Which brings me to the question....which player would draw such praise from Oldham fans?
The Latics may not have the most successful history, but there are many who could lay the claim to the title of ’the greatest player in Oldham’s history’.
A lot of players in the 12-year Joe Royle reign could clearly throw their cap in the ring, but their claims are likely to fall on deaf ears, despite the amazing achievement of reaching the Premiership.
Instead, Bobby Johnstone raises himself above all other candidates for his four-year spell between 1961 and 1965. The Scot was said to have saved the club from extinction. Even Steven Gerrard cannot match that (probably).
With Oldham languishing in the lower reaches of the Football League, the 32-year-old attacker opted to spend his twilight years in the Fourth division. He had previously become a hero at Manchester City and, formerly, at Hibernian- where he was a stalwart of the ‘Famous Five’ forward line.
To give an indication of the splash that his debut made, Oldham’s gate increased from an average of 4,000 to 17,116 to see Johnstone score in a 5-2 victory. The standard had been set and the era was underway.
Shortly after in January 1962, 42,000 saw the Latics scare mighty Liverpool at Boundary Park. Johnstone inspired his side as they bravely went down to Shankly’s men 2-1.
The heroics continued and promotion followed in 1962-63 as Oldham reached the third tier. The team scored 95 goals on the way with Johnstone having a hand in the vast majority of them.
When Johnstone ended his playing career in 1965, he had amassed 36 goals in 143 appearance with countless assists to boot.
Oldham fans knew the void would be a difficult one to fill. No-one at the club has since scaled such heights.
It his indicative of his quality that his teammate Jimmy Frizzell (who later managed the club) once asked: “What on earth would he have been worth in today’s football market place?”
For Oldham’s supporters, the memory of his talents will be priceless.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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