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Hanging Out with Oldham Athletic Fans

70,000 people signed a petition to block Oldham Athletic from signing convicted rapist Ched Evans. But where does that leave their fans now?

70,000, where are you? Oldham's Athleticos supporters group react to the petition to stop the Ched Evans signing. Many fans joked that Boundary Park would be full up due to the "70,000 new fans" that felt strongly enough to sign the petition and therefore would be at the ground supporting Latics on the day. The official attendance figure was 4,181.

The post-industrial town of Oldham, on the outskirts of Manchester, isn't particularly used to being the focus of national outrage. But that's exactly what happened earlier this year, when the local football team, Oldham Athletic, underwent talks to sign former pro footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans .

Before long a huge national debate was smothering a club with a long and eventful history and a small but passionate fanbase. The fact Oldham had even deigned to enter into discussions with Evans drew condemnation from many, and a number of the club's sponsors threatened to pull their funding. A petition with over 70,000 signatures called for the club to abandon the deal, and, following reported death threats made to staff and their families, that's what Oldham did.

Where does that leave the Latics and their fans now? While the Evans furore caused much debate among non-supporters, many fans felt it was the club's business and that the petition was the work of meddling outsiders.

Whatever their opinions, the fans are dedicated and regularly battle through tough weather to support the team, despite the club's struggles both on and off the pitch. Here are some photos of them.

@davidjshawphoto

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Boundary Park – Oldham Athletic's ground since 1904 and the centre of the recent Ched Evans controversy.

Oldham's ground, much the same as Oldham itself, is a place with a long and eventful history, centred around the British industrial boom. Now, with most of the industry gone, much of Oldham town has gone through bouts of deprivation.

The Athleticos are a group of Oldham faithful with the goal of 'bringing back the atmosphere to Boundary Park’. They sing, chant and hold banners and flags through all Oldham matches. At the front, George cheers a goal at the Chaddy End.

The Athleticos are made up of people of all ages. Here, a group of the Athleticos walk to Boundary Park preparing for a game.

Keith Head, 49, from Chadderton in Oldham has been going to Latics since he was 11 years old – “or since I was allowed to go”. He travels to nearly every match and has done so for most of his life.

"Overnight Oldham Athletic has turned from a popular family club to one that is, in many eyes, hated.” – Keith Head's daughter Lillie at Rochdale away.

Most 'Latics' fans felt that it wasn't other people's responsibility to influence the club's decisions when actually the opinion of the 4,000 locals who pay every week to support Oldham where much more important.

Neil Joy, Chief Executive at Oldham, locks up Boundary Park in front of the press hours after the club reversed its decision to sign Evans. Threats reportedly made to the club’s staff were cited as a key reason for the halt of the sale.