The late Jimmy Frizzell certainly touched Oldham Athletic supporters in his own unique way.
Here are a number of memories, penned by supporters, about our iconic manager who passed away last month, aged 79.
My memories of Jim are largely his immense passion on & off the field, knowledge of the game at Div 3 & Div 4 level in particular, his ability to commend respect from people, whatever their status & his judgement of quality. He knew the financial limitations at Oldham Athletic but did a great job in constructing squads around attractive crowd pullers & workhorses which ultimately gave him success in getting the club established for many years in what is now the Championship, having taken on the job when the club was rock bottom. Great names such as Alan Groves, Ray Wilson, Harry Dowd, John Hurst, Johnny Morrissey, Tony Hateley etc with lesser known names who did a great job - Alan McNeil, Tommy Bryceland, Jimmy Fryatt, Ian Wood, Dave Shaw, Maurice Whittle etc, etc.I remember a game against Bolton Wanderers (I think) when Keith Hicks was flattened by their centre forward & Jim leapt out of the dugout & instantly reprimanded Hicks, demanding: ”Get up Hicksy, get up”. No whinging at the ref or centre forward, a touch of Brian Clough. But behind all this steel was a lovely man. He gave me his autograph when I was around 13 & simply said: “thanks Steve”. Rest in peace, Jimmy.
Where to start with memories of ‘Sir' Jim? I’m old enough to (just about) remember him playing and I can definitely remember when he took over from Jack Rowley. He patched the side up to escape re-election - with the signing of Jim Fryatt the pivotal moment. Adding Dowd, Cranston, Shaw and the maestro Tommy Bryceland the next season was fantastic. We scored 88, let in 65 and a generation were hooked. Two seasons in Division Three with the side gradually changing into the all conquering ’73-'74 champions. Ogden, Mulvaney, Wood, Whittle, McVitie, Lochead, Blair - names to conjure with. All topped off with genius of Alan Groves. Now we’re in amongst the big boys. United at home just after Xmas with 28,000 in attendance. We hung on, rode our luck and Maurice smacked the penalty home to give us eternal bragging rights! David Shaw coming back from West Brom and hitting a first half hat-trick against Southampton. Boxing Day against Bolton Wanderers and a glorious 2-1 win. We didn’t win away very often but nobody liked playing us at Boundary Park. Down hill second half towards the Chaddy End was the plan and more often than not it worked. My favourite game? Any of the above but probably the day we put Huddersfield to the sword 6-0 to win promotion from Div 3. My Grandad, Dad, myself and my two younger brothers (their first game) were there. It was brilliant. At the centre of all these memories is a quiet unassuming Scotsman who understood what the game meant to people. RIP Jimmy - legend is overused but not in your case.
One memory of Jimmy which I can see vividly was I think in 1967 against West Ham in the FA Cup in the January. The score finished 2-2 and it was very wet day. Picture the scene. I am in my late teens standing in the Chaddy Road end in a line between the edge of the penalty area and touchline with Latics playing up hill. Jimmy is near the centre circle with Latics on the attack when suddenly the Hammers intercept and come racing down the touchline. It is raining and the surface is very, very wet when Jimmy comes racing over, does a sliding tackle for yards and boots the ball out of play. Jimmy just gets up wipes the mud off himself and gets back to defend. Unfortunately the referee had blown for a foul against Jimmy. What I can vividly remember is this long, long skid mark from Jimmy on the surface of the pitch. It would be nice to know the match details of that day. Unfortunately the Latics lost the replay 1-2. I have now retired with my wife to Spain for health reasons but still Latics through and through having been born in the hospital next door. Rest in peace, Jimmy.
In the 1990s I had a door to door job. I knocked on a door on broadway and was surprised to see the great man himself open up. We talked about Bryceland, Heath, Fryatt, along with more and he invited me in for coffee. We spent the next hour talking about past players and even though i didn’t get a sale I didn’t care. It was an enjoyable afternoon and one I will never forget. Rest in peace, Jimmy.
One of my many memories of Jimmy Frizzell was the time Latics played Stoke City away in an FA cup game. The pitch was snow covered and the lines were marked out in blue and the ball was orange. Stoke had a good team and were in the first division, I remember Garth Crooks and Howard Kendall playing for them. The game commenced on the treacherous surface and Latics were getting thoroughly beaten and were 2-0 down by half time. During the half time break the referee and his officials came out to check the pitch and to our amazement abandoned the game due to the surface freezing. Jimmy and his Stoke counterpart Alan Durban were interviewed and Alan Durban was bemoaning the fact that the pitch was no worse than when the game had started and was incredulous at the decision. Jimmy on the other hand was laid back and said the referee had got it right. The replay was rescheduled for the following Tuesday night. Jimmy picked his team to play, this time on a mud bath of a pitch and Latics won 1-0 via an Ian Wood free kick rocket. Jimmy Frizzell was an old school pro who got the best out of the players at his disposal and will forever be remembered in Oldham Athletic folklore. Rest in peace, Jimmy, I will always remember you.
Thank you for all your memories. It certainly goes to show that everybody has their own unique story about a man who touched hearts of the Oldham Athletic fans.
Make sure to join us tomorrow afternoon for the game against Walsall, where we will honour the great man.