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Inside The Football League: Twenty-five years of just 'helping out'

2 April 2015

Ever helped someone with a one-off task, only to find yourself unable to get away from it and immersed into the job at hand?

When Oldham Athletic supporter Tony Bugby volunteered his services to help out with the matchday programme for the Latics' FA Cup Third Round replay against Birmingham City on Wednesday 9th January 1990, he probably didn’t expect to still be involved 25 years down the line.

Approximately 2,500 articles and more than 650 publications later, Bugby is still an avid contributor to the Oldham programme, and explained how a good season at Boundary Park allowed him to get involved.

“The club were on two fantastic cup runs and reached the final of the League Cup and the semi-final of the FA Cup," he said. "In that season they played 63 games and at the time it was only a small second division club.

“The commercial manager at the time was Alan Hardy and, as well as doing that, he also edited the programme. They had so many games because of the cup runs that he was struggling to keep up alongside all of his commercial work because the programmes were coming thick and fast.

“At the time I was working for the Oldham Evening Chronicle as a sports reporter and he asked me to get involved back in January 1990 in helping produce the programmes. I was working during the day for the Evening Chronicle then going down to the football club to work long into the night producing programmes. When I started out during the cup run, I never envisaged it’d last this amount of time.”

A Latics fan of 40 years, Bugby’s involvement with the club has come in various forms - from the stands as a fan, via the press box and working within the club, as well as contributing to the programme.

Some people may wonder why he devotes so much of his time to the club, but the answer is simple.

“It’s my club and it’s why I wanted to remain involved,” he explained. “It’s very rewarding and I’ve done all sorts of features with players past and present, celebrity fans and all sorts of angles. I’ve covered virtually every aspect of the club and, after being involved this long, it feels like a part of me.

“I’ve been following the club for 40 years and I’ve done it from a unique perspective. I followed them as a schoolboy, reported for the local paper and worked for the club as a website editor, so I’ve seen the club from all angles.”

With years of writing and countless interviews under his belt, it’s an understandable struggle for Bugby to pinpoint specific, stand-out interviews, but there is one rather interesting character he came across.

During his time, he has had to go to great lengths to speak to people associated with the club – it's fair to say there's never a dull day following the fortunes of the Boundary Park outfit.

“I used to feature celebrity supporters of clubs Oldham played, and when we had Exeter City I tracked down Uri Geller and had an interesting conversation with him,” he recalled.

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to track down ex-players. I’ve found players in Canada and Australia, and it involves quite a lot of detective work. When some players retire they disappear off the face of the Earth but thankfully I have a good range of contacts.

“To have the three years in the top division was brilliant. Like Joe Royle said when we got to Wembley in the League Cup and the FA Cup semis; he called it the ‘pinch me season’ because nobody could believe what was happening to the club. I wrote a book about the season we had and called it, ‘Pinch Me Not’.

“The most memorable time was the great escape in 1992/93. We had to win our last three games to stand any chance of staying up, but we hadn’t won three games all season. We beat Aston Villa, Liverpool and Southampton in the last week of the season to stay up on goal difference.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s been my life and it’s nice when people say they’ve enjoyed what you wrote. It gives me a great thrill knowing your work has been appreciated by other people.”

With plenty of enthusiasm left, you wouldn’t bet against Bugby spending another quarter of a century just ‘helping out’.

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