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1973/74 Season Memories - Promotion

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This was possibly my favourite season watching the mighty Blues, a season that started quite uninspiringly (sound familiar?) with a 0-0 draw at the Shay (loads of Latics fans bunking over the bus station wall) and followed by a 1-1 home draw with the Vale. The season picked up with a 1-0 win at Watford but my memories of that day are less happy as I broke my nose trying to hook a donkey-drop at cricket bowled by Andrew Woods. We exited the League Cup in the first round (sound familiar?) with a 2-3 home defeat to neighbours Bury after a 0-0 thriller (not) at Gigg Lane. The home reversal was a cracking cup tie, Bury went 3-0 up at the Home of British Football in the first 1/2 hour (ex Latics forward Derek Spence amongst the scorers) and were still 3-0 up at the break. Latics came roaring back, got two back but a third eluded us and our cup walks continued. We didn't set the world alight footballing wise in September but steady results (home wins v  Southend and Plymouth and a 2-1 away win at Brighton in which Tony Hateley scored (his only goal for Latics) left us in good fettle.

October started with out first defeat of the season, 0-1 to Brighton but results stayed relatively positive with 2 more wins and 3 draws. November was another steady month, a 3-0 home win v Shrewsbury followed by our first visit to Edgar Street where Latics pulled off a 4-3 triumph. A 1-1 draw with runaway leaders Bristol Rovers kept us in the frame. Our FA Cup journey consisted of more than one round with a titanic battle at Formby (ok an average display really but Latics managed to get to round 2 for first time in my time supporting them so it was memorable). December started ok but got progressively worse - Latics overcome mighty Halifax at the Shay 1-0 with a Dick Mulvaney winner but registered their first away league defeat 1-2 at Huddersfield. A ropey Christmas ensued with a 2-3 reverse to Bastard Rovers on Boxing Day where there was lots of off-the-field shenanigans in the Chaddy and followed up with a 0-3 home defeat to Watford (Elton John in attendance in feathers).  New Years Day saw a 0-3 defeat at Port Vale and Latics were on the crest of a slump as 1974 started.

Latics played in the first ever FA Cup match on a Sunday on 6th January 1974 where Andy Lochhead scored twice but two late goals from the home side forced a replay. The game was played at 11am hence the early kick off being the first ever game.3 other cup ties took place that day including one at Bolton v Stoke which attracted a crowd of 40,000+. 1974 was the year of the three day week and the replay at home to Cambridge was an afternoon kick off (think it was 2pm) and a crowd of over 10,000 saw Oldham draw 3-3 with Cambridge. The Chaddy End did a walk-on with school ties!! There were no penalties in those days so a second replay was organised to take place at the City Ground, Nottingham on a Monday night. Latics had somehow dropped to 17th in the league even though they had only been defeated 4 times (can't recall this but was stated in one of the programmes that season i assume we had games in hand) but better times were ahead. Latics won 2-1 at Wrexham and embarked on a ten match winning run (a club record) in the league which set us up really well for a crack at league leaders Bristol Rovers and high flying Bournemouth, York City and Chesterfield.  Latics won 2-1 at the City Ground in the FA Cup 3rd round second replay and set up a home tie v Burnley in last week of January. Latics found the Clarets far too hot to handle though, Leighton James gave Ian Wood a torrid time and Burnley were 2-0 up in five minutes. The Clarets brought a right load of herberts with them and several pitch invasions followed and the Chaddy End was taken by the hillbillys. That day we had a fella called Mr Mellor (rhymes) looking after us on the Chaddy and he must have thrown about 5/6 Clarets back onto the pitch for police to throw out. Burnley went 4-0 up before Maurice Whittle converted a last minute penalty to the largest cheer of the day.  Latics quickly recovered and won 3-0 at Bournemouth on my 12th birthday (Garwood hattrick) and with the inspired signing of the mercurial Alan Groves, results in the league went through the roof. Grovesey scored on his debut v Aldeshot at home and followed up with the winner at Ewood Park the following week. Latics went nap and scored 6 v Cambridge at home and beat Walsall in a much closer game. We travelled to Saltergate in good part and goodly numbers but the team didn't turn up that day and we deservedly lost 1-0 to an Andy Kowalski winner (no idea why I remember that but I do). Goals flowed with a 4-2 home win v Bournemouth but we had several hiccups losing heavily at Charlton then our bogey side (1-4) and at Grimsby (another place we usually lost at). I made my first visit to Gay Meadow on 30th March to see Tony Bailey notch his only goal for Latics in a 2-0 win. This day was one of Red Rum's Grand National Wins and Leicester played Liverpool at Old Trafford in the FA Cup semi and I counted over 100 coaches of their supporters on route.  Bristol Rovers had been faltering after finally losing their long unbeaten run, Bournemouth fell away and Latics were locked with York in battle for automatic promotion places. The real decider was Easter - in those days teams played Friday, Saturday and Monday. Latics played their Lancashire neighbours Southport on Good Friday and were far too good for them winning 6-0. On the Saturday, Latics travelled to Eastville in a top of the table clash and won 2-1 (George McVitie scored the second after 10 minutes - they got a late goal and Latics hung on) in a match that featured on Match of The Day. A very rare feat for Latics registering a win in front of the cameras, we usually got stuffed when they turned up. On Easter Monday, Latics travelled to Haig Avenue and around 10,000 were present of whom very few were home fans (saw one Southport scarf all day). Latics won 2-0 and I recall some lads spraying names of scorers (think it was Jones & Robins) on the terraces. This set up a home game v Huddersfield which was to prove our promotion clincher and we delivered in style winning 6-0 v the Terriers in a real feast of football.  16000 fans were present and invaded the pitch at the end to celebrate our return to the 2nd tier of football for the first time since 1954. We followed up drawing 1-1 at York City with a fabulous free kick from Maurice Whittle, York got promoted that day and the biggest noise of the day was reserved for the news that United had been relegated and that Latics would be playing their illustrious neighbours for the first time since the 1930s in a league encounter next season. Latics could win the title at home to Charlton but the Londoners spoiled our party with a 2-0 win. The title was clinched on a Friday evening in a 0-0 draw at Home Park, Plymouth on Friday 3rd May.

A fabulous season, some great performances (notably Huddersfield and Bournemouth at home, Bristol Rovers away), lots of goals (88 I think), 12 away wins, only 4 home defeats (not like these days), a number of heroes - Wood, Whittle, Blair, Garwood, Robins and the magnificent mercurial Alan Groves. A 12 year old lad witnessing his second promotion in 4 seasons and starstruck at the mighty Blues. The crowds flocking back to Boundary Park (started around 6,000 ended up around 16,000) and a first cup run in my time watching them. So many great memories - loved that season. Can't say that very often since.                                                                                      

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Blimey mate.  How long did it take you to write that?  A great read.  It was all a little bit before my time, I started going in 1980.  The 0-3 home defeat by Watford was on ITV's Big Match, and is on YouTube about 30 minutes in towards the end of this link below.  Ignore that it says 1979, that is wrong.  We always seemed to lose on TV!

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Sparkleking said:

Blimey mate.  How long did it take you to write that?  A great read.  It was all a little bit before my time, I started going in 1980.  The 0-3 home defeat by Watford was on ITV's Big Match, and is on YouTube about 30 minutes in towards the end of this link below.  Ignore that it says 1979, that is wrong.  We always seemed to lose on TV!

 

 

I found it easy to recall once I started - my memory of that season and of most of the 70s is pretty clear as I think that was my favourite period of supporting them.... contagion......couldn't stop thinking about them and talking about them. I went to school in Manchester, was the only Latics fan in a class of primarily City fans but I was the only one who regularly attended away games. Have thought about committing my memories to print but not that many about now who would recall those days     

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18 minutes ago, unsworth blue said:

I found it easy to recall once I started - my memory of that season and of most of the 70s is pretty clear as I think that was my favourite period of supporting them.... contagion......couldn't stop thinking about them and talking about them. I went to school in Manchester, was the only Latics fan in a class of primarily City fans but I was the only one who regularly attended away games. Have thought about committing my memories to print but not that many about now who would recall those days     

Put me down for a first edition!

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Cheers Sparkleking - I remember Carl Spiers first committing his memories to print, epics - not always factually correct about the games, lots of the stuff about off-the-field activities I recall happened but slightly different version of events..... always fancied writing my memories about the boys

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10 hours ago, unsworth blue said:

Cheers Sparkleking - I remember Carl Spiers first committing his memories to print, epics - not always factually correct about the games, lots of the stuff about off-the-field activities I recall happened but slightly different version of events..... always fancied writing my memories about the boys

No time like the present Phil. Have to say your memory is far better than mine, the season you describe has to be up there for me also, 13 years old and all my days spent idolising everything Boundary Park. I was fortunate that my dad took me to away games in a battered old Ford as well as the occasional trip on the charabang. Happy days indeed. 

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I was a similar age, doubt I could remember more than about ten per cent of it! 

Or sometimes my own name 

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Colin Arthur Garwood, my favourite player at the time.

 

 

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The Southport away game on Easter Monday was my 10th birthday and therefore 15 years to the day before the Hillsborough disaster. 

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45 minutes ago, UsedtobeWozzer said:

The Southport away game on Easter Monday was my 10th birthday and therefore 15 years to the day before the Hillsborough disaster. 

The Southport away game is one that definitely sticks in my mind, wedged behind a stanchion at the back of the stand behind the goal, the place overrun with Tics, absolute joy, great times. 

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6 hours ago, oafcmetty said:

Did we play at the Shay twice?

We played on the opening day of the season (0-0 draw) and then again in December when we won 1-0 in the FA Cup 2nd round   

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