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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 39

15 May 2013

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Oldham Athletic chief executive Neil Joy at length about the work that the club is doing to integrate themselves with the huge Asian community in the area.

I was delighted to discover that there is tremendous good will from the club and from Asian community leaders to get more youngsters along to home matches at Boundary Park.

However, it seems that it is still a struggle to make that dream a reality.

It was interesting to learn that the club has often dished out free tickets to local children from all different types of backgrounds in the local vicinity, and that people have thoroughly enjoyed themselves on their visits.

However, just like any other business, Oldham haven't found it as easy to retain that footfall, attracting the same people to pay for a ticket every week rather than just taking the freebies.

It's a real challenge for every club in the npower Football League at the moment. Times are hard, and as a result some families have had to cut back from watching their favourite team every week. A club like the Latics is not immune to that climate.

The biggest point to emerge from my chats with Neil and the community leaders is that Asian football fans desperately need a role model to follow.

Almost everybody I spoke to believed that the emergence of a top Asian player, at Oldham or anywhere else in the country, would inspire more and more kids to get along to matches.

Everybody needs somebody to look up to, and with a lack of parent/child football heritage in the Asian community, that would be the kick-start that people need.

On the pitch, Burnley and Oldham have changed the training session times for their Academy players so that aspiring Asian players can visit Mosques at the right time, in order for them to play football, too - and that's a great start.

All we need now is a star to emerge. Once he does, I really do believe that we'll see a huge influx of fans, taking as keen an interest in going to watch live games as they do in watching them on TV at the moment.

Hopefully within the next few years, Boundary Park - and other stadiums - will crammed full of people from all areas of the local community. There's a passionate desire to make it happen.

In terms of football news, I was sad to hear that Hartlepool United sacked manager John Hughes, and long-serving coach Micky Barron this week.

I'm not sure what the club expected John to achieve in such a short space of time, but nothing surprises me in football. He inherited a side that was in disarray, took them on a fantastic run, and narrowly missed out on producing a great escape from relegation.

Sheffield United are hunting for a new boss too, and by all accounts they've narrowed down the shortlist to seven.

The whole process of applying for the manager's job is a strange one really. You get gaffers who already have a job, posting private and confidential letters or getting their agent to make a discreet phone call, and you get guys who are out of work trying to sell themselves with a nice cover letter.

I kept my letters pretty simple. I didn't send many, but when I did I kept them straight to the point, confessing my interest in the post and expressing a desire to speak with them further about the role. Then, I left it down to my CV to do the talking for me, I guess.

I got the Huddersfield Town job after applying, but only after the first choice decided against it. I don't know whether that means my style was a success or not - I guess it must have been.

While I'm on, I'd also like to say how chuffed I am that Portsmouth are experiencing a feel-good factor among their support right now. Season ticket sales are up by 60 per cent for next season and, having signed four new players last week, it strikes me that Pompey are in a good place - and that's lovely to see given all the problems they've had.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to Wembley for this weekend's Play-Off Final. I'm especially disappointed because I feel it has the makings of a cracker.

Both sides love to play good, attacking football, and I sense it might turn out to be a straight shoot-out between the division's top scorers, Paddy Madden and Clayton Donaldson.

npower League 1 has been thrilling to watch all season. It would be fitting if the final match was another corker.

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