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Alan's last reading

30 September 2012

Latics bid farewell to long-serving official

Alan Atherton, one of Latics' longest-serving officials, has retired after 46 years' service.

Turnstile meter reader/supervisor Alan decided the time was right to call it a day after recently celebrating his 80th birthday.

Alan and wife Lily are pictured with Latics' turnstile operators after a presentation was made before yesterday's home league game against Coventry City.

Chief Executive Neil Joy handed over theatre tickets and three giant jars of toffees - Alan was renowned for supplying sweets to turnstile operators each matchday.

Alan, who lives in Chadderton, began life as a turnstile operator in the mid-1960's when Ken Bates was Latics' Chairman.

But he began watching his beloved Latics long before that in the early 1950's when former England captain George Hardwick was player-manager.

Alan, who worked in the repographic department for HMSO before retiring, takes away many magical memories.

He lists playing at Wembley in the Littlewoods Cup final as a highlight along with Neil Redfearn's penalty which clinched the Second Division championship in 1990/91 and a return to the top flight after an absence of 68 years.

Alan, who also has a son Jason, added that delving further back Andy Lochhead and Jim Fryatt were two earlier heroes and winning the Ford Sporting League - the prize money helped build a new Broadway Stand - also stands out.

"I was a turnstile operator in the Ford Stand, as it was then known, the day it opened," recollected Alan.

He explained that he was a turnstile operator in the visitors' section of the Rochdale Road Stand for the Littlewoods Cup semi-final against West Ham.

"We received a lot of stick that night from West Ham fans saying they would take us to the cleaners so it was great to beat them 6-0," he said.

Robin Highfield, head of matchday turnstiles and car park operations, paid tribute to Alan saying: "To work here for 46 years is a remarkable length of service to the club.

"Alan's attendance record and behaviour towards fans has always been exemplary and I could not have wished for anybody more dedicated to work with.

"Alan is a lovely person and hopefully he will not be a stranger in the future."

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