AS Oldham Athletic battle to remain in the EFL, perhaps long-suffering fans should draw comfort from Mike Keegan’s new book.
‘This Is How It Feels: An English Football Miracle’ (Reach Sports, £16.99) is the sports journalist’s story of the period between 1989-91 which was the most successful chapter in the club’s history.
Yet when Joe Royle took up his managerial appointment at Boundary Park in 1982, there were comparisons to the present day.
Mike, who was raised in Springhead, recalled how on Royle’s first day as manager he was confronted by bailiffs arriving at the ground such was their dire financial position.
Yet seven years later, Royle had transformed the club which went on to reach the final of the Littlewoods Cup, semi final of the FA Cup and win promotion to the First Division, today’s Premier League in that two-year period.
It was no wonder Mike questioned, has there ever been a bigger English football miracle than the rise of Oldham Athletic?
And as Latics languish at the foot of League Two in dire times for the club, perhaps Mike’s book should provide hope for long-suffering fans about how footballing fortunes can quickly change.
The launch by chance coincided with the 30th anniversary of Latics’ famous comeback against Sheffield Wednesday that clinched the Second Division championship and capped a footballing fairytale.
After going two goals down at Boundary Park, it looked like the league silverware was heading to West Ham United. But at 2-2 and with 92 minutes gone, full-back Andy Barlow was brought down in the penalty box and that all changed. Neil Redfearn coolly stepped up and found the net. Cue mayhem.
Fans streamed onto the pitch in their thousands, celebrating one of the most amazing moments in the smalltown club’s history. The trophy – when it eventually arrived from Upton Park – was decked with Royle blue ribbons – much to the embarrassment of Football League officials who had already engraved West Ham’s name on the silverware.
The period 1989-91 is the greatest football story never told – until now. Thanks to the unrivalled eye for a bargain and wily leadership of former Everton and England striker Royle, the manager who arrived on the back of a lorry for his job interview after his car broke down, unfashionable Oldham emerged from the shadows of their illustrious Manchester neighbours and embarked on a thrilling, white knuckle ride to the summit of the English game which saw them capture the hearts of a nation. It should not have happened – but it did.
Mike, 43, a former pupil at St Edwards’, Lees, saw it all happen first-hand after receiving a first season ticket as an 11th birthday present from his late uncle Vinny Hall and his aunt Marie who lived in Grasscroft.
The book has been a labour of love over a six-year period as Mike has spoken to the men, his childhood heroes who made it happen – from boss Royle to Latics legends like Andy Ritchie, Ian Marshall, Mike Milligan and Denis Irwin, as well as the unsung heroes behind the scenes.
His book ‘This Is How It Feels: An English Football Miracle’ tells the warts-and-all story of a time when the impossible was possible, long before the vast millions in broadcast money arrived and the creation of the Premier League changed football in the country forever.
The book can be ordered from reachsportshop.com
- The Correspondent has one copy of ‘This Is How It Feels: An English Football Miracle’ to give away.
To have a chance to win, simply answer the following question:
Who managed the Nottingham Forest side that played Latics in the 1990 final of the Littlewoods Cup?
Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Latics Book Competition, Units 3 & 4, 45 High Street, Uppermill, OL3 6HS, by Friday, December 4, 2021.
The judges’ decision is final. T&Cs apply.