Without any action for Manchester City over the weekend, I went along to Boundary Park and it reminded me of the struggles at the other end of the football pyramid.
I didn’t really need reminding because whenever City don’t have a game you’ll always find me watching one of our other local games.
I used to enjoy my trips to Bury which started when I was at school. I loved Gigg Lane and was aware that it had one of the widest pitches in the football league. One of my old school friends worked at the club and I got to know Gordon the press officer very well. It broke my heart when Bury FC were thrown out of the league. I’ve visited Bury AFC, at Radcliffe, the phoenix club created by some of the fans. Another group of Bury fans don’t want to be associated with the new club and are determined that a new Bury FC will come back at Gigg Lane.
Stockport County are another club I love, having watched them on Friday night’s, back in the day and having been along to Edgeley Park while they were two division below the football league. There are some great people at the club, who I’ve known for years, and it’s great to see them climbing back towards the league after paying the price for over spending in a previous era.
In Tameside, I’ve already visited Curzon Ashton, and across the border Glossop North End this season and thoroughly enjoyed both occasions. I even did a bit of commentary for Nash as I have for Bolton Wanderers who invited me to commentate on all the games, I could, despite my obsession with attending all City games. They’ve now gone back to their original commentator but maybe I’ll still get the odd game when they need someone to deputise.
For about a decade I was the frontman for the Junior Whites, the monthly club for young fans of the Wanderers. I got the call from them because they’d seen me in action at the Manchester City Junior Blues, where I fulfilled the same role for almost fifteen years. I never did those jobs for money, I did them because it was fun and a way of encouraging the fans of the future.
I moved to Oldham when I got married and have lived within walking distance of Boundary Park ever since. Naturally they’ve become a club very close to my heart and I have many friends who are Latics fans or have worked for the club or played or coached there. I commentated on the club video when the club played Leeds United during the first season of the playoffs. I even fronted a video called “Life with the Latics” for which Alan Hardy, the commercial manager at the time, paid me with a Latics jumper.
During some of my hardest times, in recent years, photographer, commercial man, programme editor etc etc Gordon Lawton, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, became a confidant and great friend and Roy Butterworth, who’s been at the club forever, is a magnificent man. I hosted a fans forum for the club, just before Covid19, which was full of frustration and a certain amount of venom. I understood why. Football fans care about their club, it’s in their souls. It’s like that for me too!
On Saturday I saw the Latics lose 3-0 at home to Barrow. The club is next to bottom of the football league. Sutton are one point below them, with two games in hand. Attendances at Boundary Park are down and there is a tension within the crowd. There is no connection between the owner and the fans. It’s a club in crisis. There was a pitch invasion during the game, mainly by younger fans. I’m guessing the older fans were more scared of the repercussions of such an action, but those teenagers certainly got the message across. The owner’s brother retreated to the safety of the boardroom when things threatened to get nasty, as the whole stadium seemed to chant for the owner to leave the club.
I’ve seen that type of passion at City in the past. I even took part in a few of those protests in my younger days. City have endless resources these days but club’s like Oldham are just as important but are fighting for their lives. I don’t know what the solution is for Oldham, Bury, Bolton, Stockport and the others but I know it hurts me to see the clubs I care about in turmoil. There’s no shame in being passionate about your club. The day people don’t care anymore is the day the battle is over.