Tributes paid after death of Oldham Athletic’s key figure Ian Stott

IAN Stott, who was chairman, chief executive and a director during the most successful period in Oldham Athletic’s history, has died at his home in Cheshire at the age of 86.

During 27 years on the board at Boundary Park – 17 as chairman – Mr Stott was at helm when Latics regained their top-flight status after an absence of 68 years.

Latics were founder members of the Premier League and made two Wembley appearances in the 1990 final of the Littlewoods Cup and four years later in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Mr Stott’s influence extended far beyond the corridors at Latics as he was also a key figure in the Football Association where he was a life vice-president.

He was on the FA’s board of directors as well as on the international committee which selected England managers, including Terry Venables who spoke about Mr Stott in his autobiography.

It was a Boundary Park, though, where Mr Stott helped transform the fortunes of the club which was in dire straits financially when he became chairman in 1992.

Mr Stott took charge shortly after Joe Royle, who later became the club’s most successful manager, was appointed.

And in the precarious world of football manager, Royle, who described Mr Stott as a “great leader”, admitted there had been some precarious times early in his 12-year reign as manager.

Royle, who led the tributes, said: “We had a lot of financial difficulties and in my second season we only stayed up by the skin of our teeth.

“Mr Stott, we always called him mister, reassured me my job was safe and accepted we had sold a lot of our best players – John Ryan, Paul Atkinson, Rodger Wylde, Paul Heaton and Paul Futcher.

“We had to change the team quickly and it was hairy at times.”

In the space of eight years, Mr Stott took the team from the brink of financial ruin to a cup final appearance at Wembley.

Royle continued: “Mr Stott was a great leader and nobody should underestimate what he did for Oldham Athletic.

“The most important thing is the success of a football club is the relationship between chairman and manager, and ours was unbreakable, though it was not always sunshine and we didn’t always agree.”

Royle gave an insight into Mr Stott’s personality.

He said: “Mr Stott was old school in many ways, big on discipline but he also loved a giggle.

“He was also frugal. I remember one amusing story from my first season as manager when money was tight.

“We had a terrible away record and I argued we needed more overnight stays in hotels. He countered what’s the point paying to stay away when we lose.

“When we later began winning away, I went back to ask for hotel stays. His argument then was we are doing so well why change the routine.”

Royle also described Mr Stott as a “major player” and influential man at the FA and Football League where he was a board member.

“He was recognised in football for his intelligence and wisdom and he was the all-round package. He was top-class as well as a great businessman,” he said.

Royle added Mr Stott led an “exceptional board” at the time, one made up of successful local businessmen.

He continued: “They always recognised the club’s limitations with the ground so close to Manchester and Liverpool as well as a prosperous Leeds United in those days.

“They were unforgettable times and unforgettable people.”

Ian Stott

Alan Hardy, who later became Latics’ chief executive, added: “Ian presided over the most successful period the club ever had.

“He fought wholeheartedly for the club and always had its best interests at heart.

“And he was a great support to me in my job as chief executive.”

Mr Stott, whose family were famous Oldham cotton mill owners – they ran Pine, Werneth, Coldhurst and Hartford – had watched Latics from being a boy.

He turned down the opportunity to go to university as he was needed to work in the mills.

After a short time, he left and became an entrepreneur carving out a successful business career which included a Jaguar car dealership, caravan parks, hotel and nightclub.

But as his involvement with Latics increased he let them go to become full-time chief executive at Boundary Park.

Mr Stott was forced to resign as Latics’ chairman in 1999 – he became vice-chairman for a further two years – after it emerged he had held private talks with Bury and Rochdale about a merger as a possible solution as all three clubs were struggling financially.

He maintained it was simply mentioned in casual conversation but, when it was leaked and splashed in the media, he was pressured into standing down.

Later Mr Stott had spells as a director at Cardiff City and Rochdale.

Mr Stott, who had been ill for some time, leaves wife Maxine, daughters Ailsa and Catherine, son Robert and grandchildren Harry, Jessica and Tilly. Ailsa has inherited the sporting gene as she is a former Scotland and Great Britain lacrosse international and is currently Scotland’s head coach.

The family are to hold a memorial service once the current coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

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