23 Nov 2015 in Heritage
We look back at the lives of three key personalities whom form a key part of Rangers history
If you’ve had any involvement with Saddleworth Rangers in the past forty years then you’ll know the three men who’ve taken the club to where it is today. Ronnie Hardaker, Ken Fisher and Colin Clare all passed away in recent years but their legacy lives on.
Ronnie was already Chairman of the club when in 1977, the Royal pub in Oldham played a crucial role in bringing them together. Ken’s son in law Ray Hicks, who ran the pub, had become player coach at Rangers and Colin’s sons played at the club. They were all regulars at the Royal and over time Ronnie encouraged Ken and Colin to become more involved at Shaw Hall Bank Road.
Ronnie remained as Chairman, Ken soon became President with Colin eventually becoming Secretary. Over the next three decades they worked alongside others such at Roly Lloyd and Frank Walsh to take the club forward in their vision.
Ray Hicks said: ‘You had a situation where two successful businessmen came together with Colin and others and worked hard to create a club on a sound financial footing with a strong committee and a team to be proud of.’
Under their stewardship, Rangers established the annual Burns night celebration and the clubs fundraising golf day. They also oversaw the development of the ground with the building of a covered stand for spectators. Rangers were the first local side to take the plunge and move into the National Conference league and St Annes and Waterhead followed.
On the pitch, Rangers continued as a force in the amateur game. Thanks to the production of a series of crack under 19s sides, the club was already pretty dominant locally but in the early 90s, after joining the National Conference, it would enjoy the most successful seasons in its history, setting the national standard as well.
The coach during those seasons, Mick Coates, said; ‘There was a good atmosphere at the club and we had a fantastic time. Ronnie always said he thought it should be a rugby club, not a social club, and players from all over wanted to join us. An international came over from Yorkshire one year and ended up playing in our seconds.’
Those were special times. In the years since there have been highs and lows but there would always be a wine gum from Ronnie, a pint from Colin and a warm smile from Ken on a frosty match day.
Ken Fisher’s daughter Karen Thompson said; ‘They were in daily contact about the club and they’d eat, breathe and sleep it. Their wives just had to accept it. It was like they were married to the club and each other. They would argue and bicker but they were so loyal as well. It was funny to watch.’
In an amateur club like Saddleworth Rangers, everyone benefits from the dedication of a few. If you think for a second you’ll know who the few are at the moment.