Five Stars: Oldham Athletic's best players in the 21st century
Oldham Athletic are next in line for the Five Stars treatment. Craig Worswick has selected five legends and each one provides an interesting story. Oldham spent time in the Premier League in the early 1990s, but their fans can be thankful that their subsequent fall from grace has been populated by some genuinely fascinating heroes.
The Liverpool-born winger only arrived on the football scene at the age of 25, signing for Blackpool in 1989. Quite an age for any professional footballer to begin their career. He signed for Oldham in 2000 at the age of 36 and most fans would be forgiven in thinking he had only arrived to see out his remaining footballing days. But an incredible 234 appearances later, “Eyresy” played and scored in his last ever game against Scunthorpe, leaving a hero in every Oldham fans’ eyes.
An incredibly hard worker up and down the left flank, Eyres showed an amazing desire to win the ball and an even more amazing amount of stamina. Even in his advancing years, his ability to run at full-backs made him a real threat in attack, but his best quality was his pin-point crossing. Not only was Eyres the club’s top goal-scorer under Iain Dowie in 02/03, most of his goals coming from curling free-kicks, but his corners and free kicks led to many more. A sought-after attribute in any winger.
He was the sort of player who was, to use the old cliché, the first name on the teamsheet. Despite possessing the same amount of career appearances of a footballer in his later 20s, David’s motivation, leadership, and hard-working approach rubbed off on his fellow team-mates, whilst his relationship with the fans was second to none. If he asked for a better atmosphere, the fans duly obliged.
Eyresy finally hung up his boots at the age of 42, which is not bad for a winger. Had he signed a professional contract in his teenage years, his career could very well have been a much more successful one, something his A-grade attitude deserved.
John Sheridan, or “Shezza” as he was affectionately known throughout his entire playing career, signed for Oldham Athletic in 1998 after a successful career with Leeds United in the Eighties and Sheffield Wednesday in the early Nineties. At 34, any fan could instantly see he had played at a much higher level and had been coached well. Any club outside the top division would have benefited from Sheridan in their midfield as he had a real touch of class about his play.
His passing would unlock defences and his delivery from set-pieces produced some stunning goals, whether it be a 25-yard scorcher or a beautifully weighted cross. Unfortunately, financial problems off the field saw that Oldham Athletic could not progress through Sheridan’s twilight years, but his century-plus appearances were a joy to watch.
His 14 goals in Oldham’s colours were somewhat memorable. Throughout his career, Sheridan made a name for himself through his long-range strikes, one of which came in the 1991 League Cup Final against Manchester United. But once more, Sheridan was another player who showed a tremendous attitude, allowing him to enjoy a prolonged career and carry on attempting those incredible efforts.
Sheridan finally hung up his boots at the age of 40 in 2004, doing so as a club legend. He went on to manage the reserve team for a period before being handed the reins to the first team for the 2006/07 season, cementing a play-off spot in the process and some results that fans still look back upon with a smile.
Every club needs an Ernie Cooksey. While nowhere near the most technically gifted of footballers, Cooksey made his way in professional football through sheer determination and willingness to run himself into the ground – a trait Iain Dowie saw when he plucked him out of non-league from Crawley in 2003.
Cooksey starred for just a single season at Boundary Park but, despite his short stay, he won the hearts of every Oldham fan who ever watched him as well as those of Rochdale and Grays, to name but a couple of the clubs he played for. While players love the attention that creative play or scoring goals brings, Cooksey simply loved to play football. He would do twice the running of any player on the field and still chase down the opposition or lost causes up to the final whistle. Such desire to work often goes unnoticed by the top brass of football, but not by fans and managers. He was adored for it.
Tragically, Ernie died in 2008 after a valiant battle with cancer. When the news broke of such a loss, fans across the country were left shell-shocked. However, Ernie will always be remembered for his graft on the pitch, for his ungracious but loveable hacking of players’ ankles, and an attitude that can only be a dream to most managers.
This lanky winger was born in Oldham and supports Oldham, and one thing you will always receive from such a player playing for his boyhood club is 100% commitment, which he proved when on the field.
The 25-year old broke into the first team in 2005 against Nottingham Forest, something the then-manager Ronnie Moore deserves much credit for. Moore saw his potential and, after terrorising the Forest defence in a 3-0 win, Taylor has been a mainstay in the Latics’ colours ever since.
Throughout his 211 league appearances, Taylor has developed a scoring ability, something that eluded him during his first couple of seasons. However, he regularly aims to bag 10 goals a season, with interest often rumoured from Leeds United and Blackpool.
His lightning pace and ability to beat his man puts fans on the edge of their seats, raising excitement levels. However, Taylor is no longer a youngster and is seen to be a leader in the current team, receiving the armband during periods when the first choice captain is out injured.
As his career at Oldham continues, he could very well be in line for a huge number of appearances and in time may become a club legend. As a boyhood supporter, surely nothing could excite him more.
Just like Ernie Cooksey, Fitz Hall only starred for one season at Boundary Park, and was part of the defence that lost to QPR in the 2002/03 play-offs, as well as starring in the PFA’s Team of the Year.
The towering young defender was signed from non-league club Chesham and went on to secure his place in the side after he produced some cool and composed performances at the heart of the defence. Hall’s size meant that few strikers ever beat him in an aerial battle and he also possessed a great deal of pace.
The defence of 2002/03 was only bettered by champions Wigan Athletic, but after suffering a financial meltdown the club was forced to sell Hall for an outrageous knock-down price of £250,000 to Premier League side Southampton.
Unfortunately, Fitz failed to hold down a regular place in the south-coast side’s defence, but later enjoyed successful stints at Crystal Palace (signed by Iain Dowie who brought him to Oldham originally), Wigan Athletic, and Queen’s Park Rangers.
Interestingly, despite starring at a high level for almost a decade, Fitz is still only 30 years old and will surely have plenty of appearances left in the tank. Recently, he has been on loan at Premier League outfit Newcastle United and will no doubt be confident that he will have another crack at the big time on a regular basis. Here’s hoping he succeeds.