We go back in time for this latest blog post! 2 years (and a bit) to be precise. This will be a common theme in the next couple of months as I work through publishing my backlog of groundhops. I’m starting with Oldham as my Dad and I regard it as one of the most amusing matches we’ve been to thus far. Back then I was only really interested in Bolton and Wigan. I didn’t watch non-league football, and was intent on visiting the 92 football league grounds. Bolton were playing away at Manchester United so I decided it was a great time to tick another local ground off my list.
After looking through all of the local fixtures, Oldham v Brighton looked the most interesting. I booked the tickets online and waited a few weeks for matchday to approach. On the morning of the match I nipped to Bolton with my Mum after playing football for Atherton Town. I bought some pre match snacks such as a “Chicken and Mango Sandwich” which I would later live to regret. It was horrid, and I wish I’d have bought one of the Clayton Park Pies which were on offer at Boundary Park.
“Clayton Park Pies. Pietastic at Latics”
Possibly the worst advert I had ever seen, but I didn’t care. Mango and bread is not a good mix and I’d have given anything for a pie.
Dad and I set off from home at around 12:30 and arrived in Oldham half an hour later. We parked in the large car park which is found behind the old Broadway Stand which was demolished in 2008. Parking cost only £3 – which was nearly as much as my ticket, but you can’t complain.
Just as we were getting out of our car, the Brighton fans turned up on their coaches. Only two coaches had made the trip, and one of them was the players coach which was known as the Gus Bus amongst some fans.
We had to pick our tickets up from the Ticket Office, so off we wandered. After walking around the ground twice, we couldn’t find the Ticket Office anywhere. We were then directed to a small door which was located underneath a black towering metal stairwell. Sure enough, the Ticket Office was there and we picked up our tickets with no problem at all.
The fun and games didn’t stop there though. The next thing we had to do was find the correct turnstile which was a challenge in itself!
Looking above the various doors and entrances around Boundary Park, it soon became evident that the signs/numbers must have been replaced numerous times. The only problem is, when they’ve replaced them, they haven’t always done it in the same manner. One minute you’d be at Turnstile 10, then you’d be faced with a huge sign which says “Gate 5” which would correspond to something else. I felt like I was on a gameshow.
You could tell we had never been to Boundary Park before. Eventually we found the correct turnstile, or so we thought. The steward pointed us to this door which was a metre to the right. We handed in our tickets, and walked through the turnstile before turning the corner to turn left. This only brought us back out a couple of feet behind the steward.
Slightly bemused we all looked at each other. He stood there and in a really apologetic manner he said:
Anyway, we were in the ground. That’s all that mattered. Walking up the stairs into the Main Stand we could go either left or right. If we chose to go left we’d end up in the players families facilities. To put it bluntly, it was a large box with windows and a few dining room chairs brought in from the fans houses. It reminded me of a zoo. The “special guests” and families would be perched at a large height in full view of everybody in the ground.
As tempting as it was to turn left and be gawped at by everybody attending the match, we turned right and walked into the Upper Tier of the Main Stand. It was like a jungle of old black seating, with the occasional glimpse of some colour where a seat had broken in it’s past life. My first thoughts were “Bloody hell. I hope there isn’t a fire during the match. We’d never get out!”
I think it was safe to say that we were the first people in the ground. There really wasn’t much to do, so we had to listen to the music which was playing. My favourite song of the afternoon was The Courteeners – You Overdid It Doll. Looking back, knowing they’re now one of my favourite bands it seems strange that I thought the words to the song were “You are a vegetable”. I was that convinced that those were the lyrics that we got it up on my phone… and of course, I was wrong. Very wrong.
Away from the obvious death trap of the Main Stand – which Keith Lard would have a field day in – there were two other stands. To our left was the Chadderton Road End, or the Chaddy End as it is known.
Opposite the Chaddy End is the Rochdale Road End. A sizeable stand which is usually split in two to house both home and away fans. It offers a reasonable view of the play and has an outside concourse.
Boundary Park is currently a three sided ground since the demolition of the Broadway End in 2008. After receiving planning permission to redevelop the ground in 2007, work went ahead to build a brand new Main Stand. Unfortunately for Oldham fans, the demolition of the old stand happened at the same time as the economic downturn. Now all that stands there is a gantry supported by some scaffolding.
The two teams came out to warm up. Unfortunately Paul Dickov didn’t select himself to play which was disappointing to say the least. He instead chose to play Ryan Brooke and West Bromwich Albion loanee Reuben Reid.
Visitors Brighton were running away at the top of the table. They were 5 points clear of Huddersfield and Peterborough, with an even bigger points cushion over Southampton and Bournemouth. Gus Poyet had assembled a good squad since taking over at The Withdean Stadium. It’s only when looking back you realise the strength of the Brighton side. Glenn Murray, Craig Noone, Elliott Bennett and one of my favourites Jake Foster-Caskey were all in the team back then.
The ground was slowly but surely beginning to fill up. Fortunately there was no sign of my old headteacher who was a keen Latics fan. He’d have probably sent me to the wall for throwing a carrot or for some other reckless incident I did at the age of seven. Yes, that’s right. I got sent to the wall for throwing a carrot across the yard after we had our tennis ball confiscated for playing football with it.
Anyway, enough of my time in education. I’m getting upset just thinking about it.
We were sat on the front row of the upper tier, which meant we had a fantastic view of the pitch. More importantly, no idiots could sit in front of us boring me with their silly conversations which had nothing to do with football whatsoever. Unfortunately, this was only a momentary fix as the kind of people I’m talking about were sat directly behind us instead. I’ll come back to them later.
The Oldham Athletic mascot (Chaddy the Owl) had been throwing water at people and winding up the away fans long enough, so the teams were rushed out before the NPSCA were called out to put him down. I love the “tunnel” at Boundary Park, as the steps lead the players out down the Main Stand in amongst all of the spectators.
Oldham were in their blue kit with white shorts. Brighton were in their red and black away strip.
Paul Dickov stated in his programme notes that he wanted his “players to go out and play without any pressure and to play enthusiastically” and that’s just what they did. Straight from the whistle Oldham were playing the ball around well and closing down Brighton whenever they had the ball.
Brighton had been top of the table since beating Oldham in the last minute the last time the two teams met, and it was Brighton who had the first chance of the afternoon. Chris Wood fired just wide though, before Oldham striker Dale Stephens saw his effort deflected away from goal a minute later.
It had been a thrilling first half, but that didn’t stop the two women behind us talking absolute nonsense for the whole of the first half. My favourite topic of conversation was “Guess what we had for tea last night?”
Where do you start with a question like that? My guess of Caviar Blini, buttered with a dollop of crème fraiche was always going to be a long shot. Apparently the woman had been to that well known Italian restaurant? Here’s the conversation for you:
“Guess what we had for tea last night?”
“Oooooh. I don’t know. Go on, what did you have?”
“Well, we went to that Italian restaurant. Ben and Jerry’s. Is it Ben and Jerry’s? Ben and what?”
The women then tried to recall the name of the restaurant for the next 10 minutes. Dad and I obviously knew that she meant Frankie and Bennys but we found it all rather funny and wanted it to continue.
Still none the wiser as to where she went, she then revealed that she had Tagliatelle. This food was obviously seen as a delicacy in Oldham as many of the other fans soon joined in the discussion. I was half expecting Paul Dickov to shout up to us that he once enjoyed a Risotto from M&S in the summer of 2006.
A whole 15 minutes after the discussion began, Oldham were passing the ball around slowly. The ground was quiet. Suddenly the woman exclaimed “OH! IT WAS FRANKE AND BENNYS!”. I’ve heard some cracking shouts at football matches, but that is up there.
The half time whistle arrived and the two women went for a walk which gave us an opportunity to have a good old giggle.
The second half brought much of the same from Oldham. Passing the ball around well, and putting in a very convincing performance against the league leaders. James Tarkowski nearly put the Latics in front, before Kieran Lee also had an effort saved by Casper Ankergren.
All of Oldham’s hard work was undone on 67 minutes when substitute Ashley Barnes put Brighton ahead. There was a lot of controversy around the goal. As a long ball from Liam Bridcutt was pumped forward to Barnes, another Brighton player was stood in an offside position. He wasn’t interfering with play. Barnes then took the ball wide of the goal, before beating the Oldham keeper with a neat finish into the bottom right hand corner.
Great goal, but the protests followed. Every Oldham fan bar one was shouting at the referee. One lone man instead focused his complaints on manager Paul Dickov. The old man stood up with his flat cap on his head and shouted “Paul, you’ve got to tell your players to play to the referees whistle!”
Dickov then turned around – arms folded – with a quizzical look on his face and looked at the man in a bemused manner. While all of the Oldham fans were continuing to moan my Dad (a huge Manchester City and Paul Dickov fan) agreed with the decision. I have the highlights on my computer, and I can safely say the goal should have stood.
The remainder of the match consisted of Oldham trying and ultimately failing to score an equaliser. Substitutes Cedric Evina and Oumare Tounkara both came close but Ankergren again kept the ball out of the Brighton net.
The Boundary Park faithful were getting right behind their side and they were nearly rewarded with an equaliser in the last minute. Right back Kieran Lee found himself one on one with the goalkeeper, but his shot went centimetres wide of the post to hand Brighton all three points.
I had a birthday party to get to, so we left as soon as the final whistle was blown. Having to scale benches and multi-coloured seats at the back of the stand to get around it felt like Oldham didn’t want the fans to leave! Unfortunately we had to, and we were soon heading back to the car park to rush off to Mosley Common. We had better luck than the Brighton fans who returned to the car park to see “The Gus Bus” leaking a substantial amount of oil. Now that would have been an amusing blog post… “Stranded in Oldham”
To this day, Dad and I still regard the match as one of the funniest days out we’ve had. Of course, most of that was down to the cracking comments and behaviour of the Latics fans. Boundary Park is a ground I’ll always look forward to going back to. It may be a bit rough and ready, but what you see is what you get.
No doubt I’ll be returning to Boundary Park in the 2014/2015 season when the brand new North Stand should be open!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 19.2 miles
- ADMISSION: £5 as an U16
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3
- PIE: N/A