Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Alan Oakes - A True Legend

At the start of the 1976-77 season, Chester Football Club made a major signing. A certain midfielder called Alan Oakes joined us at Sealand Road with 565 appearances under his belt. The £15,000 transfer was a coup for the then Chester manager Ken Roberts as Oakes was under no pressure to leave Maine Road and he was immediately given the captaincy at Sealand Road. Alan started his career for Manchester City in 1959, he won medals in all three domestic competitions as well and had been included in the 40 man England squad that took part in the 1970 Mexico World Cup.

Chester made a poor start to the season and by the end of August Ken Roberts had resigned and the Winsford born Alan Oakes was immediately appointed as his successor. Roberts remained at the club in an advisory capacity. Although he got off to a winning start at Crystal Palace, Alan soon recognised the need for new blood and embarked on a rebuilding process. Many new signings came in, the most notable being Ian Edwards which coincided with Chester's first ever appearance in the FA Cup 5th Round.

Luton Town were the 4th Round opponents in what was a nostalgic return for the Futcher twins. It took Chester a long time to find their composure but gradually they took control with Alan Oakes particularly in midfield. The tie remained goal less until injury time, when a Dearden cross found Edwards in acres of space allowing the big striker to pick his spot out of keeper Aleksic's reach. As Edwards celebrated the goal an eight foot section of perimeter wall at the Kop end collapsed and the crowd spilled onto the pitch overwhelmed with joy. In the 5th Round Chester visited 2th Division promotion challengers Wolverhampton Wanderers and were desperately unlucky not to make further progress as they easily matched their illustrious opponents. The only goal of the game came from Hibbitt, nine minutes from time, and was the first goal Chester had conceded in the competition.

Alan's taste for FA Cup glory was formidable. Two seasons later during the 1979/80 season, Chester again made huge progress on the long windy road to Wembley. In the first round Chester had little problem in disposing of non league Workington 5-1, but were given a much harder game against Barnsley in Round 2 where a late Paul Raynor penalty separated the teams. Round 3 provided a mouth watering tie at St James Park, home of Newcastle United. At the time Newcastle were riding high at the top of division two and unbeaten at home. The Chester defence however were in sterling form with Trevor Storton outstanding in stifling the threat of highly rated number nine Peter With.

Peter Henderson surprised the Geordies with a goal after only three minutes when the Newcastle defence failed to clear a Phillips cross. More than 400 Chester fans, stuck on a special football train near Castleford, missed the goal but they arrived in time to see Ian Rush slam home the second goal with 15 minutes to go, and add another zero to his saleable value. The 4th round draw proved a disappointment, but Chester were well in command in beating 3rd Division rivals Millwall 2-0, a week after the same team had beaten then 3-1 in London. Ipswich Town, 5th in Division one, provided a formidable obstacle in Round 5 but the suffolk sider were given a shock after only nine minutes when an apparently harmless header by Jones caught Cooper off his line to give Chester the lead. Gradually the Dutch pair of Thijssen and Muhren took control of midfield and two goals by Burley and Wark, just before half time, sent Iswich through.

Alan Oakes is unique in that he never managed Chester Football Club in the bottom division and indeed the 1977/78 season the nearest the club has ever been to the second division of the football league. As the title of his article suggests, Alan was a 'true legend' at both Manchester City and Chester.

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