a Latics badge on it in return, one which I will proudly wear at future LSC meetings. Mrs. Fryatt later joined Fryatt and the pub crawl began. After a swiftie in the Trap it was a traipse up to the the Snipe for a few more. Can the Chairman keep the pace?
A quiet walk over to the bank machine to replenish the coffers enabled me to buy the Fryatt’s a round in repayment for previously subsidising my boozing. The time must have been around 11:00pm by this time and the barman with the fancy gait kept the ale flowing to some tune. A walk through the old town saw the merry band diminish even more with just Carl, the Dazzler and myself able to keep the pace. We got into a taxi and I asked, “Where are we going”, but before I received a reply we were quietly knocking on the back door of a secret drinking establishment. Somewhat reminiscent of the old prohibition rooms, the slider opened and after some secret passwords and a special handshake we were in. The bar was small but homely with people dancing and talking about Oldham Rugby of all things. It was the perfect end to an eventful day even though it was more than 14 hours since the drinking began and my team had lost to Blackpool. My thanks go to my minders of the evening and from there it was just a short taxi ride before I could get my head down and try to get some sleep.
The next game was the trip to Brentford on the Bank Holiday Monday. A series of events combined to ensure that I missed the match. My car mileage was limited; I’d been to Brentford before; The roads were chock-a block according to the news, especially in the London area; The trains were not running; I got up late; I had some business to attend to. Not the conducive elements for a trip to Brentford on a Bank Holiday. As it was the Latics lost 2-1 and my final game had gone as I was to fly back to Vancouver on the Friday, a day before the Rushden and Diamonds game.
I was invited in by Tony Pascall to visit the club during my stay. I did pay a visit the week previous but Tony was on holiday so I managed to see him on my last Thursday. After a long chat over a cup of coffee about the state of the nation and the desperation that the club faces, I was escorted on a tour of the club. I was introduced to the backroom ladies who wash the kit and do various other important jobs around the ground. I visited the changing rooms and was assured that they have hardly changed since the days that my boyhood hero, Bobby Johnston, used to get changed there. I viewed the physiotherapy room and shook hands with David Beharall, a player who had been attacked the previous day whilst having his car nicked. He didn’t look any worse for wear after the ordeal. I also saw the kit room where the first team and reserve team shirts are kept.
I was then invited into the main stand to view the director’s box and the seat which the infamous Chris Moore used to frequent was duly pointed out to me. Going back into the main building I was invited into the boardroom and had a quick chat with Jon Newell, one of Athletic’s administrators. After he had determined that I was not the saviour of the club, he explained the tremendous task ahead which would be needed to save the Latics from extinction. I left him with a parting thought, “Don’t let this club die”, to which he promised that he would do his best. I also took a look at the trophies in the boardroom. Although not many in numbers, the Manchester Senior Cup was quite an outstanding trophy.
The highlight of my visit was that I was able to walk down the famous steps and on to the field, a trip which many a star from many clubs had previously done before me. It was an awesome moment and one which I will cherish forever. After the obligatory photograph, with the Rochdale Road stand in the background, from the club’s official photographer for the Oldham Chronicle it was back out into the real world and back down to earth for me.
Friday arrived and I was greeted with the fact that my flight had been delayed by a whole day. It was off to a hotel in Northenden and more beer to drink. What a shame. I was hoping for a further delay on the Saturday so that I could take in the Rushden game but it was not to be and I was up in the blue yonder as the Latics were recording their first win of the season. Is there a hidden message here? Had the jinx been lifted along with the flight of the Chairman? Had the bad luck charm been removed? Time will tell. I would like to thank everybody who contributed to such an eventful visit for me. You were all wonderful. Until the next time - KEEP THE FAITH.