Royce Franklin takes a nostalgic look back at how football has changed in the 67 years since he watched his first live match.
PLAY-OFFS are now an integral part of the calendar of the football structure in this country and indeed elsewhere. They are part of the fabric.
Few of the ardent followers of the game would disagree they have prolonged any season’s interest in the later games. Teams in the lower reaches of a table can aspire to a place in the top six (seven in League Two) well beyond the sell-by date for automatic promotion.
But who were the first victims of the new play-off system at the end of the 1986-87 season? Why our very own Oldham Athletic! Latics had finished third and seven points ahead of fourth-placed Leeds. Oldham had to endure extra games at the end of a demanding season simply because of the change.
In the early days of play offs the third and fourth-placed teams in the lower division had to play each other. So in the second tier it was Leeds versus Oldham. The winners had to contest for a place in the top division with the team that had finished 19th in what was then Division One (22 teams in the top division).
Leeds won the first game 1-0 with a late goal scored by Keith Edwards who had come on as substitute. Oldham had the right to play the return leg at Boundary Park by virtue of finishing above Leeds. Oldham was 2-0 ahead with little time to go. Along came Edwards again and spoilt the party (substitute again). The final score was 2-1 with no further goals in extra time. Away goals counted in those days and Latics remained in the second flight for a further four years.
In the two-legged final, Charlton and Leeds drew with the home team winning 1-0 each time. In the third game Charlton retained their higher status with a 2-1 win. Ironically they changed places with Leeds at the end of 1989-90 when Leeds won the old Division Two.