IT is with sadness and condolences that we pass on the news of former Oldham player Alan Taylor’s death at the age of 68.
Roughyeds fans talk of the Roaring Twenties and the Fabulous Fifties, but the Exciting Eighties weren’t so bad either and it was in the early part of that decade that Alan starred in the Watersheddings side that was to lay down the foundations for what was to follow, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.
Between 1981 and 1985, he scored 15 tries in 75 appearances, most of them at full-back. He was a tough, talented cookie who had all the skills to play anywhere, though, and he also turned out at stand-off, loose-forward and on the wing.
In that respect, but not exclusively so, he was a coach’s dream and he and forward Dave Nicholson were two of Frank Myler’s first and best signings when they arrived from Swinton for a combined fee of £20,000
They weren’t the flashiest of players, but both were 100 per cent guys who never shirked a tackle or a challenge and could always be relied on to give everything they had to give from first minute to last whatever the score or the state of the game.
Myler and his second-in-command Peter Smethurst knew they had those qualities in abundance and it was no surprise that in his second spell at the club Alan was made captain.
In 1981-82, his best season, he scored ten tries in 35 games as Roughyeds won the Second Division championship at the first attempt under the new coaching duo of Myler and Smethurst.
Myler’s men 30 of their 32 league games to finish top, win promotion and lift the Slalom Lager Rose Bowl and the £6,000 prize.
With Brian Hogan and Alan McCurrie having been brought in to bolster the front-row, Oldham also reached their first semi-final in 17 years, winning through to the last four of the John Player Trophy before going down to Hull at Headingley.
It was to be the start of five successive seasons in the First Division between 1982 and 1987 with an eighth-place finish in 82-83 and a fifth-place finish in 84-85 when Taylor returned to the club as captain after 18 months working full time as a teacher in the Bahamas.
Earlier, in 82-83, his second season at Watersheddings coincided with Oldham’s return to the First Division where he played in the first 19 games of the campaign at full-back alongside players like Green Vigo, Des Foy, Colin Hawkyard, Brian Caffery, Ray Ashton, Ashley McEwen and Mick Parrish in the backs and Brian Hogan, Alan McCurrie, Andy Goodway, Mick Worrall and Terry Flanagan in the pack.
From eighth place, Oldham went to league leaders Hull in the play-off and gave them a huge fright before losing 24-21.
Taylor was working overseas by then, but he was back for the start of the 84-85 season when he was handed the captaincy of a side that won its first six league games to top the First Division at the end of October.
They finished fifth behind Hull KR, St Helens, Wigan and Leeds with Taylor and Caffery sharing full-back duties, Vigo, Parrish, Foy and Mick Taylor doing the business in the backs, Paddy Kirwan, Ray Ashton, Paul Taylor and Ian Birkby going well in the halves and Wally Jones, McCurrie, Chris Phelan, Hawkyard, Mick Morgan, Andy Goodway, Mick Worrall and Terry Flanagan holding down pack places.
It was the forerunner of the side that completed five years in a row in the top flight and reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup in ’86, going down to Castleford at Central Park.
When relegation finally came at the end of the ’87 season it came in circumstances that would have been unheard off in modern times.
It was the season in which ‘Bruiser’ Clark and Co gave the mighty Aussie tourists their biggest challenge of the tour and Paddy Kirwan’s famous try knocked Wigan’s team of all stars out of the Challenge Cup on a never-to-be-forgotten winter’s night at ‘Sheddings.
They lost their last six league games but still finished fourth bottom above Featherstone, Barrow and Wakefield.
All four went down but Oldham had 13 wins to their credit (the same number as Leeds, Hull and Leigh who were just above them). compared with the infinitely inferior record of Featherstone, Barrow and Wakefield, who also went down with 8, 7 and 4 wins respectively.
The 80s, nevertheless, was a decade which had a great deal to commend it — and Alan Taylor, club captain, full-back courageous, loyal club man and a coach’s dream was right in the thick of it when Frank Myler took the club out of the Second Division and built a side that, for five years at least, made the rest of the First Division sit up and take note.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the club are with Alan’s family and friends at this very sad time.