A few tears for the 'sheddings

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THERE would be a particular irony if Oldham's attempt to say farewell to their famously inclement Watersheddings ground was to fall victim yet again to the weather today.

The stadium in which Oldham are due to play for the last time this afternoon is renowned for a micro-climate that makes it several degrees colder and several millimetres wetter than the rest of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The final match against Swinton - their opponents in the first game at the ground in 1889 - is said to be safe, but... There can be sunbathing in Rochdale and snowdrifts at the Watersheddings. "From a player's point of view, I've always liked it," Oldham's assistant coach, Alan McCurrie, who played around 150 matches there, said. "Everyone's saying that they bet we'll be pleased to get away, but I feel it has always given us an advantage.

"You feel it starting to get colder as soon as you get to Junction 20 on the M62 - although it is a bit warmer down at Boundary Park."

It is in those temperate lowlands that the rugby club's future lies, at least until dreams of a new stadium of their own turn into reality. Oldham Athletic do not seem wildly enthusiastic about the prospect, but McCurrie can see advantages for the Bears, as we must call them. "The facilities are much better and we will be far better placed to market and develop the club. I don't think we'll get too sentimental about leaving the 'sheddings."

The delapidated state of the ground now belies the fact that it was once considered something close to the state of the art.

As Trevor Delaney noted in The Grounds of Rugby League it was the first - and, for many years, the only - rugby league ground to have cover on all four sides. Eventually, it became the only one to have leaking roofs on all four sides.

Swinton's visit is a reminder that there are neighbouring clubs hovering to take advantage if Oldham lose their way as well as their home. There is room for only one really successful Manchester area club, and Swinton, with a successful, well established ground-sharing arrangement of their own at Bury, aspire to be it.