Paul Dickov: The pest aiming to sting Reds

He takes Oldham to Liverpool tonight hoping to give his club and town a much-needed lift

It was not a day for queuing. The rain was incessant, the Pennines were blocked out by the midwinter grey and two of those hemmed in around Boundary Park, the highest and often the coldest football ground in England, collapsed while waiting for an FA Cup ticket and were treated for hypothermia.

Oldham had been given 6,136 for tonight's encounter with Liverpool and they did not last long. Boundary Park is most people's idea of what northern lower-league football looks like. The stands have corrugated roofs with faded advertising and old, traditional floodlight pylons above. A town that once spun more cotton than France and Germany combined was financially ravaged long before the recession came calling for the rest of England, which is maybe why football and the FA Cup matter. In 1990 and 1994, Oldham reached the semi-finals and were denied in furious contests by Manchester United. In 2005 they knocked out Manchester City.

Sitting at home, watching the draw with his wife and three kids, Paul Dickov was hoping for Manchester City, the club where he spent eight years in three divisions. Instead, the man who is now Oldham's manager learnt that, should his side beat Southend in a replay, they would go to Anfield. "We were hoping for a big tie," he says. "Oldham needed it, not just the club but the town, which is struggling economically. We both needed a lift."

He first went to Anfield in 1989, only then the prize was not a place in the fourth round but the league championship. He had just signed professional terms with George Graham's Arsenal and was bussed up to Merseyside and given a place in the crowd for one of English football's most extraordinary games. Arsenal needed to win by two clear goals on a ground where they had not tasted victory in 15 years to snatch the title from Liverpool. They did it in the final minute. "I can't remember much about the end," Dickov smiles. "Just a lot of people jumping on top of you."

Kenny Dalglish's memory of that match is also something of a blur. Growing up as a Celtic supporter in Livingston, Dickov had idolised the Liverpool manager. "I had everything on him; posters, videotapes, the lot," he says. "I have met him a few times just to say hello. I was a kid at Highbury the first time I met him and could hardly speak, I was that much in awe of him."

Dickov describes himself as a "lucky bugger", having gone straight from playing to management. "It was a culture shock. You ask a player what a manager does and they have no idea what the job entails. It is literally 24/7. I'd like to say I don't take the job home but my wife would go mad if I denied it.

"As a player everything is done for you. You just turn up and often you don't need to remember your passport because the club takes it off you. You live in a bubble. When I applied for this job it was the first time I'd had an interview. People said I should go with a flip-chart or a laptop and do a presentation but that wouldn't have been me. I just went in and spoke about football."

As a striker with Manchester City, Dickov was a complete pest. He got under the skin of defenders and he enjoyed it when they lost their temper because it meant he was winning. Winning at Oldham has been a mixed affair. His budget is, if not the lowest in League One, then very close to it, although if a few hundred quid a week matters that much to a footballer, he would rather they went elsewhere.

Oldham have managed to take points off Charlton, Preston and Huddersfield and then lose depressingly at home to Hartlepool on Boxing Day. He had given his players Christmas Day off, a mistake he will not be making again. His players responded by taking four points off Notts County and Chesterfield.

Outside his office his players are having lunch with roast chicken and pasta in what is essentially a corridor at Boundary Park. The banter is good. Shefki Kuqi, a warhorse coming to the end of a career that has taken him from Kosovo to England via Finland, has a rule of thumb for players in League One. "Those who do their job, get on with it and are quiet; they are the ones who succeed," he says. "The ones who think they are better than they are and should be at a bigger club, they struggle."

Dickov says: "When we get the basics right we are a talented bunch. I am not daft enough to say we are going to go to Liverpool and win; that would see me locked up in a straitjacket, but in every round of the FA Cup, all the way back from the qualifying rounds to the semi-finals, there are shocks. And it could be us."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game