Oldham travel to Barrow-in-Furness on Sunday January 13—tomorrow as I write—to take on Barrow Raiders in the first of four pre-season games. I'm preparing to make the long journey from my home in Leeds for #YedsGameOne
This fixture is a regular event in the Oldham calendar; coach Scott Naylor chooses this opposition and venue to give the players and backroom staff a chance to blow away the cobwebs on a long journey.
Last year, I found that I could travel to Barrow from Leeds on split tickets and save about a quarter of the price of the total ticket price. It meant that the train journey more or less matched the cost of fuel for the car and in any case, I like playing on trains.
I've booked my tickets through Split Ticketing again and the route will mirror the one from 12 months ago, albeit with different departure and arrival times. I catch the 8.30am Northern Rail service to Carnforth followed by a connection to Barrow-in-Furness.
I have an hour to kill waiting for the Barrow train so I'm having breakfast in The Refreshment Room at Carnforth Station. It was the setting for the 1945 film "Brief Encounter" by David Lean and is something of a magnet for film buffs, apparently.
I should arrive in Barrow around 12.15pm and from there it's a leisurely walk to The Furness Railway where I'll be able to meet up with more travelling Oldhamers. Well, that's the plan.
Last year's game was a nightmare. The day started off fine and dry but wet weather was predicted for late afternoon; boy, they weren't kidding. The pitch steadily deteriorated during the game as the rain came lashing down. I was Oldham's match photographer, usually sat on the perimeter of the playing surface, but even I'd retreated to the stand behind the posts long before the 80 minutes were up.
Ominously, there's a chance of some rain tomorrow. I'll be pitch-side again so I'm preparing for the worst.
Oldham will be fielding six new players tomorrow. Aaron Jones-Bishop, Ben Calland, Richie Hawkyard, Anthony Bowman, Scott Law and Jamie Greenwood. Bowman played a few games on loan in 2013 so he already has a heritage number but I think we can count him as a new player.
The team, as given to me by the club in alphabetical order, is this:
Bent, Bowman, Calland, Greenwood, Hawkyard, Hewitt, Holmes, Johnson, Jones-Bishop, Joy, Law, Maders, McComb, Nelmes, Owen, Spencer, Wilkinson
I've seen a listing that shows Johnson at centre with Jones-Bishop outside him and then McComb as a winger on the opposite side, outside Holmes. I don't believe it. I expect Johnson and Jones-Bishop on the wings with McComb and Holmes in the centres. Full-back will be Hawkyard and the stand-off Bowman, who's massive for a pivot but hey-ho.
I created this "New Boys" graphic to accompany Roger Halstead's preview on the Oldham website today:
I included Oldhamer Harry Maders who's been earning praise from Scott Naylor. He's been in training with the squad all winter and must be hopeful of a contract. As the saying goes, "Sign him up!"
Top right you'll see the Oldham crest surrounded by some guff from me. The whole logo/branding issue has been passed to me to explore and I'm playing around with things. I knocked that logo up this afternoon whilst messing around.
I don't know too much about the Barrow squad for tomorrow. They've signed three PNG players who arrived in the country yesterday. I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two of them given 20 minutes, I wouldn't be surprised if that didn't happen.
Tomorrow is about greasing the cogs, playing out the training session moves when it doesn't really matter and getting used to playing alongside each other on the field.
I can't wait even though I'm not bubbling over with excitement. I'm just happy that the new season is here. Bring it on.