Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Divided Loyalties

Imagine the scene. A young boy still in short trousers and knee high socks, accompanying his Uncle Jesmond to his first ever football match. The excitement of the capacity crowd, the dashing players in their classic 1950’s kit, the roar of pleasure as the pie-man started his trail around the terraces. A mug of steaming Oxo at half-time, to take away the biting wind-chill of the Boundary Park terraces. Those were, indeed, the days - and must, I am sure, have led me into my life’s career as a sports journalist.

Although I was to later to cover many other sports, it was always to football that I returned. The steady commercialisation of the game was not something that I relished. The glorious game, made dirty by the noxious whiff of money, was the living nightmare that enmeshed Association Football during the 1980's, as television got its grubby hands on the game.

As a leading sports columnist of my generation, I sat on the sidelines as Messrs Murdoch and Co sullied the sport with their wads of cash. Somehow, it took the pleasure out of physically going to the match, as you could now watch the entire proceedings from the centrally-heated comfort of your lounge. Grey school shorts and Oxo were swapped, in later years, for bermuda shorts and a few tins of fizzy lager.

Last night, however, I had a conversion on the road to Birkenhead. Having realised that Oldham were playing my new local team, Tranmere Rovers, I decided to forsake the sofa, and don my worsted overcoat. Even as late as a few moments before purchasing my ticket, I was unsure which side to support. But, like that famous psychological test of tossing a coin to make your mind up about something (so that if it falls the wrong way, you finally know), as I approached the turnstiles my mind was made up. You can take the man out of Oldham, but you can't take Oldham out of the man.

And so it was that I joined the hardy band of away supporters, cheering on the Latics as they put up a sterling fight. Despite being close tot he bottom of the League, they fought valiantly against Tranmere, who looked shoddy and uninspiring by comparison. Tension mounted as the game drew to its close, the scoreline 0-0 after 90 minutes of play. Then, magically, Oldham managed to sneak in a winner in the final minute of extra time. Pleasure unbounded for the couple of hundred Oldham fans who had been in proud voice against the desultory silence of their Tranmere counterparts.

Tranmere Rovers 0 Oldham 1

3 comments:

Lord Likely said...

Mr. Blunt, in light of your general excellence and wondrousness, I have bestowed upon you the finest award ever crafted.

Do pop over some time, old boy, and feat your eyes upon its majesty!

Oldham Blog said...

Did you used to write for "Beyond the Boundary" the Oldham Ath Fanzine?

Bill Blunt said...

You have that rare combination, young man - a fine mind, good taste and a good memory. well done!