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Looking Back on Life at Whitebank

It seems like only yesterday that, wearing old clothes and that ancient sun hat from out of the loft, we answered Tony Benson’s call to arms and turned up at Whitebank on a Saturday morning to paint fences, clean seats, sweep up and generally spruce things up as much as we could in readiness for our first game there.

The big day dawned on May 9, 2010. It was a big day, too, We had won our first seven games in Co-op Championship One — five of them away from home, two at Sedgley Park, Prestwich — and here we were back in Oldham after a nomadic few years which had seen us play, from memory, at Boundary Park, Spotland, Hurst Cross, Bower Fold, Sedgley Park, Victoria Park (Chorley) and even Bloomfield Road at Blackpool which had been a happy hunting ground of mine in days long gone when the legendary Stanley Matthews strutted his stuff there as the original Wizard of Dribble, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.

We were proud of Chris’s achievement in getting us back to Oldham on a ground we could call our own even if it wasn’t, but we needed to beat York at Whitebank on the ground’s opening day in order to put the icing on the birthday cake.

A crowd of 1,110 turned up, but we lost 34-28 in our first game there, just as we lost there 18-10 against Midlands Hurricanes in our final game there last Sunday. Many years on, of course, its a very different ground to those early days,

Its now the Vestacare Stadium, AVRO FC are here, the ground has a special pitch, it is widely used by the football community and massive improvements have been made to facilities which have still caused us to move out of town again, to Stalybridge, whenever we have won promotion from tier three to tier two.

We are now at Boundary Park, of course, with its new £1M pitch, new Joe Royle stand and relatively new owners — them and us — to say nothing of Council involvement and universal support for the general belief that Boundary Park should be the fulcrum for the town’s new sporting image.

But back to day one at the ground now called the Vestacare Stadium.

Oldham lined up like this:

O’Connor; Onyango, Heaton , Fogerty, Gillam; Whitmore, Ashe; Boults, M Roden, Kerr, Chandler, Robinson, Clarke. Subs: Ellison, Mansfield, Sutton, Hodson.

Each team scored six tries, Oldham’s coming from Gillam, Fogerty, Onyango, O’Connor (2) and Kerr, but York kicked five goals to Oldham’s two and that was the difference.

Wayne Kerr
Wayne Kerr scoring against York

For the record, Oldham finished second to Hunslet that year with 17 wins from 20 league games and only three league losses — this one, Hunslet at Whitebank a fortnight later and South Wales at Whitebank on August 1.

York finished third in the table with eight league losses (one of them against Oldham at home). They were also beaten 41-32 at Whitebank in a play-off watched by 1,275 fans but they won the one that mattered most, 25-4 in the 2010 Grand Final at Warrington to go up with Hunslet.

Life at Whitebank (Vestacare) was never easy, but we had great days there as well as a few nightmares and it was, indeed, the end of an era when we pulled out of there for the final time on Sunday.

Its fair to say it wasn’t the best stadium we’ve played in, but it did us proud when we needed it most and, for that alone, it will for ever command a place in club folklore.

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