It was 15:00 on a Tuesday afternoon. Having finished school forever, I was doing nothing other than watching the episode upon episode of Jeremy Kyle. I was lounging around in my Primark joggers and other cheap clothing, when Aaron tweeted asking “Mossley v Oldham tonight? Anybody up for it?”. My original response was to decline the invitation. However, after sitting there with it preying on my mind for 10 minutes, I gave in and decided to get ready.
At the last minute, a brilliant plan had been drawn together. There were going to be quite a few of us meeting at Mossley! There was Joe, Aaron, Ben, James, Chappers… and of course me. Brilliant! I was really looking forward to meeting up with everybody.
I caught the 17:14 train from Atherton, before catching the onwards train to Mossley. I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t even know where Mossley was before I set out. Just a quick look on National Rail Enquiries and off I went.
It was whilst at Manchester Victoria I had contact with three peculiar girls from the large market town of Rochdale. Those of you who have read my Rochdale blog will know of my hatred for the town, and anything to do with it. So these girls were always going to get a straight, simple and quite degrading answer off me. I was stood waiting for my train to Mossley, and I saw the girls looking at me. A moment later, one of them pipes up:
“Can I have your number please?”
I looked this girl up and down.
“Where are you from?”
May I just say at this point, I was just playing with the girl at this stage. I had no intention of handing her my number. However, when I heard her response, my mind was definitely made up. You know when you’re a lad, and you’re talking to a girl?… But then she reveals she’s from the large market town of Rochdale? Yeah, well this was one of those moments. My response?
“No love, you can’t.”
I think it was safe to say that everybody else waiting for the 17:57 to Huddersfield found it rather amusing. So let that be a lesson ladies. If you ever want to pull a lad, don’t tell him you’re from the large market town of Rochdale.
After a very cramped 20 minutes on the Northern Rail special, I arrived in the lovely town of Mossley. Found just to the east of Manchester in the hills, it was a beautiful setting in which to kick off the new season. I honestly don’t think I will see such lovely scenery at a football ground again for a long time!
One problem arises when given such scenery to enjoy. You have to climb a lot of hills in order to reach your destination! I was given two options. I could literally go all the way around the houses, or I could use the Aaron Flanagan shortcut which he told me takes just 6 minutes, but also kills your body at the same time. He had text me through quite a well worded description of his shortcut, so off I went.
I was devastated when I discovered the infamous Mossley cable car was out of order due to sunny weather. I then also found out that I didn’t have enough money to hire one of the many Ghurka Guides waiting at the bottom, so I decided to go it alone.
10 minutes later, and after getting lost with an Oldham fan, we arrived at Seel Park. I loved the entrance to the ground. You’ll have to look at the photos. I can’t put into words how nice it looked. There were two turnstyles to choose from… so I picked the least busy one, where I asked for a concession. The girl told me I would need to go to the middle turnstile in order to pay for a concession.
Bit strange? But okay, I’ll do as I am told. Off I trundled to the middle turnstile, joining a queue full of Oldham fans who were looking at me rather peculiarly as I had my brand new Bolton shirt on. Eventually I reached the front of the queue, where again, I asked for a concession. The lad informed me I had to go to the turnstyle at the end in order to pay concession. Yes, that’s right! The turnstyle I had just come from.
I eventually got in to the ground, and purchased a programme for £2 off a bloke in a suit. The programme was a very well written and printed, and it puts many teams to shame! The information given was bang up to date also, which is always a positive.
Having browsed through my Gibbo’s92 award winning non-league programme, I then walked down a flight of stairs, and entered the ground. I found Ben, James and Chappers who were having a wild spending spree down in the supporters club shop. Ben got slightly exited when he found an Ossett programme on sale for 50p. He also purchased a Mossley scarf for £3. He was definitely in the mood for spending his money. Bless him. I may take the mick out of him, but I was just as excited when I looked into the corner of the room and saw a box FULL of Atherton Collieries and Atherton Laburnum Rovers programmes!
It was soon time to explore the ground properly. Joe and Aaron had been singing its praises to me for months, so I was expecting huge things from this little ground. I wasn’t keen on it at first, but looking back now, I would definitely go back again!… Maybe not in the winter though! Standing at an altitude of 208, Seel Park is the fourth highest English football ground above sea level. Bet you never knew that!
The ground holds 4,000 fans, mainly standing. It has only one seated stand, and in my opinion, it really is horrible on the eye. It looks almost as though the club needed a cheap way of covering the 200 seats. They decided it would be best to make the stand look like a table. With a flat roof, and four supporting pillars it offers a dry, but slightly restricted view.
Seel Park comprises predominately of terracing. There is quite a nice terrace found behind the goal on the right hand side of the ground, called the Park End. This is where the “Mossley Ultras” like to come out with the occasional song. If I’m being honest, they are a rather embarrassing group of teenagers with nothing else to do. It also appeared that the leader of the Ultras was using his mums washing line pole to get his fellow ultras singing.
Opposite the seated stand at Seel Park was another terrace which ran the length of the pitch. It reminded me of the Whinney Hill Terrace at Accrington.
Behind the other goal was the School End. The School End offered quite a nice view over the playing field. This was due to the fact it stood a couple of metres above the pitch itself. This became a problem when Lee Croft came over and we asked him for a photo!
Just after having his photo with us, Lee Croft decided he would give us an official Oldham Athletic football. Well, he didn’t decide actually. Croft blasted a ball over, and hit the school behind the fence. I won’t name who went and hid the ball so they could have it afterwards, but it certainly fooled the Oldham Athletic coach who was rummaging through the bushes for 20 minutes trying to find this missing ball.
I was waiting for Joe and Aaron to arrive when I survived a whole new experience at a football ground. During the years I have faced many near death experiences. I’ve had skittles thrown at me at Old Trafford, rocks thrown at me at St. Andrews and I have been woofed at by the Port Vale mascot. Never before have I been attacked by a tumbleweed. Yes, that’s right. Tumbleweed in Mossley!
The Mossley v Oldham fixture has now become an annual event. Last season saw Mossley win 1-0, beating a full strength Oldham. It was revealed on Mossleys website that Latics were again expected to field a strong squad with Paul Dickov keen to give all of his players a run out.
New signings Jonathan Grounds, Connor Brown, Daniel Taylor and former Manchester City favourite Lee Croft would all be making their debuts for the Latics. This along with the short distance between Mossley and Oldham meant that quite a few Latics fans had made the journey to Seel Park.
The match began and it was Mossley who started the better of the two teams. Nathan Taylor looked a threat up front for the home side, but was taken off injured after 10 minutes. Taylor was running through on goal when he collided with Oldham keeper Alex Cisak. Both players were down for a while, but Cisak was able to continue.
It was the visitors who took the lead on 14 minutes when Gary Gee fouled James Tarkowski in the area. My opinion was that Tarkowski threw himself, but Joe and Aaron argued it was indeed a penalty. As Robbie Simpson was placing the ball on the spot, we told Mossley keeper Martin Pearson to dive to his right. He smiled at us, and mouthed something. Simpson stepped up, and placed the ball into the exact corner we told Pearson to dive to. Pearson did follow our instructions, but unfortunately for him, he was just unable to get a finger to the ball.
The next opportunity of the game fell to one of Oldhams trialists. He let rip with a shot from the edge of the area, but Pearson pulled off a tremendous save to deny him. I doubt I will see a better save for a few months at least.
Mossley offered very little all night. The match was essentially a game of keep ball for the Latics, whilst Mossley ran around like headless chickens. The gulf between the two sides was immense.
Just before the half time interval we decided we’d go and get some food and drink. However, as Aarons Dad was coach at Mossley a couple of years ago, he knew absolutely everybody. We couldn’t walk 5 metres without somebody saying hello to Aaron. It was like being with a celebrity. We eventually made it to the top of the stand, where Aaron got chatting to the security bloke. Suddenly, Aaron called us in through a door…. and we were in the home changing rooms! The smell of deep heat was rife, and the players had left the place in a mess, but for non league, they were brilliant.
After a whistle-stop tour, we continued on our quest to find beer and pies. Off to the social we went. Whilst they were inside, I stood on the balcony which offers a fantastic view of the pitch. Unfortunately for me, I had plonked myself in front of a disabled person, and their carer wasn’t too happy. He shoved me, and shouted “move!”. Bit of manners doesn’t cost anything does it?
After being pushed, we finally got our beers, and proceeded to the pie hut. The queue was awful…. so we put money into Aarons hands, shouted our orders at him and left him to it. 10 minutes later, Aaron rang me, obviously to report a pie-lemma, but I chose to ignore it and continue watching the match.
Mr. Flanagan arrived back with the pies and chips after what seemed like an eternity. To soften the blow of receiving meat pies, Aaron told us a heartfelt story about how he battled long and hard to get us the final two in the ground. All was forgiven, and we delved into the food. The chips were fantastic, and I would thoroughly recommend them. The pie was average, and I won’t be purchasing one next time I go.
During the half time interval, Paul Dickov did as he promised, and brought on 11 new players.
The squad replacement seemed to do its trick as the Latics doubled their lead within two minutes of the restart through Matt Smith. Youssouf M’Changama worked the ball well in the centre before setting up Smith to finish.
The match continued to go in the favour of the visitors, and shot after shot pounded down on Mossleys net. Paul Dickov was now doing to Andre Villas Boas pose on the touchline.
It was soon time for us to leave as our last train was due to depart a couple of minutes before the end of the match. It was far easier walking down the hill than up it! Meanwhile, Oldham added a third goal in the last minute. Youssouff M’Changama’s shot took a deflection past Mossley keeper Xavier Parisi.
Overall, I wasn’t too keen on Mossley at first. However, as the evening went on, I began to fall in love with the place. I must though emphasise, I probably wouldn’t be saying this if I went in the middle of winter! I will be visiting Mossley again in a couple of weeks when Aaron is the linesman for Mossley v FC United… it should be a hilarious evening for Joe and I as we perpetually abuse the linesman!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND – 24.3 miles
- ADMISSION – £5 as student
- PROGRAMME PRICE – £2
- PIE – £2