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Fan of the week, Dave Thomas

THAT legendary Oldham Rugby secretary Bert Summerscales used to say that once the club was in your blood it was a love affair that would last “from the cradle to the grave.”

It might be a slight exaggeration, certainly at the cradle end of the lifetime’s experience, but you get the gist and it’s reinforced when you listen to the Roughyeds story of a fan like Dave Thomas.

Aged 52 and Oldham born and bred, he’s been a red-and-white fanatic since his dad and his elder brother Bill first took him to Watersheddings when he was four or five.

He was immediately fascinated by the Watersheddings stadium, the game, the players, the atmosphere and the camaraderie on the terraces. He’s been a home-and-away fan ever since . . . and more than 20 years after that first visit to Watersheddings that was to shape his life, he bought a house at the top end of Cobden Street, Waterhead purely because it was in close proximity to his beloved ‘Sheddings.

Dave remembers.

“I was made up to be moving there, but within weeks I was having a pint in the Black Horse on Ripponden Road when Jim Quinn (then club chairman) came in and announced that he had just done a deal to sell the ground. I can remember it as though it were yesterday.

“I was devastated. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I loved that place. I had bought a house just round the corner and then they dropped a bombshell like that.”

Not even that could dampen his enthusiasm for Roughyeds, nor could the shareholders’ vote a year or so later to voluntarily liquidate the club and effectively call it a day because of debts running close to £2m.

To this day, he proudly wears his Roughyeds colours, not only on match days but often when he’s not at work as a repairs manager in social housing and, instead, he’s enjoying leisure time at his home in Moorside.

“Sheddings was a special place”, he added, “but I still enjoy my affiliation with the club and I guess I always will.

“I don’t miss many games and I was thrilled to bits when we learned that Danny Langtree was coming back to us. What a fantastic signing that was.

“I think it was all the more magical because I don’t think anybody saw it coming. It was a real out-of-the-blue signing, great stuff.”

He had no hesitation in naming ‘Langers’ as his No 1 of the current squad, while his all-time favourite Oldham player was Charlie McAlister, the big Kiwi who had it all — strength, speed and sublime handling skills. He could, as they say, make a ball talk.

Married to Mandy, Dave is proud to be a member of a Roughyeds-mad family, to which the club has always meant the world. Julie Smith, grandma of young Keira, of Keira’s Wishes fame, is his sister.

Supporting Keira in the 11-year-old’s amazing and nationally-recognised fund-raising projects for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, is one of the few things that would come first if it clashed with a Roughyeds game; that and the occasional event that takes he and Mandy to North Yorkshire where they have a caravan near York.

“Oddly enough, I’m going to miss the next two games because we have a caravan ‘do’ over Easter and it’s too far away to get back for the Hunslet game, which I would do normally — and then on the day we play West Wales away I’ve promised to do a sponsored walk with Keira.

“She’s a little gem and she has us doing all sorts of things to raise funds for Keira’s Wishes.”

His favourite food is “anything recommended by Slimming World” . . . or, more seriously, “spicy Indian curries” and he names fishing, golf and caravan-associated events as his hobbies; all after Roughyeds in the family pecking order, of course.

Over the last 47 or 48 years he’s been carried away on a wave of ecstacy or condemned to the depths of despair by events involving a funny-shaped ball that have been totally out of his control.

He said:

“That fantastic Challenge Cup win at Hull KR three years ago ranks as one of the best. It’s right up there at the top.

“And going back a lot further, I’ll never forget the day we won at St Helens to stay up, when Bob Lindner had a blinder, or that great night at Sheddings when we knocked an all-conquering Wigan side out of the cup thanks to THE Paddy Kirwan try near the end.

“We’ll talk about matches like that until our dying days, but we’ve also got painful memories too . . . like the semi-final defeats by Warrington and Castleford when we got so agonisingly close to Wembley, and the time we lost in Paris which condemned us to relegation and led directly to us going bump.

“Like you say, though, once it’s in your blood it’s there to stay and as a result of watching Roughyeds playing all over the country, and even abroad, I’ve made some wonderful friends and built-up precious memories.

“The trip to Toulouse a couple of years back was fabulous and over the years I’ve made lots of friends among rival fans, especially the bunch up in Newcastle.

“Watching Oldham Rugby is a massive part of my life — always has been; always will be.”

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Club Cash

AS you all know from your own experiences these are tough times for everybody, but we believe you will agree that OLDHAM RLFC is taking massive inspiration from the fabulous NHS and other key workers in tackling Covid head-on, while looking forward positively to the 2021 season and better times ahead thanks to the outstanding work now being done to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, we have to face facts and be realistic enough to accept that the club urgently needs every pound that is currently coming in from whatever source. One of those sources is our Club Cash lottery and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who support us on this. A lot of you who used to pay our collectors on the doorstep have responded to our suggestions on how to pay by different methods and we are extremely grateful for that. Thanks again. You will never know how much difference your contributions make.

Alas, our income from the lottery has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the course of the pandemic and that would be a huge blow financially at any time let alone a time of unprecedented hardship because of the pandemic. It really is a situation we seriously need to address.

With that in mind the prize fund for the duration of the latest national lockdown will be temporarily reduced from February 10.

You will still be able to win a £1,000 first prize, plus £100, £50, £25 and ten £10 prizes every week, while continuing to provide vital support for the club and it will only cost you £1 a week. You can’t get a decent coffee for that, but the difference it makes to the club when multiplied a few times over and then multiplied again by 52 – the number of weeks in the financial year – is of major significance.

If you can help us at all — for £1 a week — it would be hugely appreciated by everyone with Oldham RL Club at heart. The prize structure still represents good value for money for an outlay of £1.

To those who are already members and help us accordingly, we very much hope to retain your support at this extremely difficult time.

Should you wish to play but don’t, due to the pausing of cash collection rounds, we have other options available, which you can discuss with our lottery administrator, John McAndrew on 07980129541 or from the club on 07904 898177.

Alternatively, you can send an email to: mcandrewj@aol.com or to: enquiries@roughyeds.co.uk

The prize fund will be increased back to previous levels as soon as latest lockdowns are released. Please watch our website and social media platforms for further announcements.

Finally, if you want more information about the lottery or you wish to discuss your membership please contact one of the numbers given above.

A huge thank-you to you all.

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