CLUB CALL ...

OLDHAM ATHLETIC
by KEN BATES, the club chairman
At the time I became a Director of Oldham Athletic two years ago, I suppose I fulfilled a dream most youngsters must have had at some time or other. After all, who hasn't stood in the boys' pen or on the popular side wishing that he were a member of the Board so that he could control the destinies of his favourite club, or at least be on the inside of things? Apart from my deep love of the game, there were two main reasons for my deciding to throw in my lot with Oldham Athletic. First, I had felt for a long time that there was room for new ideas in football. Second, Latics were an old-established club which had come down in the world. Therefore, there was a challenge in trying to get them back on top. Oldham was originally formed as Pine Villa F.C. in the late r qth century. Until 1923 the club played in the First Division, but then began the gradual slide, and in 1935 the Laties dropped into the Northern Section of the Third Division. There was promo122 tion in 1953, but the joy lasted just one season, and when the Third and Fourth Divisions were formed in 1959, Latics became founder members of the Fourth. Not until 1963 did they rise to the Third Division. It was originally intended that I should join the club quietly and without fuss so that any changes would be brought about gradually and without the public expecting too much. But Oldham were facing relegation. There was little or no time for niceties. We signed five new players in little over a week and that shot us into the headlines. The club has been newsworthy ever since. This is a good thing. Publicity sells your club. It also brings its problems. When Oldham had to fight against relegation in the glaring spotlight of publicity, the players were put under a great psychological strain. The same pressure continued last season. We were tipped as promotion candidates from the start, so each win was regarded as a proof of promotion; each defeat resulted in our being written off.

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e. He must bear in mind the limied on the club by location, popu~ ~ground. At Oldham we are very in that there is a population of a million people within a ten-mile d adjoining our ground is over six mare land, all owned by the club. In Oldham is a soccer-loving town oeen for a long time. This is imporcecause with the money involved today ~~-I5Si'onal football, one cannot aim to op unless there is the potential of a -mg. At Oldham we consistently zhest gates in the Third Division, - ~0 our Third Division gates comn... rourably with those registered by d and even First Division clubs.

t tep towards achieving our am-as 0 reorganize and strengthen the management, and to do this we engaged _fanager,Jimmy McIlroy, the famous

Irish international player. It is early days yet, but I am convinced that in the 1970S he will be held in the same awe as Matt Busby is today. Many famous players fail as managers because their brains are in their feet. Mac is an exception. He is a great thinker and is highly respected by his players, who see in him a born leader. To help Jimmy McIlroy we retained Gordon Hurst as the Assistant Manager with special responsibilities for the youngsters, and Eric Walker, formerly with Blackburn, as the Chief Scout. Scouting had been neglected at Oldham. Now Mr. Walker has established a network of experts covering the whole country. We know that the only 'lasting way to maintain one's position is by finding your own stars. Similarly we know we must have patience. We already have some promising youngsters but we do not expect any significant results before 1970. Having signed good players it makes sense to ensure that they are kept at peak fitness 123

Bebbington scores Oldham against Wolves. for

and that injured players can be restored to health in the shortest possible time. We therefore spent several thousands of pounds on equipping a brand new physiotherapy spa with the finest and most modern equipment on the market. This is run by Jimmy MeGregor, a young Scot who used to be with Clyde. These facilities have been praised by many visiting clubs. Finally, the secretarial staff has been increased, their facilities improving and accounting techniques modernized to cope efficiently with the increased demands placed upon them by the renewed interest of the public. The Directors are the men who shape the club policy, but we have no time at Oldham for Directors who regard their Board membership as a pleasant little hobby. Each Director is primarily responsible for a management function, such as Ground, Youth, the Reserves, Hospitality, Finance and Players. We meet officially once a month and report on the work of our department. In the mean124

time, the Director concerned must take decisions and be prepared to justify them. This ensures both progress and action. We have completely changed our public relations policy. As a boy I remember when all soccer fans were eager for every bit of information about their favourite club, no matter how trivial. We at Oldham try to meet that demand. We have abolished our club programme. Instead, we give free of charge to each spectator on match days a twelve-page quarto size magazine. This is crammed with information and statistics about the visitors, full reports in our playing staff, gossip and news of all the happenings at the club. The magazine has proved so popular that many of our supporters who live away from Oldham have it posted to them regularly. We keep in close contact with all the local newspapers so that locals are fully aware of what is going on. Any constructive letter which appears in a newspaper is answered by the Board. Weare willing to discuss any

earn selection with the public. ing of developing Oldham on . es. , e don't want to be just a but rather the focal point in the social and sporting activities. In this are fortunate in owning that large next to the ground. plans for a new stand seating e, but this will be of revolutionary large circulation areas where - ... -~,-.~ can meet their friends before and 5 e and enjoy adequate snack bars, ::-5~::Z=~_ and tea-rooms. Beneath the stand a large gymnasium where the train in bad weather and where
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we can also run junior five-a-side leagues and promote other sports, like basketball or indoor tennis. We have plans for squash and badminton courts, ten-pin bowling, a discotheque for the teenagers, a quiet area where the older supporters can meet in the evenings, and a large club room suitable for dances and other social functions. The object will be to provide something of interest to all classes and all ages every day of the week and to enable the people of Oldham to identify themselves with the club. We are an old club with a proud history. Weare all working towards an even prouder future.

_'_;_,n..~~in

another role-in

the thick of it, tackling between goalkeeper and defender.

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