Up for the Cuppa! Oldham boss Dickov serves fans tea and plans Anfield upset
Tell Oldham Athletic that the FA Cup has lost some of its attraction, and they will tell you about the two fans who suffered hypothermia while queuing to buy tickets for Friday's third-round tie at Liverpool.
One was taken next door to Royal Oldham Hospital and the other to the club shop after collapsing outside. The story goes that his first words when he came round were: 'Have they sold out yet'
Happily, both will be among the 6,200 fans supporting Paul Dickov's team at Anfield this evening, but it says much about this game that hundreds more queued with them from as early as four o'clock in the morning last Thursday in freezing wind and rain.
Heart-warmer: Oldham manager Paul Dickov (right) serves tea to freezing fans
It also says much about this club and Dickov that he was among the staff handing out hot drinks to make sure the number of hypothermia victims did not exceed two.
The wind was up again on Thursday, battering the faded blue fences around Boundary Park and whistling down Sheepfoot Lane and through the corrugated corridors of this old ground. Up in the sponsors' lounge, Dickov was warming to his task as he prepared to face a boyhood idol.
'Like any youngster growing up in Scotland, Kenny Dalglish was a big hero,' said the former Manchester City and Blackburn striker. 'I've still got a box of tapes somewhere of all the goals he scored.
'I met him when I was a 16-year-old at Arsenal. I shook his hand but was so in awe I couldn't speak. For me, just to stand there with him in the opposite dug-out will be a proud occasion. This is our thank you to the fans. The support we're getting is quite humbling. It's brought a real buzz back to this club.'
It's fair to say that Oldham have seen better days. Look out over Boundary Park now, at the empty area that used to be the Broadway Stand, and it is hard to believe they were one of the founder members of the Premier League.
That was during the glory days under Joe Royle when the Latics spent three years in the top flight and reached two FA Cup semi-finals against Manchester United, not to mention the League Cup final; when the likes of Andy Ritchie, Roger Palmer, Denis Irwin and Earl Barrett helped Royle put Oldham on the map.
Mark Hughes's late equaliser at Wembley in 1994 was a pivotal moment. 'The goal that killed the club,' remarked one observer rather dramatically.
Minute from glory: Manchester United striker Mark Hughes (centre) scores the 1994 FA Cup semi-final equaliser at Wembley that 'killed Oldham'
United went on to win the replay and clinch the Double, but their opponents never won another game that season as they went down and Royle left. Another relegation followed in 1997 and administration in 2003. Oldham have now spent more time in the third tier of English football than any other club.
Things are looking up under Dickov and his coaching team, however. The 39-year-old Scot always got the best out of himself as a player, and he has done the same with his squad since taking up his first managerial role.
Oldham are seven points off the League One play-off places and will return to Wembley for the first time in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy if they can beat Chesterfield over two legs.
Boundary hits: Five Cup glory days
March 1913: Quarter-final
Everton 0-1 Oldham
After knocking out Bolton, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United, Oldham beat their
top-flight rivals to secure a semi-final place for the first time. Arthur Gee, who had nine years at Oldham but only ever scored two FA Cup goals, grabbed the winner.
November 1925: First round
Oldham 10 Lytham 1
It may have been the old Division Two versus
Lancashire Combination but it provided a record Cup victory for Oldham that still stands. Their scorers were Horace Barnes (three),
Arthur Ormston (two), Albert Pynegar (two), Bert Watson (two) and Jimmy Naylor.
April 1990: Semi-final
Manchester Utd 3-3 Oldham
Then in Division Two, Earl Barrett gave Joe Royle’s side the lead before Bryan Robson and Neil Webb put United ahead with 20 minutes to go. But Ian Marshall’s volley forced extra time and even when Danny Wallace gave United
the lead again, Roger Palmer clinched a replay.
April 1994: Semi-final
Manchester Utd 1-1 Oldham
A bittersweet memory for Oldham, who were a minute away from making the final before Mark Hughes’s volley set them on a downward spiral. Neil Pointon had given them a shock lead and reason to dream but the late, late equaliser led
to a replay defeat and struggles in the league.
January 2005: third round
Oldham 1-0 Manchester City
Kevin Keegan’s Premier League side, who thought they could afford to leave Steve McManaman on the bench for most of the
game, were knocked out by their League One
opponents thanks to a goal from homegrown
Scott Vernon, 20, and some defiant defending.
This is also their first appearance in the FA Cup third round since they went to Merseyside and upset Everton four years ago.
Dickov has built well in difficult circumstances. Indeed, Oldham are still awaiting final clearance to extend loan deals for Luca Scapuzzi, Tom Adeyemi and Nathan Clarke before a noon deadline so they can play at Anfield.
The manager persuaded his former Blackburn team-mate Shefki Kuqi to drop from the Premier League last summer (the 35-year-old Finland striker is Oldham's leading scorer this season with 13 goals), and defender Zander Diamond to move from Aberdeen.
When Diamond and his wife stopped off at Anfield on their way to a wedding in Leicester 18 months ago and paid to go on the stadium tour, he never thought he would be going back as a player in his first season in England.
'I've got a picture of me touching the “This is Anfield” sign and I'll do it again,' he said. 'It's not every day you play against your boyhood heroes. I went on one of those websites that sells sporting memorabilia after the 2005 Champions League final and bought a signed Steven Gerrard shirt – I hope it's his signature anyway! You buy the jersey then you're stood next to them in the tunnel. It's a fairytale.'
The decision to move the game to Friday night because Everton are at home on Saturday and Liverpool did not want to clash with Sunday's live television games has paid off with a big crowd expected and Oldham set to bank in excess of 200,000 from the gate receipts.
Needs a break: Andy Carroll will have another chance to impress for Liverpool
Dalglish will be mindful of Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City, but also of the fact Liverpool have gone out in the third round of this competition in each of the last two seasons.
While there is a slim possibility that Gerrard could start, Andy Carroll looks likely to play as he tries to build confidence after more than two months without a goal.
Kuqi was signed by Newcastle as Carroll's replacement following his 35million move in January.
'Sometimes you can't score a goal to save your life, but then it turns around and you can't stop,' said Kuqi. 'You just need that little break. He'll come good.'
Oldham would just rather it wasn't on Friday night.